Tag Archives: Roman Curia

Cardinal Coccopalmerio speaks about marriage, communion to divorced and remarried

coccopalmerioCardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio was chosen by Pope Francis to head a new commission for the study simplifying of the annulment process. The Cardinal is the President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; he spoke with Salvatore Cernuzio of ZENIT and the text of the interview was released on ZENIT on October 3, 2014.

The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops begins tomorrow but tonight in Rome there is a vigil service presided over by the Pope and a packed St Peter’s Square. He set the tone of wanting the Church at her various levels oriented toward the Lord in prayer.

The interview is not terrifically insightful or revealing of “possible” changes to our pastoral practice with regard to marriage and family life, or about giving a new  theological anthropology, but it is a text that ought to garner some attention not only for experts but for those who work in pastoral contexts like the parish and universities. It follows:


ZENIT: The Synod is already at our door. With what state of mind do you approach this great Assembly? What are your hopes, but also your fears?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: There is, certainly, some concern because we will be addressing delicate questions, on which opinions are diverse. The fear, which is justified, is that there will be some reason for opposition. However, I believe that, if each one of us says freely and sincerely what he thinks and others listen to him with patience and with the desire to compare and reflect further, all will be well. In this connection, I trust in the help of the Holy Spirit, that He may illumine our minds and, above all, make us open to one another.

ZENIT: The international media has given much attention to the subject of the Sacraments for civilly remarried divorced persons, theorizing in fact that there will be “clashes” and angry debates during the Assembly between conservative and progressive factions. What do you think?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: I think the subject of Communion for remarried divorced persons is important, because there are persons who live experiences of suffering and, therefore, expect a word of light and comfort from the Church. However, obviously, this isn’t the only topic: there are many others that, perhaps, are more important. The real topic, the main one, is to make the beauty of marriage and the family understood, despite the fact that such an adventure also entails effort. If the Synod succeeds in giving, especially to young people, a more beautiful, more enthusiastic sense of marriage and the family, it will certainly have achieved the most important result. Then as well, of course, it will have to address “burning” issues, but it will do so in a wider and more serene atmosphere.

ZENIT: In regard to these burning issues, how do you define them? What is your position? In which of the two “factions,” if we can so describe them, are you?

Cardinal Cocopalmerio: I cannot anticipate here my intervention in the Synod. I only think that, following the Lord’s Gospel and it being a question of so many persons living in painful situations, we are called to commit ourselves to give satisfying and adequate answers to the needs of today.

ZENIT: Among the topics connected to the Synod are also the juridical and canonical implications of the matrimonial bond. In fact last week Pope Francis instituted a study commission for the annulments process, and made you a member. Should we describe this as a strategic move of the Pontiff on the eve of the Synod?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: I would rather say an intelligent move that put to the fore one of the questions that the Synodal Assembly will certainly be working on. From many sides it has been suggested that the procedures be simplified to come to the declaration of an eventual matrimonial nullity. Hence this Commission works outside of the Synod but also in service of the Synod, being able to give it a notable contribution. The Pope did well in instituting it.

ZENIT: Isn’t there the risk that with a simplification of the procedures of matrimonial nullity the evangelical principle of the indissolubility of the Sacrament will be questioned?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: The procedure for the declaration of matrimonial nullity serves to declare if a marriage is valid or not. Therefore, it isn’t a procedure for the annulment of the matrimonial bond but it serves simply to see, to confirm, to take into account the validity or invalidity of the bond. If the bond is not valid, there is the pronouncement of the nullity of the marriage; if it is valid, its existence is confirmed. It is, therefore, a procedure oriented to seeking the truth: does this bond exist or not?

The procedure for the declaration of matrimonial nullity does not put in question the principle of the indissolubility of marriage: it tends only to examine if in a concrete case, there is or is not a marriage. If the bond was never born, it is no longer about dissolubility or non-dissolubility, but about the non-existence of matrimony. Therefore, even if the procedure is simplified, it must never fail, however, in the finality of establishing the reality. And if the simplification impedes coming to knowledge of the reality it would not be good.

