Speeches 2004 - Tuesday, 27 January 2004



Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Mr Vice President,

I am pleased to welcome you and your family to the Vatican and to receive the cordial greetings which you bring from President Bush. The American people have always cherished the fundamental values of freedom, justice and equality. In a world marked by conflict, injustice and division, the human family needs to foster these values in its search for unity, peace and respect for the dignity of all. I encourage you and your fellow-citizens to work, at home and abroad, for the growth of international cooperation and solidarity in the service of that peace which is the deepest aspiration of all men and women. Upon you and all the American people I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday, 29 January 2004

Dear Members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota,

1. I am delighted to have this annual meeting with you for the inauguration of the Judicial Year. It offers me a favourable opportunity to reaffirm the importance of your ecclesial ministry and the need for your legal work.

I cordially greet the College of Prelate Auditors, starting with the Dean, Mons. Raffaello Funghini; I thank him for expressing his profound thoughts on the meaning and value of your work. I then greet the Officials, the Advocates and the other Collaborators of this Apostolic Tribunal, as well as the Members of the Studium Rotale and all who are present here.

2. At our meetings in recent years I have addressed certain fundamental aspects of marriage: its nature ordered toward the good, its indissolubility, its dignity as a sacrament. Actually, various other types of appeal also reach the Tribunal of the Apostolic See on the basis of the norms established by the Code of Canon Law (cf. cann. 1443-1444) and the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus (cf. arts. 126-130). The Tribunal is required first and foremost, however, to focus on marriage. Today, therefore, in response to the concerns the Dean has expressed, I would like once again to reflect on the matrimonial cases submitted to you and, in particular, on one pastoral and juridical aspect that emerges from them: I am alluding to the favor iuris (the favour of the law) that marriage enjoys, and to the associated presumption of its validity in case of doubt, as declared in can. 1060 of the Latin Code and in can. 779 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

Indeed, this has met at times with criticism. To some people, these principles seem to be anchored in social and cultural situations of the past, in which the request to marry in accordance with canon law would normally have implied that those engaged to be married understood and accepted the true nature of marriage. In the crisis that unfortunately marks the institution of marriage in so many milieus today, those people hold that often the very validity of the consent may be said to be jeopardized, due to various forms of incapacity or to the absence of the essential properties. With regard to this situation, the critics mentioned wonder if it might not be correct to presume the invalidity of the marriage contracted rather than its validity.

In this perspective, the favor matrimonii, they say, should give way to the favor personae, the favor veritatis subiecti or the favor libertatis.

3. To evaluate these new attitudes correctly, one should first of all identify the foundation and limitations of the favor in question. Indeed, this principle easily transcends the presumption of validity since it shapes from within all the canonical norms on marriage, both substantial and procedural. The support of marriage, in fact, must inspire the entire activity of the Church, of Pastors, of the faithful and of civil society: in a word, of all people of good will. This attitude is not based on a more or less debatable choice but rather on the appreciation of the objective good that every conjugal union and every family represents. It is precisely when the personal and social recognition of so fundamental a good is threatened that the depths of its importance for individuals and communities are discovered.

In light of these considerations, the holy Pastors' duty to defend and foster marriage is quite clear. However, this is also a specific responsibility of all the faithful, indeed, of all men and women and the civil authorities, each according to his or her own competency.

4. The favor iuris reserved for marriage implies the presumption of its validity until the contrary is proven (cf. CIC, CIC 1060 CCEO, can. 779). To grasp the significance of this presumption one should first remember that it does not represent an exception with regard to a general rule in the opposite sense. On the contrary, it is a matter of applying to marriage a presumption that constitutes a fundamental principle of every juridical disposition: human acts licit in themselves and that affect juridical relations are presumed valid, even if proof of their invalidity is obviously admissible (cf. CIC, CIC 124 CIC 2 CCEO, can. 931 2).

This presumption cannot be interpreted as the mere protection of appearances or of the status quo as such, since the possibility of contesting the act is also provided for, within reasonable limits.

However, what appears outwardly to be correctly placed, to the extent that it is lawful, deserves initially to be considered valid and, consequently, to be upheld by law since this external reference point is the only one which the legal system realistically provides to discern situations which must be safeguarded. To hypothesize the opposite, that is, the obligation to provide positive proof of the validity of the respective acts, would mean exposing the subjects to a demand that would be almost impossible to achieve. Indeed, the proof must include the many presuppositions and prerequisites of the act, which are often long drawn out and involve a large number of persons and previous, interconnected acts.

