Speeches 1998 - Thursday, 15 October 1998




15 October 1998

Dear Doctor Diouf,
Dear Friends,

It is a pleasure for me to receive this visit from the Executive Director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization together with the Independent Chairman of the Council, the Director of Protocol and the Representatives of the Regional Groups of FAO member countries.

I gratefully accept the FAO agricola medal as an honour bestowed not upon myself alone but upon all Catholics — priests, Religious and laity — and upon all men and women of good will who, as associates in International Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations, work tirelessly on every continent to alleviate the scourge of hunger and to promote economic conditions which will permit all people to lead a decent life. I share this honour also with all those who work the land, for without their hard and often hidden toil there would no hope of combatting hunger and malnutrition.

Over the past fifty-four years FAO has played an indispensable role in reminding the world that ensuring an adequate food supply, as well as fostering equitable and sustainable growth in the area of agriculture, must be integral components of every economic programme. In the name of the Catholic Church, and speaking also for all men and women of good will, I thank FAO for all that it has done since 1945 to improve the world’s food supply. I encourage its directors and personnel to be ever steadfast and conscientious in their commitment to the distinguished work to which the International Community has called them.

Thank you all, and God bless you and your work.




Thursday, 15 October 1998

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

1. I am pleased to meet you during the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy, which brings you together with sentiments of deep love for that unique “gift and mystery” which is the ministerial priesthood. I cordially greet you, with a special thought for Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who has addressed me with noble devotion and affection on behalf of you all.

The purpose of your plenary meeting is to help priests cross the threshold of the Holy Door of the now imminent Great Jubilee with the proper frame of mind, bearing in their hearts renewed sentiments of fidelity to their specific identity and commitment in their dedication to the missionary dynamics that stem from it.

You have fittingly chosen as the topic of your reflection a theme of fundamental importance: “The priest, leader of the community, teacher of the word and minister of the sacraments, in the perspective of the new evangelization”. This theme takes on its full meaning when examined in the light of the Jubilee. Indeed, the Holy Year of 2000 is not only meant to celebrate a unique chronological event, but to commemorate the “magnalia Dei” (cf. Acts Ac 1), documented in the 2,000-year-old history of the Church, of which the Incarnation of the Word is an extension in different times and places. The Jubilee is meant to create a heart “contrite and humbled” over our personal sins, to revive missionary fervour in the awareness that only Jesus Christ is the Saviour, to lead each person to the joy of experiencing the merciful love of God, who wants all human beings to be saved (cf. 1Tm 2,4).

2. Christ’s priesthood is a consequence of the Incarnation. Born of the ever-Virgin Mary, the Only- begotten Son of God entered the order of history. He became a priest, the one priest, and for this reason those in the Church who receive the dignity of the ordained priesthood share in a particular way in the one priesthood of Christ. The ordained priesthood is an irreplaceable element in the edifice of Redemption; it is a channel through which the fresh waters necessary to life normally flow. This priesthood, to which one is called as pure gift (cf. Heb. He 5,4), is the nerve-centre of the Church’s whole life and mission.

Through the sacrament of Orders, the priest is transformed into “Christ himself” in order to accomplish Christ’s works. His conformation to Christ the Head and Shepherd comes about through a specific character. This indelible character is the inseparable mark of priestly consecration (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis PO 2 Lumen gentium LG 21 Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1558): a gift of God, given for ever! The priest anointed in the Holy Spirit must therefore pledge absolute and unconditional fidelity to the Lord and to his Church, because commitment to the priesthood bears in itself the sign of eternity.

The priest, like Christ and in Christ, is sent. The saving “mission” that is entrusted to him for the good of mankind is required by his “priestly consecration” itself (cf. Lumen gentium LG 28) and is already implicit in the “call” God has given the man. Thus “vocation, consecration and mission” form the triptych of a single reality and are constitutive elements of the essential nature of the priesthood (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 16).

3. To recall these realities, to speak of the indispensability of the ordained priesthood amounts to performing an action today which, for anyone who takes a close look at ecclesial life, can only seem truly providential. Indeed, more or less explicit attempts have been made to alter the whole ecclesial event as willed by the Divine Founder. It in fact goes back to Christ’s will that his Church, the People of God on pilgrimage, should be established and structured as a hierarchically ordered society (cf. Lumen gentium LG 20), in which all enjoy the same dignity, but all do not have the same tasks. Instead, through a diversity of ministries, that is, of offices or services, each contributes, according to his own state, to bearing witness to the Gospel in the world.

