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Papal Address to Roman Rota

2/3/2007 - 6:10 AM PST

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Marriage: "A Bond Which Is Unique and Definitive"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to the members of the Roman Rota, the Church's central appellate court, delivered Tuesday in the Clementine Hall.

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Dear Prelate Auditors,

Officials and Collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, I am particularly pleased to meet you once again on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year.

I cordially greet the College of Prelate Auditors, starting with the Dean, Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, whom I thank for his words introducing our meeting. I then greet the Officials, the Advocates and the other Collaborators of this Tribunal, as well as the Members of the Studio Rotale and all those present. I willingly take this opportunity to renew to you the expression of my esteem and, at the same time, to reaffirm the importance of your ecclesial ministry in as vital a sector as judicial activity. I am very mindful of the valuable work you are required to carry out diligently and scrupulously on behalf of this Apostolic See and with its mandate. Your sensitive task of service to the truth in justice is supported by the illustrious traditions of this Tribunal, which each one of you must feel bound to respect.

Last year, at my first meeting with you, I sought to explore ways to overcome the apparent antithesis between the institution of causes of the nullity of marriage and genuine pastoral concern. In this perspective, the love of truth emerges as a point of convergence between processual research and the pastoral service of the person. We must not forget, however, that in causes of the nullity of marriage, the legal truth presupposes the "truth of the marriage" itself. Yet the expression "truth of the marriage" loses its existential importance in a cultural context that is marked by relativism and juridical positivism, which regard marriage as a mere social formalization of emotional ties.

Consequently, not only is it becoming incidental, as human sentiments can be, but it is also presented as a legal superstructure of the human will that can be arbitrarily manipulated and even deprived of its heterosexual character.

This crisis of the meaning of marriage is also influencing the attitude of many of the faithful. The practical effects of what I have called "the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" with regard to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, (cf. Address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 4 January 2006, p. 4), is felt especially acutely in the sphere of marriage and the family.

Indeed, it seems to some that the conciliar teaching on marriage, and in particular, the description of this institution as "intima communitas vitae et amoris" [the intimate partnership of life and love] (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, "Gaudium et Spes," n. 48), must lead to a denial of the existence of an indissoluble conjugal bond because this would be a question of an "ideal" to which "normal Christians" cannot be "constrained".

In fact, the conviction that the pastoral good of the person in an irregular marital situation requires a sort of canonical regularization, independently of the validity or nullity of his/her marriage, independently, that is, of the "truth" of his/her personal status, has also spread in certain ecclesiastical milieus. The process of the declaration of matrimonial nullity is actually considered as a legal means for achieving this objective, according to a logic in which the law becomes the formalization of subjective claims. In this regard, it should first be pointed out that the Council certainly described marriage as intima communitas vitae et amoris, but this partnership is determined, in accordance with the tradition of the Church, by a whole set of principles of the divine law which establish its true and permanent anthropological meaning (cf. ibid.).

Furthermore, the Magisteriums of Paul VI and John Paul II, as well as the legislative action of both the Latin and Eastern Codes, have followed up the Council in faithful hermeneutical continuity with regard to both the doctrine and the discipline of marriage and indeed, persevered in its effort for "reform' or "renewal in continuity' (cf. Address to the Roman Curia, op. cit.). This development was based on the indisputable presupposition that marriage has a truth of its own -- that is, the human knowledge, illumined by the Word of God, of the sexually different reality of the man and of the woman with their profound needs for complementarity, definitive self-giving and exclusivity -- to whose discovery and deepening reason and faith harmoniously contribute.

The anthropological and saving truth of marriage -- also in its juridical dimension -- is already presented ...

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