Pope Francis says "The first thing you need to do is pray. Pray for the Lord to be close to you." to Apostolic Tribunal - FULL TEXT + Video
INAUGURATION OF THE JUDICIAL YEAR OF THE TRIBUNAL OF THE ROMAN ROTA
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
Thursday, January 27, 2022
Dear Prelate Auditors!
I address my cordial greeting to each of you, starting with the Dean, Archbishop Alejandro Arellano Cedillo, whom I thank for his words. And thank you for the last two things you asked the Pope: comfort and blessing. I like it. It is a pastoral request. Thank you.
I greet the Officials, the Lawyers and the other collaborators of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota. I wish you all my best wishes for the judicial year that we are inaugurating today.
The synodal journey we are experiencing also challenges this meeting of ours, because it also involves the judicial sphere and your mission at the service of families, especially those who are wounded, those in need of the balm of mercy.
In this year dedicated to the family as an expression of the joy of love, today we have the opportunity to reflect on synodality in the processes of matrimonial nullity. Synodal work, in fact, even if it is not strictly procedural in nature, nevertheless must be placed in dialogue with judicial activity, in order to favor a more general rethinking of the importance that the experience of the canonical process has for the life of the faithful who they experienced a marriage failure and, at the same time, for the harmony of relationships within the ecclesial community. Let us ask ourselves then in what sense the administration of justice needs a synodal spirit.
First of all, synodality implies walking together . Overcoming a distorted view of matrimonial causes, as if mere subjective interests were affirmed in them, it must be rediscovered that all the participants in the process are called to contribute to the same goal , that of making the truth shine about a concrete union between a man and a woman, coming to the conclusion on whether or not there is a true marriage between them. This vision of walking together towards a common goal is not new in the ecclesial understanding of these processes. In this regard, the speech to the Roman Rota in which the Venerable Pius XII is famousaffirmed "the unity of purpose, which must give special form to the work and collaboration of all those who participate in the treatment of matrimonial cases in ecclesiastical courts of every degree and kind, and must animate and unite them in the same unity of purpose and of action ".  With this in mind, he outlined the task of each participant in the process in order to search for the truth, while maintaining each faithfulness to their role. This truth, if truly loved, becomes liberating. 
Already in the preliminary stage, when the faithful find themselves in difficulty and seek pastoral help, the effort to discover the truth about their own union cannot be missing, an indispensable prerequisite for being able to heal their wounds. In this context, we understand how important the commitment is to foster forgiveness and reconciliation between spouses, and also to eventually validate a null marriage when this is possible and prudent. Thus it is also understood that the declaration of nullity should not be presented as if it were the only objective to be achieved in the face of a marriage crisis, or as if this constituted a right regardless of the facts. In considering the possible nullity, it is necessary to make the faithful reflect on the reasons that move them to request the declaration of nullity of the matrimonial consent, thus favoring an attitude of acceptance of the definitive sentence, even if it does not correspond to one's own conviction. Only in this way are the processes of nullity an expression of an effective pastoral accompaniment of the faithful in their marital crises, which means listening to the Holy Spirit who speaks in the concrete history of people. Two or three years ago we talked about the marriage catechumenate.
The same objective of a shared search for truth must characterize each stage of the processjudicial. It is true that a dialectic between conflicting theses sometimes takes place in the process; however, the contradiction between the parties should always take place in sincere adherence to what appears to be true for each, without closing in on one's own vision, but also being open to the contribution of the other participants in the process. The willingness to offer one's own subjective version of the facts becomes fruitful in the context of adequate communication with others, which can also reach self-criticism. Therefore, any voluntary alteration or manipulation of the facts, aimed at obtaining a pragmatically desired result, is not admissible. Here I stop, and I apologize, to say a very great danger. When this is not overcome, even lawyers can do terrible damage. A month ago a bishop came to complain, because he had a problem with a priest. A serious problem, not marital, a serious discipline problem that deserved to go to trial. The national court judge - I'm not talking about this or that country - called the bishop and said, “I got this. I will do what you tell me. If you tell me to condemn him, I condemn him; if you tell me to absolve him, I absolve him ". This can happen! This can be achieved if there is no unity in the trials even with conflicting sentences. Going together, because the good of the Church is at stake, the good of the people! It is not a negotiation that is done. Excuse me, but this anecdote has enlightened me so much. The national court judge - I'm not talking about this or that country - called the bishop and said, “I got this. I will do what you tell me. If you tell me to condemn him, I condemn him; if you tell me to absolve him, I absolve him ". This can happen! This can be achieved if there is no unity in the trials even with conflicting sentences. Going together, because the good of the Church is at stake, the good of the people! It is not a negotiation that is done. Excuse me, but this anecdote has enlightened me so much. The national court judge - I'm not talking about this or that country - called the bishop and said, “I got this. I will do what you tell me. If you tell me to condemn him, I condemn him; if you tell me to absolve him, I absolve him ". This can happen! This can be achieved if there is no unity in the trials even with conflicting sentences. Going together, because the good of the Church is at stake, the good of the people! It is not a negotiation that is done. Excuse me, but this anecdote has enlightened me so much. because the good of the Church is at stake, the good of the people! It is not a negotiation that is done. Excuse me, but this anecdote has enlightened me so much. because the good of the Church is at stake, the good of the people! It is not a negotiation that is done. Excuse me, but this anecdote has enlightened me so much.
