Pope Paul has breathed new life into two Vatican organisations set up experimentally to promote initiatives charted by Vatican Council II, by giving them new constitutions and a permanent status.
The most fundamental changes, contained in two papal "motu proprio" decrees, concern the Council of the Laity. A "motu proprio" decree is one issued by a Pope on his own initiative.
Pope Paul has raised the council to the level of a "quasicongreg.".ion" with important new re; •Insibilities regarding Church laws on the laity and the settlemet if disputes involving the laity.
In a second decree, Pope Paul clarified the part to be played by the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace. The decree broadens the competence of the commission, which was set up as a papal study centre and watchdog in the field of human rights.
But it also requires the commission to get clearance from the papal Secretariat of State before making any statements on specific violations of human rights.
The decrees call for both the council and the commission to be headed by separate cardinalpresidents resident in Rome. They were both previously headed by Cardinal Maurice Roy of Quebec.
Newly-created Cardinal Opilio Rossi, aged 66, will take over the presidency of the Laity Council. Born in New York City, Cardinal Rossi was papal nuncio to Austria before being named to the College of Cardinals.
The Justice and Peace Cornmission will be headed by African Archbishop Bernardin Gantin, aged 54. Archbishop Gantin, former head of the Cotonou, Dahomey, archdiocese, has been vice president of the Justice and Peace Commission for almost a year.
Archbishop Gantin is believed to be the first black African to head a major office of the Roman Curia, the Church's central administrative body. The Pope also ordered that the committee for the family should be incorporated within the newly restructured Pontifical Council for the Laity.