Speeches 1996 - Monday, 22 January 1996

This feature cannot be obscured in the actual conduct of the case by the fact that a nullity procedure is set in the broader framework of a contentious trial. Moreover, it must be remembered that the spouses, who in any case have the right to assert the nullity of their marriage, do not however have either the right to its nullity or the right to its validity. In fact, it is not a question of conducting a process to be definitively resolved by a constitutive sentence, but rather of the juridical ability to submit the question of the nullity of one’s marriage to the competent Church authority and to request a decision in the matter.

This does not prevent the spouses themselves—since it is a question regarding the determination of their personal status—from having their essential procedural rights recognized and granted: to be heard in court, to submit proofs in the form of documentation, expert opinions and witnesses, to know all the instructional acts, and to present their respective “pleadings.”

4. Nevertheless, it must never be forgotten that it is a question of a good that cannot be disposed of at will and that the ultimate goal is the determination of an objective truth, which also concerns the common good. From this standpoint, such procedural acts as the proposal of certain “incidental questions” or delaying, irrelevant, pointless actions or those which even impede the attainment of this goal, cannot be allowed in a canonical trial.

In this overall framework, it thus seems contrived to have recourse to complaints based on alleged injuries of the right to defense as well as to attempt to apply to the judgment of marital nullity procedural norms which are valid in other sorts of procedures but are completely inappropriate to cases that never become an adjudged matter (res iudicata).

These principles must be elaborated and translated into clear judicial practice, especially through the jurisprudence of the tribunal of the Roman Rota, so that violence is not done to universal and particular law nor to the rights of parties legitimately admitted to judgment. They also call for corrective measures by the legislator or for specific norms for the application of the Code, as occurred in the past (cf. Congregation for the Sacraments, instruction, Provida Mater Ecclesia, August 15, 1936).

5. I trust that these reflections will be able to remove the obstacles that could impede the timely resolution of cases. However, for a suitable judgment in their regard, I consider it no less important to recall a few points about the need to evaluate and weigh every individual case, taking into account the individuality of the subject as well as the particular nature of the culture in which the person grew up and lives.

Wishing at the beginning of my pontificate to explain the truth about human dignity, I stressed that man is one, unique, and unrepeatable being (see Christmas address, December 25, 1978, in AAS, 71 [1979], p. 66; Origins, 8 [January 4, 1979], p. 454).

This unrepeatability concerns the human individual, not taken abstractly, but immersed in the historical, ethnic, social and above all cultural reality that distinguishes him in his individuality. However, the fundamental and inescapable principle must be reaffirmed of the intangibility of the divine law, both natural and positive, authentically formulated in the canonical legislation on specific matters.

Thus it is never a case of bending the objective norm to the desires of private subjects, much less of interpreting or applying it in an arbitrary way. Likewise, it must be constantly kept in mind that the individual juridical institutions defined by canon law—I am thinking particularly about marriage, its nature, properties, and connatural ends—have and must always in every case preserve their proper value and their own essential content.

6. Since the abstract law finds its application in individual, concrete instances, it is a task of great responsibility to evaluate the specific cases in their various aspects in order to determine whether and in what way they are governed by what the law envisages. It is precisely at this stage that the judge’s prudence carries out the role most its own; here he truly dicit ius, by fulfilling the law and its purpose beyond preconceived mental categories, which are perhaps valid in a given culture and a particular historical period, but which cannot be applied a priori always and everywhere and in each individual case.

Moreover, the jurisprudence itself of this tribunal of the Roman Rota, translated and hallowed as it were in many canons in the legislation of the current Code, could not have been expressed, improved, and refined if it had not bravely yet prudently paid attention to a more developed anthropology, that is, to a conception of man derived from progress in the humane sciences illumined by a clear and well-grounded philosophical and theological vision.

7. Thus your most sensitive judicial function is situated and in some ways channeled in the age-old effort by which the Church, from her contact with the cultures of every time and place, has adopted whatever she found that was basically valid and suitable to the immutable requirements of the dignity of humans, made in the image of God.

