De sanctionibus Code of canon law De sanctionibus Code of canon law 

Pope tells Canon Lawyers God’s justice is indissolubly united with mercy

Marking the 50th anniversary of Consociatio Internationalis Studio Iuris Canonici Promovendo, an international association that promotes the study of canon law, Pope Francis invites members to conduct their work in a pastoral and missionary manner.

By Linda Bordoni

In a letter addressed to Professor Chiara Minelli, President of the Consociatio Internationalis Studio Iuris Canonici Promovendo, Pope Francis recalled the 50th anniversary of the association's foundation and expressed gratitude for the members' dedication to promoting the study of canon law.

Remarking on how the Consociatio unites experts in Canon Law from ecclesiastical and civil universities across the globe, he said “This synergy that has developed between different universities scattered across various nations is highly appreciable.”

This synergy, he continued, highlights the universal nature of the Church's legal tradition.

And noting that at the heart of Canon and Civil Law is the person, he explained that the peculiarity of Canon Law is the person as redeemed in Christ, as faithful in the Church.

Theological foundation

The Pope continued saying that at the heart of Canon Law is the pursuit of the common good and he invited all Canon Law scholars to always bear in mind that at the basis of their discipline is “supreme lex, in the light of which every ecclesiastical law must be formulated, interpreted and applied.”

He encouraged them to find a way to remain steadfast to what is at the basis of Canon Law: “Revelation in its twofold expression of the Word of God and living Tradition," and on the other applying "what Christ wants, through the canonical norm, to the concrete situation of each believer, so that he or she may be accompanied to accept God's will.”

Adaptability in ecclesial life

Recognizing that the People of God live in history, Pope Francis spoke of the need for a discerning approach to Canon Law.

“Your art of discernment will consist in knowing how to translate Christ's will for the Church, which as such must remain in time, into forms that favour the fulfilment of the mission received from its Founder: to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to all peoples,” he wrote.

Finally, the Pope called for a more pastoral and missionary approach to Canon Law reminding scholars that, while norms are essential, they should be applied ensuring that they may serve for the faithful to encounter the merciful Jesus.

Even in the application of severe sanctions, the Church, as a mother, the Pope explained, is called to provide spiritual support for repentance.

Pope Francis' letter concluded with a reminder to Canon Lawyers to adapt to the evolving needs of the Church and to be not just custodians of legal norms but instruments of God's justice and mercy.

“Be aware that you are instruments of God's justice, which is always indissolubly united with mercy.”

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01 December 2023, 14:51