ZENIT: On the practical plane, there is an increase in requests for nullity. Almost 50,000 marriages in the world celebrated in church have been annulled, of which more than 2,400 alone were in Italy. Will it be possible, with this Commission, to meet these requests?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: I don’t have the statistics, therefore I cannot know how to reply. However it seems to me that the current language is erroneous: marriages are not “annulled.” What is declared is only that the bond does not exist because it was never born, in as much as at the moment of the celebration an essential requisite was lacking, as happens, for instance, when one who marries excludes the indissolubility of marriage.

ZENIT: In the Instrumentum laboris of the synod, one reads that the Assembly will study a more valid pre-matrimonial pastoral ministry but also a strategy to support young couples after the Sacrament. In your opinion, up to now has this type of ministry been a lacuna in the Church?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: The pastoral intention is very important. The preparation for marriage should be carried out with passion and diligence so that the future spouses are supported in a conscious and joyful way. Perhaps in some parts of the world this ambit is not taken care of or not sufficiently taken care of. I am certain that the Synod will insist on this point and will be able to renew methods and structures. Even more important, then, is post-matrimony, the follow-up, that is, the new couples that have met, for instance, with difficulties in their matrimonial life which they didn’t have as engaged couples. It is necessary to support couples, especially in their difficult moments in which there are disillusions, relational difficulties caused, for instance, by reasons of work or health.

ZENIT: I would like to hear your thought on unions between persons of the same sex. On other occasions, you have stated that homosexuals are not condemned and, if there are also stable unions between them, what is important is that they not be confused with the family and with matrimony. Can you clarify this concept?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: Matrimony is a precise reality; it is the union between a man and a woman, which is stable, open to generation: it is a concept of matrimony to be maintained with commitment and honesty. Therefore, the other unions cannot in all honesty be called matrimony. And when we say matrimony we also say family. The problem, therefore, is not so much not to condemn unions between persons of the same sex: every person, in fact, has his conscience and, therefore, makes his choices. The problem is to see if legislation can include in its ordering forms of homosexual union especially in relation to adoption.

ZENIT: What is your point of view on this issue?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: I have questioned myself many times in this regard. By tendency I am decidedly opposed to the possibility of a homosexual couple adopting children. I have much difficulty with this, because one thing is the choice that two persons can make of their life, of their relationship, another is to have this choice carried out on someone outside, little persons, incapable of deciding. If I were a lawmaker I think I would prohibit it.

ZENIT: What are the greatest risks?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: First of all, those of an anthropological nature, because  — let’s say it clearly – one can discuss everything, but spontaneously one feels that the education of a child is not to be entrusted to a homosexual couple. However, here we are entering in a very complex matter in which I don’t feel competent. I say spontaneously that the adoption of children by same-sex couples is certainly something foreign to my conviction. From the legislative point of view, I confirm, I would not permit it.

ZENIT: So many, however, object that in face of cases of abandonment or mistreatment of minors, it would be better if a child was received by two persons, even of the same sex, who in any case can guarantee him/her affection and support …

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: Yes, certainly, when faced with the reality of street children, totally abandoned, as the many I have seen, and they are an excruciating sight, perhaps the thought comes that a “homosexual couple is better.” But let’s be clear: it would be as if saying that in face of a great evil a lesser evil is preferable. Deep down something remains that is difficult to accept.

ZENIT: Can there ever be an opening of the Church in this regard?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: I don’t think the Church could ever accept the legitimacy of a homosexual union from an objective point of view. The Church can respect this choice of life, presupposing that it was made in full good faith. It is something else, however, to say that this union is objectively something good and acceptable.

ZENIT: So many people, perhaps misunderstanding, expect great openings on the part of Pope Francis. In connection with the Pontiff, it came to my mind that about two years ago, on the eve of the March Conclave, you hoped in an interview that “the new Pope would be first of all a witness of the Faith, capable of listening and of dialogue; that he be able to bring love and joy to the world; but that he also be able to evaluate his collaborators and appoint in the Papal Curia personnel of very high technical and spiritual formation.” In light of what Bergoglio has done in these months of pontificate, has your hope been heard?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: Yes, absolutely. Among the many things that could be said of Pope Bergoglio, one is obvious above all: he loves persons, he makes each one feel that he considers him important, that he listens to him and, therefore, appreciates him. By expressing love, he gives joy.

ZENIT: Are you pleased with the reform of the Curia that is underway?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: Let’s keep in mind that we are still in one phase – let’s say – of the work in progress. Moreover, the Holy Father came from far away; he had not lived in Rome and must still enter in certain mechanisms and certain structures of the Curia.