If these reflections have value for all the judges of the Church’s tribunals, they seem all the more fitting for you, the prelate auditors of a tribunal to which, by definition and because of its primary competence, procedures from all the world’s continents are appealed. It is not merely for the sake of image, then, but out of conformity with the task entrusted to you that the first article of the norms of the Roman Rota prescribe that the college of judges be composed of prelate auditors “chosen by the Supreme Pontiff form the various parts of the world.” Yours then is an international tribunal which brings together the contributions of the most diverse cultures and harmonizes them in the higher light of revealed truth.

8. I am sure that as prudent and enlightened judges you will give full intellectual adherence to these reflections as will all who assist you in the judicial activity of the Rota: the promoters of justice, the defenders of the bond, the Rotal advocates. I exhort everyone to cultivate the same goals, with regard both to procedural initiatives and to the in-depth study of individual cases.

As I wish you an abundance of grace and light, invoked from the Spirit of truth in the liturgy that began this opening day of the judicial year, I impart a special apostolic blessing to you all as a sign of appreciation for your generous dedication to the Church’s service.

February 1996




Thursday, 15 February 1996

Dear Friends in Christ,

it gives me great pleasure to greet you, students and staff of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, on your pilgrimage to Rome.

For the past four months, you have been reflecting together on the theme "A Theology of Life". For us Christians, such a reflection and such a theology must start with and make constant reference to our Lord Jesus Christ, who "came that we may have life and have it abundantly".(1) Jesus in fact is the fullness of life to which every man and woman is called, a fullness which consists in sharing the very life of God himself.(2) It is the Church's mission always and everywhere to proclaim this truth, this "Gospel of life", especially in our own day when ever greater dangers threaten the life of individuals and peoples, particularly where it is weak and defenceless.(3)

Indeed, the Church is aware that this proclamation of the Gospel includes not only the defence of human life as such, but also the obligation to promote everything that favours the development of human life and dignity. There is an essential relationship between proclaiming the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ and being committed to peace, justice, and the advancement of human rights. An authentic "theology of life" must not fail to recognize this relationship and clearly state its practical consequences.

Dear friends, you will soon go back to your own countries and your own Churches and communities. It is my hope and prayer that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, you will be witnesses to the "Gospel of life" in its fullness as revealed by Jesus Christ, who is "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life".(4) God bless you all.

(1) Cfr. Io. 10, 10.

(2) Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Evangelium Vitae, 2.

(3) Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Evangelium Vitae, 3.

(4) Cfr. Io. 14, 6.




Tuesday, 20 February 1996

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. It gives me great joy to welcome you, the Bishops of the Church in Tanzania on your ad Limina visit, which manifests and strengthens the bonds of fraternal hierarchical communion which unite each of you with the Successor of Peter. With you, you bring the hopes and joys, the burdens and sorrows of all your people. May your prayer at the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, whose martyrdom sealed this See as the centre of the universal koinonia, renew your zeal in caring for the flock entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit,(1) in order that the priests, Religious and lay faithful of Tanzania may increasingly grow "into a holy temple in the Lord".(2)

Building on the foundation of the witness and sacrifice of the missionaries who brought the Gospel to you more than a century ago, the Family of God in Tanzania, in union with the rest of the Church, is preparing to cross the threshold of the new millennium with renewed commitment to the cause of the Gospel. The "new Advent"—the years of final preparation for the Great Jubilee—is a time for God's People to radiate all the freshness, enthusiasm and courage which mark the lives of those who have "put on the Lord Jesus Christ".(3) The vocation to holiness of life—to the "eternal life" of communion with Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is the supreme duty at this time of grace, a duty incumbent on all the Church's members, and first and foremost upon Bishops, who shepherd God's People as living instruments of the Eternal High Priest. As we travel the path of conversion and renewal we are to be "examples to the flock":(4) "in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity".(5) We can give no more convincing testimony to the saving truth of the Gospel than the witness of holiness in our own lives.

