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 Jeon Han / Republic of Korea (CC)

VATICAN, June 6, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has approved the establishment of a new Vatican department — or dicastery —  for family, laity, and life.

The new dicastery will open September 1, 2016 with the merging of the existing Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which will then be suppressed, according to Holy See Press Office’s June 4 statement.

The pope approved the dicastery’s statutes “ad experimentum” (as an experiment) Saturday, following a proposal by the College of Cardinals.

Francis had announced at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family in October 2015 that he intended to create the dicastery, and to form a special commission outlining its canonical competence.

Some observers expressed fear at the time that the move signalled life and family issues would be given lower priority at the Vatican, while others emphasized that whom the pope picked to head the new department was critical.

Catholic News Agency’s Ann Schneible reported that the Pontifical Academy for Life “will be connected to the new entity according to its competence.”

The dicastery will be also be “linked directly to” the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family, she wrote.

A prefect, “assisted by a secretary, who may be a layperson,” will run the dicastery, which will “be divided into three sections: for the lay faithful, for the family, and for life, each one guided by an under-secretary.”

It “will be granted a suitable number of officials, both clerical and lay, chosen as far as possible from different regions of the world.”

The department will have competence “for the promotion of life and the apostolate of the lay faithful, for the pastoral care of the family and its mission according to God’s plan and for the protection and support of human life.”

It will advocate “the pastoral care of the family, maintain the dignity and basic good of the Sacrament of marriage, favor the rights and responsibilities of the Church in civil society,” so that the “family institution may always fulfill its proper functions both within the Church and society.”

And it will pay “special attention to the particular mission of the lay faithful to permeate and perfect the order of temporal reality,” according to the statutes.

The “section for life will support and coordinate activities to encourage responsible procreation and the protection of human life from conception to natural end,” the statement reads, “bearing in mind the needs of the person in the different phases of development.”

It will “promote and encourage organizations and associations helping women and families to welcome and protect the gift of life, especially in the case of difficult pregnancies, and to prevent recourse to abortion,” and support programs to help post-abortive women.

The dicastery will also “study and promote formation on the main issues of biomedicine and of the law regarding human life and the ideologies developing in relation to human life and gender identity.”