5. Then what can one say to the argument which holds that the failure of conjugal life implies the invalidity of the marriage? Unfortunately, this erroneous assertion is sometimes so forceful as to become a generalized prejudice that leads people to seek grounds for nullity as a merely formal justification of a pronouncement that is actually based on the empirical factor of matrimonial failure. This unjust formalism of those who are opposed to the traditional favor matrimonii can lead them to forget that, in accordance with human experience marked by sin, a valid marriage can fail because of the spouses' own misuse of freedom.

Admission of true nullities should rather lead to ascertaining with greater seriousness at the time of the marriage the necessary prerequisites for matrimony, especially those concerning the consent and true disposition of the engaged couple. Parish priests and those who work with them in this area have the grave duty not to surrender to a purely bureaucratic view of the pre-matrimonial examination of the parties, specified in can. 1067. Their pastoral intervention must be dictated by awareness that at precisely that moment, people are able to discover the natural and supernatural good of marriage and consequently commit themselves to pursuing it.

6. The presumption of the validity of a marriage is truly set in a broader context. Often the real problem is not so much the presumption in words as the overall vision of marriage itself, hence, the process to ascertain the validity of its celebration. Such a process is essentially inconceivable apart from the context of ascertaining the truth. This teleological reference to the truth is what unites all the protagonists of the process, despite the diversity of their roles. In this regard, a more or less open scepticism has been inferred as to the human ability to recognize the truth about the validity of a marriage. In this area too, a renewed confidence in human reason is necessary with regard both to the essential aspects of marriage and to the specific circumstances of each union.

The tendency to instrumentally broaden the causes for nullity, losing sight of the bounds of objective truth, involves a structural distortion of the entire process. In this perspective the preliminary investigation would lose its effectiveness since its outcome would be preordained. The search itself for the truth, to which the judge is seriously bound ex officio (CIC 1452 CCEO, can. 1110) and for the attainment of which he seeks the help of the defender of the bond and of the advocate, would result in a series of empty formalities. The constitutive aspiration to the truth of the sentence would be lost or seriously minimized were it to be subjected to a series of preordained responses, as these would undermine its critical power of inquiry and analysis. Key concepts such as moral certitude and the free examination of the proofs would be left without their necessary reference point in objective truth (cf. CIC, CIC 1608 CCEO, can. 1291), the search for which would be abandoned or considered unattainable.

7. Going back further, the problem concerns the concept of marriage seen in a global vision of reality. The essential dimension of the justness of marriage, which is based on an intrinsically juridical reality, is replaced by empirical viewpoints of a sociological, psychological, etc. kind, as well as by various forms of juridical positivism. Without in any way belittling the valid contributions of sociology, psychology or psychiatry, it cannot be forgotten that an authentically juridical consideration of marriage requires a metaphysical vision of the human person and of the conjugal relationship. Without this ontological foundation the institution of marriage becomes merely an extrinsic superstructure, the result of the law and of social conditioning, which limits the freedom of the person to fulfil himself or herself.

It is necessary instead to rediscover the truth, goodness and beauty of the marriage institution. Since it is the work of God himself, through human nature and the freedom of consent of the engaged couple, marriage remains an indissoluble personal reality, a bond of justice and love, linked from eternity to the plan of salvation and raised in the fullness of time to the dignity of a Christian sacrament. It is this reality that the Church and the world must encourage! This is the true favor matrimonii!

In presenting these ideas to you for reflection, I would like once again to express to you my appreciation of your sensitive and demanding work in the administration of justice. With these sentiments, as I pray for constant divine help for each one of you, dear Prelate Auditors, Officials and Advocates of the Roman Rota, I impart my Blessing to you all with affection.




Friday, 30 January 2004

Mr. Ambassador,

It is a pleasure for me today to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of China to the Holy See. I wish to express my gratitude for the message of greeting which you bring from President Chen Shui-bian. I ask you to convey my own good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for prosperity and harmony in Taiwan.

Mr. Ambassador, I am grateful for your words of appreciation of the Holy See’s efforts to promote peace throughout the world. The Holy See views this task as part of its service to the human family, motivated by a deep concern for the well-being of every person. Cooperation among peoples, nations and governments is an essential condition to ensure a better future for all. The international community faces many challenges in this regard, among them the serious problems of world poverty, the denial of the rights of peoples and the lack of firm resolve on the part of some groups to foster peace and stability.

