Speeches 1997 - 25 January 1997




27 January 1997

1. I am pleased to meet you at this annual gathering, which expresses and strengthens the close ties between your work and my apostolic ministry. I cordially greet each of you, the prelate auditors, officials and all who serve in the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, members of the Studio Rotale and rotal advocates. I particularly thank Monsignor Dean for your kind words to me and for the remarks you have just made so succinctly.

2. Continuing my custom on these occasions of offering you some reflections on a topic regarding the Church’s law and, in particular, the exercise of the judicial function, I wish to discuss a theme you know well, that of the juridical consequences of the personalist aspects of marriage. Without entering into particular problems regarding the various grounds of marital nullity, I will limit myself to recalling a few main points to be kept in mind for a more in-depth study of the topic.

Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, we have been asked what juridical consequences flow from the view of marriage found in the pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes (nos. 47-52). In fact, the new codification of canon law in this area has made ample use of the Council’s vision, while avoiding some extreme interpretations which, for example, have considered the “intima communitas vitae et amoris coniugalis” (intimate sharing of married life and love) (ibid., no. 48) as a reality that does not involve a “vinculum sacrum” (sacred bond) (ibid.) with a specific juridical dimension.

In the 1983 Code formulations taken from the Council, such as that concerning the object of consent (see c. 1057, §2), and that regarding the twofold natural ordering of marriage (c. 1055, §1), in which the persons entering marriage are themselves given explicit prominence, are harmoniously blended with principles of traditional teaching, such as the “favor matrimonii” [marriage enjoys the favor of the law] (c. 1060). Nevertheless, there still exist symptoms which show a tendency to oppose the personalist aspects to those more properly juridical, without the possibility of a harmonious synthesis: thus, on the one hand, the concept of marriage as a reciprocal gift of the persons would seem to justify a vague doctrinal and jurisprudential tendency to broaden the requirements for capacity or psychological maturity and for the freedom and awareness necessary to contract marriage validly; on the other hand, certain applications of this tendency, by bringing out its inherent ambiguities, are rightly perceived as conflicting with the principle of indissolubility, no less firmly stressed by the magisterium.

3. To deal with the problem in a clear and balanced way, it is necessary to bear in mind the principle that juridical significance is not juxtaposed as something foreign to the interpersonal reality of marriage, but constitutes a truly intrinsic dimension of it. Relations between the spouses, in fact, like those between parents and children, are constitutively relations of justice, and for that reason have in themselves juridical significance. Married and parent-child love is not merely an instinctive inclination, nor an arbitrary and reversible choice, but is rather a love that is due. Therefore, putting the person at the center of the civility of love does not exclude the law, but instead demands it, leading to a rediscovery of law as an interpersonal reality and to a vision of juridical institutions that highlights their constitutive link with persons themselves, which is so essential in the case of marriage and the family.

On these subjects the magisterium goes well beyond the mere juridical dimension, but it does keep it constantly in mind. As a result, a preeminent source for understanding and correctly applying canonical marriage law is the Church’s same magisterium, which is responsible for authentically interpreting the word of God concerning this reality (see Dei Verbum DV 10), including its juridical aspects. The canonical norms are only the juridical expression of an underlying anthropological and theological reality, and we must be in constant touch with this reality if we are to avoid the risk of facile interpretations. The guarantee of certitude, in the structure of the People of God as communion, is offered by the living Magisterium of the Pastors.

4. In a vision of authentic personalism, the Church’s teaching implies the affirmation that marriage can be established as an indissoluble bond between the persons of the spouses, a bond essentially ordered to the good of the spouses themselves and of their children. Consequently, that conception of the conjugal union which would put this possibility in doubt and lead to a denial of the existence of marriage whenever problems arise in the shared life of the spouses, would clash with a true personalist dimension. At the root of such an attitude we see an individualistic culture, which is antithetical to a true personalism. “Individualism presupposes a use of freedom in which the subject does what he wants, in which he himself is the one to ‘establish the truth’ of whatever he finds pleasing or useful. He does not tolerate the fact that someone else ‘wants’ or demands something from him in the name of an objective truth. He does not want to ‘give’ to another on the basis of truth; he does not want to become a ‘sincere gift’” (Letter to Families LF 14).