ZENIT: However in the C9, the Council of Cardinals instituted by the Pope to help him in the government of the Church, are there not truly “curial” names …

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: Yes, it’s true. However, the nine Cardinals give pastoral guidelines that are then taken by experts and translated into effective. This is the praxis. Moreover, there is a clarification to be made …

ZENIT: Which one?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: That the reform of the Curia must start from a specific presupposition: the Curia is made up of persons, of Dicasteries, that is, of subjects each one of whom carries out an activity of the Pope. The Holy Father has to carry out so many tasks for the government of the universal Church, but he can’t do everything alone, because he doesn’t have the time or the specific competencies. Therefore, every “subject” – at present we have 26 Dicasteries in the Curia (Congregations, Pontifical Councils, Tribunals, Offices) – helps the Pope to carry out a task. And he has more or less value to the degree that he carries out this activity and does it well. The whole reform of the Curia must rotate around this: what activity of the Pope does this dicastery carry out? Does it do it well?

ZENIT: And if it doesn’t do it well?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: It can also be closed. If there are Dicasteries that carried out an activity of the Pope in the past but that today are no longer necessary, then they can be abolished.

ZENIT: Therefore, in this case also, are we moving towards a strong simplification?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: Yes, a simplification could be exercised but, if we follow the criterion of what the Pope needs today, there could even be an enlargement. In the sense that, if the Holy Father intends to carry out an activity, of which there was no need before, he can institute a new organism. It’s the case, for instance, of the Commission for the Protection of Minors.

ZENIT: One last question. The Synod will conclude on Sunday, October 19, the day in which Pope Francis will beatify Paul VI. Were you able to know Pope Montini in person?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: Yes. It was he who ordained me a priest. I was one of the last 30 priests ordained by Cardinal Montini before he left the Diocese of Milan, so I was always united to him by bonds of spiritual sonship.

ZENIT: What memory do you have in particular of the Pontiff?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: More than as Archbishop I remember him as Pope. I like to describe his figure with a phrase that a Cardinal once said and that always left me astounded: “Montini believes in God.” See, he was someone who believed in God, therefore in man and therefore he loved God and people.

ZENIT: Are you happy to see him beatified?

Cardinal Coccopalmerio: Obviously very much. I would like to see him canonized soon …

Vatican City State

Vatican City State map.jpg

Vatican City State was founded on this date in 1929 following the signing of the Lateran Pacts, later ratified on June 7, 1929. 

Vatican City State is a sovereign State which is distinct from the Holy See under international law. When you walk into St Peter’s Square, or visit the extra-territorial buildings of the Vatican, you are actually walking out of the Italian state and into another state. The pope has diplomatic relations with nearly 200 governments and other agencies representing peoples. The pope is a head of state and the papacy is the longest serving leadership of a people in all of history. But as happens often, most people don’t make the clear distinction between what the Vatican is and what the Holy See does because of laziness. The confusion is understandable.

The ministry of Saint Peter and his successors, the bishops of Rome, Vicars of Christ, the Roman Pontiffs is by nature known as “apostolic” making the crucial distinction that it is directly connected with what the Lord did with the 12 Apostles and Disciples: to be sent on mission by preaching, teaching and sanctifying. Hence, we believe that the Catholic Church carries out its mission of a announcing the truth of the Gospel for the salvation of all humanity and in the service of faith, hope, love, peace and justice in favor of all peoples (without reservation). The Church’s mission, therefore, is religious, that is, the Church has a supernatural character and orientation, and not a political one; consequently our conception of what and who the Church is can’t be reduced to political and sociological conceptions. Scripture, sacraments, and service are not “policy statements.”

The Vatican has a central government to care for the work of Pope with regard to relations with governments, and temporal affairs. When we speak of the Church’s announcement of the gospel we speak of the departments related to that work: doctrine, worship, evangelization, schools, culture, canon law, etc. We call these departments the Roman Curia. Vatican City State is a singular instrument that’s independent of the Holy See, working to be a coherent earthly power at the service of the Divine Majesty.

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Pope to priests: hear confessions

Pope hears confessionsThe human face of Jesus Christ, the mercy of God and the love of Holy Mother Church is only going to be known if the priest gets back into the confessional (on a daily basis?). The Pope of Mercy is calling priests to act like priests and not as bureaucrats by getting into the confessional more often.