The religious and cultural traditions of the Republic of China bear witness to the fact that human development should not be limited to economic or material success. Many of the ascetical and mystical elements of Asian religions teach that it is not the acquirement of material wealth which defines the progress of individuals and societies, but rather a civilization’s ability to foster the interior dimension and transcendent vocation of men and women. Indeed, "when individuals and communities do not see a rigorous respect for the moral, cultural and spiritual requirements, based on the dignity of the person and on the proper identity of each community, beginning with the family and religious societies, then all the rest – availability of goods, abundance of technical resources applied to daily life, a certain level of material well-being – will prove unsatisfying and in the end contemptible" (Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, No. 33). For this reason it is important that all societies strive to give their citizens the necessary freedom to realize fully their true vocation. In order for this to be achieved, a country must have a steadfast commitment to promoting freedom, which is naturally derived from an uncompromising sense of the dignity of the human person. This resolution to advance freedom in human society requires first and foremost the free exercise of religion in society. (Cf. Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, No. 1).

The good of society entails that the right to religious freedom be enshrined in law and be given effective protection. The Republic of China has shown its respect for the various religious traditions found therein and recognizes the right of all to practise their religion. Religions are a component in the life and culture of a nation and bring a great sense of well-being to a community by offering a certain level of social order, tranquillity, harmony and assistance to the weak and the outcast. By concentrating on the most profound human questions, religions make a great contribution to the genuine progress of society and promote, in a very significant way, the culture of peace on both the national and international levels. As I said in my World Day of Peace Message of 1992, "The longing for peace is deeply rooted in human nature and is found in the different religions" (No. 2). The new millennium challenges us to strive towards fulfilling a precise duty incumbent on everyone, namely greater cooperation in order to foster the values of generosity, reconciliation, justice, peace, courage and patience, which the universal human family needs today more than ever (ibid.).

As part of this human family, the Catholic Church in the Republic of China has made a significant contribution to your Nation’s social and cultural development, especially by its dedication to education, health care and assistance to the less fortunate. Through these and other activities, the Church continues to help foster the peace and unity of all peoples. In this way she pursues her spiritual and humanitarian mission, and contributes to building a society of justice, trust and cooperation.

Also governments, at all times should strive to maintain contact with the marginalized of their own countries as well as with the poor and outcast of the world at large. In fact, all men and women of good will must take account of the plight of the poor and, within their means, do what they can to alleviate poverty and want. Asia is "a continent of plentiful resources and great civilizations, but where some of the poorest nations on earth are to be found, and where more than half the population suffers deprivation, poverty and exploitation" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, No. 34). In this regard, I appreciate the Republic of China’s many works of charity in the international arena and most especially in the developing world. It is my hope that the people of Taiwan will continue to promote charitable activities and thus contribute to the building of an enduring peace in the world.

Mr. Ambassador, I am certain that your work as a promoter of peace will manifest itself in our shared commitment to foster mutual respect, charity and freedom for all peoples. I also wish to assure you of my continued prayers that the people of the Republic of China will contribute to building a world of unity and peace. As you begin your mission, I offer you wholehearted good wishes, and I assure you of the readiness of the offices of the Roman Curia to assist you. Upon yourself and the people of the Republic of China I invoke abundant divine blessings.



Friday, 30 January 2004

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. At the end of your ad limina visit, a time of grace in your episcopal ministry, I joyfully welcome you who are in charge of the pastoral care of the Catholic Church in the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Dijon and Tours and the Prelature of the Mission of France. I am affectionately thinking of Archbishop Michel Coloni of Dijon, who is unable to be here this morning. By coming on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul you develop within you the apostolic enthusiasm that inspired them. Meeting the Bishop of Rome and his collaborators enables you to experience communion with the Successor of Peter, and through him with the universal Church. Sustained by the prayer of the saints who left their mark on the history and spirituality of your regions, especially St Martin and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, may you find the strength to guide the People of God entrusted to you on the paths of holiness and brotherhood with ever greater pastoral wisdom! I thank Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Tours for his cordial greetings and for sharing your hopes and concerns with me. May the new relations between Dioceses created on the occasion of the sub-division of the Ecclesiastical Provinces contribute to developing your bonds of unity so that together you may face the challenges of the new evangelization!

2. Your quinquennial reports reveal your attention to the vocation and mission of lay people in the current circumstances of the Church. Many lay persons serve the Church generously, despite their ever shrinking numbers. Christian communities are gradually aging: the age group between 25 and 45 is barely represented in the communities; the difficulty in assuring the replacement of dependable Christians to exercise responsibility in the Church is already very real. Yet you note some signs of hope. These include the demand for lay people eager to acquire a sound philosophical, theological, spiritual or pastoral training to serve the Church and the world better; the search for ever greater consistency between the faith and its expression in daily life; the concern for a Christian witness that is rooted in an authentic spiritual life; the recovery of the desire for studying Scripture and meditating on the Word; the growing sense of responsibility and commitment to justice and solidarity in order to meet new perplexing situations. I ask all Pastors to base any new initiatives on the aspirations of the People of God, even if at the start they involve only a few persons, in the certainty that the faithful who have rediscovered Christ will present the Gospel in a credible way to our contemporaries, inviting them to join them as the Apostle Philip invited Nathaniel: "Come and see" (Jn 1,46).

