Home » Posts tagged 'apostolic exhortation'

“Gaudete et Exsultate”: Holiness means being loving, not boring, pope says

By

 

VATICAN CITY  — God calls all Christians to be saints — not plastic statues of saints, but real people who make time for prayer and who show loving care for others in the simplest gestures, Pope Francis said in his new document on holiness.

“Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy,” the pope wrote in “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), his apostolic exhortation on “the call to holiness in today’s world.”

Pope Francis signed the exhortation March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, and the Vatican released it April 9. Read more »

Comments Off on “Gaudete et Exsultate”: Holiness means being loving, not boring, pope says

Vatican newspaper calls pope’s document on family life ‘authoritative church teaching’

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family is an example of the “ordinary magisterium,” papal teaching, to which Catholics are obliged to give “religious submission of will and intellect,” said an article in the Vatican newspaper.

A newly married couple hold rosaries in their hands as they leave Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. The Vatican newspaper is calling Pope Francis's  apostolic exhortation,  "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), an authoritative church teaching. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See stories to come.

A newly married couple hold rosaries in their hands as they leave Pope Francis’ audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The Vatican newspaper is calling Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), an authoritative church teaching. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Father Salvador Pie-Ninot, a well-known professor of ecclesiology, said that while Pope Francis did not invoke his teaching authority in a definitive way in the document, it meets all the criteria for being an example of the “ordinary magisterium” to which all members of the church should respond with “the basic attitude of sincere acceptance and practical implementation.”

The Spanish priest’s article in L’Osservatore Romano Aug. 23 came in response to questions raised about the formal weight of the pope’s document, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).

For instance, U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke has said on several occasions that the document is “a mixture of opinion and doctrine.”

Father Pie-Ninot said he examined the document in light of the 1990 instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the vocation of the theologian.

The instruction, issued by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now-retired Pope Benedict XVI, explained three levels of church teaching with the corresponding levels of assent they require.

The top levels are: “Infallible pronouncements,” which require an assent of faith as being divinely revealed; and teaching proposed “in a definitive way,” which is “strictly and intimately connected with revelation” and “must be firmly accepted and held.”

A teaching is an example of “ordinary magisterium,” according to the instruction, “when the magisterium, not intending to act ‘definitively,’ teaches a doctrine to aid a better understanding of revelation and make explicit its contents, or to recall how some teaching is in conformity with the truths of faith, or finally to guard against ideas that are incompatible with these truths, the response called for is that of the religious submission of will and intellect.”

“Amoris Laetitia” falls into the third category, Father Pie-Ninot said, adding the 1990 instruction’s statement that examples of ordinary magisterium can occur when the pope intervenes “in questions under discussion which involve, in addition to solid principles, certain contingent and conjectural elements.”

The instruction notes that “it often only becomes possible with the passage of time to distinguish between what is necessary and what is contingent,” although, as the Spanish priest said, the instruction insists that even then one must assume that “divine assistance” was given to the pope.

Accepting “Amoris Laetitia” as authoritative church teaching, Father Pie-Ninot said, applies also to the document’s “most significant words” about the possibility of people divorced and remarried without an annulment receiving Communion in limited circumstances.

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

Comments Off on Vatican newspaper calls pope’s document on family life ‘authoritative church teaching’

Vatican Letter: Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love” sees the nitty gritty of family life

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ hymn to love and family life is more like a country song than a Disney tune.

In “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis’ postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, there is passion and devotion, but also heartache and sweat. The “magic” he wrote about is not momentarily sparkly, but the result of prayer, grace, hard work and a willingness to apologize, time and time again.

Pope Francis embraces Humberto and Claudia Gomez, who are married civilly but not in the church, during a meeting with families at the Victor Manuel Reyna Stadium in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico, Feb. 15. Pope Francis' postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), was released April 8. The exhortation is the concluding document of the 2014 and 2015 synods of bishops on the family. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis embraces Humberto and Claudia Gomez, who are married civilly but not in the church, during a meeting with families at the Victor Manuel Reyna Stadium in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico, Feb. 15. Pope Francis’ postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), was released April 8. The exhortation is the concluding document of the 2014 and 2015 synods of bishops on the family. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Committing oneself exclusively and definitively to another person always involves a risk and a bold gamble,” he wrote. But the payoff is huge.

