Speeches 2005-13 407



Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends from Finland,

I welcome you with great joy on the occasion of your annual ecumenical pilgrimage to Rome to celebrate the Feast of St Henry, Patron of your beloved land. Every year, during this period, your traditional pilgrimage testifies to the sincere, friendly and helpful relations which have been established between Lutherans and Catholics, as well as in general between all the Christians in your Country.

Even though we have not yet achieved the objective of the ecumenical movement, namely full unity of faith, through dialogue many elements of agreement and closeness have matured which strengthen our general desire to do the will of our Lord Jesus Christ: “that they may all be one” (Jn 17,21). One result recently obtained that deserves attention was the conclusive report on the theme of justification in the life of the Church. This report was prepared by a group centred on Nordic Catholic-Lutheran dialogue in Finland and Sweden, that met last year.

In theology and in faith everything is linked together, and thus a common deeper understanding of the justification will help us to understand together the nature of the Church better and, as you mentioned, the episcopal ministry. Thus it will also help us to find the unity of the Church in a concrete form and thereby to be more capable, as you observed, to explain the faith to all people of today who ask each other about it and to make it more comprehensible to them so that they see that he is the answer, that Christ is the Redeemer for us all. Thus our hope remains alive that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, many people involved in the ecumenical field, competent and aware, will contribute to the realization of this important ecumenical task and, always guided by the Holy Spirit, will be able to forge ahead.

Having said this, it is implied that the efficacy of our efforts cannot come solely from study and discussion, but above all depend on our constant prayer, on our life in conformity with the will of God, because ecumenicism is not our work but rather a fruit of God’s action.

At the same time, we are all conscience of the fact that in recent years the ecumenical path, from certain points of view, has become more difficult and certainly more demanding. Questions will be asked concerning the ecumenical method and the breakthroughs of past years will be mentioned, as well as the uncertainty of the future, and the problems of our time with faith in general. In this light, your annual pilgrimage to Rome for the Feast of St Henry is an important event, a sign and an encouragement for our ecumenical efforts, for our certainty that we must walk together and that Christ is the way for humanity.

Your pilgrimage helps us to look back with joy at what has been achieved so far and to look to the future with the desire to take on a task full of faith and responsibility. On the occasion of your visit, we all wish to reinforce our certainty of the fact that the Holy Spirit, who reawakens us, accompanies us and to this day has made the ecumenical movement fruitful, may continue in this way also in the future.

I firmly hope that your visit to Rome will strengthen the future collaboration of Lutherans and Catholics, yes, between all the Christians in Finland. Looking forward to the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity let us pray that the spirit of truth will lead us to even greater love and brotherhood. May God grant you his rich Blessing in newly begun year.


Dear Prefect,
Dear General Commissioner,
Dear Officers and Agents,

I am happy to welcome you, in accordance with the good custom, to the mutual exchange of greetings at the beginning of the New Year. I address to each one of you a cordial welcome which I willingly extend to your respective families and to your colleagues who have been unable to take part in this meeting because they are taken up by their daily service, guaranteeing security in St Peter’s Square, in the neighbourhood and in the other areas that belong to the Vatican.

I would like to address a special greeting and good wishes to the General Commissioner, Mr Raffaele Aiello, who has headed your Inspectorate for only a few weeks. I also thank him for his courteous words to me on behalf of those present and of the representatives of the central and peripheral structures of the Ministry of the Interior that cooperate with you in a spirit of service and of painstaking availability.

I also address my respectful greeting to Mr Antonio Manganelli, Chief of Police, to Prefect Salvatore Festa and to the other Officers and Directors, as well as to the Chaplains, reiterating also on behalf of my collaborators, our deep gratitude for the valuable work of this Inspectorate for Public Security.

I take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation of the work and professionalism with which the officers and agents of the State Police Force, as if they were “Guardian Angels”, watch over the Vatican day and night, guaranteeing the necessary security and putting themselves at the pilgrims’ service.