2. The Bishop is the Bridegroom of his Church and must faithfully tend her as did his Master. I urge you to love, as a father and elder brother, all those whom God has placed in your care: priests, deacons, men and women religious, catechists, families, every individual. By clear preaching and reverent celebration of the Sacraments, inspire them with "a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal".(6)

Every member of the community needs to be formed "according to the mind of Christ".(7) We cannot overstate the importance of comprehensive programmes of catechesis for all groups in your Dioceses: children, young people and adults. The goal of these efforts must be a thorough Christian formation, embracing human maturity, doctrinal soundness and spiritual growth. Two valuable resources will assist you in fostering "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus the Lord"(8): the Catechism of the Catholic Church, now translated into Kiswahili, and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa", which charts the course for the Church's evangelizing mission for the Third Christian Millennium.

3. In the light of our meetings together, I warmly encourage the pastoral attention which you are devoting to catechists, youth and families. I join you in praising the Father of mercies that the dedicated work of catechists is bearing such good results in your Churches. These generous men and women are "irreplaceable evangelizers" and the basic strength of your Christian communities.(9) You must continue to ensure that catechists will be "equipped for every good work"(10)—suitably prepared to meet the challenges posed by the empty promises and erroneous teachings of certain sects which are spreading confusion among your people. This you are already doing by providing opportunities for planned and systematic training through special programmes for catechists, as well as through days of prayer and courses of renewal.(11)

Continue to help young Tanzanians to respond generously to the ideals of the Gospel. All over the world I have seen young people waiting for the Church to harness their joyful enthusiasm by challenging them without compromise to be worthy of the noble tasks to which Christ calls them. Your ministry to youth, which "must clearly be part of the overall pastoral plan of Dioceses and parishes",(12) should prepare young Tanzanians to place their gifts at the service of the Church by becoming evangelizers of their peers and by assuming their rightful place in parish and diocesan life.

4. Another priority of your ministry is the promotion of the holiness and stability of the family, as you help Christian married couples to build their lives on the solid basis of the sacramental grace which makes marriage and family life the normal path of holiness for the majority of the faithful. Tanzanian families must be helped to preserve their noble values and traditions, especially their characteristic spirit of sharing and hospitality. Effective pastoral care of the family includes the provision of adequate marriage preparation. This must clearly and convincingly present the Church's teaching on the unity and indissolubility of the marriage bond, as well as her teaching on responsible procreation and the use of natural methods of regulating fertility.(13) The aim of your initiatives must be to help the families in your Dioceses to fulfil their vocation to be the first schools of discipleship and of evangelization, where parents are the first catechists of their children and where all members share in the mission to "guard, reveal and communicate love".(14)

5. All catechesis should include sound formation in the Church's social doctrine, a formation which will enable the laity to fulfil their specific mission of bringing "to bear upon the social fabric an influence aimed at changing not only ways of thinking but also the very structures of society, so that they will better reflect God's plan for the human family".(15) With the help of well trained lay men and women, you must continue to address the vital ethical and moral questions affecting your people's development: honesty in public life, justice in economic matters, the crushing burden of poverty, the safeguarding of human rights, and all that undermines the dignity of conjugal love. Listen to the anguished cry of the poor, and instil in your communities a deep "hunger and thirst for righteousness".(16) Each local Church "must be an energetic witness to justice and peace in her structures and in the relationships among her members".(17)

Effective Christian witness must also include co-operation and dialogue with other religious traditions. Ecumenical and interreligious activities should therefore be encouraged so that mutual understanding and respect may give rise to a common effort among all people of goodwill to work for human progress and development at every level of society.

The poorest of the poor among you are the more than seven hundred thousand refugees from Rwanda and Burundi. I ask you to continue to show them compassion and generosity, with a profound spirit of self-sacrifice which does not hesitate in the face of your limited possibilities. Please God, conditions of peace and security will return to those troubled countries, thus permitting the return of the refugees to their homes and lands. I am fully aware of the seriousness of their situation, and I have not failed to appeal to the international community on their behalf. While we are thankful for the assistance being provided, we are all saddened to see that the best efforts of agencies and volunteers cannot cope with the urgent needs of so many people. We are especially disappointed to note that those responsible for the continuing violence seem to ignore the voice of right and justice. In spite of the difficulties involved, I ask you to be sensitive to the needs of these brothers and sisters, and I make a special appeal for the Dioceses of Rulenge and Kigoma, whose human and material resources are severely taxed by efforts to assist the refugees. In the Church's name I thank you for what you have done so far.

