Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.
It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at
DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices.
Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.
THE ROMAN CURIA
The Pontifical Councils
Having covered the nine Sacred Congregations, and the three Tribunals in the Roman Curia, today we begin a four-part series on the Pontifical Councils featuring today the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Pontifical Council for the Family. These councils or dicastries oversee different aspects of the life of the Church and her relations with the realities of the world. The concept of Pontifical Councils is relatively new, having been introduced by Pope Paul VI but truly defined by our present Vicar of Christ Pope John Paul II.
- Pontifical Council for the Laity
This Council oversees the apostolate of the laity and their involvement in the life and mission of Holy Mother Church. Most of the members are composed of lay people from all parts of the globe who are associated with some sort of apostolate. The President of this council is Cardinal James Francis Stafford, the former Archbishop of Denver who was so successful in hosting World Youth Day in 1993 there and his resume in working with lay organizations. Cardinal Stafford's council supervises World Youth Day activities and keeps in contact with bishops' conferences and local churches and ecclesial associations and movements. It watches closely activities for youth, vocations and the mission of women, the lay commitment in the world, and most importantly the participation of the laity in the life of ecclesial communities. Cardinal Stafford also co-sponsored the document in 1997 which outlined the responsibilities of the non-ordained faithful, specifically as to liturgical abuse and Eucharistic Ministers.
It was Pope Paul VI who first established this council on an experimental basis at the time on January 6, 1967. Because of its success it became a permanent council through his Motu Proprio Apostolatus Peragendi on December 10, 1976. Pope John Paul II alluded to this in his Motu Proprio Pastor Bonus on June 28, 1988.
- Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
This dicastry, headed by Australia's Cardinal Edward I Cassidy is responsible for relations with other Christian churches non in union with Rome. This council oversees the correct interpretation and execution of the principles of ecumenism without compromising Catholic principals while promoting Christian unity, employing dialogue on ecumenical questions and situations with churches and other non-Catholic ecclesial communities. This council deals with those who proclaim Christ as their Savior. Also attached to this dicastry is the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews which has been extremely busy recently in smoothing over relations stemming from ill-feelings of World War II, false charges against Pope Pius XII and the current Israeli-Palestinian differences in paving the way for a peaceful settlement and the opportunity for the Holy Father to travel to the Holy Land on his historic "Jubilee Journey" in 2000. This commission also published the landmark: "We remember the Shoah."
The origins of this Council began on June 5, 1960 when Pope John XXIII established it as a "perparatory secretariat" in preparation for the Second Vatican Council in appointing a limited amount of non-Catholic Christian periti as observers for ecumenical purposes. It was given more permanent status during the first sesson of the Council in Autumn of 1962 and further defined by Pope Paul VI in 1966 and 1967 before Pope John Paul II established it as a permanent Pontifical Council with his Motu Proprio Pastor Bonus on June 28, 1988.
- Pontifical Council for the Family
This council promotes the pastoral care of families in order to promote the Sancity of Life in regards all aspects of life from education, evangelizing and apostolic work as well as elevating the spirituality of conjugal love in the Sacrament of Marriage and the importance of procreation in God's overall plan. The members of this council are appointed by the Pope and are composed of cardinals and lay people, mostly married couples whose life exemplifies the principals and ideals the council stands for. They convene in Rome once a year to discuss the important matters addressed by the council and the President of this dicastry Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo from Colombia.
This council began as the Committee for the Family on January 11, 1973 and was created in its present status by Pope John Paul II on May 9, 1981.
Tomorrow: the Roman Curia: Pontifical Offices part two