The personalist aspect of Christian marriage implies an integral vision of man which, in the light of faith, takes up and confirms whatever we can know by our natural powers. It is characterized by a sound realism in its conception of personal freedom, placed between the limits and influences of a human nature burdened by sin and the always sufficient help of divine grace. This view proper to Christian anthropology also includes an awareness of the need for sacrifice, for the acceptance of suffering and the struggle as indispensable realities for being faithful to one’s duties. In the handling of marriage cases, it would be a mistake to have a too “idealized” notion, so to speak, of the marital relationship, which would lead one to interpret the normal difficulties that can occur as the couple progress towards full and reciprocal emotional integration as though there were a genuine incapacity to assume the obligations of marriage.

5. A correct evaluation of the personalist elements also requires that we keep in mind the essential nature of the person and, concretely, the essential nature of his conjugal dimension and the resulting natural inclination to marriage. A personalist conception based on pure subjectivism and, as such, unmindful of the nature of the human person—obviously taking the word “nature” in the metaphysical sense— would lend itself to every sort of ambiguity, even in the canonical domain. Marriage certainly has an essential nature, described in canon 1055, which pervades the entire teaching concerning marriage, as can be seen in the concepts of “essential property,” “essential element,” “essential rights and obligations of marriage,” etc. This essential reality is a possibility open in principle to every man and woman; indeed, it represents a true vocation for the great majority of the human race. Consequently, in assessing the capacity or the act of consent necessary for the celebration of a valid marriage, one cannot demand what it is not possible to require of the majority of people. It is not a question of a pragmatic or convenient minimalism, but of a realistic view of the human person, as a being always growing, called to make responsible choices with his inborn abilities, continuously enriching them by his own efforts and the help of grace.

From this perspective, the favor matrimonii and the presumption of the validity of marriage (see c. 1060) can be seen not only as the application of a general principle of law, but as consequences perfectly in keeping with the specific reality of matrimony. However, there remains the difficult task, as you well know, of including with the help of sciences, that minimum without which one cannot speak of the capacity or of sufficient consent for a true marriage.

6. All this clearly shows how exacting and demanding is the task entrusted to the Roman Rota. Its skilled jurisprudence not only sees that the defense of the rights of individual christifideles is secured, but at the same time makes a significant contribution to acceptance of God’s plan for the family in the ecclesial and, indirectly, in the entire human community.

Therefore, in expressing my gratitude to you who, directly or indirectly, collaborate in this service and urging you to persevere with renewed responsibility, which is so important for the Church’s life, I cordially impart to you my blessing and gladly extend it to all who work in ecclesiastical tribunals throughout the world.




Thursday, 30 January 1997

Your Honour,

Representatives of the Capitoline Administration,

1. I welcome you with joy and extend a cordial welcome to each of you. I address a particular greeting to the mayor, expressing my warm gratitude for his courteous address. With him, I would like to greet the board, the councillors and all who daily serve the citizens of Rome in the various departments of the Capitoline Administration. This is often a hidden work requiring dedication, willingness and competence; a work on which the quality of life in our city to a large extent depends.

At the beginning of the new year, this traditional meeting offers the Bishop of Rome and the city’s administrators the opportunity to express their common commitment to Rome, and to reflect together on its historical calling and all that is necessary to achieve it.

2. It is only three years until the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a date when Christians will commemorate the 20 centuries since the birth of Jesus Christ. The Church and civil community of Rome are called to play an important role in this event. The common conviction is that it will put our city, perhaps as never before, at the centre of the world's attention, giving an even more concrete expression to the name Caput mundi, which it is commonly called. Thus it is vital to call on the best spiritual and physical energies of the urban community so that, when the Jubilee is reached, it can show its most authentic face to the many pilgrims who will visit it: the Rome famous not only for its truly Christian dimension, but also for its traditional hospitality and for the awareness of the universal role it has been given by history.

3. To help achieve these objectives, I announced the great city mission, which began in St Peter’s Square on the last Vigil of Pentecost and is becoming more and more a part of the city’s human fabric.