The papal reflection on love, family life and the importance of marriage and child-rearing has sections that are deeply theological, pristinely poetic or even homiletic, like his reflection on the meaning of each line of the passage from the First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, used at millions of weddings each year: “Love is patient, love is kind ….”

But it also got into the nitty-gritty business of life when a man and a woman leave their parents’ home and try to make one of their own. However, while it quoted from some of his past speeches on family life, it did not include references to “plates flying” during arguments and refrained from making mother-in-law jokes, as he has been known to do.

Pope Francis reviewed the whole arc of married life from new and exciting young love to old age, sitting on the porch watching the grandkids play.

“Young love needs to keep dancing toward the future with immense hope,” he wrote. “Hope is the leaven that, in those first years of engagement and marriage, makes it possible to look beyond arguments, conflicts and problems and to see things in a broader perspective.”

While realistic about late nights and colic, the papal document is lyrical in its reflections on the blessings and challenges of welcoming children into families. He invited readers to join him standing in awe of God’s gift of children, marveling that “God allows parents to choose the name by which he himself will call their child for all eternity.”

Running after toddlers, supervising homework, trying to figure out how to be close to adolescents without smothering them and, finally, negotiating the “empty nest” syndrome all feature in the papal text.

Reaching together the later stage of family life, he insisted, is possible and beautiful.

“Although the body ages,” he said, “it still expresses that personal identity that first won our heart. Even if others can no longer see the beauty of that identity, a spouse continues to see it with the eyes of love and so his or her affection does not diminish.”

The path to the porch won’t be easy, the pope wrote. But “each crisis has a lesson to teach us; we need to learn how to listen for it with the ear of the heart.”

The pope’s hymn includes the twang of yearning for that perfect, forever love. That yearning, present in most people from every culture and religion, shows that a stable, faithful union is what responds to human nature and to God’s plan for humanity.

“Lovers do not see their relationship as merely temporary,” he wrote. “Those who marry do not expect their excitement to fade. Those who witness the celebration of a loving union, however fragile, trust that it will pass the test of time.”

To turn that dream into reality, try a little tenderness, the pope advised. Tenderness is a virtue “often overlooked in our world of frenetic and superficial relationships.”

A loving gaze also is essential, he wrote. “How many things do spouses and children sometimes do in order to be noticed! Much hurt and many problems result when we stop looking at one another. This lies behind the complaints and grievances we often hear in families: ‘My husband does not look at me; he acts as if I were invisible.’ ‘Please look at me when I am talking to you!’ ‘My wife no longer looks at me, she only has eyes for our children.’”

Pope Francis’ ballad on family love, life and loss urges Catholics to be patient and merciful with themselves as well as with their spouses and children. “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed,” so all must learn to grow together, including by making frequent use of the words, “Thank you,” “please” and “sorry.”

“The right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love,” the pope wrote.

Finding the right words also is Pope Francis’ exhortation to the church as a whole. While standing up tall for the family, the church needs to stop whining about how often its teaching on love and marriage is attacked, he said. “We should not be trapped into wasting our energy in doleful laments, but rather seek new forms of missionary creativity.”

Family life always has been challenging, the pope wrote. Just read the Bible, which “is full of families, births, love stories and family crises.”

But the Bible, he said, also holds out the promise of “the goal of their journey, when God ‘will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore.’”

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter @Cindy_Wooden.

Comments Off on Vatican Letter: Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love” sees the nitty gritty of family life

‘The Joy of Love’ — Share truth of family with mercy, help those struggling, pope says in new document

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The same mercy and patience that are essential for building a strong family must be shown to those whose families are in trouble or have broken up, Pope Francis said in his highly anticipated postsynodal apostolic exhortation.

