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Unofficial Translation: Speech of the Holy Father, 21 January 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Colleen Crawford
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Sala Clementina

Saturday, 21 January 2017


Dear Judges, Officials, Advocates and Co-workers of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota,


I send to each of you my cordial greetings, beginning with the College of Prelate-Auditors with its Dean, Mons. Pio Vito Pinto, whom I thank for his words, and the Pro-Dean who has recently been named to this position. I wish for all of you that you may work in serenity and with fervent love towards the Church in the judicial year which we begin today.


Today I would like to turn to the matter of the relationship between faith and matrimony; in particular, on the perspectives of faith intrinsic to the human and cultural context in which matrimonial intention is formed. Saint John Paul II, basing himself on the teaching of Sacred Scripture, has well highlighted "how profound is the bond between the knowledge of faith and that of reason....  The uniqueness that distinguishes the Biblical text consists in the certainty that there exists a profound and inseparable unity between the knowledge of reason and that of faith." (Encyclical Fides et ratio, 16) Therefore, the more he distances himself from the perspective of the faith, the more "man exposes himself to the risk of failure and ends up finding himself in the condition of a 'fool.' For the Bible, there is in this foolishness an inherent danger to life. In fact, the fool deludes himself into thinking he knows many things, but in reality he is not capable of fixing his gaze on essentials. This keeps him from establishing order in his mind (Proverbs,

1,7) and assuming an appropriate attitude in regard to himself and the environment around him. Then when he arrives at the point of saying "God does not exist" (Ps 14 [13], 1, it is apparent with definitive clarity how much his knowledge is lacking and how far he is from the full truth about things, about their origin and their destiny." (ibid., 17)


On his part, Pope Benedict XV, in the final speech he gave to you, recalled that "only in opening oneself to the truth of it possible to understand, and to achieve in the concrete reality of conjugal and family life, the truth that man is His son, reborn in Baptism. In fact, the rejection of the divine proposal leads to a profound imbalance in all human relations, including that of matrimony." (26 January 2013). And how necessary it is to make deeper the relationship between love and truth. "Love needs truth. Only insofar as it is founded upon truth can love last through time, overcome the passing moment, and remain firm enough to sustain a shared journey. If love does not have a relationship with truth, it is subject to changes in feelings and will not stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of the person and becomes a new light pointing to a great and full life.  Without truth, love cannot offer a solid bond, it does not succeed in bringing the "I" above its isolation, nor does it free it from the fleeting instant in order to build life and bear fruit." (Encyclical Lumen fidei, 27)


We cannot hide from ourselves the fact that a widespread mentality tends to obscure the access to eternal truth. There is a mentality that in an extended and pervasive way finds its way even into the attitudes and behaviors of Christians themselves (Ap. Exort Evangelii gaudium, 64), in which faith becomes weakened and loses the originality proper to it as an interpretive and operative criterion for personal, family, and social existence. Such a context, lacking in religious values and in faith, cannot but condition matrimonial consent as well. The experiences of faith of those who request Christian marriage are very diverse. Some participate actively in the life of the parish; others draw close to it for the first time; some have a rather intense prayer life: some, on the other hand, are guided by a more generic religious sentiment. At times they are persons who are far from faith or lacking in faith.


In the face of this situation, it is necessary to find valid remedies. A primary remedy is indicated with regard to the formation of young people by means of an adequate "journey of preparation" focused on rediscovering marriage and the family according to the design of God. This involves helping the future spouses to understand and to savor the grace, the beauty and the joy of true love, saved and redeemed by Jesus. The community to which the spouses address themselves is called to cordially proclaim the Gospel to them, such that their experience of love might become a sacrament, an efficacious sign of salvation. In this circumstance, the redemptive mission of Jesus touches the man and the woman in the concrete reality of their life of love. This moment becomes an extraordinary occasion of mission for the whole community. Today more than ever, this preparation presents itself as a real and fitting moment of evangelization of adults, and often of those who have been far from the Church. There are, in fact, many young people for whom an upcoming wedding becomes the occasion to encounter anew the faith which has been for a long time relegated to the margins of their life. They find themselves, rather, in a unique moment, which is often also marked by an openness to reconsider and change the direction of their existence. It can be, therefore, a favorable time to renew their own encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, with the message of the Gospel, and with the teaching of the Church.


