Officials and Public Security Officers,
1. This year I again have the joy of meeting you and expressing my gratitude for your service to the Apostolic See and to my own person. I extend my most cordial greeting to you all. In particular, I express my gratitude to Dr Carlo FellicÚ for the kind words he addressed to me on your behalf, expressing the sentiments you share.
To each of you, who make up the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican, I once again express my esteem and appreciation for the diligent work you carry out with a high sense of responsibility. Thank you for the attentive and, at the same time, discreet and skilful presence with which you accompany the Pope on his visits and trips to the various regions of Italy.
Our meeting today is even more significant because it takes place within the context of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, an event of unique spiritual importance, which has already seen in these first few days crowds of pilgrims streaming to Rome from every part of the world. Directors, officials and public security officers, you too are called to greater commitment to ensure that the celebrations and events connected with the Jubilee can be held in an orderly and beneficial way. External order, which is your special function, will certainly encourage an interior order filled with serenity and peace.
2. We have just ended the Christmas season. Every Christmas our memory returns to Bethlehem, to that place and to that Family which became the home where the eternal Son of God came to dwell. With particular emotion this year, Christmas took us back to that extraordinary moment when the mystery of the Incarnation became a reality. We spiritually encountered Christ, born for us on the Holy Night, and we received from him his renewed invitation to be converted to love and forgiveness.
May this spiritual experience accompany us throughout the Holy Year! May the Great Jubilee be a time of spiritual concentration, a time of reconciliation with God and with our brothers and sisters. In this perspective, my wish is that each of you will spend the months ahead in the best way possible by welcoming the gifts of grace that this event of salvation offers us. I hope that you will experience within you that peace which the angels of Bethlehem announced to all people of good will.
I extend a special thought to your families: may the Holy Year 2000 be for them, as for all the families of the world, an occasion of grace and redemption. May every heart open itself with trust to Christ, the only Redeemer of man!
3. Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord protect you in the work that you carry out in collaboration with the other security forces. May Blessed Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, help you. May she, who knows the risks your service involves, be beside you in your difficulties and obtain for you God's blessing on your ideals, aspirations and plans, and may she help you, by her example, to follow in the footsteps of her Son, Jesus.
For my part, I assure you of a constant remembrance in my prayer and, as I wish you and your families a happy New Year 2000, I cordially impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Students of the Almo Collegio Capranica!
1. I am pleased to extend my cordial welcome to you. I first greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini and thank him for his kind words on behalf of you all. I extend my grateful greeting to the rector, Mons. Michele Pennisi, and to the entire Capranica community, whose meeting today strengthens the bond linking this ancient college with the Successor of Peter. In fact, as one of the first institutes for the formation of candidates for the priesthood in Rome, the Capranica is a centuries-old witness to steadfast communion with the Apostolic See.
Your visit this year has a special meaning, since it takes place during the journey of conversion and renewal that characterizes the Holy Year. We could therefore ask, in the context of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, what appropriate reflection might be required of an educational institution like yours, which aims at the human, spiritual and cultural formation of candidates for the ordained ministry?
2. In this regard, the Jubilee will certainly spur you to rediscover the deep meaning of life as self-giving. A young man training for the priesthood must adopt a lifestyle of self-sacrificing love which is expressed in his basic goals and concrete decisions to make himself available to God and to his brethren. But where can he find the strength for this constant offering of himself other than in a close, intense relationship with God, the inexhaustible source of love for neighbour?
The source and summit of this important spiritual relationship is naturally the Eucharist, the centre of every ecclesial community's life and mission. In this regard, I express my deep appreciation of your offer to lead the Eucharistic adoration at the Basilica of St Agnes in Agone every Thursday evening throughout this Holy Year. By offering pilgrims a valuable service, you will not fail to receive an abundance of grace for your priestly formation from the Eucharistic Christ.
