Pope Francis urges the Roman Rota to work with “the synodal spirit” | National Catholic Registry

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Thursday urged members of the Catholic Church’s highest court handling appeals in marriage annulment cases to work with a “synodal spirit.”

In its annual report speech before the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota on January 27, the Pope recalled that the world Church is engaged in a two-year consultation process before the 2023 synod on synodality.

“The synodal path that we are currently following also challenges our meeting, since it also involves the judicial sphere and your mission at the service of families, especially those who are wounded and need the balm of mercy,” he said. in his address to the Clementine Hall of the Vatican.

The Roman Rota is one of the three jurisdictions of the Holy See, along with the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura. One of the primary responsibilities of the Rota is to consider appeals in nullity of marriage cases.

A declaration of nullity—often called an “annulment”—is a court decision that a marriage did not meet the requirements to make it valid under Church law.

Thursday’s meeting, which marked the beginning of the Rota’s new judicial year, began with an address to the Pope from Msgr. Alejandro Arellano Cedillo, Spanish Dean of the Roman Rota.

In his address, the pope referred to the Family year Amoris Laetitiawhich marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of Amoris Laetitiahis apostolic exhortation about love in the family. The celebration will end on June 26, with the 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families in Rome.

He said, “In this year dedicated to the family as an expression of the joy of love, today we have the opportunity to reflect on synodality in marital nullity proceedings.”

“Although synodal work is not strictly procedural in nature, it must be brought into dialogue with judicial activity, in order to encourage a more general rethinking of the importance of the experience of the canonical process for the life of the faithful who have had a marriage. rupture and, at the same time, for the harmony of relations within the ecclesial community”.

“Let us therefore ask ourselves in what sense the administration of justice needs a synodal spirit.”

The Pope said that in matrimonial matters, it was vital that all parties set aside subjective interests and focus on the same objective: “that of shedding light on the truth about a concrete union between a man and a woman. , coming to the conclusion as to whether or not, there is a real marriage between them.

He said that from the earliest stages of a case, couples should be encouraged to seek “forgiveness and reconciliation” and not to view a declaration of nullity as “the sole objective” or something that is “a right whatever the facts.”

He stressed that “any willful alteration or manipulation of facts, aimed at achieving a pragmatically desired result, is not permissible.”

Pope Francis illustrated his point by describing a case that a bishop recently presented to him regarding a disciplinary problem with a priest.

The National Church Court Judge told the Bishop that he was ready to issue any verdict he wished. “If you tell me to condemn him, I will condemn him; if you tell me to acquit it, I will acquit it,” he said.

The pope said, “It can happen. It can come to this if there is no unity in the trials even with contradictory sentences. Go together, because the good of the Church, the good of the people, is at stake. It is not a negotiation that takes place.

In his address, Pope Francis alluded to his 2015 document Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesuswhich made changes to canon law aimed at streamlining the process by which Church courts assess claims for declarations of nullity.

The text specifies that in each diocese, “the judge in first instance for cases of nullity or marriage for which the law does not expressly make an exception is the diocesan bishop”.

The pope reiterated on Thursday that “the original judge is the bishop.”

He said: “The dean welcomed me saying: ‘the pope, universal judge of all…’ But that’s because I am bishop of Rome and Rome presides over everything, not because I have another title. Thanks to this.”

“If the pope has this power, it is because he is the bishop of the diocese whose Lord wanted the bishop to be pope. The true and the first [judge] is the bishop, not the judicial vicar, the bishop.

Returning to the theme of synodality, the Pope urged judges to develop their sense of listening.

“As in other areas of pastoral care, also in judicial activity, we must foster a culture of listening, a prerequisite for a culture of encounter,” he said.

“That’s why standard responses to people’s concrete problems are harmful.”

He also encouraged judges to be open to their colleagues when considering cases on a panel.

“In this sense, in your action as ministers of the tribunal, the pastoral heart, the spirit of charity and understanding towards people who suffer from the failure of their married life, must never be lacking”, he said. declared.

“To acquire such a style, one must avoid the impasse of legalism—which is a kind of legal Pelagianism; it is not Catholic, legalism is not Catholic, that is to say of a self-referential vision of law.

“Law and judgment are always at the service of truth, justice and the gospel virtue of charity.”

He said another important aspect of “process synodality” was discernment.

“It is a question of discernment based on walking together and listening, and which allows us to read the concrete situation of marriage in the light of the Word of God and the Magisterium of the Church”, he said. declared.

The Pope concluded by encouraging the members of the Rota in their work and reminding them of the importance of prayer.

He said, “Prayer always be with you. ‘I’m busy, I have to do a lot of things…’ The first thing you have to do is to pray. Pray for the Lord to be near you. And also to know the heart of the Lord: we know it in prayer. And the judges pray, and must pray, two or three times more. Please don’t forget to pray for me too, of course.

Comments are closed.