It is necessary, therefore, that the personnel and organizations appointed for the pastoral care of the family be motivated by a robust concern to make preparation courses for the sacrament of marriage always more effective, in order to foster not only human growth but above all the growth of the faith of the engaged couple. The fundamental purpose of these encounters is to help the engaged couple achieve a progressive integration into the mystery of Christ, in the Church and with the Church. This involves a progressive maturing in the faith, through the proclamation of the Word of God, and a generous following of and union with Christ.  That is, the purpose of this preparation consists in helping the engaged couple to understand and live the reality of the marriage that they intend to celebrate, so that they may do so not only validly and licitly, but also fruitfully, and so they might be ready to make this celebration a milestone in their journey of faith. In order to bring all of this about, it is necessary to have persons who are specifically competent in and adequately prepared for this service, (working) in a favorable synergy between priests and couples.


In this spirit, I feel I must reaffirm the need for a "new catechumenate" in preparation for marriage. Attentive to the wishes of the Fathers of the most recent Ordinary Synod, it is urgent to carry out concretely that which was already proposed in Familiaris consortio (n.66) namely, that as the catechumenate is a part of the sacramental process in the baptism of adults, so also marriage preparation is to become an integral part of the whole sacramental procedure of marriage, as an antidote which impedes the multiplication of marriage celebrations which are null or inconsistent.


A second remedy is to help new spouses continue on the path of faith and of the Church even after the celebration of marriage. It is necessary to establish, with courage and creativity, a program of formation for young spouses, with initiatives directed towards a growing understanding of the sacrament they have received. This involves encouraging them to consider the various aspects of their daily married life, which is a sign and instrument of the love of God incarnate in the history of the human race. I give you two examples. Above all, the love in which the new family lives has its root and ultimate source in the mystery of the Trinity, on account of which it carries this mark, despite the struggles and hardships with which it must cope in daily life. Another example: The history of love of a Christian couple is part of sacred history, because God dwells therein and because God never falters in regard to the commitment He has assumed toward the spouses on the day of the wedding. He in fact is "a faithful God and cannot betray Himself" (2 Tim 2, 13).


The Christian community is called to welcome, to accompany and to help young couples to care for their spiritual life both within their family life and within the pastoral program of the parish or groups, starting with participation in Sunday mass and offering other appropriate occasions and opportunities. Often young spouses are left to themselves, perhaps due to the simple fact that they are seen less in the parish, which happens above all when children are born. But it is precisely in these first moments of family life that it is necessary to pledge a greater closeness and a strong spiritual support, and also with regard to the work of educating the children, for whom they are the first witnesses and carriers of the gift of faith. Along the journey of human and spiritual growth of these young couples it is desirable that there be groups in which a stable path of formation can be carried out by means of listening to the Word and addressing topics which pertain to family life, by prayer, and by fraternal sharing.


These two remedies which I have indicated are aimed at favoring an appropriate context of faith in which to celebrate and live marriage. An aspect which is so determining for the solidity and truth of the nuptial sacrament summons pastors to be ever more knowledgeable of the delicate task which is entrusted to them in organizing the sacramental-matrimonial course for future spouses, rendering understandable and actual in them the synergy between covenant and faith. This means passing from a typically juridic and formal vision of the preparation of future spouses to a sacramental foundation ab initio: that is, to start on the path towards the fullness of their covenant-consent, elevated by Christ to a sacrament. This will require the generous participation of adult Christians, men and women, who work side-by-side with the priest in pastoral care of the family to build the "masterpiece of society", that is, "the family: a man and a woman who love each other" (Catechesis, 29 April 2015) according to "the luminous plan of God." (Words to the Extraordinary Consistory, 20 February 2014).


May the Holy Spirit, which always and in everything guides the holy People of God, help and sustain those priests and laity who are committed, and who will commit themselves to this field, so that they may never lose the enthusiasm and the courage to work for the beauty of Christian families in spite of the hidden and ruinous dangers of the dominant culture of the ephemeral and the temporary.


Dear brothers, as I have said various times, it takes great courage to marry in the times in which we live. And those who have the strength and the joy to carry out this important step ought to feel beside them the affection and tangible nearness of the Church. With these greetings I renew my wishes for you to carry out good work in this new year that the Lord gives us. I assure you of my prayer and I also count on yours, while from my heart I give you the Apostolic Blessing.




Trans. Meg Romano-Hogan, STB, JCL

22 January 2017

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