On Saturday April 30th, Father João Wilkes Rebouças Chagas Jr., missionary of the Shalom Catholic Community in Rome, was appointed by Pope Francis as head of the Department (capo ufficio) of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life.He has been responsible for the Youth Office for 8 years, working for the youth ministries around the world, including the organization of World Youth Days (WYD).
As for the more concrete aspects of what this new function will mean, “I will discover in the dialogue with the prefect, secretary and undersecretaries, with whom I will collaborate more closely. I want to put myself in the service to the other people who work in the Dicastery and together with them find out how to serve young people in a better way , as well as the Churc and all humanity “, explained Father João, in an interview with Comshalom.
Until the early 2000s, the head of the Youth Office of the former Pontifical Council for the Laity (now the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life) accumulated the function of “capo ufficio”. In the following years it was no longer like this. The priest said that today’s appointment — coming directly from the Holy Father — will place greater emphasis on the work done with young people:
“I see it as a desire of the Holy Father and the Dicastery to give more value and do more in the work with the youth, especially after the Synod of 2018, whose theme was about young people”.
Father João began collaborating in the organization of WYD in Rio de Janeiro in 2011, in preparation for the event that was held in 2013. Then he took responsibility for the office and actively worked on the organization of the World Youth Days in Krakow (Poland), Panama City ( Panama), and now in Lisbon (Portugal), which will take place in 2023.
“As Pope Francis said at the World Youth Day in Panama, young people are the “today” of the Church. They are called to assume a leading role in the life of the Church. We need to recognize what a great gift they are and give them more and more space to grow and collaborate. When they discover how much they are loved by God, they become true instruments of renewal in the Church and in society. They have a much deeper and wider vision than we can imagine. We need to encourage them to express themselves. Saint John Bosco said: ‘Young people do not just need to be loved. They need to know that they are already loved, “says Father João.
In 2016, Pope Francis established the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, bringing together the competences and functions that until then were part of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Fr. João Chagas Celebrating a Mass during a visit to the WYD in Lisbon
About the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life
“The Dicastery is competent in those matters pertinent to the Apostolic See for the promotion of life and the apostolate of the lay faithful, for the pastoral care of the young, the family and its mission, following God’s plan and for the protection and support of human life”(Statutes of the Dicastery, art. 1)
The priest also adds: “In a concrete way, the Dicastery, through the Youth Department, cooperates with the Episcopal Conferences and youth pastoral movements around the world, in the work they do with young people”.
The Dicastery is composed of the prefect (Cardinal Kevin Farrel); secretary (Father Alexandre Awi Mello); undersecretary for the laity (Dr. Linda Ghisoni); undersecretary for family and life (Dr. Gabriella Gambino); now the “capo ufficio” Father João Chagas and other members and consultants like Moysés Azevedo, founder of the Shalom Community.
Father João Chagas
Father João Wilkes Rebouças Chagas Jr. joined the Shalom Community at the age of 16 in 1991, first as a member of the Covenant Community and after a year joined the Life Community. He served on various fronts of the apostolic work of the Community. He studied Philosophy and Theology in Fortaleza and Rome. He was ordained priest in 2001 by Archbishop José Antonio of Fortaleza. In addition to the time of mission, Father João has lived in Italy for more than twenty years.
He recently concluded his phD with the theme “New wine in new wineskins – Spousal love in the spirituality of the Shalom Catholic Community, in the light of the Word of God and the Theology of Saints”. Editora Parresia published his academic work, which is available on Amazon. To learn more about and purchase the e-book CLICK HERE.