Pope Francis has re-founded an institute on marriage and the family set up by St John Paul II, renaming it and giving it a new mission.

The Pope announced the creation of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in a motu proprio.

The change was described as an “earthquake” by Vatican commentator Sandro Magister, while Thomas Jansen, editor-in-chief of the German bishops’ conference website, said the former institute had been a “stronghold of resistance against Francis’s agenda of mercy”, and that the Pope had “dissolved it and replaced it with a new one”.

But Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, chancellor of the institute, said its staff and current projects would be maintained and that the Pope “felt the responsibility to double it, not to put it underground”. He told the American site Crux that Francis was “making an even bigger bet [on the institute] than John Paul II”.

In his apostolic letter Summa Familiae Cura (“Great Care for the Family”), Francis said that recent synods on the family had brought awareness of the “new pastoral challenges to which the Christian community is called to respond”.

Changes in culture required “a diversified and analytical approach” that could not be limited to the practices of the past, he said.

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