6. Dear Brothers: with your effective guidance the Institutes of consecrated men and women in your Dioceses, especially those of more recent foundation, must be helped to foster an unfailing commitment to holiness and a renewed dedication to the apostolate. Only if Religious deepen their personal friendship with God and bear practical witness to a fraternal life in community—in which the members are "servants of one another"(18)—they be able to share with the local Church that gift of grace which is represented by each Institute's charism. The consecrated life in Tanzania will continue to give "splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the Beatitudes",(19) as long as men and women Religious avoid the pitfalls of a secularized style of living and, instead, inspire in the Christian community a yearning for conversion and perfection, a love of prayer, both personal and liturgical, and a firm commitment to solidarity with others, especially the poor. Well-rounded programmes of continuing formation are essential if Religious are to be effective agents of an evangelization based on "a new 'ardour for holiness'".(20) Bishops, as those primarily responsible for the Churches life, and with due respect for the legitimate internal autonomy of religious communities, should help to ensure that candidates are carefully selected, and that they receive an initial formation which prepares them for the total consecration of themselves to God and their specific mission in the Church.

7. How can we fail to mention the dedicated ministry of the vast majority of your priests, who truly live and work as authentic "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God"?(21) In our meetings you have mentioned the deep joy you experience at seeing the presbyterate flourish with the addition of new members. That joy must of course be accompanied by necessary discernment, as the Apostle Paul warns: "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands".(22) It remains the Bishop's personal responsibility to see to it that seminarians are formed in the likeness of Christ, the Spouse and Head of the Church. Thus, "the Bishop should make a point of visiting them often and in some way 'being' with them, as a way of giving significant expression to his responsibility for the formation of candidates for the priesthood".(23) I likewise urge you to exercise great care in the choice of the staff of your seminaries. All those responsible for formation should be of proven human and spiritual maturity and dedication.

As you know, authentic priestly spirituality involves the development of attitudes, habits and practices that will continue after Ordination, and this must be the goal which you set for all formation programmes. Such programmes, sustained by the power and wisdom of Christ Crucified,(24) must be based upon fervent prayer, firm discipline, willing obedience, generous service of others, a missionary attitude and celibate chastity. With respect to this last point, the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops recalled that seminarians "should acquire affective maturity and should be both clear in their minds and deeply convinced that for the priest celibacy is inseparable from chastity".(25) Celibacy is a journey of absolute trust in God, which enables priests to serve Christ and his Church with an undivided heart;(26) it is a call to radical discipleship.

8. At every stage of their lives, your priests count on you for clear-sighted pastoral leadership and fraternal concern. Bishops should encourage their priests to be models of simple living. They should be particularly close to those priests who may be faltering in fidelity to their vocation, and they must not tire of insisting that the ministerial priesthood is not a profession or a means of social advancement. It is a sacred ministry, the interior configuration of a man who is thus empowered to act in persona Christi.Obedience to the Gospel demands that Bishops should deal promptly, frankly and resolutely with any situation that scandalizes the flock or weakens the credibility of the Church's witness. Following the example of Christ the Good Shepherd,(27) they must seek out those in difficulty and gently "admonish them as their beloved children".(28) Above all, Bishops must pray without ceasing for their priests, that the gift of God that is within them through the laying on of hands(29) may be constantly rekindled.

9. Beloved Brothers in Christ: as the day draws near when she will cross the threshold of the new millennium, the Church turns her gaze to the Lord in whose hands lie the history and destiny of all peoples and nations. This is a time to be "renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness".(30) May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, assist you as you lead God's people in Tanzania to this saving encounter. With my Apostolic Blessing.