For this reason I encourage you in your commitment to emphasizing the priest’s mission in light of the reflection you are engaged in at this plenary session.

4. The priest is first and foremost the leader of the people entrusted to him. The Church’s structure transcends both the “democratic” and “autocratic” models, because it is founded on the Father's “sending” of his Son and on the conferral of a “mission” through the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Twelve and to their successors (cf. Jn Jn 20,21). This teaching is already found in Presbyterorum ordinis, where the Council's Decree speaks of the “authority by which Christ himself builds up, sanctifies and rules his Body” (cf. n. 2). This is an authority which does not originate from below and therefore its extension and exercise cannot be defined by any assembly from below.

The priest, in union with his Bishop, is also a teacher of the Word. He teaches it by first being its servant (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis PO 4). All the faithful, by virtue of the sacraments of Christian initiation, are called to evangelize according to their own state of life, but the ordained minister carries out this mission with an authority and grace which do not come from knowledge and skill, however necessary, but from ordination (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 35).

Lastly, the priest is a minister of the sacraments. Indeed, evangelization cannot be authentic if it does not lead to the celebration of the sacraments. Thus, there can be no evangelization that is not directed to this celebration (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis PO 5).

5. All this must be lived in the perspective of the new evangelization, which will receive an important impulse from the Great Jubilee. Here we find a providential convergence of the paths marked out by the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente and those indicated by the Directories for priests and for permanent deacons, by the Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests and by all that will result from this plenary meeting.

Through the universal and convinced application of these documents, the commonly used expression “new evangelization” will become an effective reality. The very title of your plenary meeting focuses on the particular nature of the priest, his being in the Church and in relationship to her (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 16). Helping priests rediscover the essential features of the sacred ministry will be the best way to prepare them to cross the threshold of the Holy Door, converted to the truth about themselves: that of persons conformed to Christ the Head and Shepherd by virtue of a special character. Mission stems this alone. It requires that every Christian be exactly himself and act accordingly. Hence we can understand why the various states of life in the Church cannot be replaced.

It is necessary, therefore, to continue clarifying the specific identity of each person. Only by respecting the different and complementary identities will the Church be fully believing and thus credible, and be able to enter the new millennium, rich in hope (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 12).

In this perspective, as I invite you to put your projects in the hands of the One who, like the dawn, foretold the ever new coming of the Lord Jesus in history, I impart my Blessing to you all.




Friday, 16 October 1998

1. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy And I am sure he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart” (cf. Phil Ph 1,3-6). With these words I greet the pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, those from Poland and from abroad, as well as all my compatriots wherever they may be. In a special way I greet the Cardinal Primate and thank him for his words; I cordially greet Cardinal Franciszek, Metropolitan Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Andrzej Deskur, Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek Metropolitan Arch- bishop of Minsk-Mohilev, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Pinsk and the Archbishops, Bishops, priests and consecrated persons. I greet the President of the Republic of Poland, the presidents of the Parliament and Senate, the members of the Parliament, the senators, the representatives of the local authorities and especially those of the city of Kraków represented by the president of the province, the mayor and the authorities of the city of Warsaw.

2. Dear friends, you have come to the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles to give thanks to God with me for my 20 years of pastoral service to the universal Church. This meeting reminds me of that moment in the Sistine Chapel when, following the election carried out in accordance with canon law, I was asked: “Do you accept?”. I then replied: “In the obedience of faith before Christ my Lord, abandoning myself to the Mother of Christ and the Church, and conscious of the great difficulties, I accept”. The ways of divine Providence are inscrutable.

From Wawel Hill Christ called me to the Vatican Hill, from the tomb of St Stanislaus to the tomb of St Peter, so that I might lead the Church on the paths of conciliar renewal. At this moment I can see before my eyes the figure of the Servant of God Cardinal Stefan Wyszyñski, who, during the Conclave, on the feast-day of St Hedwig of Silesia, came up to me and said: “If they elect you, I beg you not to refuse”. I answered: “Thank you very much. God reward you, Cardinal”. Comforted by the grace and words of the Primate of the Millennium, I was able to say my fiat to the inscrutable designs of divine Providence. And today I want to repeat what I said to my compatriots in Paul VI Auditorium, the day after the inauguration of my Pontificate: “A Polish Pope would not be on Peter’s Chair were it not for the faith and heroic hope of our great Primate, his boundless trust in the Mother of the Church. Were it not for Jasna Góra”.

