01/29/2021, 16.54
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Pope tells Roman Rota that when a marriage is annulled, always think of the children

At the inauguration of the Judicial Year of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, Francis urges the judges to carefully evaluate the potentially “disastrous” effects of decisions affecting “abandoned spouses” and their children.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke today at the solemn inauguration of the Judicial Year of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

In his address, which he delivered sitting down because of an “uninvited guest”, namely the sciatica that has afflicted him for some time, the pontiff said that that “fantasy of charity” is needed when taking care of “abandoned spouses and possibly their children” after ecclesiastical courts annul their marriage for the effects can be “disastrous”.

Once a marriage is annulled, “it is necessary to take into account the relevant question: What will become of the children and of the party who does not accept the declaration of nullity? Hitherto, everything seemed obvious, but sadly it isn’t so. For this reason, it is necessary that statements of principle be followed by adequate factual intentions.”

“We are all aware of how difficult the transition from principles to facts can be. When we talk about the integral good of people, it is necessary to ask ourselves how this can be done in the many situations in which children find themselves. The new sacramental union, which follows the declaration of nullity, will certainly be a source of peace for the spouse who asked for it. However, how can we explain, for example, to children that their mother, abandoned by their father and often unwilling to establish another marriage bond, can receive the Sunday Eucharist with them, while their father, who might in a common law partnership or awaiting the declaration of nullity, cannot partake in the Eucharistic table?”

These are questions that were raised in the two assemblies, the extraordinary one in 2014 and the ordinary in 2015, to which “it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to offer answers”. Such concerns were also addressed in the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, which offers “clear indications that no one, especially the little ones and the suffering, should be left alone or treated as a means of blackmail between divided parents!”

It is a question of “exercising your mission as judges as a service full of pastoral sense, which should never be lacking in the delicate decision on annulling or not a conjugal union. The declaration of marriage nullity is often thought of as a cold act, a mere 'legal decision'. But this is not and cannot be the case. The sentences of an ecclesiastical judge cannot ignore the memories, the lights and shadows, that have marked a life, not only of the two spouses but also of the children. Spouses and children constitute a community of people, which is always and certainly identified with the good of the family, even when it has crumbled. We must not tire of giving all of our attention and care to the Christian family and marriage. This is where you invest a great deal of your concern for the good of particular Churches.”

Francis reminded every bishop, as “a father, a pastor and a judge in his own Church, to respond ever more to the challenge that comes with this issue. It is a question of persevering with tenacity and completing a necessary ecclesiological and pastoral journey, aimed at not leaving the faithful suffering from unaccepted and imposed judgments to the action of civil authorities alone.

“The fantasy of charity will foster evangelical sensitivity vis-à-vis family tragedies whose protagonists cannot be forgotten. It is very urgent that bishops’ aides, in particular judicial vicars, family pastoral workers and, above all, parish priests strive to exercise the diakonia of protection, care and accompaniment of the abandoned spouse and possibly the children, who are subjected to the decisions, even if just and legitimate, of matrimonial nullity.”

At the end of his formal address, Francis profusely thanked the Dean of the Rota, Mgr Pio Vito Pinto, who will retire in a few months upon his 80th birthday, “for the tenacity with which he carried out the reform of matrimonial trials: one sentence, then the quick trial.”

Finally, Francis thanked Mgr Pinto “for his enthusiasm in teaching catechesis on this topic. He has travelled the world teaching it: he is a man full of enthusiasm but enthusiastic in every hue because he too has such a temper! That’s the negative side, so to speak, of enthusiasm. But he will have time to correct himself . . . We all have! Let me thank him! I guess the applause is for his temper [laughter]. Thank you very much, Mgr Pinto! Thank you!” (FP)

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