A family prays after arriving for Sunday Mass in 2011 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va. Pope Francis' postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), was to be released April 8. The exhortation is the concluding document of the 2014 and 2015 synods of bishops on the family. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

A family prays after arriving for Sunday Mass in 2011 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va. Pope Francis’ postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), was to be released April 8. The exhortation is the concluding document of the 2014 and 2015 synods of bishops on the family. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

The document, “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), on Love in the Family,” released April 8, contains no new rules or norms. However, it encourages careful review of everything related to family ministry and, particularly, much greater attention to the language and attitude used when explaining church teaching and ministering to those who do not fully live that teaching.

“No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love,” Pope Francis wrote. People grow in holiness, and the church must be there to give them a helping hand rather than turn them away because they have not attained some degree of perfection.

The exhortation was Pope Francis’ reflection on the discussion, debate and suggestions raised during the 2014 and 2015 meetings of the Synod of Bishops on the family. Like synod members did, the pope insisted that God’s plan for the family is that it be built on the lifelong union of one man and one woman open to having children.

Synod members, including priests, religious and laypeople serving as experts and observers, talked about everything from varied cultural forms of courtship to marriage preparation and from the impact of migration on families to care for elderly parents.

Pope Francis’ document touches on all the issues raised at the synods and gives practical advice on raising children, urges a revision of sex-education programs and decries the many ways the “disposable culture” has infiltrated family life and sexuality to the point that many people feel free to use and then walk away from others.

“Everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop. Then, goodbye,” he wrote.

Much of the document is tied to the theme of God’s mercy, including Pope Francis’ discussion of welcoming the vulnerable.

“Dedication and concern shown to migrants and to persons with special needs alike is a sign of the Spirit,” he wrote. Both are “a test of our commitment to show mercy in welcoming others and to help the vulnerable to be fully a part of our communities.”

The synod issues that garnered the most headlines revolved around the question of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, as well as Catholic attitudes toward homosexuality.

“In no way must the church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur,” Pope Francis said.

He repeated his and the synod’s insistence that the church cannot consider same-sex unions to be a marriage, but also insisted, “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity.”

On the question of families experiencing difficulties, separation or even divorce and remarriage, Pope Francis said responses to the questionnaires sent around the world before the synod “showed that most people in difficult or critical situations do not seek pastoral assistance, since they do not find it sympathetic, realistic or concerned for individual cases.”

The responses, he wrote, call on the church “to try to approach marriage crises with greater sensitivity to their burden of hurt and anxiety.”

Particularly in ministry to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, Pope Francis said, pastors must help each couple look at their actions and circumstances, recognize their share of responsibility for the breakup of their marriage, acknowledge church teaching that marriage is indissoluble and prayerfully discern what God is calling them to.

Pope Francis said it would be a “grave danger” to give people the impression that “any priest can quickly grant exceptions or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favors.”

At the same time, he insisted, “the way of the church is not to condemn anyone forever; it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart.”

Divorced and civilly remarried couples, especially those with children, must be welcomed in Catholic parishes and supported in efforts to raise their children in the faith.

Generally, without an annulment of their sacramental marriage, such a couple would not be able to receive Communion or absolution of their sins unless they promised to live as “brother and sister.” But every situation is different, the pope said, which is why the church does not need new rules, but a new commitment on the part of pastors to provide spiritual guidance and assistance with discernment.

The diversity of situations — for example, that of a spouse who was abandoned versus being the one who left — makes it unwise to issue “a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases,” the pope wrote. Quoting St. John Paul II, he said, “’since the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.”

Pope Francis used the document’s footnotes to specify that the consequences include whether or not the couple might eventually be able to receive Communion: “This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists,” he wrote. Those who are in a state of serious sin are not to receive Communion.

Another footnote commented on the church’s request that remarried couples who had not received an annulment and who want to receive the sacraments forego sexual relations. “In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living as brothers and sisters which the church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers,’” he wrote.

Pope Francis wrote that he understood those “who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street.”

Turning to those who believe allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion waters down church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, the pope said, “we put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel.”

In many respects, Pope Francis wrote, church members themselves have presented and promoted such a dreary picture of married life that many people want nothing to do with it even though they dream of a love that will last a lifetime and be faithful.

“We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life,” he wrote. “We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfillment than as a lifelong burden.

“We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations,” the pope wrote. Yet, “we have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.”