You are called in the near future to be authentic "examples to the flock" (1P 5,3) which will be entrusted to you. To be such, you must acquire the inner dispositions and specific attitudes that, interacting with and complementing each other, will form the connective tissue of your priestly personality. I am thinking of human formation with its relational dynamics and particular values; of spiritual formation, which is the development of one's whole life with the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit; of intellectual formation, which enables one to penetrate the divine and human mysteries, insofar as one can; of formation for Church ministry, which means sharing the "pastoral charity" of the Heart of Christ in service to the Church and to the world (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 43-59).
3. Your preparation for the priesthood unfolds in a community context. This choice is not prompted by practical or contingent reasons, but is linked to the very nature of the Church, a community gathered by the Lord, attentive to the Word, joined by bonds of deep communion and directed to the mission of bringing the Gospel to the world.
Dear friends, do not live this community experience as a temporary phase associated with your seminary years, but as the mainstay of your entire priestly life. The vocational project, which embraces a priest's whole life, is a community project, since a vocation is always a co-vocation, that is, a call from God to live and to "be with others and for others".
Inspired by these deep convictions, continue courageously on your way, renewing your fidelity to Christ every day and responding with ever greater openness to the needs of your brethren and to the Church's universal mission.
May you be protected by the Virgin Mary, who gave her total "yes" to God in the house at Nazareth. May St Agnes, patroness of your College, intercede for you: through her witness of virginity and martyrdom she invites everyone to follow faithfully the Lamb sacrificed for the world's salvation.
As for me, I assure you of a remembrance in my prayer and I wish you a new year filled with good things. I accompany these wishes with my Apostolic Blessing, which I impart to each of you and gladly extend to your relatives and loved ones.
1. Welcome! I cordially greet you and joyfully welcome you while, as representatives of the Episcopal Conferences and ecclesial movements, associations and communities, you are holding your second international meeting for the next World Youth Day. I thank the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Italian Committee for the 15th World Youth Day for their work of organization and coordination in preparing for this great jubilee event.
In a certain sense you represent the countless young people from every part of the world who have been on their way to Rome in spirit for some time now. Through you I would like to greet them individually and tell them: "The Pope loves you, is counting on you and expects you for the great celebration of faith and witness that we will celebrate together next August!". It will be very warm, maybe even warmer than in Paris.
2. The World Youth Days, begun in 1985, are by now an important event in the pilgrimage of the younger generation. They are providential opportunities for proclaiming and celebrating the mystery of Christ, Saviour and Redeemer of man, held up to the young people of our time as the foundation of their faith life and commitment to serving their brothers and sisters.
This year the World Day is part of the spiritual journey of the Jubilee and thus becomes the "Jubilee of Young People": a privileged occasion to contemplate together the mystery of the Incarnation of God the Son, to adore and to praise Emmanuel, God-with-us, and to discover the consequences for daily life that flow from so important a spiritual experience.
3. I pray the Lord that the next World Youth Day will encourage those taking part to profess their faith together at the beginning of the third millennium. In this city and in this Church of Rome, made fruitful by the blood of the Apostles and martyrs, the world's young people will gather to fix their gaze on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith (cf. Heb He 12,2), and to offer him their Christian commitment in response.
I am sure that they will set out again on their paths of life to be workers for the new evangelization and builders of the civilization of love. It is primarily their responsibility to "ferry" the Gospel into the first century of the new millennium (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 58), imbuing their daily life with the unchangeable values contained in this eternal and unchangeable "Book of Life".
As I invoke the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin on your work, I offer you my best wishes for a happy Year 2000 and impart my Blessing to you all.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I am especially happy to meet this Ecumenical Delegation from the Churches of Finland on the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Your visit is particularly significant in this year of the Great Jubilee when as Christians we celebrate with special joy and fervour the two thousandth anniversary of the Saviourís birth. Your visit builds upon the promising initiatives that have brought Orthodox, Lutheran and Catholic Christians closer together in recent times. It encourages me to pursue the path towards unity which the Successor of the Apostle Peter must be the first to take.
Tomorrow at the Basilica of Saint Paul we will open the Holy Door and together we will sing the praises of Christ who is the doorway into life (cf. Jn Jn 10,7). As we pass through the Holy Door, may we take another step closer to the unity in Christ which Peter and Paul proclaimed, and which the Lord himself so clearly wills. I am deeply grateful to you for the commitment of mind and will with which you pursue the ecumenical task. May God the Father bless our efforts!
