Monday, 8 January 1996
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. Today the Bishop of Rome rejoices with the Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, gathered around your Major Archbishop, Cardinal Antony Padiyara, for the celebration of your Synod meeting. I welcome each one of you with the prayer of the Apostle Paul: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1-7). I have followed the preparation of this Synod with fraternal and pastoral interest, conscious that the Petrine ministry constitutes a "permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and fellowship" (Lumen Gentium LG 18). In the Communion of Saints, I make prayerful remembrance of the late Archbishop Mar Abraham Kattumana who devoted his best energies to serving the Church, and the Syro-Malabar Church in particular, sparing no pains until the very last. I cherish a vivid memory of our meeting a few hours before his death, as sudden as it was unexpected.
2. The Syro-Malabar Church, born into the faith from the preaching of the Apostle Thomas, is one of the ecclesial families in which the rich variety of the Christian East is articulated. The East Syrian tradition was distinguished for the preservation of the Christian faith, sometimes at the price of relentless persecution, for the wealth of its monastic life, for its schools and academies where Christian doctrine was explained and sung with marvellous inspiration, as well as for a missionary zeal which brought the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ all the way to your native India, and even to distant China. For many centuries you lived this ecclesial heritage with pride and enthusiasm, enriching it with specific and original aspects of your own culture and sensitivity.
When other Christians from the West reached your lands, you gave them generous hospitality. For you, they represented a new openness to the Church's universality. At the same time, however, a lack of understanding of your cultural and religious heritage caused much suffering and inflicted a wound which has only been partially healed, and which today still requires a very high degree of holiness and wisdom on the part of the Pastors of the Church, chiefly responsible for building peace and fellowship among all Christ's followers.
3. After the reconstitution at the beginning of this century of a hierarchy formed by Pastors from your own lands, the Syro-Malabar Church set out with determination to fulfil its role as a part of the heritage of the Christian East, on which I recently reflected in my Apostolic Letter «Orientale Lumen». Recognition of your Church's achievements led me, in December 1992, to consider that the time was ripe to raise your Church to the rank of a Major Archepiscopal Church. That act was meant as an expression of gratitude for what you are and for your commitment to grow still further in fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have all received reconciliation (Cfr. Rom Rm 5,11). I have desired to be particularly close to you during these years. As the one who "presides over the whole assembly of charity" (Lumen Gentium LG 13), my affectionate attention towards you has the sole purpose of helping you to take the steps needed to overcome the difficulties of the present.
4. The Synodal structure of the Eastern Churches is a particularly eloquent way of living and manifesting the mystery of the Church as communion. Communion is a gift of the Holy Spirit; it is participation in the life of the Trinity. It therefore has to be the fruit of prayer, and requires great effort. It is built up day after day. To leave some-one behind on the way is a failure for all. To walk together in step is a victory for all, and a victory for faith and love. The Bishop of Rome does not wish to leave you alone on this path. He wants to be a help, a bridge, a means of communion. He will continue to walk each step with you, not in order to deny you your just autonomy, but to fulfil to the utmost the ministry which Christ entrusted to Peter: to strengthen the brethren and to confirm them in faith and communion (Cfr. Luc Lc 22,32).
This Synod thus marks an important though not a definitive stage in the process of your Church's growth towards ever greater union and peace, towards the sharing of a common journey. In the not too distant future I shall ask you to return here to Rome, to share the fruit of your work with the Pope, to evaluate together the path undertaken.
5. During the Synod you will give careful attention to many fundamental questions, including the place of the Liturgy in the education of the faithful, especially in the training of future priests, and of men and women religious. With regard to your missionary commitment, the universal Church cannot but be grateful for the dedication of the many sons and daughters of the Syro-Malabar Church who are generously involved in proclaiming the Gospel, often in difficult circumstances. This they do through the Religious Institutes belonging to your own Church as well as in Latin-rite Institutes. Herein lies a further fruitful expression of ecclesial communion, as I recalled in my « Letter to the Bishops of India », of 28 May 1987: "In [the] process of evangelization there has always existed a generous collaboration on the part of priests, religious and laity baptized in the Syro-Malabar rite, and in recent years also on the part of the Syro-Malabar Church herself in certain areas of the north. This collaboration should not be forgotten, for it points to a willingness, on the part of all concerned, to accept the age-old adage: 'Salus animarum suprema lex'" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Epistula ad Indiae Episcopos, 2, die 28 maii 1987).