When I look back today at the past years of my ministry in the See of Rome, I thank God for having given me the grace to proclaim the Good News of salvation to many peoples and to many nations on every continent, including my compatriots in Poland. Evangelization is an essential element of the mission of St Peter's Successor, his daily labour of building the civilization of love, truth and life.

3. From the beginning, I have been supported in my apostolic ministry by the prayers and sacrifices of the entire People of God, and the Church in Poland has a special place among them. After my election to the See of St Peter, I asked my compatriots: “Do not forget me in prayer at Jasna Góra and throughout the country, in order that this Pope, who is blood of your blood and heart of your hearts, may serve the Church and the world well in the difficult times which precede the end of this second millennium”. And I constantly experience the help of this prayer. It is your prayer that accompanies me every hour of every day on the paths of my papal ministry. I know it, and in my heart I feel the deep bond which is created through prayer when we remember one another, share our sentiments and our human problems, and put them in the hands of the almighty and good Father who is in heaven.

I am particularly grateful for that continuing prayer during my moments of suffering and illness, especially on that memorable day, 13 May 1981. I find it hard to speak of this without being deeply moved. You prayed for me throughout that period in close union with me in bonds of solidarity and spiritual closeness. How can we forget at this moment the “white march” in Kraków, which united a great multitude in prayer, motivated by faith in divine mercy and love for the Church, and bearing witness to their devotion to the Pope. Today I would like to remind you of all this, and say: “God reward you!”. I too try to reciprocate with daily prayer for all my compatriots, for our entire nation, for Poland, my homeland where my life, my heart and my vocation have always been deeply rooted. My country’s problems have been and always are very dear to me. Deep in my heart, I experience all that my nation is going through. I consider the good of my homeland as my own good, and what harms or dishonours it, all that threatens it, in a certain sense always becomes a part of me, a part of my heart, of my thoughts and of my feelings.

4. For many years I have been preparing with the whole Church to enter the third millennium. For me, the millennium of the Baptism of Poland, that extraordinary experience of my entire nation’s struggle for fidelity to God, to the Cross and to the Gospel during the Church’s persecution, was a historical preparation for the Great Jubilee!

When I began my Petrine ministry in the Church 20 years ago, I said: “Open the doors to Christ”. Today, at the threshold of the third millennium, these words acquire a special eloquence. Once again I address them to all my compatriots as my best wish. Open wide the doors to Christ — the doors of culture, of the economy, of politics, of the family, of personal and social life. There is no other name on earth by which we can be saved except that of the Redeemer of man (cf. Acts Ac 4,12). Christ alone is our Mediator with the Father, the only hope which never disappoints. Without Christ man will never fully know himself; he will never really know who he is and where he is going.

Opening the doors to Christ means opening oneself to him and to his teaching: to become witnesses to his life, passion and death. This means being united with him through prayer and the holy sacraments. Without a bond with Christ all things lose their meaning and the boundaries between good and evil are blurred. Today Poland needs people of deep faith and upright conscience, trained in the Gospel and the Church’s social teaching; people for whom the things of God are the most important, who can make decisions in conformity with the divine commandments and the Gospel. It needs courageous and responsible Christians to participate in all the areas of social and national life, who are not afraid of obstacles or opposition. The time has come for a new evangelization. Therefore, dear friends, I turn to you with this cry: “Open the doors to Christ!”. Be his witnesses to the very ends of the earth (cf. Acts Ac 1,8). Be his authentic disciples, who can “renew the face of the earth” and kindle in human hearts and in the whole nation the fire of love and justice.

5. On a day so important to me, I turn the eyes of my soul to Our Lady of Jasna Góra and place in her motherly hands all the problems of the Church in Poland and of my compatriots. Today, 16 October, as the Church recalls St Hedwig of Silesia — patroness of my election to the Chair of Peter — I ask you once again to pray “that I can accomplish the work which God gave me to do” (cf. Jn Jn 17,4) for his glory in service to the Church and to the world. I cordially bless all of you present here, your families, your loved ones and all my homeland.




Saturday, 17 October 1998

Your Eminence,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to extend a cordial greeting to you today at this meeting of the Grand Magisterium and Lieutenants of the ancient and illustrious Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

I thank Cardinal Carlo Furno, your Grand Master, for his noble address expressing the sentiments you share, and I am grateful for the gift he has offered me on behalf of you all.