This work of vigilance that you carry out with dedication and concern to preserve public order, is certainly considerable and sensitive; it sometimes demands a fair amount of patience, perseverance, sacrifice and readiness to listen. It is a particularly useful service for ensuring that the spiritual and religious demonstrations which take place, especially in St Peter’s Square, are peaceful and safe.

May your important presence in the heart of Christendom where throngs of the faithful gather to meet the Successor of Peter and to visit the tombs of the Apostles always inspire in each one of you the resolution to revive the spiritual dimension of your life, as well as the commitment to deepening your Christian faith, joyfully bearing witness to it through consistent behaviour.

In the Christmas Season that has just ended, the Liturgy invited us to welcome the Word which has been in the Father’s heart from the very beginning and which he gave to us, revealing his Face in a Child. He is the Eternal One who enters time and fills it with his fullness; he is the light that illuminates and lights the way of those in darkness; he is the Son of God who brings salvation to humanity.

Let us always accept him with trust and joy! The Virgin Mary introduces him to us. May she as a tender caring Mother watch over us. Turn often to her motherly intercession and entrust to her the year 2011 that has just begun, so that it may be a time of hope and peace for everyone.

With these sentiments I invoke upon you and upon your work an abundance of heavenly gifts, while I warmly impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing which I gladly extend to your families and to your loved ones.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters

I welcome you with great joy to the Apostolic Palace and I offer you my most cordial welcome. I greet you, Mons. Rector, and the whole community of the Pontifical Polish Ecclesiastical Institute, as well as your guests. I thank Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski in particular for his meaningful words addressed to me on behalf of everyone present.

What has brought you here, to meet the Successor of Peter and to be strengthened in the faith and in your membership in the Church, is a happy circumstance rightly very dear to you: the centenary of this praiseworthy Institution’s foundation. It came into being through the enlightened intuition and admirable initiative of St Józef Sebastian Pelczar, then Bishop of Przemysl. The Institution began its history during the Pontificate of St Pius X, to whom the project for the foundation was presented.

On 13 May 1909, this same Pope approved the request of the Polish Bishops and on 19 March 1910, with the Decree Religioso Polonae Gentis, he established the Polish Hospice. It was solemnly inaugurated on 13 November 1910 by Mons. Sapieha, who later became the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow. Thus, over the years, the Institute has been able to enjoy the solicitude and affection of various Pontiffs. Among them we recall, closer to us, the Servant of God Paul VI and, of course, the future Blessed, the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II, who visited it in 1980 and emphasized its great significance for the Church and for the Polish people.

The celebration of the first centenary of this important Institution constitutes a valid appeal to remember with gratitude, as is only right, those who founded it with faith, courage and effort; an appeal at the same time to the responsibility for pursuing its original aims in our day, adapting them appropriately to the new situations. The commitment to keep the soul of the Institute alive should be placed above all things, its religious and ecclesial soul, which responds to the providential divine plan to offer Polish priests a suitable environment for study and brotherhood during their period of formation in Rome.

Now, dear Priest students, you too belong to this Pontifical Institute, which has witnessed so many important events for the Church in Poland. Arriving in the heart of Christendom, you have a serious desire to deepen your intellectual and spiritual training in order to carry out for all, in the best possible way, the offices of responsibility that will gradually be entrusted to you by your Bishops for the service of the People of God. May you feel you are “living stones”, an important part of this history, which today also requires your personal and effective response. And may you make your generous contribution, as did Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski during the Second Vatican Council. He was the unforgettable Primate of Poland who had the opportunity to prepare the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland and the historic Message of Reconciliation which the Polish Bishops addressed to the German Bishops, containing the famous words: “We forgive and we ask forgiveness”.

The Church needs well-trained priests, rich in the wisdom that is acquired in friendship with the Lord Jesus, and who draw constantly from the Eucharistic Table and the inexhaustible source of his Gospel. May you be able to find in these two irreplaceable sources continuous support and the necessary inspiration for your life and your ministry, for a sincere love of the Truth, which today you are also called to deepen through study and scientific research and which you will be able to share with many in the future.