6. Also of great importance is the question of spiritual assistance to the Syro-Malabar faithful living outside the territory over which your direct jurisdiction is exercised. In my letter quoted above, I re-called how important it is to provide such assistance, in constant dialogue with the Bishops of the Latin Church in India. Great availability and reciprocal understanding are imperative. The first form of communion is that which unites all believers in Christ, children of the one Church of Christ. All things must be undertaken in an atmosphere of trust and common purpose, examining the various situations with objectivity and seeking to resolve them in a spirit of heartfelt collaboration. Conflicts must be banned, since no good can come except from love. Only thus will the Lord bless our efforts.
It is my intention to share these and other aspects of your pastoral work with you, gathered at the Synod, but also with each one of you individually on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. May Mary, Mother of the Church, protect and help you. May Elias Kuriakose and Alphonsa, whom I had the joy to add to the number of the Beati in the land which gave them birth, intercede for you and for the beloved priests, religious and laity of the Syro-Malabar Church. God bless your Synodal labours!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I thank you for your presence and for the good wishes formulated by your Dean with such refinement of sentiment and expression. Please accept in return my own fervent wish that God will bless you, your families and your nations; may he grant to everyone a year of happiness!
It is with joy that each year I see an increase in the number of countries which maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Today there are more than a hundred and sixty. Such a development seems to us to show the genuine esteem which many have for the Apostolic See and its mission among the nations. This constitutes, for the Pope and those who assist him, a constant reminder to cooperate ever more intensely with the greatest number of people and organizations who, out of respect for morality and law, endeavour to ensure that justice and peace reign on our earth. I wish to say how much I appreciate the words of Ambassador Joseph Amichia, who in your name has kindly emphasized some of the initiatives thanks to which the Pope and, with him, the Holy See have given voice to all those people throughout the world who ardently yearn for peace, tranquillity and solidarity.
2. Today we cannot but rejoice to see here, for the first time, the Representative of the Palestinian People. For more than a year, as you know, the Holy See has enjoyed diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. We had been looking forward to this happy state of affairs, because it is the eloquent sign that the Middle East has resolutely taken the path of peace proclaimed to mankind by the Child born in Bethlehem. May God assist the Israelis and Palestinians to live from now on side by side, with one another, in peace, mutual esteem and sincere cooperation! Future generations demand this and the whole region will benefit from it.
But allow me to confide that this hope could prove ephemeral if a just and adequate solution is not also found to the particular problem of Jerusalem. The religious and universal dimension of the Holy City demands a commitment on the part of the whole international community, in order to ensure that the City preserves its uniqueness and retains its living character. The Holy Places, dear to the three monotheistic religions, are of course important for believers, but they would lose much of their significance if they were not permanently surrounded by active communities of Jews, Christians and Muslims, enjoying true freedom of conscience and religion, and developing their own religious, educational and social activities. The year 1996 should see the beginning of negotiations on the definitive status of the territories under the administration of the National Palestinian Authority, and also on the sensitive issue of the City of Jerusalem. It is my hope that the international community will offer the political partners most directly involved the juridical and diplomatic instruments capable of ensuring that Jerusalem, one and holy, may truly be a "crossroads of peace".
This serene and resolute quest for peace and brotherhood will contribute without any doubt to providing other still existing regional problems with solutions which will respond to the aspirations of peoples still worried about their fate and their future. I am thinking especially of Lebanon, whose sovereignty is still threatened, and of Iraq, whose peoples are still waiting for the chance to lead a normal life, safe from all arbitrary action.
3. A climate of peace also seems to be advancing in certain parts of Europe. Bosnia-Hercegovina has been able to benefit from an agreement which should - we hope - safeguard its territorial integrity while taking into account its ethnic composition. Sarajevo especially, another city of symbolic significance, should likewise become a crossroads of peace. Is it not in fact called the "Jerusalem of Europe"? If the outbreak of the First World War is linked to this city, from now on its name ought to be synonymous with a city of peace, and cultural, social and religious meetings and exchanges ought to foster its multi-ethnic harmony. This involves a process which will be long and is not without difficulties. In this regard I would like to point out that an enduring peace in the Balkans can only be achieved if certain conditions are met: the free flow of people and ideas; the unhindered return of refugees to their homes; the preparation of truly democratic elections; and finally, sustained material and moral reconstruction, in which not only the international community but also the Churches and Religious Communities are called to take part unreservedly. Although this war, which I have often described as "useless", seems to be over, the work of building and consolidating peace looms as a great challenge in the first place to Europeans - but not only to them, - to ensure that indifference or selfishness do not reach the point of causing the shipwreck of a whole region of Europe, with unforeseeable consequences.
