The Holy Father declared that the task of the commission will be “to observe and verify the full and immediate application of the reform of the process of matrimonial nullity”.
ROME – Pope Francis on Friday created a commission to assess how the Catholic Church in Italy is implementing the reform of the marriage nullity process he introduced in 2015.
The Pope established the commission with a apostolic letter published on Friday a “motu proprio” (“on his own initiative”).
He explained that he was taking the measure to “directly support the Churches that are in Italy to receive the reform of the canonical process for cases of declaration of nullity of marriage, giving new impetus to the application of the motu proprio Mitis Iudex. “
A declaration of nullity – often called an “annulment” – is a court ruling that a marriage did not meet the requirements to make it valid under Church law.
Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (“The Sweet Judge, Our Lord Jesus”), Posted in 2015, made changes to canon law aimed at streamlining the process by which ecclesiastical courts assess applications for declaration of nullity of marriage. The text also underlined the role of the local bishop in the process.
Pope Francis declared that the task of the commission will be “to ensure and verify the full and immediate application of the reform of the process of matrimonial nullity”.
The commission will be chaired by Mgr. Alejandro Arellano Cedillo, dean of the Court of the Roman Rota, the higher court of the Apostolic See.
Pope Francis asked the new commission to suggest “whatever is deemed opportune and necessary to support and assist in the successful pursuit of the reform”. It will end with the preparation of a “detailed report” on the situation in Italy.
Referring to the 2014 Family Synod, the Pope declared that the new stage was necessary to allow the Churches of Italy to “show themselves to the faithful as generous mothers in a matter closely linked to the salvation of souls, as has been requested. by the majority of my brothers in the episcopate at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.
The motu proprio appeared a few days after the Pope held a private meeting with the Italian bishops in Rome. Sources said the Holy Father announced the creation of the commission during the closed-door meeting with the bishops, gathered for their plenary assembly.
According to a source, the pope said he wanted to “help bishops act as judges”, referring to the emphasis in Mitis Iudex that the bishop is “the judge of the faithful who are entrusted to him”.
Pope Francis made a similar point in his address to officials of the Tribunal de la Rote Romaine for the inauguration of the judicial year in January.
He said: “I take this opportunity to urge every bishop – constituted by Christ Father, Pastor and Judge in his own Church – to be more and more open to the challenge of this question. ”
“It is a matter of pursuing and completing with tenacity a necessary ecclesiological and pastoral journey, aimed at not leaving to the sole intervention of the civil authorities the faithful who suffer because of judgments not accepted but endured.
In the speech, the Pope acknowledged that the reform, “especially the brief process, has met, and still meets, a lot of resistance.”
He said, “I must confess that after its promulgation I received a lot of letters, I don’t know how many, but a lot. Almost all of them were lawyers who were losing their clients. And there is the problem of money. In Spain we say: ‘Por la plata baila el mono‘: the monkey dances for money. The saying is clear.
“And unfortunately, that too: in some dioceses, I encountered resistance from certain judicial vicars who, perhaps, lost power with this reform, because he realized that the judge was not him. , but the bishop. “
The Pope expressed his concern about the implementation of reforms in Italy as early as 2016, when he created a bilateral working group on reform, composed of experts from the Vatican and the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
Italy has a strong tradition of regional courts, established after Pius XI’s motu proprio in 1938 Qua Cura. Mitis Iudex repealed or derogated elements Qua cura, urging the Italian bishops to seek clarification.
The Roman Rota has issued a vademecum (manual) to Italian dioceses, demanding that diocesan courts be established “as soon as possible”.
Coupled with the demand for smaller courts, the Pope called for Mitis Iudex that the processes be free. But Italian bishops feared that replacing the country’s 15 regional courts with more than 220 diocesan courts would be economically unsustainable.
The new motu proprio stressed that, although canon law allows a diocesan bishop to have access to other courts, “this faculty must be understood as an exception and, therefore, any bishop who does not yet have his own ecclesiastical tribunal must seek to erect it. or at least strive to make it possible.
He added that “the will to reform the canonical matrimonial process – characterized by the proximity, the speed and the free character of the procedures – must necessarily involve a conversion of structures and people”.