The role of an individual’s conscience made frequent appearances in the document, not only regarding the situation of those who may determine their new union is best for their family, but also regarding decisions over how many children to have.

Pope Francis praised Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which insisted every sexual act in a marriage must be open to the possibility of pregnancy, and included a large section reiterating what has become known as St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.”

The saintly pope definitively opposed an old idea that considered “the erotic dimension of love simply as a permissible evil or a burden to be tolerated for the good of the family,” Pope Francis said. “Rather, it must be seen as gift from God that enriches the relationship of the spouses.”

Pope Francis called for church leaders to ensure more married couples are involved as leaders in designing and carrying out pastoral programs for families. Their witness is key, he said.

“Marital love is not defended primarily by presenting indissolubility as a duty, or by repeating doctrine, but by helping it to grow ever stronger under the impulse of grace,” he said. “A love that fails to grow is at risk. Growth can only occur if we respond to God’s grace through constant acts of love, acts of kindness that become ever more frequent, intense, generous, tender and cheerful.”

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter @Cindy_Wooden.

Comments Off on ‘The Joy of Love’ — Share truth of family with mercy, help those struggling, pope says in new document

Pope Francis to release new document on the family, ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ on April 8

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has set April 8 for the release of “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis’ reflection on the family and family life. Read more »

Comments Off on Pope Francis to release new document on the family, ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ on April 8

Pope Francis proclaims ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ — 50,000-word ‘exhortation’ is his vision for the church

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In his first extensive piece of writing as pope, Pope Francis lays out a vision of the Catholic Church dedicated to evangelization in a positive key, with a focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged and unborn.

“Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), released by the Vatican Nov. 26, is an apostolic exhortation, one of the most authoritative categories of papal document.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis’ first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei,” published in July, was mostly the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The pope wrote the new document in response to the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, but declined to work from a draft provided by synod officials.

Pope Francis’ voice is unmistakable in the 50,000-word document’s relatively relaxed style, he writes that an “evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral,” and its emphasis on some of his signature themes, including the dangers of economic globalization and “spiritual worldliness.”

The church’s message “has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary,” he writes. “In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.”

Inspired by Jesus’ poverty and concern for the dispossessed during his earthly ministry, Pope Francis calls for a “church which is poor and for the poor.”

The poor “have much to teach us,” he writes. “We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voices to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”

Charity is more than mere handouts, “it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor,” the pope writes. “This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.”

Yet he adds that the “worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care. … They need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith.”

Pope Francis reiterates his earlier criticisms of “ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation,” which he blames for the current financial crisis and attributes to an “idolatry of money.”

He emphasizes that the church’s concern for the vulnerable extends to “unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us,” whose defense is “closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.”

“A human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development,” the pope writes, in his strongest statement to date on the subject of abortion. “Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”

The pope writes that evangelization entails peacemaking, among other ways through ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. He “humbly” calls on Muslim majority countries to grant religious freedom to Christians, and enjoins Catholics to “avoid hateful generalizations” based on “disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism,” since “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Pope Francis characteristically directs some of his strongest criticism at his fellow clergy, among other reasons, for what he describes as largely inadequate preaching.

The faithful and “their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies,” he writes: “the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them.”

The pope devotes several pages to suggestions for better homilies, based on careful study of the Scriptures and respect for the principle of brevity.

Pope Francis reaffirms church teaching that only men can be priests, but notes that their “sacramental power” must not be “too closely identified with power in general,” nor “understood as domination”; and he allows for the “possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the church’s life.”

As he has done in a number of his homilies and public statements, the pope stresses the importance of mercy, particularly with regard to the church’s moral teaching. While lamenting “moral relativism” that paints the church’s teaching on sexuality as unjustly discriminatory, he also warns against overemphasizing certain teachings out of the context of more essential Christian truths.

In words very close to those he used in an oft-quoted interview with a Jesuit journalist in August, Pope Francis writes that “pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed,” lest they distract from the Gospel’s primary invitation to “respond to the God of love who saves us.”