You mention the fruits that the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation has borne in the Dioceses and parish communities, calling Christians to draw on the grace of their Baptism, the starting point of every believer's mission. "We need to "set out anew from Christ', with the zeal of Pentecost, with renewed enthusiasm. To set out from him above all in a daily commitment to holiness, with an attitude of prayer and of listening to his Word. To set out from him in order to testify to his Love by living a Christian life marked by communion, charity and witness before the world" (Homily, 6 January 2001, n. 8; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 10 January 2001, p. 2). It is your task to implement this programme fully so that the Christian community may put out into the deep, allowing itself to be evangelized and questioning the quality and visibility of its witness.

3. To adapt pastoral structures to the needs of the mission, your Dioceses have been effectually remodelled. The perspective of the ecclesiology of communion, whose purpose is to build up the Church as a house and school of communion, has partly dictated your pastoral plans. The fall in the number of priests is not the only reason for the pastoral "re-dimensioning" that has proven necessary. In carrying it out, you have taken account of the reduced numbers in the communities.

This has had a positive effect: it has enabled lay people to take an active part in the dynamics of their community and to become aware of the prophetic, royal and priestly dimensions of their Baptism. Many have willingly agreed to engage in parish life under the leadership of their Pastor and with respect for the ordained ministry, and they have put themselves at the service of evangelization as well as prayer and charity. I know of the apostolic courage that motivates them, and that they must come to grips with the pervading atmosphere of indifference and scepticism. Give them the affectionate greetings of the Successor of Peter who accompanies them in his daily prayers.

Take care to see that a fruitful interaction links their commitments as lay people in Christian communities to the prophetic dimension of their witness in the world, recalling that they have an important responsibility "for evangelizing culture, making the power of the Gospel part of the life of the family, the workplace, the mass media, sports and leisure, and for promoting Christian values in society and pubic life, both national and international" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis ). If this witness is to be productive, it is important that it meet with spiritual support in the parishes and associations of the faithful. May everyone, therefore, in the legitimate diversity of ecclesial sensibilities, be constantly concerned to play a full part in the life of the Diocese and parish and to live in communion with the diocesan Bishop. In this way - and it is the Bishop's task to see to it - it will be possible to achieve communion around the Successors of the Apostles.

Please convey my fervent greetings to all the committed lay faithful working in movements and who serve the Church, and especially to those who work in the contexts of solidarity and the promotion of justice. Their presence in society's wounded areas is a sign of the Church's closeness and involvement with people who are sick, marginalized, lonely or in a precarious situation. By coordinating their activities better and better, they will ceaselessly remind Christian communities of their common need for a continuous active presence beside every suffering person (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici CL 53).

4. I give thanks with you for the young people and adults who are discovering or rediscovering Christ and who knock at the Church's door because they are asking themselves about faith and about the meaning of their life or have encountered witnesses. Take great care to accompany these people and help them on their way. You should also take pains to accustom Christian communities to accepting catechumens or those who have regained their faith, and support them after their Baptism. They are a stimulating invitation to the Church, whose traditions, experience and practices they must assimilate. Through you, I thank the teams of catechists for their important service. This catechumenal zeal and likewise the requests presented by people on the occasion of an important milestone in their family life - a baptism, a marriage or a funeral - call Christian communities to develop a suitable pastoral programme for Christian initiation. The quality of acceptance and brotherhood to be found in the Church is an evangelizing potential for today's men and women. In this spirit, it is important that parish groups do not cloud the Church's visibility in small towns, those basic social units, especially in rural areas. They should offer people the possibility of joyful celebrations of the Eucharist that edify the community and provide the apostolic enthusiasm that it needs.

It is evident in the communities that even for committed Christians, Sunday Mass is not given sufficient importance. Pastors, therefore, should make a point of forcefully and clearly reminding the faithful, especially those responsible for catechesis, youth service or chaplaincies, of the meaning of the Sunday obligation and the need to take part in the Sunday Eucharist, which can never be a mere option amid many others. Indeed, to truly follow Christ, to evangelize, to serve the Lord, it is right to lead a consistent and responsible life in conformity with the precepts of the Church and to be convinced of the crucial importance of participating in the Eucharistic banquet with the whole community (cf. Apostolic Letter Dies Domini, nn. 46-49).