With renewed vigour the Church wishes to present to every Christian living in Rome and to all its citizens the message of salvation which is incarnate in the person, words and deeds of Jesus Christ. As a symbol of this commitment, in the coming months each Roman family will be given a copy of Mark’s Gospel, written precisely in Rome by the disciple and faithful interpreter of Peter, the Apostle who shed his blood here. Today I am pleased to give you a copy too, convinced that the “joyful proclamation of Jesus Christ” is that wisdom of life which is also helpful to the civil life of all who reside in the city.

To support and complete her missionary proclamation, the Church perseveres in her commitment to human advancement and service to the needy. Through the diocesan Caritas and the many Church structures in the area, she continues to attend to the countless material and moral needs of many of its citizens, the victims of old and new forms of poverty. She is also involved in providing many surburban parishes with suitable places for worship and community life, which will be beacons of faith and hospitality in the new neighbourhoods as well as sources of identity and cultural outposts.

The ecclesial community is also preparing to offer the appropriate hospitality to all those who will be arriving for the forthcoming Jubilee, a highly important spiritual event whose success demands from both individuals and communities a commitment of sincere conversion.

As a public event, the Jubilee requires the creation of the structural, environmental and moral conditions which make special demands on the city's administrators. I gladly take this opportunity to thank each of you for what you have been doing to resolve the problems of circulation, traffic, parking, hospitality structures and the environment. My cordial wish is that all this will always take place with full respect for the properly religious objectives of the Jubilee.

Every effort therefore must continue to be made so that the expectations for the Holy Year of the Church, the Roman people and the international community will be fulfilled, and the city may present itself at this historical event materially and spiritually renewed.

4. This is an ambitious objective which demands even greater efforts to resolve the ancient and new infirmities of Rome. First to be dealt with must be the economic stagnation which has affected urban life for some years and is becoming visible in the decline of certain important productive sectors and the worrisome decrease in the number of jobs.

This situation is a heavy burden particularly for families. Unemployment is a problem that deserves absolute priority in the commitment of public administrators, from whom the people expect concrete interventions to create new job opportunities, especially for those who have a family to support or are about to form one. Obviously, the welfare of families does not only depend on an improved standard of living. As we learn from the history of many peoples, it is only by harmoniously combining material and moral well-being that we can reach the lofty goals of civilization.

Serious and surprising episodes of violence, which have not spared members of the clergy actively involved in serving their brothers and sisters, are symptoms not only of the lack of security in which many citizens live, but also of the absence of values that makes civil co-existence difficult.

5. Awareness of these situations cannot fail to spur municipal administrators to spare no effort in making city neighbourhoods safer and more liveable. Nonetheless, there is a risk that if the defence of the public order is isolated from adequate personal formation and ethical development, it will not achieve lasting success. Therefore broad, joint co-operation is necessary to promote concrete initiatives in defense and support of the values and institutions on which society is based, starting with the family founded on marriage. It is essential to resist those tendencies which, hiding behind a false idea of freedom, seek to introduce an undue extension of the concept of family into legislative and administrative regulations, or a mistaken equality with other states of life that are not only morally but also socially unstable.

With regard to family policy, then, as to leisure time, formation and solidarity, attention must be paid to the world of young people, pointing out to the new generations and giving them witness of high human and spiritual ideals, such as altruism, respect for the truth and the fostering of authentic love. We must consistently and courageously denounce the ambivalent attitudes of those, for example, who express concern for the situation of young people, but in fact support permissive behaviour devoid of genuine moral sense.

To intervene in so many situations of marginalization and degradation present in Rome is not easy, and your willingness frequently encounters obstacles and resistance, which do not make the desired solutions practicable. You must not lose heart but redouble your efforts to heal the wounds that are still gaping in urban life through organized intervention and a vast work of sensitization.

6. Mr Mayor, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in biblical tradition, the Jubilee, “the year of the Lord’s favour”, urges us to consider our relationship with people in a new way and to become responsible for the duty of re-establishing God’s justice in the situations of sin and slavery present in society (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 14-15).

