Pope’s Address to Tribunal of Roman Rota

‘The Church, in fact, can show the indefectible merciful love of God to families, in particular those wounded by sin and by the trials of life and, at the same time, proclaim the inalienable truth of marriage according to God’s plan.’

Here is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address to the tribunal of the Roman Rota this morning in the Vatican:

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Dear Brothers,

I give you my cordial welcome and thank the Dean for the words with which he introduced our meeting.

The ministry of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota has always been to help the Successor of Peter, so that the Church, inseparably connected with the family, will continue to proclaim the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer on the sacredness and beauty of the family institute — a mission that is always timely, but which acquires particular importance in our time.

In addition to the definition of the Roman Rota as Tribunal of the family,[1] I would like to highlight another prerogative, namely, that it is the Tribunal of the truth of the sacred bond. And these two aspects are complementary.

The Church, in fact, can show the indefectible merciful love of God to families, in particular those wounded by sin and by the trials of life and, at the same time, proclaim the inalienable truth of marriage according to God’s plan. This service is entrusted primarily to the Pope and to the Bishops.

In the Synodal sessions on the subject of the family, which the Lord granted us to carry out in the last two years, we were able to acquire, in a spirit and style of effective collegiality, a profound and wise discernment, thanks to which the Church has — among other things — indicated to the world that there cannot be confusion between the family willed by God and all other types of union.

With this same spiritual and pastoral attitude, your activity — be it in judging be it in contributing to permanent formation –, assists and promotes the opus veritatis. When the Church, through your service, decides to declare the truth about marriage in a concrete case, for the good of the faithful, she has present at the same time those who by free choice and unhappy circumstances of life,[2] live in an objective state of error, <but> continue to be the object of the merciful love of Christ and therefore of the Church herself.

The family, founded on indissoluble, unitive and procreative marriage, belongs to God’s ”dream” and that of His Church for the salvation of humanity.[3]

As Blessed Paul VI affirmed, the Church has always addressed ”a particular look, full of solicitude and love, to the family and its problems. Through the means of marriage and the family, God has wisely united two of the greatest human realities: the mission to transmit life and the mutual and legitimate love of man and woman, by which they are called to complete one another in a mutual donation which is not only physical but above all spiritual. Or to say it better: God willed to render spouses participants of His love: of the personal love that He has for each one of them and by which He calls them to help one another and to give themselves to each other to reach the fullness of their personal life; and of the love that He brings to humanity and to all His children, by which He desires to multiply the children of men to render them participants of His Life and His eternal felicity.”[4]

The family and the Church, concur on different planes, to support the human being to the end of his existence. And they do so, certainly, with the teachings they transmit, but also with their nature itself as community of love and life. In fact, if one can well say that the family is the “domestic Church,” applied to the Church rightly is the title “family of God.” Therefore, “the family spirit” is a constitutional charter for the Church: Christianity must appear so and be so. It is written in clear letters: “you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). “The Church is and must be the family of God.”[5]

It is precisely because she is Mother and Teacher that the Church knows that, among Christians, some have a strong faith, formed by charity and reinforced by good catechesis and nourished by prayer and the sacramental life, while others have a weak faith, neglected, not formed, little educated or forgotten.

It is good to state clearly that the quality of the faith is not an essential condition for marital consensus, which, according to the everlasting doctrine, can be undermined only at the natural level (Cf. CIC, can. 1055, paragraphs 1 and 2). In fact, the habitus fidei is infused at the moment of Baptism and continues to have a mysterious influence on the soul, even when the faith has not been developed and, psychologically, seems to be absent. It is not rare that the parties contracting marriage, driven to true marriage by the instinctus naturae, have, at the moment of the celebration, a limited awareness of the fullness of God’s plan, and only later, in family life, they discover all that God the Creator and Redeemer has established for them. The lack of formation in the faith and also the error about unity, indissolubility and the sacramental dignity of marriage vitiate the marital consensus only if they determine the will (Cf. CIC, can 1099). Precisely because of this, errors that regard the sacredness of marriage must be assessed very carefully. Therefore, with a renewed sense of responsibility, the Church continues to propose marriage in its essential elements – offspring, the good of the spouses, unity, indissolubility, sacredness[6] –, not as an ideal for a few, despite modern models centered on the ephemeral and the transitory, but as a reality that, with the grace of Christ, can be lived by all the baptized faithful. And therefore, there is greater reason for the pastoral urgency, which involves all the structures of the Church, drives to converge towards a common attempt ordered to appropriate preparation for marriage, in a sort of new catechumenate — I stress this: in a sort of new catechumenate — so desired by some Synodal Fathers.[7]

Dear Brothers, the time we are living is very demanding, be it for the families, be it for us Pastors who are called to support them. With this awareness, I wish you good work for the New Year that the Lord gives us. I assure you of my prayer and I also count on yours. May Our Lady and Saint Joseph obtain for the Church to grow in the spirit of the family and to families to feel increasingly a living and active part of the People of God. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

[1] Pius XII, Allocution to the Roman Rota on October 1, 1940: L’Osservatore Romano, October 2, 1940, p. 1.

[2] “Perhaps all this scourge has an extremely generic name, but in this case tragically true, and it is egoism. If egoism governs the realm of human love, which is in fact the family, it dishonors, languishes, and dissolves it. The art of loving is not as easy as commonly believed. Instinct is not enough to teach it, and passion even less so, nor pleasure” (G.B. Montini, Pastoral Letter to the Ambrosian Dioceses at the Beginning of Lent of 1960).

[3] Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Casti Connubi, December 31, 1939: AAS 22 (1930), 541.

[4] Paul VI, Address to the Participants in the 13th National Congress of the Italian Women’s Center, February 12, 1966: AAS 58 (1966), 219. In his Letter to Families, Saint John Paul II affirmed that the family is the way of the Church: “the first and the most important” (Gratissiman Sane, February 2, 1994, 2: AAS 86 [1994], 868).

[5] Catechesis in the General Audience of October 7, 2015.

[6] Cf. Augustinus, De Bono Coniugali, 24, 32: De Genesi ad Litteram, 9, 7, 12.

[7] “This preparation for marriage, we think, will be made easy, if the formation of a family is presented to youth, and if it includes those that intend to found their own family as a vocation, as a mission, as a great duty, which gives life a very lofty purpose, and fills it with its gifts and virtues. This presentation does not deform or exaggerate the reality” (G.B. Montini, Pastoral Letter to the Ambrosian Archdiocese, cit.).

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