Northern Ireland also continues to move towards a more serene future and the peace process offers hope of a stable and permanent peace. From now on all are called upon to banish for ever two evils which are in no way inevitable: sectarian extremism and political violence. May the Catholics and Protestants of that region respect one another, build peace together, and cooperate in everyday life!
Among the encouraging signs, I cannot fail to mention the political evolution of South America, where the majority of the people are Catholics, and whose spiritual vitality is a treasure for the Church. Numerous elections have taken place in recent months and have been conducted in conditions which international observers have judged to be normal. But social inequalities are still very marked, and the problem of the production of drugs and drug-trafficking remains unsolved. These are factors which ought to spur political and economic leaders of that Continent to manage public affairs and the economy in a way which is ever more attentive to the aspirations and real needs of the people. This kind of approach, let us not forget, has enabled the peace process in Central America to go forward. In Nicaragua and El Salvador arms have fallen silent. In Guatemala reconciliation is going well. To be sure, the end of hostilities does not always mean social peace. Demilitarization is difficult to impose, and respect for human rights is not absolute. But there too a new climate is gradually emerging. For her part, the Catholic Church does not fail to contribute to this process.
This new climate, offering hope, which is developing thanks to the strenuous work of courageous negotiators to whom gratitude is due, must not only be a truce. Between threatening forms of extremism, peace must become a reality. And if this is achieved, it will be contagious.
4. But there are still too many hotbeds of conflict, more or less disguised, which keep people under the unbearable yoke of violence, hatred, uncertainty and death.
I am thinking of course of Algeria, very near to us, where blood is spilled almost daily: we cannot but ardently hope to see established at last, in a just respect for differences, a reasonable settlement and a national plan in which everyone can be considered a partner.
Still in the Mediterranean region, I would like to mention an island which has been divided since 1974: Cyprus. No solution has yet been found. Such a situation, which prevents people who are separated or dispossessed of their property from building their future, cannot be maintained indefinitely. May the negotiations between the parties involved be intensified and inspired by a sincere desire to bring them to a successful conclusion!
Cooperation in the Mediterranean is an indispensable factor for European stability and security, as was stated by those taking part in the recent European Summit in Barcelona. In this context, we must not overlook questions of identity, territory and neighbours, as well as of religion: these are all elements to be reconciled in order to make this Mediterranean zone an area of cultural, religious and economic cooperation which could benefit all the peoples of the countries bordering it.
5. If we look towards the East, we must again note, unfortunately, that fighting is continuing in Chechnya. Afghanistan is still in a political stalemate, with the people being treated without respect and plunged into the greatest distress. In Kashmir and Sri Lanka fighting has continued to take its toll among the civilian populations. The people of East Timor too are still waiting for proposals capable of allowing the realization of their legitimate aspirations to see their special cultural and religious identity recognized.
We must admire and support the courage of the many men and women who manage to safeguard the identity of their peoples and who hand on to the younger generations the torch of memory and hope.
6. Turning to Africa, we are compelled to deplore the continuing presence of hotbeds of war and ethnic conflicts which constitute a permanent handicap for the Continent's development. The situation in Liberia and in Somalia, to which international assistance has not succeeded in bringing peace, is still governed by the law of violence and of special interests. Widespread armed activity has also plunged Sierra Leone into a situation of tension and increased insecurity. The Southern Sudan remains a region where dialogue and negotiation are not welcomed. We would also like to see more decisive progress in Angola, where political antagonisms and social disintegration prevent normalization. Rwanda and Burundi are still affected by a wave of ethnic and nationalist rivalry, the tragic consequences of which the people have already experienced in the extreme.