Robert Moynihan, Editor-in-Chief of Inside the Vatican, writes today, “Out of the Curia into the Confessional,” that a recent papal decision in asking the priests (which includes the bishops and cardinals) of the Roman Curia to hear confessions on a regular basis. Why? “Because he [Pope Francis] wishes to emphasize the importance of confession, and of God’s great goodness in forgiving human sin.”

Confession of sin opens all of us up to what is a living Catholicism (evangelization and faith formation): to living a mature form of Christianity.

What a great idea! Actually, the Pope is expanding the ministry started at one of the churches in Rome devoted to promoting God’s unfailing mercy through the inspiration of Saint Faustina. Oddly enough, the building next to the church where the confessions are heard, is the Jesuit Roman Curia. You might remember that the Jesuits, from the days of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, had a special ministry in hearing confessions for people of all walks of life. The good Jesuit would stop everything to reconcile someone to God and the Church! A delight that is no longer frequently practiced by the Jesuits of their own Curia. Leave it to the Jesuit pope to re-invigorate this venerable aspect of Jesuit priestly ministry… I hope the Jesuits get the hint.

What the Pope has proposed the Curia is not meant for them alone; it is meant as an invitation to all priests about the world to reclaim the ministry of reconciliation today. There are no reasonable excuses to be made but I can hear the priests complaining now: “I already sit in the confessional once a week for 20 min.” OR, “The people know where to find me.” OR “We’ve lost the battle already, why bother?” OR “There are plenty of other priests hearing confessions in this city, I don’t have to spend more time in that box!” OR my favorite, “I am too busy.” The priest who holds this attitude needs some re-education.

In the City of New Haven, CT, there two Catholic parishes, both run by religious orders, the Order of Preachers and the Vincentian Fathers, St Mary’s Church and St Stanislaus Church (respectively), who make their priests available for confessions six days a week. I frequently see people going into the box a sinner only to emerge freed from sin and given sanctifying grace.

The Dominican Friars have a tendency to preach about the need for repentance and the beauty of being in the merciful embrace of the Good Shepherd through the ministry of the confession box. I think the Holy Father got his ideas in the Elm City, no?

Pope’s Christmas greetings to Roman Curia

color armsThe Holy Father meets with the Roman Curia typically on the Third Saturday of Advent in the Clementine Hall. In the past the papal address was longer and had a slightly different tone and content. Francis’ talk this year is spiritual with with a tone of fraternal correction aiming at a more substantive pastoral ministry for the of the person, and that of others. What the pope said to the curia is applicable to all. It ought to be attended to by all of us.

The Lord has enabled us to journey through Advent, and all too quickly we have come to these final days before Christmas.  They are days marked by a unique spiritual climate made up of emotions, memories and signs, both liturgical and otherwise, such as the creche…  It is in this climate that this traditional meeting takes place with you, the Superiors and Officials of the Roman Curia, who cooperate daily in the service of the Church.  I greet all of you with affection.  Allow me to extend a special greeting to Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who recently began his service as Secretary of State, and who needs our prayers!

While our hearts are full of gratitude to God, who so loved us that he gave us his only-begotten Son, it is also good to make room for gratitude to one another.  In this, my first Christmas as the Bishop of Rome, I also feel the need to offer sincere thanks to all of you as a community of service, and to each of you individually.  I thank you for the work which you do each day: for the care, diligence and creativity which you display; and for your effort I know it is not always easy – to work together in the office, both to listen to and challenge one another, and to bring out the best in all your different personalities and gifts, in a spirit of mutual respect.

In a particular way, I want to express my gratitude to those now concluding their service and approaching retirement.  As priests and bishops, we know full well that we never really retire, but we do leave the office, and rightly so, not least to devote ourselves a little more fully to prayer and the care of souls, starting with our own!  So a very special and heartfelt “thank you” goes to those of you who have worked here for so many years with immense dedication, hidden from the eyes of the world.  This is something truly admirable.  I have such high regard for these “Monsignori” who are cut from the same mould as the curiales of olden times, exemplary persons…  We need them today, too!  People who work with competence, precision and self-sacrifice in the fulfilment of their daily duties.  Here I would like to mention some of them by name, as a way of expressing my esteem and my gratitude, but we know that, in any list, the first names people notice are the ones that are missing!    Besides, I would also risk overlooking someone and thus committing an injustice and a lack of charity.  But I want to say to these brothers of ours that they offer a very important witness in the Church’s journey through history.

