VATICAN CITY, 4 FEB 2011 (VIS) – This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received participants in the plenary assembly of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. As the Pope pointed out in his remarks, this is the first time he has received members of the institution since the promulgation of its “Lex propria”, which he signed in 2008 and thanks to which it can periodically celebrate a plenary “Congregatio” for “the promotion of the correct administration of justice in the Church.”
“The function of this tribunal is not, in fact limited to exercising supreme judicial authority”, Benedict XVI added, “but it also has an executive role in overseeing the correct administration of justice within the ecclesial body. … This activity must be co-ordinated and patient, aimed above all at supplying the faithful with a correct, prompt and efficient administration of justice, as I myself requested, regarding cases of nullification of marriage, in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis“.
The Holy Father went on then to explain how, in that Apostolic Exhortation, he had also “referred to the Instruction Dignitas connubii, which gives moderators and ministers of the tribunal, in the form of a handbook, the norms they need to ensure that causes for nullification of marriage are dealt with and resolved in the quickest and surest way. The activities of the Apostolic Signatura aim to ensure that ecclesiastical tribunals are present on the ground and that their ministry is adapted to the just requirements of speed and simplicity, which the faithful have a right to expect in the handling of their cases”.
“Supervision over the correct administration of justice would, however, be incomplete if it did not also include the function of ensuring correct jurisprudence”, said the Pope. “Thus, I also encourage you as you reflect over these days on the correct jurisprudence to propose to local tribunals concerning ‘error iuris’ as a reason for the nullification of marriage”.
The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura “also operates in another delicate area of the administration of justice, one entrusted to it by Servant of God Paul VI. The Signatura, in fact, deals with controversies which arise from an act of ecclesiastical administrative power, referred to it by legitimate appeal against singular administrative acts issued or approved by the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. This is a vitally important service: predisposing instruments of justice…means offering a place for dialogue and for the restoration of communion in the Church”.
The Holy Father went on: “Although it is true that injustice must be met, above all, with the spiritual weapons of prayer, charity, forgiveness and penance, in certain cases we cannot exclude the need for it to be met with legal instruments. These are, first and foremost, places for dialogue which can sometimes lead to harmony and reconciliation”.
In other cases, “when it is impossible to resolve the controversy peacefully, the development of the administrative adversarial trial will lead to a judicial verdict on the controversy. Here too the activity of the Supreme Tribunal seeks the restoration of ecclesial communion; that is, the restoration of an objective order in conformity with the good of the Church”.
“Justice – which the Church pursues through the administrative adversarial trial – may be considered as the beginning, the minimum requirement and charitable anticipation, indispensable yet at the same time insufficient if compared to the charity from which the Church lives. Nonetheless the People of God during their pilgrim journey on earth will never achieve their identity as a community of love if they do not remain attentive to the requirements of justice”. (Source: PLENARY OF SUPREME TRIBUNAL OF THE APOSTOLIC SIGNATURA)