The search for the Truth, for you who are having this particular Roman experience as priests, is stimulated and enriched by closeness to the Apostolic See on which is incumbent a specific and universal service to Catholic communion in truth and in charity. Remaining bound to Peter in the heart of the Church means recognizing, filled with gratitude, that you are within a rich, centuries-old history of salvation which has reached you through manifold grace and in which you are called to participate actively so that, like a vigorous tree, you will always bear its precious fruit.

May love and devotion to the figure of Peter impel you to serve generously the communion of the entire Catholic Church and of your particular Churches so that, like one large family, all may learn to recognize in Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Face of the merciful Father who does not want any of his children to be lost.

Venerable and dear Brothers, I entrust all of you to the Virgin Mary, so beloved by the Polish people. Always invoke her as the Mother of your priesthood so that she may accompany you on the journey through life and attract to your present and future ministry an abundance of the Holy Spirit’s gifts. May Mary help you to persevere with joyful fidelity in grace and in the commitment to follow Jesus and to nourish constantly a fruitful dedication to your daily work and to those whom the Lord sets beside you.

I warmly impart to all of you, and to your relatives and your loved ones, a special Apostolic Blessing. Praised be Jesus Christ.

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY Paul VI Audience Hall Monday, 17 January 2011

Dear Friends,

I am glad to receive you and to offer you a warm welcome. I greet in particular Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández, the Initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way, and Fr Mario Pezzi. I thank them for their greeting to me and for their presentation. I greet all of you here with deep affection: priests, seminarians, families and members of the Way.

I thank the Lord for giving us the opportunity for this meeting, in which you renew your ties with the Successor of Peter, accepting once again the mandate that the Risen Christ gave to his disciples: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mc 16,15).

For more than 40 years the Neocatechumenal Way has been contributing to the revival and consolidation of Christian Initiation in dioceses and parishes, encouraging a gradual and radical rediscovery of the riches of Baptism and helping people to savour divine life, the heavenly life that the Lord inaugurated with his Incarnation, coming into our midst, being born as one of us.

This gift of God to his Church puts itself “at the service of the Bishop as one of the forms of diocesan implementation of Christian Initiation and of ongoing education in faith” (Statute, art. 1 § 2). This service, as my Predecessor the Servant of God Paul VI reminded you at his first Meeting with you in 1974, “will be able to renew in today’s Christian community those effects of maturity and deepening which in the early Church were acquired in the period of preparation for Baptism” (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XII [1974], 406).

The process of drafting the Statute of the Neocatechumenal Way has been successfully completed over the past few years and, after a suitable trial period “ad experimentum”, it was definitively approved in June 2008. Another significant step has been taken in the past few days with the approval of the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way by the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See.

Today, with these seals of the Church, the Lord confirms and entrusts to you anew this precious instrument — which is the Way — so that you may contribute with fresh zeal and enthusiasm to the radical and joyful rediscovery of the gift of Baptism and make your original contribution to the cause of the new evangelization, in filial obedience to the Holy See and to the Church’s Pastors.

The Church has recognized the Neocatechumenal Way as a special gift inspired by the Holy Spirit: as such, it naturally endeavours to fit into the great harmony of the Ecclesial Body. In this light I urge you to seek profound communion with the Pastors and with all the members of the particular Churches and of the very different ecclesial contexts in which you are called to work. Indeed fraternal communion among the disciples of Jesus is the first and greatest testimony to the Name of Jesus Christ.

Today I am particularly glad to be able to send more than 200 new families to different parts of the world. They have made themselves available with great generosity and are leaving for the mission, joining in spirit the almost 600 families that are already working on the five continents.

Dear families, may the faith you have received as gift be the light that is placed on the lampstand, which can show people the way to Heaven. With the same sentiment, I shall send out 13 new “missiones ad gentes”, which will be called to create a new ecclesial presence in the highly secularized milieus of various countries and in places where Christ’s message has not yet arrived. May you always be aware of the living presence of the Risen Lord and of the company of so many brothers and sisters beside you, as well as of the Pope’s prayers.

