Pope Francis has said a letter of his predecessor Benedict XVI remains very timely.
The Holy Father expressed this in his address today, Feb. 21, 2020, to the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in the Vatican.
The Holy Father thanked the dicastery for its work, while also reminding them about the pastoral nature of Canon Law. Through various initiatives, Francis acknowledged, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, also offers its help to the Pastors of the particular Churches and to the Episcopal Conferences for the correct interpretation and application of the law; more generally, in spreading knowledge and attention to it.
“It is necessary,” Pope Francis said, “to reacquire and deepen the true sense of law in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, where the pre-eminence is of the Word of God and of the Sacraments, while the juridical norm has a necessary but subordinate role and in the service of communion.”
“In this context,” he said, “the Dicastery should help to make us reflect on a genuine juridical formation in the Church, which will make us understand the pastorality of canon law, its instrumentality with regard to the salus animarum [the salvation of souls], and its necessity in obedience to the virtue of justice.”
Benedict XVI’s Letter Ever More Timely, Valid For All Faithful
“In this perspective,” Francis said, “Benedict XVI’s invitation in the Letter to the Seminarians is ever more timely, but valid for all the faithful: “Learn also to understand and – I dare say – to love canon law in its intrinsic necessity and in the forms of its practical application: a society without rights would be a society without rights. Law is a condition of love “(n. 5).
Not a Hindrance
“Making known and applying the laws of the Church is not a hindrance to the alleged pastoral ‘efficacy’ of those who want to solve problems without the law, but,” he pointed out, rather “a guarantee of the search for solutions that are not arbitrary, but really just and, therefore, truly pastoral.”
“By avoiding arbitrary solutions,” he added, “the law becomes a valid bulwark in defense of the least and the poor, the protective shield of those who risk falling victim to the powerful in turn. We see today in this context of chopped world war, we see as always there is the lack of the right, always. Dictatorships are born and grow without rights.”
“In the Church,” Francis said, “this cannot happen.”
Throughout his remarks, Francis thanked those before him for their service which, in the name and with the authority of the Successor of Peter, you carry out for the benefit of the Churches and the Pastors.
Pope Francis concluded, thanking them for their work and requesting they too pray for him, saying: “because I also have to be a judge.”