Last year, on this same occasion, I had asked for more international solidarity for Africa, and in the present circumstances I cannot but earnestly renew this appeal. But today I would like to direct my comments most particularly to the consciences of Africa's political leaders: if you do not commit yourselves more resolutely to national democratic dialogue, if you do not more clearly respect human rights, if you do not strictly administer public funds and external credits, if you do not condemn ethnic ideology, the African Continent will ever remain on the margin of the community of nations. In order to be helped, African governments must be politically credible. The Bishops of Africa, meeting in the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, underlined the urgent need for the competent management of public affairs and the proper training of political leaders - men and women - who "profoundly love their own people and wish to serve rather than be served" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, ).
7. These situations of conflict which I have just mentioned briefly are not inevitable. The positive developments which certain regions have experienced, regions themselves caught up in the meshes of violence, show that it is possible to restore trust in others, which is really trust in life. A guaranteed and courageously safeguarded peace is a victory over the ever lurking forces of death.
In this spirit, I cannot but encourage the work which will resume in Geneva in a few days, of the Conference on revising the Convention on conventional arms which are the cause of so much suffering, and the conclusion, during 1996, of the treaty on the banning of nuclear tests. In this regard, the Holy See is of the opinion that, in the sphere of nuclear weapons, the banning of tests and of the further development of these weapons, disarmament and non-proliferation are closely linked and must be achieved as quickly as possible under effective international controls. These are steps towards a general and total disarmament which the international community as a whole should accomplish without delay.
8. As I have had occasion to recall several times, what the International Community brings together is not just States but Nations, made up of men and women who weave a personal and collective history. It is their rights which must be defined and guaranteed. But, as happens in the family, these rights have to be qualified on the basis of the importance of corresponding duties. On the occasion of my recent visit to the headquarters of United Nations Organization in New York, I used the expression "family of nations". I pointed out that: "the ideal of 'family' immediately evokes something more than simple functional relations or a mere convergence of interests. The family is by nature a community based on mutual trust, mutual support and sincere respect. In an authentic family the strong do not dominate; instead, the weaker members, because of their very weakness, are all the more welcomed and served" (Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 5 October 1995, No. 14).
This is the true meaning of what international law proposes in theory as the concept of "reciprocity". Each people must be ready to accept the identity of its neighbour: this is the exact opposite of the despotic nationalistic ideologies which have torn apart Europe and Africa, and continue to do so! Each nation must be prepared to share its human, spiritual and material resources in order to help those whose needs are greater than the needs of its own members. Rome is preparing to host next November the World Summit on Food, called by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. I hope its work will be inspired by a sense of solidarity and sharing, especially as 1996 has been declared by the United Nations Organization the "Year for the Eradication of Poverty".
9. Recognition of others and of their heritage, this latter term being understood in a broad sense, is obviously applicable as well to a specific area of human rights: that of freedom of conscience and of religion. In fact I consider it my duty to return once more to this fundamental aspect of the spiritual life of millions of men and women, for the situation — and I say this with genuine sadness — is far from being satisfactory.
Just as countries of Christian tradition welcome Muslim communities, certain countries with a Muslim majority also generously welcome non-Muslim communities, allowing them even to build their own places of worship and to live in those countries in accordance with their beliefs. Others however continue to practise discrimination against Jews, Christians and other religious groups, going even as far as to refuse them the right to meet in private for prayer. It cannot be said too often: this is an intolerable and unjustifiable violation not only of all the norms of current international law, but of the most fundamental human freedom, that of practising one's faith openly, which for human beings is their reason for living.
In China and Vietnam, in contexts which are certainly different, Catholics face constant obstacles, especially with regard to the external manifestation of the bonds of communion with the Apostolic See.
Millions of believers cannot be indefinitely oppressed, held in suspicion or divided among themselves, without this involving negative consequences not only for the international credibility of those States but also for the internal life of the societies concerned: a persecuted believer will always find it difficult to have confidence in a State which presumes to regulate his conscience. On the other hand, good relations between Churches and the State contribute to the harmony of all members of society.
10. Ladies and Gentlemen, the purpose of these simple remarks has been to make the good wishes which we exchange more relevant. They have sketched a picture made up of lights and shadows, a reflection of the human soul.
But it is the pressing duty of the Successor of Peter to remind national leaders, whom you so worthily represent here, that world stability cannot be achieved if certain values are disregarded, values such as respect for life, conscience, fundamental human rights, concern for the most needy, solidarity, to name but a few.