At the beginning of 1997, the first year of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I wished to submit to the attention of each one of you certain problems which I have experienced first-hand during my parish visits, at pastoral meetings and through the numerous appeals I receive from the Roman faithful. These suggestions are an invitation to carry out in the city of Rome the plan of justice which the Lord entrusts to the men and women of our time through the grace of the Jubilee.

I commend to the Mother of the Lord and to the Apostles Peter and Paul the plans being made by this administration in service to the common good, as I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each of you present here, to your families and to the beloved city of Rome.




Friday, 31 January 1997

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the celebrations for the sixth centenary of the former General Studium of the Dominicans in Zadar. I extend a special thought to Archbishop Ivan Prendjar of Zadar, thanking him for the cordial words he wished to address to me. Then, I greet his predecessor, Archbishop Marijan Oblak, the representatives of the Order of Preachers, the president of the County of ZadarKnin, the mayor and the city authorities, as well as the dean, the teachers and students of the Arts Faculty of Zadar.

The history of the Dominican General Studium in your Archdiocese, even if it occurred a long time ago, is an important message for today’s Christians, called to deal with changed cultural situations that are often so distant from the Gospel.

It is a history that especially testifies to the Catholic Church’s efforts to promote culture: the foundation, in 1396, of this prestigious academic centre is just one aspect of the broader dialogue between science and faith, which has produced splendid fruits that even now can be clearly seen in the spiritual patrimony of many peoples.

For over four centuries, the General Studium of the Dominicans was a flourishing place for scholarly research and inculturation of the faith, open to the clergy and laity of various European countries. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the 19th century, the academic institution ceased its beneficial function. Thus, in the name of a false concept of freedom, a significant expression of a cultural commitment inspired by Christianity was brought to a violent end.

2. The presence of a General Studium in Zadar, at the dawn of the modern era, was also part of a vast, organized activity of the Dioceses and religious orders for the evangelization and the moral and civil education of the Croatian people. Through schools and various parish centres, the Church made a decisive contribution to the cultural progress of your people, while also promoting their involvement in the wider scene of European culture.

This beneficial ecclesial commitment has suffered a sad decline in recent decades, due to the predominance of Marxist ideology and the subsequent war that recently caused much bloodshed in Croatia and in Bosnia-Hercegovina. After these events, which caused serious material and moral devastation, today the sociopolitical situation offers new possibilities for the Catholic Church's commitment to human advancement in your homeland.

The ecclesial community is preparing for this by first of all carrying out the mission of evangelization entrusted to it by the Lord. Althogh not identified with any particular culture, the Gospel message penetrates particular historical and anthropological contexts, and while respecting their values and riches, it helps them “to bring forth from their own living tradition original expressions of Christian life, celebration and thoughts” (Catechesi tradendae CTR 53). In fact, evangelization consists in “affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind's criteria of judgement, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation” (Evangelii nuntiandi EN 19) in order to promote conditions of life that are increasingly worthy of man and his supernatural destiny.

3. Dear brothers and sisters, the sixth centenary of the foundation of the General Studium of the Dominicans in Zadar calls Croatian Catholics to a strong presence in academic centres to support the necessary dialogue between science and faith. It is a commitment that for believers implies a renewed responsibility towards their culture and their development. From long familiarity with the Gospel may they learn how to purify their various cultural expressions from perspectives of death and from false values, in order to rediscover the authentic human vocation, according to the original plan of the Creator.

At a time marked by profound and rapid change, Catholics are called to offer their country new intellectual and moral energy to build a future inspired by the civilization of love. May honesty in every area of social life, willingness to mutually forgive one another and to seek reconciliation, acceptance of the weak and support for the poor, respect for the person and his dignity, attention to the authentic needs of the family, the primary cell of every society, be inescapable reference points on the journey towards the new Christian millennium.

4. Looking at the great achievements of the past, believers must feel called to give a new vitality to Croatian culture and to promote its authentic values, transmitted by the Fathers. This heritage, if fully assimilated, will be the best guarantee for achieving a modern educational system and for pursuing further goals of civilization and progress.