I greet affectionately the priests from the Redemptoris Mater Diocesan seminaries of Europe and the more than 2,000 seminarians present here. You are a special and an eloquent sign of the fruits of goodness that can be born rediscovering the grace of your Baptism. We look to you with special hope: be priests in love with Christ and his Church, who can broadcast to the world the joy of having encountered the Lord and of being able to serve him.

I also greet the itinerant catechists and those of the Neocatechumenal Communities of Rome and Lazio and, with special affection, the “communitates in missionem”. You have forfeited, so to speak, the security of the communities you come from to go to more distant and uncomfortable places, accepting to be sent out to help parishes in difficulty and to seek the lost sheep, to bring them back to Christ’s fold. In the suffering or aridity that you may experience, feel united with the suffering of Christ on the Cross and with his desire to reach out to so many brothers and sisters who are far from the faith and the truth, to bring them back to the Father’s house.

As I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, “the Church’s mission cannot be considered as an optional or supplementary element in her life. Rather it entails letting the Holy Spirit assimilate us to Christ himself... to share the word with your entire life” (cf. ibid., n. 93). I ask you to reflect on the Exhortation Verbum Domini, focusing in a special way on what it says in the third part of the Document on “The Church’s mission: to proclaim the word of God to the world” (n. 90-98).

Dear friends, let us share in the concern of the Lord Jesus for salvation of the Lord Jesus, in the mission that he entrusts to the whole Church. May the Blessed Virgin Mary who inspired your Way and who has given you the family of Nazareth as a model for your communities, grant you to live your faith in humility, simplicity and praise and may she intercede for all of you and accompany you in your mission. May you also be sustained by my blessing, which I cordially impart to you and to all the members of the Neocatechumenal Way, scattered across the world.


Distinguished Chief of Police,
Distinguished Directors and Officers,
Dear Agents and Civil Personnel of the State Police Force,

I am truly glad to have this meeting with you. I welcome you to the House of Peter, this time not because you are on duty but to see each other, to speak to each other and to greet each other in a more familiar way. I greet in particular the Chief of Police, thanking him for his courteous words, as well as the other directors and the Chaplain; a cordial greeting to your relatives, especially the children!

I would like first of all to thank you for all the work you do for the city of Rome, of which I am Bishop, to ensure that its life is orderly and safe. I also express my gratitude for the additional dedication that my activities demand of you!

The time in which we live is affected by profound changes. Rome, rightly called the “Eternal City”, has also changed considerably and is still evolving. We experience this every day and you are privileged witnesses of it. These changes at times give rise to a feeling of insecurity. This is primarily due to precarious social and economic conditions and is exacerbated by a certain weakening in the perception of ethical principles on which the law and the personal moral attitudes are founded, that never fail to reinforce this system.

Our world, with all its new hopes and possibilities, is at the same time under the impression that moral consensus is lacking and, consequently, that the basic structures of coexistence can no longer function properly. The temptation to believe that forces mobilized for the defence of civil society are doomed to failure is therefore surfacing in many people. In the face of this temptation, we Christians who are particularly responsible for rediscovering new determination in professing the faith and in doing good, to continue courageously to be close to people in their joys and sufferings, in both the happy and the darker hours of earthly life.

In our day great importance is given to the subjective dimension of life. This is good, moreover, since it enables us to make the human being the focus of consideration, both in thought and in historical action. However, it should never be forgotten that man finds his deepest dignity in God’s loving gaze and in reference to him.

Attention to the subjective dimension is also a good when the value of the human conscience is highlighted. But here we encounter a serious risk because modern thought has developed a reductive view of the conscience. It maintains that there are no objective references for determining what is valid and what is true but that it is the individual person with his or her intuition who is the yardstick; each one, therefore, possesses his own truth, his own morality.

The most evident consequence is that religion and morality tend to be confined to the area of the subjective, the private: in other words faith, with its values and forms of behaviour, is no longer entitled to a place in public and civil life. If, therefore, on the one hand great importance is given to pluralism and tolerance in society, on the other, religion is tending to be gradually marginalized and perceived as unimportant and, in a certain sense, foreign to the civil world, as if its influence on human life should be limited.