The Holy See, being sovereign and independent among the nations, and for this reason a member of the international community, wishes to makes its specific contribution to this common commitment. Without political ambition, it is eager above all that humanity's path should be illuminated by the light of the One who, in coming into this world, became our travelling companion, the One "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col 2,3).
To him once more I commend your persons, your families and your nations, in particular the younger generation of whom I thought when I launched the appeal: "Let us give children a future of peace!" (Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1996). Upon everyone, for the year now beginning, I invoke abundant divine blessings.
Saturday, 13 January 1996
Thursday, 18 January 1996
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. At the conclusion of your "ad Limina" visit, I wish to assure you again of the heartfelt affection and fraternal esteem in which I hold the venerable Oriental Catholic Churches present in India, the Syro-Malabar Church and the Syro-Malankara Church. Your common origins go back to the very beginnings of Christianity, to the preaching of the glorious Apostle Thomas. Today, the dynamic nature of your communities bears witness to the continual presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of each particular Church founded on and sustained by the apostolic tradition. "We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren loved b? the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification b? the Spirit and belief in the truth" (2Th 2,13). With affection in the Lord I congratulate Cardinal Antony Padiyara, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, who in December celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
I extend a special welcome to Cyril Mar Baselios, recently appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum of the Syro-Malankara Church. In your person I greet the whole Syro-Malankara Church, which so effectively blends fidelity to its Oriental tradition with a vigorous commitment to the apostolate. Present in our thoughts at this happy moment are the figures of tw? unforgettable Pastors, Mar Ivanios, who led you on the path of rediscovered full communion with the See of Peter, and Mar Gregorios, who so wisely directed the development of your Church. I am confident that you will follow in their footsteps, guiding your Church "fortiter et suaviter".
2. In his wisdom the Lord has granted to your Churches many signs of his benevolence. Among these we must count the abundant vocations to the priesthood and religious life which he continues to raise up in your families and communities. This gift constitutes a fundamental challenge and responsibility for you as Pastors. It calls for judicious selection of candidates, careful attention to their training, in harmony with your oriental tradition and in accordance with the guidelines issued in recent years b? the competent Congregations of the Holy See. Priestly formation should be a precious time of prayer in a peaceful atmosphere of study, reflection and fraternal charity. In such surroundings a vocation flourishes and progresses daily in freedom marked by complete self-giving in response to God's constant fidelity. I exhort you to guard these vocations with great care, never allowing conflicts within a community to affect the integrity of the formation process. I appreciate the fact that an important point has been reached in the Syro-Malabar Synod, which has just taken place, namely, agreement on the need to give special care, solemnity and completeness to the liturgy in your seminaries, with a view to the homogeneous and consistent formation of the clergy.
3. I have followed with keen interest the work of the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church. You have examined the Synod procedure it-self and the all-important question of the nature of communion among its members. An enhanced understanding of the "organic" nature of hierarchical communion, which demands a juridical form and is simultaneously animated by charity (Cfr. Lumen Gentium, Nota Praevia), is the proper context in which to address the difficulties which present themselves along the path of your Church's growth and development.
There is one result of your Synod which I have noted with particular joy and for which I give you my full support: the unanimous agreement of all the Bishops regarding the steps to b? taken b? all in order to foster greater unity in conceiving and celebrating the liturgy. I am grateful to you for the efforts you have made in order to reach this point, and I encourage you to do everything necessary to make this agreement a reality in all your Eparchies.
4. You have also reached further consensus regarding missionary activity and the pastoral care of the faithful in other parts of India and elsewhere in the world. My Letter to the Bishops of India of 28 May 1987 had already given certain indications in this regard. At that time, the dicasteries involved worked with common accord, and concrete results were achieved. It is now necessary to continue that work, in constant dialogue with the Latin-rite Bishops of India. Great openness and mutual understanding are required on the part of all concerned, in the knowledge that the salvation of souls — salus animarum — is the supreme law of pastoral action.
5. Today marks the beginning of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Your Churches themselves are living proof of the fact that "legitimate diversity is in no way opposed to the Church's unity, but rather enhances her splendour and contributes greatly to the fulfilment of her mission" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Ut Unum Sint UUS 50). I encourage you to persevere in the dialogue of love and the theological dialogue with your brethren not in full communion with us. In the end, the unity of all Christ's followers is a grace which we must ardently pray for and which we must strive to merit through humble and generous fidelity to the Gospel.
