Vatican City: Pope Francis Thursday accelerated his streamlining of the Vatican bureaucracy by announcing plans to create a new ministry which will increase the role of lay believers in the Church.
Effectively, three existing Vatican bodies will be merged into one in a move that had been trailed but had not been expected to be confirmed during the ongoing synod on Catholic teaching on the family.
Francis made the announcement to an afternoon session of the synod, which is due to conclude at the weekend after three weeks of often heated discussions on issues such as divorce, homosexuality and cohabitation.
"I have decided to establish a new Dicastery (ministry) with competency for Laity, Family and Life," Francis told the assembled bishops and other synod participants.
The new body will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Academy for Life will be joined to it, he added.
"To this end, I have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new Dicastery.
The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Cardinals at their next meeting in December."
Francis has already acted to make the Vatican curia -- the Church's senior civil service -- more efficient by creating a super ministry for the economy and another one which deals with media and public relations.
The reforms have sparked resistance amongst the officials affected by the changes.
Officially there have been no redundancies but inevitably a number of officials have been sent back to their home dioceses as a result of the changes.