01/29/2018, 13.53
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Pope: conscience is central in validity cases of marriage

At the opening of the Judicial Year of the Roman Rota, Francis recommended that the "conscience of the faithful in difficulty as regards their marriage does not close up to a path of grace." He stressed the need for a "permanent catechumenate" to revitalise the Christian conscience vis-à-vis marriage, and overcome the tendency in today’s younger generations to flee from their responsibilities.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis received today in audience the Prelate Auditors, officials, lawyers and collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of the Judicial Year. 

In his address, the pontiff said that those who are called to judge on the validity of a marriage must prevent the faithful whose marriage is in difficulty from closing their conscience to the “path of grace". Instead, they must act "in full conscience" to offer " peace of consciences".

On this occasion, Francis stressed once more the need for a "permanent catechumenate" to revitalise the Christian conscience vis-à-vis marriage, and overcome the tendency in today’s younger generations to flee from their responsibilities.

The Pope emphasised in particular the "centrality of conscience", defined as "a qualifying aspect" of the judicial service. "[Y]our activity,” he noted, “is also expressed as a ministry of the peace of consciences and must be exercised in full consciousness [. . .]  As regards the declaration of nullity or validity of the marriage bond, you posit yourselves, in a certain sense, as experts in the conscience of the Christian faithful."

"The conscience assumes a decisive role in the demanding choices that couples must face to welcome and build the conjugal union and hence the family according to God’s plan." For this reason, the Church "has recognized the need to invite those who work in the pastoral care of marriage and family to obtain a renewed awareness in helping engaged couples to build and preserve the intimate sanctuary of their Christian conscience."

What is more, added the Pope, "in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, pastoral pathways have been indicated to help engaged couples to enter without fear into discernment and in the consequent choice of the future conjugal and family life,".

The synods and Amoris laetitia "have had an obligatory path and purpose: how to save young people from the din and deafening noise of the ephemeral, which leads them to shy away from stable and positive commitments for the individual and collective good. A conditioning that silences the voice of their freedom, of that intimate cell – indeed, the conscience – that God alone illuminates and opens to life, if He is allowed to enter.”

"How valuable and urgent is the pastoral action of the whole Church for the recovery, safeguarding, protection of a Christian conscience, illuminated by Gospel values! It will be a long undertaking and not easy, requiring bishops and presbyters to work indefatigably to enlighten, defend and support the Christian conscience of our people.”

To this end, "Welcoming the wishes expressed by the Synod Fathers, I have already had the opportunity to recommend a marriage catechumenate, intended as an indispensable itinerary for young people and couples destined to revive their Christian conscience, sustained by the grace of the two sacraments, baptism and marriage."

As a commitment, “the care of consciences cannot be the exclusive concern of Pastors; rather, with different responsibilities and methods, it is the mission of all, ministers and baptized faithful”.

"Faith is a light that illuminates not only the present but also the future: marriage and family are the future of the Church and of society. It is therefore necessary to promote a state of permanent catechumenate so that the consciousness of the baptized is open to the light of the Spirit. The sacramental intention is never the result of automatism, but always of a conscience illuminated by faith, as the result of a combination of the human and the divine.

“In this sense, spousal union can be said to be true only if the human intention of the spouses is oriented to what Christ and the Church want. To make the future spouses more aware of this, we need the contribution not only of bishops and priests, but also of other people involved in pastoral care, religious and lay faithful who are jointly responsible in the mission of the Church."

To the judges, the pope recommended to avoid "that the exercise of justice be reduced to a mere bureaucratic accomplishment." At the same time, "We must ensure that the conscience of the faithful in difficulty as regards their marriage does not close up to a path of grace. This aim is achieved through pastoral accompaniment, discernment of consciences (see Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, 242) and the work of our tribunals. This work must take place in wisdom and in the search for truth: only in this way can the declaration of nullity produce a liberation of consciences."

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