Tuesday, 18 January 2000
I would like once again to thank the Lord who has enabled us to spend this important ecumenical day together. After meeting this morning to pray in St Paul's Basilica, we are gathered round this festive table for a pleasant, fraternal agape. I express my deepest gratitude to each of you, venerable and dear Brothers.
I specifically thank:
- the Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, representing His Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch;
- the Delegation from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, representing His Beatitude Petros VII, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa;
- the Delegation from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, representing His Beatitude Ignace IV Hazim, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East;
- the Delegation from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, representing His Beatitude Diodoros, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem;
- the Delegation from the Patriarchate of Moscow, representing His Holiness Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and All the Russias;
- the Delegation from the Patriarchate of Serbia, representing His Beatitude Pavle, Serbian Patriarch;
- the Delegation from the Orthodox Patriarchate of Romania, representing His Beatitude Teoctist, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church;
- the Delegation from the Orthodox Church of Greece, representing His Beatitude Christůdoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece;
- the Delegation from the Orthodox Church of Poland, representing His Beatitude Sawa, Orthodox Metropolitan of Warsaw and All Poland;
- the Delegation from the Orthodox Church of Albania, representing His Beatitude Anastas, Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania;
- the Delegation from the Orthodox Church of Finland, in the person of the Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland;
- the Delegation from the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, representing His Holiness Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark;
- the Delegation from the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, representing His Beatitude Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East;
- the Delegation from the Armenian Apostolic Church, representing His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos and Supreme Patriarch of All Armenians; I also remember his predecessor, Karekin I;
- the Delegation from the Catholicosate of Cilicia for Armenians (Atelias, Lebanon), representing His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia;
- the Delegation from the Assyrian Church of the East, representing His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos and Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East;
- the Delegation from the Anglican Communion, in the person of the Archbishop of Canterbury;
And lastly, the Delegations from:
- the Old Catholic Church Union of Utrecht;
- the Lutheran World Federation;
- the World Methodist Council;
- the Disciples of Christ;
- the Pentecostal Church;
- the World Council of Churches.
Lastly, I thank the Abbot General, the Abbot and the monastic community of St Paul, who have generously offered us hospitality, arranging everything with the utmost care for the success of our meeting today. I invoke God's protection and blessing upon each and every one, as I recall that it was in St Paul's Basilica that John XXIII announced the Second Vatican Council.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. With great joy I cordially welcome each of you, members of the Italian Municipal Police Forces who are celebrating your Jubilee on the feast of your heavenly patron, St Sebastian.
I first greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, who has presided at your Jubilee Eucharist. My thoughts also turn to Hon. Enzo Bianco, Minister of the Interior, and to the mayors and authorities here, whom I thank for their participation in this significant and intense moment of faith. Along with them I greet your families and everyone here.
You offer the community a far from easy, but indispensable service, using all your energies to ensure orderly conduct in urban life. Thanks to you, the residents of the city and the surrounding areas are helped to respect the laws that provide for a peaceful and harmonious society; the disadvantaged and minors can find helpful assistance in their difficulties; the environment, public and private property are safeguarded, and your continual work of prevention is an important safeguard of the citizens' well-being. You also facilitate the relations of individuals with the municipal authorities and their offices. At particular moments of difficulty, your presence becomes a vehicle for the effective solidarity of the entire community.
Clearly, this calls for a great amount of work, which demands steadiness and self-denial at the service of the common good, as well as concern for individuals, a sense of responsibility, continual patience and a spirit of acceptance towards everyone. These are not easy qualities to have, so it is important to rely on God's help.
2. In this faith perspective, you have come here today from various parts of Italy to celebrate the Jubilee, which is a time of mercy when the Lord gives us the opportunity to make a serious journey of inner purification and to strengthen our good intentions. Inwardly reconciled with God, the believer can become a true peacemaker among the brothers and sisters he meets on his path.
This deep spiritual dimension of the Jubilee must lead each person to ask himself about his real efforts to respond to the demands of fidelity to the Gospel, to which the Lord calls him in his own state of life.