6. During your "ad Limina" visit you have made present, at the tombs of the Princes of th? Apostles, Peter and Paul, and to the heart of the Successor of Peter, the achievements, the hopes and the generous commitment of the priests, religious and lay faithful of the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches. As you return to your Eparchi?s and seek, through the generous fulfilment of your spiritual and pastoral mission, to strengthen the Christian lif? of your communities, I exhort you to put all your trust in the Lord: "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain"(Ps 127,1). Let us never forget that the Holy Spirit is the principal architect of the Church's lif? amid the vicissitudes of history and the events of every day. Perhaps it is not superfluous to recall that th? solution of many problems affecting the Church in every time and place lies in listening intently to the voice of the Holy Spirit as he guides us to the whole truth (Cfr. Io Jn 16,13). He makes known that truth to th? simple of heart, whose eyes of faith see that which remains hidden to th? "wise and understanding" (Cfr. Matth Mt 11,25).
May the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, strengthen you and all the faithful for the important work that still lies before you. May the Lord sustain you "in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and F?ther of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 15,5-6).
1. I cordially thank Monsignor Dean for the meaningful words with which you expressed the sentiments of everyone present. Together with you I affectionately greet the prelate auditors, the promoters of justice, the defenders of the bond, the chancery officials, the rotal advocates and the students of the Studio Rotale. At the beginning of the new judicial year I extend to everyone my fervent best wishes for peace and fruitful endeavor in the demanding field of studying and concretely applying the law.
It is always a great joy for me to welcome you on the occasion of this traditional meeting of ours, at which I have the opportunity to express to you my deep gratitude and appreciation for the fidelity and commitment with which you carry out your particular ecclesial service.
In his address, Monsignor Dean underscored the problems that in the exercise of judicial power weigh heavily on the mind, conscience, and heart of the prelate auditor judges. They are problems which I fully understand. Indeed, I would like to spend a few moments considering them.
I will start with some basic concepts about the true and genuine nature of marital nullity procedures in order to speak then of the canonical judge’s proper task of considering the particular nature of each individual case in the context of the specific culture in which it is found.
2. The authentic nature of marital nullity procedures can be deduced not only from their proper object, but also from their very place within the canonical legislation that regulates the introduction, conduct and resolution of the procedure.
Thus, while the legislator, on the one hand, has established some specific norms for cases of marital nullity (see CIC, cc. 1671 ff.; CCEO, cc. 1357 ff.); on the other, he has determined that for the rest the canons de iudiciis in genere et de iudicio contentioso ordinario (“concerning processes in general and concerning the ordinary contentious process”) should be applied in these cases (CIC, c. 1691; CCEO, c. 1376). At the same time he has expressly pointed out that these are cases which pertain to the status of persons, that is, to their position in relation to canon law (see CIC, c. 1691) and to the public good of the Church (see CIC, c. 1691; CCEO, c. 1376).
Without these premises, it would not be possible to understand various prescriptions of both the Latin and the Eastern Codes, in which the activity of public power seems to have priority. Think, for example, of the role exercised by the judge in guiding the instructional phase of the procedure, supplying even for the negligence of the parties themselves; or of the indispensable presence of the defender of the bond as the one who safeguards the sacrament and the validity of the marriage; or again, of the initiative taken by the promoter of justice in serving as the petitioner in particular cases.
At the same time, however, the current legislation of the Church shows a deep sensitivity to the requirement that the status of persons–if called into question —does not remain in doubt for very long. This is the reason for the possibility of approaching different tribunals for greater ease in instructing the case (see CIC, c. 1673; CCEO, c. 1359); it is also the reason at the appellate level for the assigning of competence on new grounds of nullity to be judged tamquam in prima instantia (“as at the first instance”, CIC, c. 1683; CCEO, c. 1369); or also for the abbreviated appellate process, after one sentence finds for nullity, with all the procedural formalities being eliminated and the decision being given by a simple decree of ratification (see CIC, c. 1682; CCEO, c. 1368).
3. Looming over all of this, however, is the nature of the marital nullity procedure as pertaining to the public good and the specific juridical nature of the determination of a person’s status, which is the judicial conflict concerning an objective reality, that is, whether the bond is valid or null.