(1) Cfr. Act.20, 28.

(2) Eph. 2, 21.

(3) Rom. 13, 14.

(4) 1Petr. 5, 3.

(5) 1Tim. 4, 12.

(6) IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 42.

(7) Cfr. Gal. 2, 5.

(8) Cfr. Phil.8.

(9) Cfr. IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Redemptoris Missio, 73.

(10) 2Tim. 3, 17.


(12) IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Ecclesia in Africa, 93.

(13) IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Evangelium Vitae, 97.

(14) EIUSDEM Familiaris Consortio, 17.

(15) EIUSDEM Ecclesia in Africa, 54.

(16) Matth. 5, 6.

(17) IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Ecclesia in Africa, 106.

(18) Gal. 5, 13.

(19) Lumen Gentium,31.

(20) IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Redemptoris Missio, 90.

(21) 1Cor. 4, 1.

(22) 1Tim. 5, 22.

(23) IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Pastores Dabo Vobis, 65.

(24) Cfr. 1Cor.1, 23-24.

(25) IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Ecclesia in Africa, 95.

(26) Cfr. 1Cor. 7, 32-34.

(27) Cfr. Luc.15, 3-7.

(28) Cfr. 1Cor.4, 14.

(29) Cfr. 2Tim.1, 6.

(30) Eph. 4, 24.

                                                                          March 1996





Thursday 7 March 1996

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends in Christ,

1. Once more I have the pleasant opportunity of greeting the members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications on the occasion of your Plenary Meeting. As always, I am particularly glad to see your President Emeritus, Cardinal Deskur. I thank your President, Archbishop Foley, for his words of introduction, and I express to you all, and to the officials of the Council, my appreciation of your efforts to ensure an ever more responsible and active presence of the Church in the world of social communications.

2. Twenty-five years ago, in response to a mandate from the Second Vatican Council, the then Pontifical Commission for Social Communications published the Pastoral Instruction Cornmunio et Progressio, aimed at guiding Christians in their attitudes to the media and at making them more eager to commit themselves in this important field (cf. n. 2). That document was received with generat satisfaction, and it has been the basis of a fruitful reflection and exchange of views throughout the Church, leading to a deeper understanding of the media as a providential divine gift for the proclamation of the Gospel and the advancement of humanity. Twenty years later, in view of rapid developments in communications technology and in related public policies, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications published the Pastoral Instruction Aetatis Novae, which offers a mature and extensive reflection on problems and opportunities in the field of communications at the dawn of a new era: the end of one Christian millennium and the beginning of another (cf. Address to Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Comrnunications, 20 March 1992).

These two Pastoral Instructions present the principles and guidelines which continue to govern the Church's approach to the communications media at the service of the Good News of salvation in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and at the service of the unity and advancement - Communio et Progressio - of the entire human family. But in a sector of human activity which is undergoing change and development at an accelerated pace these principles and guidelines arc constantly in need of further study and adaptation. Your Plenary Assembly does just this; and herein - lies - the specific contribution which you make to the universal pastoral ministry of the Successor of Peter, a contribution for which I am deeply grateful.

3. I note that the theme of your meeting this year is "Evangelizing through Media". Having examined what is happening in this field, you know that evangelization in the media of social communications is accomplished not only through a truthful and compelling presentation of the message of Jesus Christ. It is also fostered by presenting news about what the Church is doing in the name of Jesus, in all her many different activities in every corner of the world: in schools, in hospitals, in refugee relief programmes, in care for the poorest and most easily forgotten members of society. Evangelization is reinforced by a good Catholic press and good Catholic broadcasting, which explain and defend the teaching of Christ's Church and which help to deepen the commitment of the faithful by continuing the work of adult Christian education. It is aided by films and radio and television programmes which uplift the human spirit and, in this way, help to open the doors to the Redeemer.

Among all the many messages which travel on the wings of these extraorditrarily powerful instruments, what message is more important to the human family as a whole, and to every individual, than the truth concerning our very existence: the truth of where we come from, where we are going and how to get there - our origin in creation by God, our destiny in heaven with God, and our acceptance and following of Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth and the Life?