They are also an example, and their example and their witness make me think of two hallmarks of the curial official, and even more of curial superiors, which I would like to emphasize: professionalism and service.

Professionalism, by which I mean competence, study, keeping abreast of things…  This is a basic requisite for working in the Curia.  Naturally, professionalism is something which develops, and is in part acquired; but I think that, precisely for it to develop and to be acquired, there has to be a good foundation from the outset.

The second hallmark is service: service to the Pope and to the bishops, to the universal Church and to the particular Churches.  In the Roman Curia, one learns – in a special way, “one breathes in” – this twofold aspect of the Church, this interplay of the universal and the particular.  I think that this is one of the finest experiences of those who live and work in Rome: “to sense” the Church in this way.  When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards towards mediocrity.  Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information, and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives.  Then too, when the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular Churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customshouse, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s people.

To these two qualities of professionalism and service, I would also like to add a third, which is holiness of life.  We know very well that, in the hierarchy of values, this is the most important.  Indeed, it is basic for the quality of our work, our service.  Here I would like to say that in the Roman Curia there have been, and still are, saints.  I have said this publicly on more than one occasion, as a way of thanking the Lord.  Holiness means a life immersed in the Spirit, a heart open to God, constant prayer, deep humility and fraternal charity in our relationships with our fellow workers.  It also means apostleship, discreet and faithful pastoral service, zealously carried out in direct contact with God’s people.  For priests, this is indispensable.

Holiness, in the Curia, also means conscientious objection.  Yes, conscientious objection to gossip!  We rightfully insist on the importance of conscientious objection, but perhaps we too need to exercise it as a means of defending ourselves from an unwritten law of our surroundings, which unfortunately is that of gossip.  So let us all be conscientious objectors; and mind you, I am not simply preaching!  For gossip is harmful to people, harmful to our work and our surroundings.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us feel close to one another on this final stretch of the road to Bethlehem.  We would do well to meditate on Saint Joseph, who was so silent yet so necessary at the side of Our Lady.  Let us think about him and his loving concern for his Spouse and for the Baby Jesus.  This can tell us a lot about our own service to the Church!   So let us experience this Christmas in spiritual closeness to Saint Joseph.  This will benefit all of us!

I thank you most heartily for your work and especially for your prayers.  Truly I feel “borne aloft” by your prayers and I ask you to continue to support me in this way.  I too remember you before the Lord, and I impart my blessing as I offer my best wishes for a Christmas filled with light and peace for each of you and for all your dear ones.  Happy Christmas!

Pope and Council of Cardinals work on substantial Curial change

Word from the Holy See regarding the meeting this week of Pope Francis and the Council of Cardinals is that substantial change is expected in the Roman Curia. The change at hand is not going to be a mere redaction of Pastor bonus, the 1988 ecclesiastical constitution promulgated by Blessed John Paul II.

The accent is going to be subsidiarity providing room for greater collaboration between and among bishops and national Conferences of Bishops.

Nothing has been firmly decided and it will be the Pope who who will take these days of consultation to prayer and make decisions. It is speculated that significant revisions will happen in the current Secretary of State –perhaps being reformed to be an office of Secretary of the Pope. Also, there could be a Moderator of the Curia, and the revision of various Departments.

The Council meets twice a day with the Pope.

The Council of Cardinals, sometimes called the C8 is made up of the following churchmen:

  • Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras (coordinator of the Council), 70;
  • Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, (Council’s secretary), 65;
  • Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the president of the Vatican city-state governorate, 71;
  • Cardinal Francisco Errázuriz Ossa, the retired Archbishop of Santiago, Chile, 80;
  • Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, India, 68;
  • Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, Germany, 60;
  • Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, USA, 69;
  • Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Dem. Congo, 74;
  • Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia, 72.

Missing from the Council at the moment is a bishop/Cardinal from one of the the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Here’s a CNS report.

The Press Office directed by Jesuit Father Frederico Lombardi has this to say about parts of the meeting that are of interest. A previous review is here.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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