This dicastery of the Roman Curia combined the work of four Pontifical Councils established following the Second Vatican Council: Justice and Peace, Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, and Cor Unum. Pope Francis has given it responsibility for "issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture".
The Pope announced that "temporarily" he would personally direct the dicastery's work on behalf of migrants and refugees. He named the Canadian Jesuit Michael Czerny and the Italian Scalabrinian Fabio Baggio to serve as under-secretaries for issues related to refugees and migrants. On 16 June 2017 he named
Bruno Marie Duffé, a French professor with long experience in human rights and relief work, the dicastery's Secretary.