Dear friends, your apostolic and charitable efforts are a work that is deeply motivated by faith: faith in Christ, the Son of God incarnate, true God and true man, whose lifeless body lay in the tomb from which he rose on Easter morning. The months between now and the Great Jubilee are a fitting occasion to reaffirm with conviction this faith in the Lord Jesus and to share it, by your convinced witness, with those who turn to you, looking for a word of hope and an act of charity that stem from total commitment to the Redeemer of man.

2. The distinctive sign of your order is the red cross of the Holy Land. It represents the Lord’s wounds and his Blood which redeemed all humanity. May it be impressed upon your hearts, so that you will be Christ’s witnesses in every situation, living and active members of your ecclesial communities. Deeply motivated by your devotion to the Cross of Christ, you will be able to spread among those around you a love for the Land traveled by the Redeemer during his earthly life, thus mobilizing the hearts of believers so that the Church which lives in the places sanctified by Christ’s presence will not lack the help she needs to fulfil God’s providential plan.

Your mission is therefore important and significant! Faithful to your particular charism, you are called in a way to imitate the loving zeal of the Apostle Paul, who went about seeking help for “the relief of the saints” in Jerusalem (cf. 2Co 8,4), urging the various Churches to offer generous alms for the brethren in Jerusalem, since “if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual blessings, they ought to contribute to their temporal needs in return” (Rm 15,27).

3. And what should we say, then, of your valuable service to Christian unity? Obedient to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and according to each one's opportunities, you must be convinced promoters of ecumenism by creating suitable forms of co-operation with the other Christian denominations, as well as by fostering careful, productive dialogue with the followers of the other religions, under the guidance of the Bishops, in order to strengthen peace in the Land of the Prince of Peace, in that Jerusalem which has become the symbol of eternal happiness.

There are various ways you can contribute to the fulfilment of the Holy City's distinctive vocation. The first and most effective is certainly prayer, because without constant prayer those who wish to build the city labour in vain. Therefore, be ardent apostles of prayer.

Secondly, make it your task to organize activities and to encourage projects that support peace and co-operation in order to make the Holy Land a place of meeting and dialogue, with mutual respect and honest collaboration.

With regard to the Christians who live there and are currently facing many difficulties, it will be your concern to let them sense your fraternal help, accompanied by that praiseworthy generosity which is the hallmark of your interventions. The Lord will reward you and bless all your efforts.

4. Dear friends, the objectives lying before you become all the more important as the Jubilee Year approaches. May the Holy City, which, like Rome, evokes the pilgrimage of faith, be the goal of your spiritual journey of penance and conversion. Go to the Holy Places in this spirit and promote pilgrimages to Jerusalem, while also suggesting the practice of the Way of the Cross to those who cannot go there in person.

Belonging to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre will thus become an incentive to personal asceticism centred on meditation upon the profound lessons which flow from the Cross. It will also encourage pastoral activity for the new evangelization. May you be sustained on this spiritual and apostolic journey by your heavenly patroness, Mary Queen of Palestine, who in her earthly life offered her whole self to the fulfilment of God’s saving plan.

With these wishes I give each of you my Apostolic Blessing and willingly extend it to all the members of the order and their families.






17 October 1998

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. With great joy I greet you, the Pastors of the Church in the States of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Your ad Limina visit, by bringing you to "see Peter" (cf. Gal Ga 1,18) is meant to be, in the life of the particular Churches over which you preside, an opportunity "to strengthen unity in the same faith, hope and charity, and more and more recognize and treasure that immense heritage of spiritual and moral wealth that the whole Church, joined with the Bishop of Rome by the bond of communion, has spread throughout the world" (Pastor Bonus, Appendix I, No. 3).

In this series of meetings with the Bishops of the United States, I have emphasized that the faithful and committed implementation of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council is the path indicated by the Holy Spirit for the whole Church to prepare for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the beginning of the new Millennium. The renewal of Christian life which was at the forefront of the Council's work is the same goal which guided Pope John XXIII to advocate a revision of the Code of Canon Law (cf. Address to Roman Cardinals, January 25, 1959), a desire reaffirmed by the Council Fathers (cf. Christus Dominus CD 44). After much labor this revision bore fruit in the new Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches promulgated in 1990. Today I wish to reflect on some aspects of your ministry in relation to the place of law in the Church.