I entrust this undertaking to the heavenly intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, invoked by you as the “Advocata fidelissima Croatiae”. In wishing every good for your beloved nation, I impart to each one of you and to your families a special Apostolic Blessing.

Praised be Jesus and Mary!

February 1997





Saturday, 1 February 2005

Your Eminence,

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

1. I welcome you with great affection at this special audience to recall and celebrate an important date for secular institutes. I thank Cardinal Martínez Somalo for his words which shed the proper light on the meaning of this meeting, which gathers together in this hall countless people from all over the world. I also thank your representative who spoke after the Cardinal.

The Church’s motherly concern and wise affection for her children who dedicate their life to Christ in the various forms of special consecration was expressed 50 years ago in the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, which was meant to give a new canonical structure to the Christian experience of secular institutes (cf. AAS 39, [1947], 114-124).

With good insight and anticipating several themes that were to be suitably formulated by the Second Vatican Council, Pius XII, my predecessor of venerable memory, confirmed with his apostolic authority a way and form of life that had already been attracting many Christians for a century, men and women committed to following Christ chaste, poor and obedient, while remaining in the state of life proper to their own secular status. In this first phase of the history of secular institutes, it is beautiful to recognize the dedication and sacrifice of so many brothers and sisters in the faith, who fearlessly faced the challenges of new times. They offered a consistent witness of true Christian holiness in the most varied conditions of work, home and involvement in the social, economic and political life of the human communities to which they belonged.

We cannot forget the intelligent passion with which several great men of the Church accompanied this process in the years immediately preceding the promulgation of Provida Mater Ecclesia. Among the many, in addition to the Pope just mentioned, I like to remember with affection and gratitude the then-Substitute of the Secretariat of State, the future Pope Paul VI, Mons. Giovanni Battista Montini, and the Undersecretary of the Congregation for Religious at the time of the Apostolic Constitution, venerable Cardinal Arcadio Larraona, who played an important role in elaborating and defining the doctrine and in making the canonical decisions this document contains.

2. Half a century later we still find Provida Mater Ecclesia very timely. You pointed this out during your international symposium’s work. Indeed this document is marked by a prophetic inspiration which deserves to be emphasized. In fact, today more than ever, the way of life of secular institutes has proved a providential and effective form of Gospel witness in the specific circumstances of today’s cultural and social conditions, in which the Church is called to live and carry out her mission. With the approval of these institutes, crowning a spiritual endeavour which had been motivating Church life at least since the time of St Frances de Sales, the Constitution recognized that the perfection of Christian life could and should be lived in every circumstance and existential situation, since it is the call to universal holiness (cf. Provida Mater Ecclesia, n. 118). Consequently, it affirmed that religious life — understood in its proper canonical form — was not in itself the only way to follow the Lord without reserve. It desired that the Christian renewal of family, professional and social life would take place through the presence and witness of secular consecration, bringing about new and effective forms of apostolate, addressed to persons and spheres normally far from the Gospel, where it is almost impossible for its proclamation to penetrate.

3. Years ago, in addressing those taking part in the Second International Congress of Secular Institutes, I said that they were “so to speak, at the centre of the conflict that disturbs and divides the modern soul” (Insegnamenti, vol. III/2, 1980, p. 469; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 29 September 1980, p. 4 ). With this statement I meant to re-examine several considerations of my venerable predecessor, Paul VI, who had spoken of secular institutes as the answer to a deep concern: that of finding the way of combining the full consecration of life according to the evangelical counsels and full responsibility for a presence and transforming action within the world, to mould, perfect and sanctify it (cf. Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. X, 1972, p. 102).

In fact, on the one hand we are witnessing the rapid spread of forms of religious expression offering fascinating experiences, which in some cases are exacting and demanding. The accent however is on the emotional and perceptible level of the experience, rather than the ascetical and spiritual. We can acknowledge that these forms of religious expression are an attempt to respond to a constantly renewed desire for communion with God, for the search for the ultimate truth about him and about humanity’s destiny. They display the fascination of novelty and facile universalism. However these experiences imply an ambiguous concept of God which is far from that offered by Revelation. Furthermore, they prove to be detached from reality and humanity’s concrete history.

