Below is a Zenit translation of Pope Francis’ address to participants in a course of formation for parish priests on the new marriage procedure, organized by the Tribunal of the Roman Rota (Rome, Palazzo della Cancelleria, February 22-25, 2017):
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Dear Brothers, I am happy to meet with you at the end of the course of formation for parish priests, organized by the Roman Rota, on the new marriage procedure. I thank the Dean and Pro-Dean for their commitment to these formative courses. What was discussed and proposed in the Synod of Bishops on the subject of “Marriage and the Family,” has been received and integrated organically in the Apostolic Exhortation Amors Laetitia, and translated into opportune juridical norms contained in two specific measures: the Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex and the Motu Proprio Misericors Jesus. It is a good thing that, through these initiatives of study, you parish priests can reflect further on the subject, because it is for you above all to apply it concretely in your daily contact with families.
In the majority of cases, you are the first interlocutors of young people who wish to form a new family and to get married in the Sacrament of Marriage. And it is again to you that in the main spouses turn who have serious problems in their relationship, are in crisis, are in need of reviving the faith and of rediscovering the grace of the Sacrament and, in certain cases, ask for pointers to initiate a process of annulment. No one knows better than you, and is in contact with, the reality of the social fabric in the territory, experiencing its variegated complexity: unions celebrated in Christ, de facto unions, civil unions, failed unions, happy and unhappy families and young people. For every person and every situation you are called to be fellow travelers to witness and support. May your concern be first of all to witness the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage and the primordial good of the family, vital cell of the Church and of society, through the proclamation that marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of the spousal union between Christ and the Church. You carry out this witness concretely when you prepare engaged couples for marriage, making them aware of the profound meaning of the step they are about to take, and when you accompany young couples with solicitude, helping them to live in the lights and in the shadows, in the moments of joy and in those of fatigue, the divine strength and beauty of their marriage. However, I wonder how many of these young people that come to pre-marriage courses understand what “marriage” means, the sign of Christ’s union and of the Church. “Yes, yes” – they say yes, but do they understand this? Have they faith in this? I am convinced that a true catechumenate is necessary for the Sacrament of Marriage, and not a preparation with two or three meetings and then onwards.
Do not fail to remind Christian spouses always that, in the Sacrament of Marriage, God — so to speak — is reflected in them, imprinting His image and the ineradicable character of their love. Marriage, in fact, is an icon of God, created for us by Him, which is the perfect communion of the three Persons: of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May the love of God One and Triune and the love between Christ and the Church His spouse be at the center of catechesis and of matrimonial evangelization: through personal or communal meetings, planned or spontaneous, do not tire to show all, especially spouses, this “great mystery” (cf. Ephesians 5:32).
When you offer this witness, may your care be also to support all those who have realized the fact that their union is not a true sacramental marriage and want to come out of this situation. In this delicate and necessary work, proceed in such a way that your faithful recognize you not so much as experts of bureaucratic acts or juridical norms, but as brothers who put themselves in an attitude of listening and of understanding.
At the same time, make yourselves close with the style of the Gospel itself, in the encounter and reception of those young people that prefer to live together without getting married. On the spiritual and moral plane, they are among the poor and the little ones, toward whom the Church, following in the footsteps of her Teacher and Lord, wants to be a Mother that does not abandon but comes close and takes care. These persons are also loved by Christ’s heart. This care of the last, precisely because it emanates from the Gospel, is an essential part of your work of promotion and defense of the Sacrament of Marriage. In fact, the parish is the place par excellence of the salus animarum. Blessed Paul VI taught thus: “The parish […] is the presence of Christ in the fullness of His saving function. […] it is the home of the Gospel, the home of truth, the school of Our Lord” (Address at the Parish of the Great Mother of God in Rome, March 8, 1964: Insegnamenti II , 1077.
Dear brothers, speaking recently at the Roman Rota I recommended carrying out a true catechumenate of future spouses, which includes all the stages of the sacramental journey: the times of preparation for marriage, of its celebration and of the immediate subsequent years. To you, parish priests, indispensable collaborators of the Bishops, this catechumenate is primarily entrusted. I encourage you to implement it despite the difficulties you might meet. And I believe the greatest difficulty is to think or live marriage as a social event – “we must have this social event” – and not as a true Sacrament, which requires long, long preparation.
I thank you for your commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel of the family. May the Holy Spirit help you to be ministers of peace and consolation in the midst of the holy, faithful people of God, especially to the most frail and needy persons of your pastoral solicitude. While I ask you to pray for me, I bless each one of you and your parish communities from my heart.
Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]