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Monday, January 24, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the dean, judges, promoters of justice, defenders of the bond, officials and lawyers of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, for the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year.

  In his address the Holy Father examined the juridical aspect of marriage which, he said, "is inherent to the pastoral activity of preparation for and admission to marriage".

  The Pope highlighted how "there is only one marriage, which is, by its fundamental nature, a real juridical bond between a man and a woman. It is upon this bond that authentic married life and love rests. ... The juridical aspect is intrinsically linked to the essence of marriage".

  "It is in this light that the right to get married, or the 'ius connubii', should be seen", he said. "It is not some subjective pretext which must be fulfilled by pastors through a mere formal and independent recognition of the effective existence of a union. The right to contract marriage presupposes that the parties can and do intend to celebrate it properly; that is, in the truth of its essence, as taught by the Church. No-one has the right to a marriage ceremony; 'ius connubii' refers to the right to celebrate an authentic marriage".

  "It must never be forgotten that the immediate objective of preparation [for matrimony] is that of promoting the free celebration of a true marriage; in other words, creating a bond of justice and love between the spouses; a bond which possesses the characteristics of unity and indissolubility, which is ordered for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of their children and which, among the baptised, represents one of the Sacraments of the New Covenant. This does not mean that some extrinsic ideological message is addressed to the couple, nor that a cultural model is imposed upon them. Rather, they are put in a position in which they are able to discover the truth of the natural inclinations and capacity for commitment which are inscribed in their man-woman relationship. This is the foundation of the law as an essential component of matrimonial relations: it is rooted in the natural potential of the spouses and actualised by their consensual [reciprocal] donation".

  The Holy Father then turned his attention to "the means of ascertaining whether the project of the betrothed is truly directed at marriage", foremost among them "the pre-matrimonial examination. The aim of this", he said, "is principally juridical: to ascertain that nothing stands in the way of the valid and legal celebration of the marriage. Juridical, however, does not mean formulaic, as if it were some bureaucratic routine consisting in the compilation of a form on the basis of ritual questions. Rather, it is a unique pastoral opportunity, ... as the pastor seeks to lead the parties to a serious examination of the truth about themselves and about their human and Christian vocation to marriage. In this sense dialogue, always conducted separately with each of the two fiances (though without undervaluing the importance of other interviews with them as a couple) requires a climate of complete sincerity in which emphasis should be given to the fact that the betrothed are those who are most interested, and most obliged in conscience, to celebrate a valid marriage".

  "With the various means available for careful preparation and verification, it is possible to develop effective pastoral activities aimed at avoiding the nullification of marriages. Every effort must be made, insofar as possible, to break the vicious circle which often arises between automatic admission to marriage without adequate preparation or a serious examination of the requirements laid down for its celebration, and a juridical declaration, sometimes equally automatic but of an opposing tendency, in which the marriage is considered null only on the basis of the ascertainment of its failure".

  In this context, Benedict XVI highlighted the need for the necessary training in basic aspects of canon law "for all pastoral workers, especially those who operate in the field of the pastoral care of families".

  The work of ecclesiastical tribunals must "transmit a univocal message concerning the essential aspects of marriage, in harmony with the Magisterium and with canon law, speaking with a single voice", said the Pope. Referring then to "causes concerning consensual incapacity", he pointed out that, "unfortunately, many incorrect positions still remain, such as that of identifying the discretion of judgement required for marriage with the prudence it is to be hoped people will show in deciding to wed. This confuses a question of capacity with another question which is unrelated to validity, rather it concerns the degree of practical wisdom with which a decision - but in any case an authentically matrimonial decision - was taken. And the misunderstanding would be even more serious if we were to attribute invalidating power to imprudent choices made during married life.

  "Regarding nullity through exclusion of the essential properties of marriage, there must be a serious commitment to ensure that juridical pronouncements reflect the truth of marriage, the same truth which must illuminate the moment of admission to wedded state", the Holy Father added. In this context, he made particular mention of "the exclusion of 'bonum coniugum'" which, he said, seems to involve the danger "of seeking reasons for nullity in forms of behaviour which are not related to the constitution of the conjugal tie but to its realisation in life".

  The Pope went on: "It is important to resist the temptation of transforming simple shortcomings the spouses may show during their married life into defects of consent. In fact, true exclusion only comes about when the ordering of marriage towards the good of the spouses is ... excluded by a positive act of the will".

  Finally, the Pope returned to the question of the relationship between law and pastoral care. "In all sectors", he said, "and especially in the field of marriage and the family, it is important to encourage ... profound harmony between pastoral care and the juridical sphere, which will certainly prove fruitful in the service we offer to those who are approaching marriage".
AC/                                    VIS 20110124 (1030)

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