5. Your quinquennial reports show your concern to present to lay people the means to acquiring an ever deeper spiritual and theological formation, especially by setting up theological and spiritual formation centres in several Dioceses or the region. These places help them to deepen their faith and acquire a pastoral training that will equip them to assume responsibility in the Church. This formation must likewise lead the faithful to a more intense sacramental practice and prayer life. In the religious context, the modern world and scientific breakthroughs require that Pastors and faithful receive a formation which enables them to account for the Christian mystery and the life that Christ proposes to those who want to follow him. With a view to integrating the teaching they receive, it is important to ensure that the intellectual preparation leads each one to a personal relationship with Christ.

From this point of view, it would be correct to give permanent formation to philosophers and theologians who can offer Christians the intellectual foundations they need for their faith and their specific mission as committed lay people in the world. The Church also educates many young people, respecting their cultures and religious denominations, with the intention of providing high-quality teaching as she has the noble task of passing on the human, moral and spiritual values of the Gospel. I acknowledge the work carried out by individuals and educational communities deeply involved in the school and university context: teaching, catechesis or chaplaincies. Never let them forget that the most important witness for young people is a life lived daily in conformity with the Christian principles that they desire to communicate. It is up to Pastors to recall constantly this criterion of consistency.

6. The concern to promote and guide families is at the heart of your concerns as Pastors. The family is not one model of a relationship among others, but a type of relationship indispensable to the future of society. In fact, a society cannot be healthy if it does not foster the family ideal in order to build stable conjugal and family relationships and for a proper relationship between the generations. How should families be helped? Your Dioceses are always ready to offer the practical means to further their growth, enabling them to bear a credible witness in the Church and in society.

As some of your reports suggest, you are especially eager to offer guidance to newly-weds, enabling them to acquire the human and spiritual maturity they need for the harmonious development of their family. I am also thinking of the new generations of young people whom the Church has difficulty in reaching and who come to ask the Church to prepare them for marriage.I encourage the priests, deacons and faithful involved in this fine task to help them discover the profound meaning of this sacrament, as well as the tasks to which it commits them. In this way, they will present a positive view of emotional relationships and sexuality that will contribute to the growth of the couple and the family. As I previously asked at Sainte-Anne-d'Auray during my Pastoral Visit to France, I ask you once again to support families in their vocation to express the beauty of parenthood and nurture the culture of life (cf. Address at Meeting with Families, 20 September 1996, n. 7; ORE, 2 October 1996, p. 4).

I also recognize the important work carried out under your supervision by the services and movements for the family apostolate. The initiatives they promote are indispensable in helping young families to grow in human and spiritual vitality in their homes, as well as being a practical response to the phenomenon of the break-up of families. One cannot helplessly watch the family institution disintegrate. In this context, the Church wishes to bring about a real change of mindset and behaviour, so that the positive values linked to married and family life may prevail and relationships may not be seen merely from the perspective of individualism and personal pleasure which distorts the deep meaning of human life that is primarily altruism and the gift of self. The commitment to marriage entails a certain number of tasks and responsibilities. These include maintaining and deepening the conjugal bond and caring for the children. In this spirit, it is right to offer help to parents who are the first educators of their children. Thus, they will be able, on the one hand, to deal with and solve marital crises that they may experience, and on the other, to bear witness to the young of the greatness of faithful, unique love and of the elements of a human, emotional and sexual education, challenged by the frequently destructive messages of contemporary society that give the impression that all forms of emotional conduct are acceptable, denying to human acts any moral qualification. Such an attitude is particularly harmful for young people since it involves them, at times in imprudent ways, in erroneous forms of behaviour. As we often see, these leave deep scars on their psyche, mortgaging their future outlook and commitments.

7. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, at the end of our meeting I would like to recall the wonderful figure of Madeleine Delbrêl, the centenary of whose birth we are celebrating. She took part in the missionary adventure of the Church in France during the 20th century, in particular in the foundation of the Mission of France and its seminary at Lisieux. May her shining witness help all the faithful, united with their Pastors, to put down roots in ordinary life and in the different cultures and to make the newness and power of the Gospel penetrate them through a life that is increasingly fraternal! In keeping alive in their hearts and lives their ecclesial consciousness, which is "ever mindful of what it means to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ, participants in her mystery of communion and in her dynamism in mission and the apostolate" (Christifideles Laici CL 64), the faithful will be able to devote themselves to serving their brethren. I entrust you to Our Lady and I impart to you yourselves, to the priests, deacons, men and women religious and all the lay people of your Dioceses, an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2004 - Tuesday, 27 January 2004