On the contrary, for us Christians the true meaning of “conscience” is the human capacity for recognizing the truth and, primarily, the possibility of hearing its call, of seeking and finding it. It is necessary that human beings know how to open themselves, to be able to accept it freely and consciously. The human person, moreover, is the expression of a design of love and truth: God “planned” men and women with their interiority, their conscience, so that they might draw guidance from it in order to preserve and cultivate themselves and human society.

The new challenges that are looming on the horizon require God and the human being once again to encounter each other, they require society and public institutions to rediscover their “soul”, their spiritual and moral roots, to give a new consistence to the ethical and juridical values of reference and hence to practical action.

May the Christian faith and the Church never cease to make their own contribution to promoting the common good and to an authentically human progress. The same service of religion and of spiritual assistance, which, by virtue of the legislation in force, the State and the Church also engage to provide for the personnel of the State Police, testifies to the perennial fruitfulness of this encounter.

Today the unique vocation of the city of Rome requires that you who are public officials set a good example of positive and fruitful interaction between a healthy secularity and the Christian faith. The efficacy of your service is in fact the result of the combination of professionalism and the human quality, with the updating of security means and systems and the collection of human gifts such as patience, perseverance in goodness, sacrifice and the willingness to listen.

All of this, properly harmonized, is directed to the benefit of citizens, especially people in difficulty. May you always be able to see the human person as your purpose so that all may live in an authentically human way. As the Bishop of this city of ours I would like to ask you to read and meditate upon the word of God, to find in it the source and the criterion that inspire your action.

Dear friends, when you are on duty in the streets of Rome, or in your offices, remember that your Bishop, the Pope, is praying for you and loves you! I thank you for your visit and entrust you all to the protection of Mary Most Holy and of St Michael the Archangel, your heavenly Protector, as I warmly impart to you and to your undertaking a special Apostolic Blessing.


Dear Members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota,

I am glad to meet you at this annual event on the occasion of the inauguration of the Judicial Year. I address a cordial greeting to the College of Prelate Auditors, starting with the Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, the Dean, whom I thank for his courteous words. I greet the Officials, the Advocates and the other collaborators of this Tribunal, as well as all those present. This moment offers me an opportunity to express once again my appreciation of the work you are carrying out in the service of the Church and to encourage you to an ever greater commitment in such a delicate and important sector for pastoral care and for the salus animarum.

The post-conciliar discussion on canon law was centred on the relationship between law and pastoral care. The well-known assertion of the Venerable Servant of God, John Paul II, whose opinion was that “it is not true that, to be more pastoral, the law should be less juridical” (cf. Address to the Roman Rota, 18 January 1990, n. 4), expresses the radical surmounting of an apparent antithesis.

“The juridical and the pastoral dimensions”, John Paul II, said, “are united inseparably in the Church, a pilgrim on this earth. Above all, one aspect of their harmony emerges from their common goal: the salvation of souls” (ibid.). At my first meeting with you in 2006 I tried to highlight the authentic pastoral meaning of causes of the nullity of marriage founded on love for the truth (cf. Address to the Roman Rota, 28 January 2006). Today I would like to pause to consider the juridical dimension that is inherent in the pastoral activity of preparation and admission to marriage, to seek to shed light on the connection between this work and the judicial matrimonial process.

The canonical dimension of preparation for marriage may not be an element that is immediately apparent. In fact, on the one hand one observes that in courses for the preparation of marriage canonical issues have a rather modest — if not insignificant — place since there is a tendency to think that the future spouses have little interest in problems reserved for experts.

On the other hand, although the need for the juridical work that precedes marriage and that aim to ascertain that “nothing stands in the way of its valid and licit celebration” (Code of Canon Law CIC 1066), escapes no one, there is a widespread view which holds that the examination of the parties engaged to be married and the publication of marriage banns or other appropriate means for carrying out the necessary inquiries which are to precede marriage (cf. ibid., can. 1067) — including courses for the preparation of marriage — are exclusively formal requirements. In fact it is often maintained that in admitting couples to marriage pastors must have a broad-minded approach, since people’s natural right to marry is at stake.