This "going together" in the judgment is valid for the parties and their patrons, for the witnesses called to declare according to truth, for the experts who have to put their science at the service of the trial, as well as in a singular way for the judges. Indeed, the administration of justice in the Church is a manifestation of the care of souls, which requires pastoral concern to be servants of saving truth and mercy. This ministerium veritatisit takes on particular importance in Bishops, when they judge in the first person, especially in shorter trials, as well as when they exercise their responsibility towards their own courts, thus also showing their paternal concern for the faithful. And I come back to something that I have always said from the first moment: the original judge is the bishop. The dean greeted me saying: "the Pope, universal judge of all ...". But this is because I am bishop of Rome and Rome presides over everything, not because I have another title. Thanks for that. If the Pope has this power it is because he is the bishop of the diocese of which the Lord wanted the bishop to be the Pope. The real and first [judge] is the bishop, not the judicial vicar, the bishop.
Synodality in processes implies a constant exercise of listening . In this area too, we need to learn to listen , which is not simply hearing . In other words, it is necessary to understand the vision and the reasons of the other, almost to identify with the other. As in other areas of pastoral care, also in judicial activity the culture of listening must be encouraged, a prerequisite for the culture of encounter. Therefore standard responses to individual people's concrete problems are deleterious. Each of them, with its experience often marked by pain, constitutes for the ecclesiastical judge the concrete "existential periphery" from which every judicial pastoral action must move.
The process also requires careful listening to what is argued and demonstrated by the parties. Of particular importance is the investigation , aimed at ascertaining the facts, which requires those who guide it to know how to combine the right professionalism with closeness and listening. Does this take time? Yes, it takes time. Does it require patience? Yes, it requires patience. Does it require pastoral paternity? Yes, it requires pastoral paternity. Judges must be listeners par excellence of everything that emerged in the trial for and against the declaration of nullity. They are required to do so by virtue of a duty of justice, animated and supported by pastoral charity. Indeed, "mercy is the fullness of justice and the brightest manifestation of the truth of God" (Apostolic Exhortation Postsin.Amoris laetitia , 311). Furthermore, - as is usually the case - there is a panel of judges, each judge must open himself to the reasons presented by the other members in order to arrive at a weighted judgment. In this sense, in your action as ministers of the tribunal, the pastoral heart, the spirit of charity and understanding towards people who suffer from the failure of their married life must never be lacking. To acquire such a style it is necessary to avoid the impasse of juridicism - which is a kind of legal Pelagianism; it is not Catholic, juridicism is not Catholic - that is, of a self-referential vision of the law. Law and judgment are always at the service of truth, justice and the evangelical virtue of charity.
Another aspect of the synodality of processes is discernment. Because the synod is not just asking for opinions, it is not an inquiry, so what everyone says is valid. No. What one says enters into discernment. It takes the ability to discern. And discernment is not easy. It is a matter of discernment based on walking together and listening, and which allows us to read the concrete situation of marriage in the light of the Word of God and the Magisterium of the Church. The decision of the judges thus appears as a descent into the reality of a vital event, to discover in it the existence or otherwise of that irrevocable event which is the valid consent on which marriage is based. Only in this way can the laws relating to individual forms of matrimonial nullity be fruitfully applied, as expressions of the Church's doctrine and discipline on marriage.recta ratio agibilium, that is, a virtue that judges according to reason, that is, with righteousness in the practical sphere. Returning to that example: “What does he want? Do I condemn him or free him? ”.
The outcome of this journey is the sentence , the fruit of careful discernment that leads to an authoritative word of truth about personal experience, thus highlighting the paths that can be opened from there. The sentence therefore must be understandable for the people involved: only in this way will it be placed as a moment of special relevance in their human and Christian journey.
Dear Prelate Auditors, from these considerations that I wanted to bring to your attention, it emerges that the dimension of synodality makes it possible to highlight the essential characteristics of the process. Therefore, I encourage you to continue with fidelity and industriousness and renew your ecclesial ministry at the service of justice, inseparable from truth and, ultimately, from salus animarum .. A work that manifests the merciful face of the Church: a maternal face that bends over each member of the faithful to help him to make the truth about himself, relieving him of defeat and fatigue and inviting him to live the beauty of the Gospel to the full. I renew my esteem and gratitude to each one. I ask the Holy Spirit to always accompany your activity and I cordially bless you. And don't forget to pray. Prayer always accompany you. "I'm busy, I have to do many things ...". The first thing you need to do is pray. Pray for the Lord to be close to you. And also to know the heart of the Lord: we know it in prayer. And the judges pray, and they have to pray, double or three times more. Please don't forget to pray for me too, of course. Thank you.
 Cf. Jn 8:32.
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