The Jubilee Year thus becomes an extraordinary opportunity to make a personal and community examination, in order to renew one's commitment to building the new civilization born of the Gospel, that is, the civilization of love.
The awareness prompted in Christians by the Lord's words: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40), will certainly encourage them to practise their profession conscientiously as an act of love for Christ and neighbour.
3. Dear brothers and sisters, in inviting us to pass through the Holy Door, a symbol of Christ who welcomes us and leads us into new life, the Jubilee opens for each person prospects of authentic humanity and of firmer faith in performing his daily professional duties. It challenges you, in particular, to respect human law and make it respected, whenever it does not contradict God's law; it asks you to be artisans of that harmony that stems from fulfilling one's daily tasks and from the elimination of conflicts between individuals; it spurs you in every circumstance to foster solidarity, especially towards the weak and defenceless; it calls you to be guardians of the right to life by ensuring traffic safety and the security of individuals.
In carrying out this mission, may you always remember that every person is loved by God, is his creature and deserves to be accepted and respected. Every human being bears within himself a patrimony of tenderness and hope, which unfortunately is often weakened through injustice and abuse. We are all called to look at others with responsible goodwill, because only love born of God can transform the individual and enable him to grow. May the grace of the Jubilee renew the spirit of faith with which you dedicate yourselves to your profession, prompting you to live it with extra attention, devotion and generosity.
4. I am sure that if you act in this way, not only will you rediscover the importance of your valuable service to the citizens, you will also realize that you have been entrusted with an educational role that, by ensuring the quality of city life, builds a more liveable and peaceful community for everyone.
With these wishes, I invoke God's help upon you and your work, so that you can be authentic artisans of harmony and justice. May your patron, St Sebastian, who wonderfully combined fidelity to God with fidelity to the legitimate laws of the State, and did not disdain giving his life and suffering martyrdom to attain the perennial values that he learned by following Christ, accompany you. May his example always encourage and support you!
I entrust you to the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin and gladly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each of you, to your colleagues and to your families.
Friday, 21 January 2000
Your Excellency the Dean,
Distinguished Prelate Auditors and Officials of the Roman Rota!
1. Every year the solemn opening of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota's judicial activity offers me the welcome opportunity for a personal meeting with all of you, who form the College of Prelate Auditors, the officials and the advocates of this Tribunal. But it also gives me the occasion to tell you again of my esteem and to express my deep gratitude for the valuable work you perform with generosity and professional skill in the name and by mandate of the Apostolic See.
I greet you all with affection, extending a special welcome to the new Dean, whom I thank for the respectful words he just addressed to me in his own name and that of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. At the same time, I wish to express my thanks and gratitude to Archbishop Mario Francesco Pompedda, recently appointed Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, for the long service he has rendered at your Tribunal with generous dedication and with remarkable preparation and competence.
2. This morning, urged as it were by the Dean's words, I would like to reflect with you on the supposed juridical effect of the current divorce mentality on a possible declaration of marital nullity, and on the doctrine of the absolute indissolubility of ratified and consummated marriage, as well as on the limit of the Roman Pontiff's power over such marriages.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, published on 22 November 1981, I highlighted the positive aspects of the new family reality, such as a more lively awareness of personal freedom, greater attention to personal relationships within marriage and to the advancement of women's dignity, as well as those negative aspects connected with the degradation of certain fundamental values and with the "mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other", pointing out their impact on the "growing number of divorces" (n. 6).
At the root of these negative phenomena, I wrote, "there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God's plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one's own selfish well-being" (n. 6). For this reason I stressed that the Church's "fundamental duty" is "to reaffirm strongly, as the Synod Fathers did, the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage" (n. 20), in order to dispel the shadow that seems to be cast over the value of the indissolubility of the conjugal bond by certain opinions stemming from theological and canonical research. I am referring to theories in favour of rejecting the absolute incompatibility of a ratified and consummated marriage (cf. CIC, CIC 1061,1) with a new marriage by one of the spouses while the other is still
3. In fidelity to Christ, the Church must firmly stress "the good news of the definitive nature of that conjugal love that has in Christ its foundation and strength (cf. Eph Ep 5,25)" (Familiaris consortio FC 20) to those in our day who think that it is difficult or even impossible to be bound to one person for their whole life, and to those who are unfortunately caught up in a culture that rejects the indissolubility of marriage and openly mocks the couple's commitment to fidelity.