It is right in this regard to reflect on the juridical dimension of marriage itself. It is a subject that I mentioned in the context of a reflection on the truth about marriage, in which I said, among other things: “With regard to the subjective and libertarian relativization of the sexual experience, the Church’s tradition clearly affirms the natural juridical character of marriage, that is, the fact that it belongs by nature to the context of justice in interpersonal relations. In this perspective, the law is truly interwoven with life and love as one of the intrinsic obligations of its existence” (Address to the Roman Rota, 27 January 2007). Thus, there is no such thing as one marriage according to life and another according to law: marriage is one thing alone, it constitutes a real legal bond between the man and the woman, a bond which sustains the authentic conjugal dynamic of life and love.

The marriage celebrated by the spouses, with which pastoral care is concerned and which is the focus of canonical doctrine, is a single, natural and salvific reality whose richness certainly gives rise to a variety of approaches yet without losing its essential identity. The juridical aspect is intrinsically linked to the essence of marriage. This is understood in the light of a non-positivistic notion of law, but considered in the perspective of relationality in accordance with justice.

The right to marry, ius connubii, must be seen in this perspective. In other words it is not a subjective claim that pastors must fulfil through a merely formal recognition independent of the effective content of the union. The right to contract marriage presupposes that the person can and intends to celebrate it truly, that is, in the truth of its essence as the Church teaches it. No one can claim the right to a nuptial ceremony. Indeed the ius connubii refers to the right to celebrate an authentic marriage.

The ius connubii would not, therefore, be denied where it was evident that the fundamental requirements for its exercise were lacking, namely, if the required capacity for marriage were patently lacking or the person intended to choose something which was incompatible with the natural reality of marriage.

I would like to reaffirm in this regard what I wrote after the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist: “Given the complex cultural context which the Church today encounters in many countries, the Synod also recommended devoting maximum pastoral attention to training couples preparing for marriage and to ascertaining beforehand their convictions regarding the obligations required for the validity of the sacrament of Matrimony. Serious discernment in this matter will help to avoid situations where impulsive decisions or superficial reasons lead two young people to take on responsibilities that they are then incapable of honouring (cf. Propositio, n. 40) The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, 22 February 2007, n. 29).

Preparation for marriage, in its various phases described by Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), certainly has aims that transcend the juridical dimension because its horizon is constituted by the integral, human and Christian, good of the married couple and of their future children (cf. n. 66), aimed definitively at the holiness of their life (cf . CIC CIC 1063, 2°).

It should never be forgotten, however, that the immediate objective of this preparation is to promote the free celebration of a true marriage, that is, the constitution of a bond of justice and love between the spouses, characterized by unity and indissolubility, ordained for the good of the spouses and for the procreation and upbringing of their offspring, and which among baptized people constitutes one of the sacraments of the New Covenant. This preparation does not address an extrinsic ideological message to the couple, nor, still less, does it impose a cultural model; rather, the engaged couple are put in a position to discover the truth of a natural inclination and a capacity for committing themselves which they bear inscribed in their relational entity as man-woman. From this derives the law, as an essential component of the marital relationship, rooted in a natural potential of the spouses that the consensual gift of self actualizes.

Reason and faith compete to illumine this truth of life, however, although it must remain clear that, as Venerable John Paul II taught further, “the Church does not refuse to celebrate a marriage for the person who is bene dispositus, even if he is imperfectly prepared from the supernatural point of view, provided the person has the right intention to marry according to the natural reality of marriage” (Address to the Roman Rota, 30 January 2003, n. 8).

In this perspective particular care must be given to following through the preparation for marriage, whether it is remote preparation, proximate preparation or immediate preparation (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio FC 22 November 1981, n. 66).

Among the means for ascertaining whether the project of the engaged couple is truly conjugal the prematrimonial examination stands out. This examination has a mainly juridical purpose: to ascertain that nothing impedes the valid and licit celebration of the wedding. However juridical does not mean formal, as though it were a bureaucratic step, like filling up a form based on set questions. Instead it is a unique pastoral opportunity — one to be made the most of with the full seriousness and attention that it requires — in which, through a dialogue full of respect and cordiality, the pastor seeks to help the person to face seriously the truth about himself or herself and about his or her own human and Christian vocation for marriage.

