Pope Francis on Friday addressed the officials of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota on the occasion of the inauguration of their Judicial Year.
Speaking to those gathered, he reflected on the theme of synodality with regard to annulment cases, reminding them that their mission is to be at the service of families.
The Pope underlined that synodal work should see dialogue placed alongside judicial activity, in order to encourage a more general rethinking of the importance of the canonical process “for those who have experienced a marriage breakdown and, at the same time, for the harmony of relationships within the ecclesial community.”
Synodality, said Pope Francis, “implies walking together.” He went on to say, “we need to rediscover that all the participants in the process are called to contribute to the same objective, that of shining a light on the truth about a concrete union between a man and a woman, and reaching a conclusion as to whether or not there is a true marriage between them.”
Search for the truth
He stressed that even at the preliminary stage, when the faithful seek pastoral help, “there must be an effort to discover the truth about their union, an indispensable prerequisite for the healing of wounds.”
The Pope added, “when presenting the possibility of nullity, it is necessary to make the faithful reflect on the reasons that lead them to request the declaration of nullity of matrimonial consent.”
He noted that the same objective of a shared search for the truth “must characterize every stage of the judicial process.”
Any deliberate alteration or manipulation of the facts “in order to achieve a pragmatically desired result is inadmissible,” he said.
“Even lawyers,” added Pope Francis, in off-the-cuff remarks, “can do terrible damage.” The fact of walking together in judgement “is valid for the parties and their patrons, for the witnesses called to declare according to the truth, for the experts who must put their knowledge at the service of the process, as well as in a particular way for the judges”.
Listening and discernment
Synodality with regards to the law, Pope Francis commented, “implies a constant exercise of listening,” which is not simply hearing.
Another aspect of synodality, remarked the Pope, was the importance of discernment. “This discernment is based on walking together and listening, and allows the concrete matrimonial situation to be read in the light of the Word of God and the Magisterium of the Church,” he said.
“The outcome of this path is the judgment,” Pope Francis noted, “the fruit of careful discernment that leads to an authoritative word of truth on personal experience, thus highlighting the paths that can be opened from there.”
In conclusion, the Pope encouraged members of the Apostolic Tribunal to continue, with fidelity and renewed industriousness, their ecclesial ministry at the service of justice, truth, and ultimately, salus animarum (the salvation of souls).