In fact, "being rooted in the personal and total self-giving of the couple, and being required by the good of the children, the indissolubility of marriage finds its ultimate truth in the plan that God has manifested in his revelation: he wills and he communicates the indissolubility of marriage as a fruit, a sign and a requirement of the absolutely faithful love that God has for man and that the Lord Jesus has for the Church" (Familiaris consortio FC 20).
The "good news of the definitive nature of conjugal love" is not a vague abstraction or a beautiful phrase reflecting the common desire of those who decide to marry. This message is rooted instead in the Christian newness that makes marriage a sacrament.
Christian spouses, who have received "the gift of the sacrament", are called by the grace of God to bear witness "to the holy will of the Lord: "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder' (Mt 19,6), that is, to the inestimable value of the indissolubility ... of marriage" (Familiaris consortio FC 20). For these reasons - the Catechism of the Catholic Church says - "in fidelity to the words of Christ (Mc 10,11-12) ... the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was" (n. 1650).
4. Certainly, "the Church, after an examination of the situation by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed", and in this case the parties "are free to marry, provided the natural obligations of a previous union are discharged" (CEC 1629). However, declarations of nullity for the reasons established by the canonical norms, especially for the lack or defects of marital consent (cf. CIC, CIC 1095-1107), cannot conflict with the principle of indissolubility.
No one can deny that the current mentality of the society in which we live has difficulty in accepting the indissolubility of the marital bond and the very concept of marriage as the "foedus, quo vir et mulier inter se totius vitae consortium constituunt" (CIC 1055,1), whose essential properties are "unitas et indissolubilitas, quae in matrimonio christiano ratione sacramenti peculiarem obtinent firmitatem" (CIC 1056). But this real difficulty does not amount "sic et simpliciter" to a concrete rejection of Christian marriage or of its essential properties. Still less does it justify the presumption, as it is unfortunately formulated at times by some tribunals, that the predominant intention of the contracting parties, in a secularized society pervaded by strong divorce currents, is to desire a dissoluble marriage so much that the existence of true consent must instead be proven.
In order to affirm the exclusion of an essential property or the denial of an essential end of marriage, canonical tradition and rotal jurisprudence have always required that this exclusion or denial occur through a positive act of will that goes beyond a habitual, generic will, an interpretive wish, amistaken opinion about the goodness of divorce in some cases, or a simple intention not to respect the obligations one has really assumed.
5. In conformity with the doctrine constantly professed by the Church, therefore, we must conclude that opinions opposed to the principle of indissolubility or attitudes contrary to it, but without the formal refusal to celebrate a sacramental marriage, do not exceed the limits of simple error concerning the indissolubility of marriage, which, according to canonical tradition and current legislation, does not vitiate marital consent (cf. CIC, CIC 1099).
Nevertheless, in virtue of the principle that nothing can replace marital consent (cf. CIC, CIC 1057), an error concerning indissolubility, by way of exception, can have an invalidating effect on consent if it positively determines the will of the contracting party to decide against the indissolubility of marriage (cf. CIC, CIC 1099).
This can only occur when the erroneous judgement about the indissolubility of the bond has a determining influence on the will's decision, because it is prompted by an inner conviction deeply rooted in the contractant's mind and is decisively and stubbornly held by him.
6. Today's meeting with you, members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, is an appropriate setting for also speaking to the whole Church about the limits of the Roman Pontiff's power over ratified and consummated marriage, which "cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death" (CIC 1141 CIC, can. 1141; CIO 853). By its very nature this formulation of canon law is not only disciplinary or prudential, but corresponds to a doctrinal truth that the Church has always held.