2. The immediate purpose of the revision of the Code was to ensure that it embodied the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council. And, given that the Council’s teaching aimed at stirring new energies for a new evangelization, it is clear that the revision of the Code belongs to that series of graces and gifts which the Holy Spirit has poured out so abundantly on the ecclesial community so that, in fidelity to Christ, it will enter the next Millennium seeking to give witness to the truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 56).

To understand more of the link between law and evangelization we need to consider the biblical roots of law in the Church. The Old Testament insists that the Torah is the greatest of God’s gifts to Israel, and each year the Jewish people still celebrate the feast called the Rejoicing of the Torah. The Torah is a great gift because it opens to people in every time and place the path of an ever new Exodus. For us, just as for Israel, the question is this: long ago our ancestors came forth from the slavery of Egypt, but how are we now to come forth from the slavery which afflicts us, from the Egypt of our own time and place? The biblical answer is: you will find freedom if you obey this divine Law. At the heart of biblical revelation, therefore, there lies the mystery of a liberating obedience, which reaches its supreme expression in the Crucified Christ who was “obedient unto death” (Ph 2,8). Ultimate obedience made possible the definitive liberation of Easter.

In the Church, then, the purpose of law is the defense and promotion of the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rm 8,21); this is the Good News which Christ sends us to bring to the world. To see the law as spiritually liberating runs against the grain of a certain understanding of law in Western culture, which tends to view law as a necessary evil, a kind of control required to guard fragile human rights and restrain wayward human passions, but which would disappear in the best of all possible worlds. This is not the biblical view; nor can it be the Church’s view.

Authority in the Church, being a sacred ministry at the service of the proclamation of God’s word and the sanctification of the faithful, can only be understood as a means for the development of the Christian life in accordance with the radical demands of the Gospel. Ecclesiastical law gives form to the community or social body of the Church, always with a view to that supreme objective which is the salvation of souls (cf. Canons 747, 978, 1752). Since this ultimate end is attained above all through the newness of life in the Spirit, the provisions of the law aim at safeguarding and fostering Christian life by regulating the exercise of faith, the sacraments, charity and ecclesiastical government.

3. The common good which the law protects and promotes is not a mere external order, but the sum of those conditions which make possible the spiritual and internal reality of communion with God and communion between the members of the Church. Consequently, as a basic rule, ecclesiastical laws bind in conscience. In other words, obedience to the law is not a mere external submission to authority but a means of growing in faith, charity and holiness, under the guidance and by the grace of the Holy Spirit. In this sense canon law has particular features which distinguish it from civil law and which preclude the application of the legal structures of civil society to the Church without the necessary modifications. Appreciation of these particularities is necessary in order to overcome some of the difficulties which have arisen in recent times regarding the understanding, interpretation and application of canon law.

Among these particularities is the pastoral character of law and of the exercise of justice in the Church. In fact, the pastoral character of canon law is the key to the correct understanding of canonical equity, that attitude of mind and spirit which tempers the rigor of the law in order to foster a higher good. In the Church, equity is an expression of charity in the truth, aiming at a higher justice which coincides with the supernatural good of the individual and of the community. Equity, then, should characterize the work of the pastor and the judge, who must continually model themselves on the Good Shepherd, "consoling those who have been struck down, guiding those who have erred, recognizing the rights of those who have been injured, calumniated or unjustly humiliated" (Paul VI, Address to the Roman Rota, February 8, 1973). Elements such as dispensation, tolerance, exempting or excusing causes, and epikeia, are to be understood not as diminishing the force of law but as complementing it, since they actually guarantee that the law's fundamental purpose is secured. Likewise, ecclesiastical censures are not vindictive but medicinal, inasmuch as they aim at bringing about the conversion of the sinner. All law in the Church has truth and charity as its constitutive elements and its primary motivating principles.

4. The Code specifies the duties of Bishops regarding the setting up of tribunals, and their activity. It is not enough to ensure that diocesan tribunals have the personnel and means to function properly. Your responsibility as Bishops - about which I encourage you to be especially vigilant - is to ensure that diocesan tribunals exercise faithfully the ministry of truth and justice. In my own ministry I have always felt the weight of this particular responsibility. As the Successor of Peter I have reason to be deeply grateful to my collaborators in the various tribunals of the Apostolic See: especially the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, which help me in that part of my ministry which deals with the proper administration of justice.

