‘This is the good news: that fidelity is possible, because it is a gift, in spouses as in priests’
Pope Francis made this point in his address to prelate auditors, officials, lawyers and collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of the judicial year, when receiving them in the Vatican today, Jan. 29, 2019.
The Pope began his remarks acknowledging: “The society in which we live is increasingly secularized, and does not favor the growth of faith, with the consequence that Catholic faithful struggle to bear witness to a style of life in accordance with the Gospel, also with regard to the Sacrament of marriage.”
“In such a context, it is necessary for the Church, in all her articulations, to act in harmony to offer adequate spiritual and pastoral support.”
In the daily ministry in the service of Christian marriage, Francis reminded them that they have the experience of two fundamental cornerstones, not only of theology and canon law of marriage, but also and first of all of the very essence of Christ’s Church: unity and fidelity.
“These two matrimonial assets, indeed, before being, or rather in order to be legal obligations of any conjugal union in Christ, must be the epiphany of baptismal faith.”
So as to be validly contracted, marriage requires of each of the betrothed a full unity and harmony with the other, so that, through the mutual exchange of their respective human, moral and spiritual riches – almost by way of communicating vessels – the two spouses become a single entity.
“Marriage also requires the commitment of fidelity, which absorbs all of life, becoming a stable consortium totius vitae (canon 1135).”
Unity and fidelity are two important and necessary values not only among spouses, but in general in interpersonal and social relations.
These two assets, “indispensable and constitutive of marriage,” Francis reasoned, “must not only be adequately illustrated to future spouses, but also demand the pastoral action of the Church,” especially of bishops and priests, to accompany the family in the different phases of its formation and of its development. Such pastoral action naturally cannot be limited to the completion of paperwork, he said.
The constant and permanent pastoral care of the Church for the good of marriage and of the family demands to be realized through various pastoral means, the Pope said, including: “approaching the Word of God, especially through the lectio divina; spiritual discussion and direction; the participation in family groups and charitable service, to develop exchange with other families and openness to the needs of the most disadvantaged.”
Spouses who live their marriage with generous unity and with faithful love, Francis said, represent in turn a precious pastoral help to the Church. “Indeed,” he added, “they offer to all an example of true love and become witnesses and co-workers in the fruitfulness of the Church herself.”
A Silent Prayer for All
“Truly many Christian couples are a silent prayer for all, a “weekday” prayer, I would say, for every day, and we must unfortunately note that a couple that lives for many years together does not make the news – this is sad – while scandals, separations and divorces do.”
“This is the good news: that fidelity is possible, because it is a gift, in spouses as in priests.”
This is the news, he said, that “should render stronger and comforting even the ministry of bishops and priests, faithful and full of love,” just as the love and conjugal faithfulness of the spouses Aquila and Priscilla were of comfort to Paul and Apollo.
Francis expressed his gratitude “for the good you do for the people of God, serving justice through your verdicts.” Besides the importance of their judgement itself for the interested parties, Franics noted they contribute to the correct interpretation of matrimonial law. “This law is placed at the service of the salus animarum and of the faith of spouses. ”
Pope Francis concluded, thanking them for their work, imparting his Apostolic Blessing, and reminding them to pray for him.
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