Nevertheless, there is an increasingly widespread idea that the Roman Pontiff's power, being the vicarious exercise of Christ's divine power, is not one of those human powers referred to in the canons cited above, and thus it could be extended in some cases also to the dissolution of ratified and consummated marriages. In view of the doubts and anxieties this idea could cause, it is necessary to reaffirm that a ratified and consummated sacramental marriage can never be dissolved, not even by the power of the Roman Pontiff. The opposite assertion would imply the thesis that there is no absolutely indissoluble marriage, which would be contrary to what the Church has taught and still teaches about the indissolubility of the marital bond.
7. This doctrine that the Roman Pontiff's power does not extend to ratified and consummated marriages has been taught many times by my Predecessors (cf., for example, Pius IX, Let. Verbis exprimere, 15 August 1859: Insegnamenti Pontifici, Ed. Paoline, Rome 1957, vol. I, n. 103; Leo XIII, Encyc. Let. Arcanum, 10 February 1880: ASS 12 [1879-1880], 400; Pius XI, Encyc. Let. Casti connubii, 31 December 1930: AAS 22 ; Pius XII, Address to Newlyweds, 22 April 1942: Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di S.S. Pio XII, Ed. Vaticana, vol. IV, 47). I would like to quote in particular a statement of Pius XII: "A ratified and consummated marriage is by divine law indissoluble, since it cannot be dissolved by any human authority (can. 1118); while other marriages, although intrinsically indissoluble, still do not have an absolute extrinsic indissolubility, but, under certain necessary conditions, can (it question, as everyone knows, of relatively rare cases) be dissolved not only by virtue of the Pauline privilege, but also by the Roman Pontiff in virtue of his ministerial power" (Address to the Roman Rota, 3 October 1941: AAS 33 , PP 424-425)With these words Pius XII gave an explicit interpretation of canon 1118, corresponding to the present canon 1141 of the Code of Canon Law, and to canon 853 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, in the sense that the expression "human power" also includes the Pope's ministerial or vicarious power, and he presented this doctrine as being peacefully held by all experts in the matter. In this context it would also be appropriate to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with the great doctrinal authority conferred on it by the involvement of the whole Episcopate in its drafting and by my special approval. We read there: "Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom" (n. 1640).
8. The Roman Pontiff in fact has the "sacra potestas" to teach the truth of the Gospel, administer the sacraments and pastorally govern the Church in the name and with the authority of Christ, but this power does not include per se any power over the divine law, natural or positive. Neither Scripture nor Tradition recognizes any faculty of the Roman Pontiff for dissolving a ratified and consummated marriage; on the contrary, the Church's constant practice shows the certain knowledge of Tradition that such a power does not exist. The forceful expressions of the Roman Pontiffs are only the faithful echo and authentic interpretation of the Church's permanent conviction.
It seems quite clear then that the non-extension of the Roman Pontiff's power to ratified and consummated sacramental marriages is taught by the Church's Magisterium as a doctrine to be held definitively, even if it has not been solemnly declared by a defining act. This doctrine, in fact, has been explicitly proposed by the Roman Pontiffs in categorical terms, in a constant way and over a sufficiently long period of time. It was made their own and taught by all the Bishops in communion with the See of Peter, with the knowledge that it must always be held and accepted by the faithful.
In this sense it was reaffirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Besides, it is a doctrine confirmed by the Church's centuries-old practice, maintained with full fidelity and heroism, sometimes even in the face of severe pressures from the mighty of this world.
The attitude of the Popes is highly significant; even at the time of a clearer affirmation of the Petrine primacy, they show a constant awareness that their Magisterium is at the total service of the Word of God (cf. Dogm. Const. Dei Verbum DV 10) and, in this spirit, they do not place themselves above the Lord's gift, but endeavour only to preserve and administer the good entrusted to the Church.
9. Distinguished Prelate Auditors and officials, these are the reflections that I wished to share with you on so important and serious a matter. I entrust them to your minds and hearts, in the certainty of your fidelity and adherence to the Word of God, interpreted by the Church's Magisterium, and to canon law in its most authentic and complete interpretation.
I invoke upon your difficult ecclesial service the constant protection of Mary, Regina familiae. While assuring you of my closeness, esteem and appreciation, I cordially give you a special Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of my constant affection.