This religious expression contrasts with a false concept of secularity in which God has nothing to do with the building of humanity’s future. The relationship with him should be considered a private decision and a subjective question which at most can be tolerated as long as it does not claim to have any influence on culture or society.

4. How, then, should we face this terrible conflict which divides the heart and soul of contemporary humanity? It becomes a challenge for the Christian: the challenge to bring about a new synthesis of the greatest possible allegiance to God and his will, and the greatest possible sharing in the joys and hopes, worries and sorrows of the world, to direct them towards the plan of integral salvation which God the Father has shown us in Christ and continually makes available to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The members of secular institutes are committed precisely to this and express their full fidelity to the profession of the evangelical counsels in a form of secular life full of risks and often unforeseeable demands, but rich in a specific and original potential.

5. The humble yet daring bearers of the transforming power of God’s kingdom and the courageous, consistent witnesses to the task and mission of the evangelization of cultures and peoples, the members of secular institutes, in history, are the sign of a Church which is the friend of men and can offer them comfort in every kind of affliction, ready to support all true progress in human life but at the same time intransigent towards every choice of death, violence, deceit and injustice. For Christians they are also a sign and a reminder of their duty, on God’s behalf, to care for a creation which remains the object of its Creator’s love and satisfaction, although marked by the contradictions of rebellion and sin and in need of being freed from corruption and death.

Is it surprising that the environment with which they have to contend is often little inclined to understand and accept their witness?

The Church today looks to men and women who are capable of a renewed witness to the Gospel and its radical demands, amid the living conditions of the majority of human beings. Even the world, often without realizing it, wishes to meet the truth of the Gospel for humanity’s true and integral progress, according to God’s plan.

In such a condition, great determination and clear fidelity to the charism proper to their consecration is demanded of the members of secular institutes: that of bringing about the synthesis of faith and life, of the Gospel and human history, of total dedication to the glory of God and of unconditional willingness to serve the fullness of life of their brothers and sisters in this world.

Members of secular institutes are by their vocation and mission at the crossroads between God’s initiative and the longing of creation: God’s initiative, which they bring the world through love and intimate union with Christ; the longing of creation, which they share in the everyday, secular condition of their fellow men and women, bearing the contradictions and hopes of every human being, especially the weakest and the suffering.

Secular institutes in any case are entrusted with the responsibility of reminding everyone of this mission, witnessing to it by a special consecration in the radicalness of the evangelical counsels, so that the whole Christian community may carry out with ever greater commitment the task that God, in Christ, has entrusted to it with the gift of his Spirit (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata VC 17-22).

6. The contemporary world appears particularly sensitive to the witness of those who can courageously assume the risk and responsibility of discerning the times and of the plan for building a new and more just humanity. Our time is one of great cultural and social upheaval.

Thus it seems ever more apparent that the Christian mission in the world cannot be reduced to giving a pure, simple example of honesty, competence and fidelity to duty. All this is presupposed. It is a question of putting on the mind of Jesus Christ in order to be signs of his love in the world. This is the meaning and the goal of authentic Christian secularity, and thus the purpose and value of the Christian consecration lived in secular institutes.

In this regard, it is all the more important that members of secular institutes intensely live fraternal communion within their own institute and with the members of different institutes. Precisely because they are dispersed like leaven and salt in the midst of the world, they should consider themselves privileged witnesses to the value of brotherhood and Christian friendship, so necessary today, especially in the great urban areas where the majority of the world’s population now lives.

I hope that each secular institute may become this school of fraternal love, this burning hearth from which many men and women can draw light and warmth for the life of the world.

7. Lastly, I ask Mary to bestow on all the members of secular institutes the clearness of her vision of the world’s situation, the depth of her faith in the word of God and the promptness of her willingness to fulfil his mysterious designs for an ever more effective collaboration in the work of salvation.

Entrusting to her motherly hands the future of secular institutes, a chosen portion of God’s people, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to each one of you present here, and I willingly extend it to all the members of secular institutes scattered throughout the five continents.

Speeches 1997 - 25 January 1997