Pope Adjusts Curial Responsibilities

Seminary Oversight to Clergy Congregation; Catechesis to Evangelization Council

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In two documents released today, Benedict XVI shifted areas of responsibility within the Roman Curia.

“Ministrorum institutio” modifies the 1988 apostolic constitution “Pastor bonus,” transferring oversight of seminaries from the Congregation for Catholic Education to the Congregation for the Clergy. 

“The formation of sacred ministers was one of the main concerns of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,” the Pope noted in the text. 

He gave an overview of the offices entrusted with this task throughout history. Then, quoting John Paul II’s “Pastores dabo vobis,” he noted the “intrinsic link between formation before ordination to the priesthood and formation after ordination.”

“I find it opportune, therefore, to assign the promotion and governance of everything regarding the formation, the life, and the ministry of priests and deacons to the Congregation for the Clergy: from the pastoral care for vocations and the selection of candidates for Holy Orders–including their personal, spiritual, doctrinal, and pastoral formation in seminaries and special centres for permanent deacons–to their permanent formation–including living conditions and procedures for exercising their ministry and their welfare and social assistance.”


In “Fides per doctrinam,” also released today, Benedict XVI transfers responsibility for catechesis from the Congregation for the Clergy to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation. 

“Faith,” the Pope wrote, “needs to be supported by doctrine that is capable of illuminating the minds and hearts of believers. This particular historical moment in which we are living, marked among other things by a dramatic crisis of faith, requires an awareness that is able to respond to the high expectations that arise in the hearts of believers when facing the new questions that challenge the world and the Church. Understanding faith, therefore, always requires that its content be expressed in a new language, one capable of presenting the living hope of believers to those inquiring into its purpose.”

The Holy Father spoke of the “long path” of catechesis in the years since the Second Vatican Council.

The path since Vatican II, he said, “has not been without mistakes, even serious ones, both in method and in content.”

“All of this,” the Pope continued, “has brought about profound reflection and led to the development of post-conciliar documents that represent a new wealth in catechesis.”

In this context, he spoke of the Catechism as a “significant step in the daily life of the Church, announcing and communicating the Word of God in a living and effective manner, so that it might reach all and that believers might be trained and educated in Christ to build His body, which is the Church.”

The Holy Father noted that when he formed the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization in 2010, he gave it the particular task of promoting the Catechism.

“Given all this, I believe it opportune that that dicastery assume as part of its institutional tasks the one of caring for, on behalf of the Roman Pontiff, the relevant instrument of evangelisation that the Catechism, along with catechetical teaching in all its diverse forms, represents for the Church in order to bring about a more organic and effective pastoral outreach. This new pontifical council will be able to provide the local churches and the diocesan bishops an appropriate service in this area.”

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