Canon law touches on every aspect of the Church’s life and therefore imposes upon Bishops a wide range of responsibilities, but it is undoubtedly in the area of marriage that these responsibilities are felt most acutely and are most complex. The indissolubility of marriage is a teaching that comes from Christ himself, and the first duty of pastors and pastoral workers is therefore to help couples overcome whatever difficulties arise. The referral of matrimonial cases to the tribunal should be a last resort. Great care must be taken when explaining to the faithful what a declaration of nullity is, in order to avoid the danger of its being conceived as divorce under a different name. The tribunal exercises a ministry of truth: its purpose is "to ascertain whether or not the facts exist that by natural, divine or ecclesiastical law invalidate the marriage, in order to be able to issue a true and just sentence concerning the alleged non-existence of the marriage bond" (Address to the Roman Rota, February 4, 1980, No. 2). The process leading to a judicial decision about the alleged nullity of marriage should demonstrate two aspects of the Church's pastoral mission. First, it should manifest clearly the desire to be faithful to the Lord's teaching concerning the permanent nature of sacramental marriage. Secondly, it should be inspired by genuine pastoral concern for those who seek the ministry of the tribunal in order to clarify their status in the Church.

5. Justice demands that the work of tribunals be carried out conscientiously and in strict observance of canonical directions and procedures. As Moderators of your diocesan tribunals, you have the duty to ensure that the officials of the tribunal are suitably qualified (cf. Canons 1420, 4; 1421, 3; 1428, 2; 1435), possessing a doctorate or at least a licentiate in canon law. Where this is not the case, they need to be properly dispensed by the Apostolic Signatura after receiving specialized training for their position. In regard to the officials of the tribunal, I urge you in particular to see that the defender of the bond is diligent in presenting and expounding all that can reasonably be argued against the nullity of the marriage (cf. Canon 1432). Bishops whose tribunals handle cases in second instance should ensure that their tribunals treat their competence seriously, not acting merely as an almost automatic confirmation of the judgment of the tribunal of first instance.

Both parties in a marriage case have rights which must be scrupulously respected. These include the right to be heard for the formulation of the doubt, the right to know on what grounds the case will be tried, the right to name witnesses, the right to inspect the acts, the right to know and rebut the arguments of the other party and of the defender of the bond, and to receive a copy of the final sentence. The parties are to be informed of the ways in which they may challenge the definitive sentence, including the right to appeal to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota in second instance. In regard to cases tried on the basis of psychic incapacity, that is, on the basis of some serious psychic anomaly which renders a person incapable of contracting a valid marriage (cf. Canon 1095), the tribunal is to make use of the services of an expert in psychology or psychiatry who shares a Christian anthropology in accordance with the Church's understanding of the human person (cf. Address to the Roman Rota, February 5, 1987).

A canonical process must never be seen as a mere formality to be observed or a set of rules to be manipulated. The judge may not pass sentence in favor of the nullity of a marriage if he has not first acquired the moral certainty of the existence of this nullity; probability alone is not sufficient to decide a case (cf. ibid., No. 6; Canon 1608). Moral certainty - which is not just probability or subjective conviction - "is characterized on the positive side by the exclusion of well-founded or reasonable doubt. On the negative side, it does admit the absolute possibility of the contrary and in this it differs from absolute certainty" (Pius XII, Address to the Roman Rota, October 1, 1942, No. 1). Moral certainty proceeds from a multitude of indications and demonstrations which, taken separately, may not be decisive, but which taken together can exclude any reasonable doubt. If the judge cannot reach moral certainty in the canonical trial, he must find in favor of the validity of the matrimonial bond (cf. Canon 1608, 3 and 4): marriage enjoys the favor of the law.

6. Dear Brother Bishops, the purpose of these brief considerations is to encourage you in overseeing the faithful application of canonical legislation: this is essential if the Church is to show herself ever more equal to the task of carrying out her salvific mission (cf. Apostolic Constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Leges). A deeper appreciation of the importance of canon law in the life of the Church and the implementation of measures to guarantee a more effective and conscientious administration of justice must be a central concern of your Episcopal ministry. Fidelity to ecclesiastical law should be a vital part of the renewal of your particular Churches. It is a condition for unleashing new energies for evangelization as we approach the Third Christian Millennium. I entrust your pastoral efforts in this regard to the maternal intercession of Mary, Mirror of Justice, and to you and the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 1998 - Thursday, 15 October 1998