Returning to a theme of earlier statements, the pope also warns against “spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the church, (but) consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being,” either through embrace of a “purely subjective faith” or a “narcissistic and authoritarian elitism” that overemphasizes certain rules or a “particular Catholic style from the past.”

Despite his censures and warnings, the pope ends on a hopeful note true to his well-attested devotion to Mary, whom he invokes as the mother of evangelization and “wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones.”

 

Comments Off on Pope Francis proclaims ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ — 50,000-word ‘exhortation’ is his vision for the church

Vatican letter: Pope Francis will address ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ on Nov. 26

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — With his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), which the Vatican has scheduled for publication Nov. 26, Pope Francis finally makes his real debut as papal author.

Popes through the centuries have issued their most important written messages in one of 10 classic forms, ranging from encyclical to “chirograph,” a brief document on a highly limited subject. But most of these are typically formulaic texts that do not express the distinctive voice or charism of the man who issues them.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis has already published an encyclical, traditionally considered the most authoritative form of papal writing. But in the opening paragraphs of “Lumen Fidei,” released in July, he explained that the text was essentially the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to whose words Pope Francis had merely “added a few contributions” of his own.

By contrast, Pope Francis has made clear that “Evangelii Gaudium” is very much his own work.

Apostolic exhortations are often based on deliberations of synods of bishops, and this one takes into account the October 2012 synod on the new evangelization. But last June, Pope Francis informed the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops, which is normally responsible for helping draft post-synodal apostolic exhortations, he would not be working from their draft.

Instead, the pope said, he planned to write an “exhortation on evangelization in general and refer to the synod,” in order to “take everything from the synod but put it in a wider framework.”

That choice surprised some, especially since Pope Francis had voiced his strong commitment to the principle of consultation with fellow bishops and even suggested that the synod should become a permanent advisory body.

But the pope was merely reverting to earlier practice. None of the first three modern synods, in 1967, 1969 or 1971, led to a papal document. It was not until 1974 that Pope Paul first chose to use a synod’s recommendations to write an apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Nuntiandi,” published the following year.

Pope Francis may already be deep into his next major document, an encyclical on social teaching. In May, Bishop Luigi Martella of Molfetta, Italy, wrote that the pope had recently told him and other bishops of Italy’s Puglia region that he was planning an encyclical on poverty, “understood not in an ideological and political sense, but in an evangelical sense.” The bishop said the encyclical would be called “Beati Pauperes” (Blessed Are the Poor).

Subsequent reports suggest that Pope Francis’ social encyclical might deal not only with poverty but also with protection of the natural environment, a topic on which he has voiced concern from practically the start of his pontificate.

A category of document that Pope Francis has not yet produced, but in which he is likely to make a major contribution, is that of apostolic constitutions. These are usually routine legal documents establishing a new diocese or appointing a bishop. But they can also address exceptional matters, as did Pope Benedict’s 2009 “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which established personal prelatures for former Anglicans who join the Catholic Church.

An apostolic constitution especially relevant to this pontificate is Blessed John Paul’s 1988 “Pastor Bonus,” which was the last major set of changes to the church’s central administration, the Roman Curia. Planning a revision of that document was the one specific task Pope Francis assigned to his advisory Council of Cardinals when he established the eight-member body in September.

Another consequential type of papal document is an apostolic letter given “motu proprio,” i.e., on the pope’s own initiative. Such letters are used to set up new norms, establish new bodies or reorganize existing ones. Pope Benedict issued 18 of them in the course of his eight-year pontificate, most famously in 2007, when he lifted most restrictions on celebration of the Tridentine Mass; and most recently in February, when he changed the voting rules of a papal conclave less than a week before he resigned from office.

Pope Francis has already issued three such apostolic letters in his first eight months: to update the Vatican’s criminal code so that it includes all Vatican employees around the world, not just those working in Vatican City; to broaden Vatican City laws against money laundering and terrorism financing so that they cover all the offices of the Roman Curia; and to expand the reach of the Vatican body that inspects suspicious financial transactions.

As evidence of the pope’s determination to reform, these impersonal legal documents may be his most eloquent statements yet.

 

Comments Off on Vatican letter: Pope Francis will address ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ on Nov. 26