4. This year, your Assembly has given particular attention to a question which has enormous practical implications for individuals and families, as well as for society as a whole: the question of ethics in advertising. In order to grasp the complexity of the moral questions posed by this influential aspect of the world of broadcasting, publishing and communicating, it is enough to recall the imperative of respect for the truth in all human relations, or the importance for society of avoiding the pitfalls of an artificial and manipulative consumerism.

As Pastors and as members of the Catholic laity involved in the science and art of social communications, you will wish to encourage all efforts genuinely aimed at bringing to the media a renewed sense of public service and higher standards of decency. Not infrequently we hear complaints from families and from men and women of goodwill all over the world that films, television programmes and advertisements often include violent and sexually explicit scenes which erode moral and cultural values, and this even in children's programmes. Young viewers themselves frequently admit that they are deeply disturbed at these trends. More and more, people are giving voice to their desire for greater accountability on the part of the media in the construction of a more decent and just society, a society respectful of religious and moral values and vigilant in protecting religious liberty.

5. The approach of the third Christian millennium is stirring many people to hope for a world in which there will be true peace, justice and solidarity. The Catholic media, and Catholics in the media, are being challenged to proclairn, with renewed dedication and commitment, the narne of Jesus, his truth and his love, as the key not only to a more just society but to a glorious eternity.

As you continue your reflections, I promise you my prayers, and I gladly impart to you and your loved ones my Apostolic Blessing.




Friday, 8 March 1996

Your Eminence,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It is a pleasure for me to welcome the participants in this International Meeting on the relationship between the family and the economy, convened at the initiative of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Since the family is the basic cell of society, its life, harmony and stability are full of consequences for every aspect of human well-being and progress; not least for the development of local and national economies, as well as of the global economy itself. This is the object of your reflections during these days.

2. Many aspects of the economy strongly condition the life and harmony of families. The phenomenon of poverty and under-development strikes hard at the institution of the family. Various kinds of limitations and privations make the mission God has willed for parents and children very difficult. There are problems concerning food, housing, hygiene, education. These are compounded by unemployment and the lack of a just wage that allows families to live with dignity. In many countries, the tax systems penalize families or aggravate their economic condition.

In western societies in particular, young people, faced with serious economic uncertainties, are frequently tempted to put off the time to get married and to have a family. Nor can you overlook, in your reflections, the negative effects on the social fabric caused by family breakdown, with the enormous economic costs that ensue. It is paradoxical that in such a situation, political authorities often seem incapable of taking measures, including economic investments, which will strengthen the family institution and make families once more the main protagonists of family policies.

3. Dealing with the relationship between the family and the economy, you cannot fail to face the question of the work of women outside the home. The issue today is generally not the right of women to enter the work-force or to follow a career. The pressing question is that of finding ways for working wives and mothers to carry out their irreplaceable service within the family, as a community of love and the sanctuary of life.

4. Another theme of concern to you must be that of education, which represents an element of great importance for the economic life of the family and of society. While it implies a set of conditions and an investment of goods and energies that have great bearing on the economy, education cannot be subordinate to merely economic demands, since it has to do with the integral development and well-being of individuals and of society. In this perspective, the relevance of religious and moral values for the economic vitality of families and communities should be considered. It is enough to mention the moral and religious values that underlie unity and peace within families, moral integrity, love for work and for saving, cultural progress and social solidarity, as well as the moral and spiritual strength needed to avoid a hedonistic and selfish waste of economic resources and human energies.

5. I am sure that you understand that the fundamental question on which the Church wishes to hear your expert opinion is this: how can society organize the economy so that couples will have the necessary time and tranquillity for being together, for having and raising children, for all those things which make the home and family life the place of human fulfillment? I thank you for bringing your wisdom and experience to bear on such a central concern.

May the Lord bless you in your efforts. May he keep you and your own families in his grace and peace.

Speeches 1996 - Monday, 22 January 1996