In this sense the dialogue, always conducted separately with each of the engaged pair without lessening the possibilty of further conversations with the couple — requires an atmosphere of full sincerity in which stress should be put on the fact that the contracting parties themselves are those first concerned and first obliged in conscience to celebrate a valid marriage.

In this way, with the various means available for a careful preparation and verification, an effective pastoral action can be developed which seeks to prevent the nullity of marriage. It is necessary to make every effort to interrupt, as far as possible, the vicious circle that often exists between a predictable admission to marriage, without an adequate preparation and a serious examination of the prerequisites for its celebration, and a legal declaration sometimes equally facile but of a contrary nature, in which the marriage itself is considered null solely on the basis of the observation of its failure.

It is true that not all the causes of an eventual declaration of nullity can be identified or expressed in the preparation for marriage; yet likewise it would not be right to hinder admission to marriage on the basis of unfounded presumptions, such as that of considering that, in this day and age, people would generally be incapable of marriage or would only appear to have a desire for it. In this perspective it seems important that there should be an even more incisive awareness concerning the responsibility in this matter of those entrusted with the care of souls. Canon Law in general, and especially matrimonial and procedural law, certainly require a special preparation but the knowledge of the basic aspects and of the immediately practical aspects of canon law, relative to its functions, constitute a formative requirement of primary importance for all pastoral workers, particularly those who are active in the pastoral care of families.

In addition, all this requires that the work of ecclesiastical tribunals transmit a univocal message on what is essential in marriage, in harmony with the Magisterium and with canon law and speaking unanimously. Given the need for the unity of jurisprudence, entrusted to the care of this Tribunal, the other ecclesiastical tribunals must conform to the rotal jurisprudence (cf. John Paul II, Address to the Roman Rota, 17 January 1998, n. 4). I recently insisted on the need to judge correctly causes relative to consensual incapacity (cf. Address to the Roman Rota, 29 January 2009).

This question continues to be very timely. Unfortunately incorrect positions still endure, such as that of identifying the discretion of judgement required for the marriage (cf . CIC CIC 1095,2) with the hoped for prudence in the decision to get married, thus confusing an issue of capacity with another which does not undermine the validity since it concerns the level of practical wisdom with which a decision is taken which is, in any case, truly matrimonial. The misunderstanding would be yet more serious were there a wish to assign an invalidating effect to rash decisions made in married life.

In the context of nullity because of the exclusion of an essential property of marriage (cf. ibid., can. 1101 § 2), a serious commitment is likewise necessary so that the judiciary pronouncements reflect the truth about marriage, the same truth that must illumine the moment of admission to marriage. I am thinking in particular of the question of the exclusion of the bonum coniugum. In relation to this exclusion the same danger that threatens the correct application of the norms on incapacity seems to be repeated, and that is, the search for causes of nullity in behaviour that do not concern the constitution of the conjugal bond but rather its realization in life. It is necessary to resist the temptation to transform the simple shortcomings of the spouses in their conjugal existence into defects of consent.

Real exclusion can occur in fact only when the ordination toward the good of the spouses is harmed (cf. ibid. can. 1055 § 1), excluded by a positive act of will. Cases in which there is failure to recognize the other as spouse or in which the essential ordering of the community of conjugal life to the good of the other is excluded are quite exceptional. The clarification of these hypotheses of exclusion of the bonum coniugum must be attentively assessed by the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota.

In concluding my reflections, I return to considering the relationship between the law and pastoral ministry. It is often the object of misunderstandings, to the detriment of law, but also of pastoral care.

Instead, it is necessary to encourage in all sectors, and in a particular way in the field of marriage and of the family, a positive dynamic, sign of profound harmony between the pastoral and the juridical which will certainly prove fruitful in the service rendered to those who are approaching marriage.

Dear Members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, I entrust you all to the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that you may never lack divine help in carrying out your daily work with faithfulness, in a spirit of fruitful service and I very willingly impart to you all a special Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 2005-13 407