POPE John Paul II this week called on episcopal conferences to assume a new, special role in pastoral ministry for families.
He said diocesan commissions for family ministry should assume the same pastoral commitment in a scaled-down version as the Vatican's own Pontifical Council for the Family.
This would mean a more specific service for families on a regional level and, with the collaboration of parishes and Church associations, episcopal conferences should be more concerned about providing "suitable structures to respond to the current challenges the family institution is facing today", the Pope said.
Following his address to the Pontifical Council, there was speculation that the Pope intended issuing more specific orders to bishops throughout the world to improve diocesan family services.
There were suggestions that this could happen in 1994, which the United Nations has declared "International Year of the Family."