My guest this week in the interview segment of Vatican Insider is once again EWTN’s chaplain to staff, Fr. John Paul. He spends several weeks each year with the Rome bureau staff and last week he spoke about that visit and being a Missionary of Mercy. This week in Part II, he has especially meaningful words on being a confessor that will give you a new and wonderful idea about confession.

Here are some photos from Fr. John Paul’s May visit in case you missed them last week:

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Paraphrasing Clint Eastwood, I’m going to “make your day!”

Here is a wonderful analysis – totally right on! – of Pope Francis’ remarks in an interview with editors of the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, where he comments on the “staggering” (the word used by Vatican News in its summary of the interview) number of “restorationists” in the United States, that is, people who do not believe in or follow Vatican Council II.

As we say in Italy, fammi un piacere! Give me a break!

Is the Pope being badly misled on all things American (including the Catholic Church in America!) by one of the people – perhaps the only person – he really listens to, Fr. Antonio Spadaro? Read on….

Pope Francis Does Not Understand the American Church | Jayd Henricks | First Things


The interesting fact of the Belgian bishop who asked the Holy Father to withdraw his nomination to the cardinalate brings up the question of Canon Law in regard to cardinals. Bishop emeritus Van Looy of Ghent, Belgium was one of the 21 future red hats to be named by Pope Francis at the May 29th Regina Coeli.

The Vatican News story yesterday said: “Pope Francis accepts Belgian Bishop Lucas Van Looy’s request not to be made a cardinal after the announcement provoked criticism that he did not always react decisively enough against abuse allegations.”

Cardinals-designate are just that, designate. They become cardinals the day of the consistory of creation as you can see in Canon 351 of the Code of Canon Law:

Can. 351 §1. The Roman Pontiff freely selects men to be promoted as cardinals, who have been ordained at least into the order of the presbyterate and are especially outstanding in doctrine, morals, piety, and prudence in action; those who are not yet bishops must receive episcopal consecration.

§2. Cardinals are created by a decree of the Roman Pontiff which is made public in the presence of the college of cardinals. From the moment of the announcement they are bound by the duties and possess the rights defined by law.

There have been a few exceptions made where cardinals were created who were not ordained as bishops.

I have been asked: What if something happens to a Pope before a consistory? The answer seems to be that the cardinals-designate only fully become cardinals when a Pope proclaims that in the presence of the College of Cardinals (§2).



Grazie to those of you who sent ‘thank you’ replies to the Jacquie Lawson Valentine card I posted here yesterday! Great to hear from you!

There was a technical issue with “Vatican Insider” last weekend and the News segment did not make it through cyberspace from Rome to EWTN Alabama!   However, the interview with Deacon Brad Easterbrooks made it safe and sound – as you will find out here: Vatican Insider 021222 Deacon Brad Easterbrooks Pt2 by EWTN Catholic Radio (</a


Pope Francis released the theme for the second World Day for Grandparents and Elderly, which aims to reconsider and value grandparents and the elderly who are too often kept on the margins of families, civil and ecclesial communities

By Francesca Merlo (vaticannews)

Pope Francis, on Tuesday, announced the theme for the Second World Day for Grandparents and Elderly with a tweet:

“In old age they will still bear fruit” (Psalms 92:15). I have chosen this theme for the Second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly to be held on July 24, 2022 to promote dialogue among the generations, especially between grandparents and grandchildren. @LaityFamilyLife  (vatican file photo)

The Day

The explanation of the theme came shortly prior to the Pope’s tweet, in a statement from the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life that organises the day.

The World Day for Grandparents and the elderly was established by Pope Francis, one year ago, in 2021. Last year, during Holy Mass marking the day, the Pope reflected on three moments in the Gospel involving bread: “Jesus sees the crowd’s hunger; Jesus shares the bread; Jesus asks that the leftovers be collected.” He summed up these three passages with three verbs: to see, to share, to preserve, thus inaugurating the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly by describing them as “the bread that nourishes our life.”

Now, preparations begin for the second World Day, celebrated annually on 24 July throughout the universal Church.

The theme

In its statement, the dicastery writes that the theme chosen by the Holy Father for the occasion “intends to emphasize how grandparents and the elderly are a value and a gift both for society and for ecclesial communities.”

“The theme,” continues the statement, “is also an invitation to reconsider and value grandparents and the elderly who are too often kept on the margins of families, civil and ecclesial communities. Their experience of life and faith can contribute, in fact, to building societies that are aware of their roots and capable of dreaming of a future based on greater solidarity.” It add, “the invitation to listen to the wisdom of the years is also particularly significant in the context of the synodal journey that the Church has undertaken.”

The statement concludes by stressing that the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life “invites parishes, dioceses, associations and ecclesial communities throughout the world to find ways to celebrate the Day in their own pastoral context, and for this purpose, it will later make available some appropriate pastoral tools.”

The Pope and the elderly

Pope Francis has often expressed the importance of protecting and looking up to grandparents and the elderly.

Notably, as the world started suffering the first consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, of which the elderly were amongst the most affected, Pope Francis urged all young people to be close to them. He has also claimed, on the eve of his birthday two years ago, that “prayers of the elderly are powerful.” Old age is a blessing, he has said, adding that the elderly “have a role in God’s saving plan!”


Pope Francis on Tuesday issued a new Apostolic Letter “motu proprio” – on his own initiative – modifying the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO) to favour greater decentralization.

By Christopher Wells (Vaticannews)

With a new motu proprio published on Tuesday, Pope Francis has modified canon law for both the Latin Church and the Eastern Churches, changing the areas of competence for various bodies within the universal Church. Specifically, with the Apostolic Letter Assegnare alcune competenze (“Assigning certain competencies,” taken from the opening words, or inciit of the document), Pope Francis transfers certain responsibilities from the Vatican to local bishops.

Fostering collegiality

The new norms deal with different areas of Church life, in each case specifying the authorities competent to make decisions with regard to those issues. “The intention,” of the changes, writes Pope Francis at the beginning of his Letter, “is above all to foster a sense of collegiality and pastoral responsibility on the part of Bishops […] as well as Major Superiors, and also to support the principles of rationality, effectiveness, and efficiency.” For more: Pope Francis transfers responsibilities to bishops – Vatican News


The Vatican Monday published upcoming liturgical and other events on the papal calendar for March:

On Ash Wednesday, March 2, at 4:30 pm, the Holy Father will lead the statio orbis and a penitential procession from the basilica of Sant’Anselmo to the basilica of Santa Sabina where he will celebrate Mass with the blessing and imposition of ashes. Last year’s celebration of Ash Wednesday Mass took place in St. Peter’s basilica.

On Friday, March 4 at 10:30 am, the Pope will preside at an Ordinary Public Consistory for the vote on various causes for canonization

On Friday, March 25 Pope Francis will preside at a Penitential celebration at 5:00pm at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Once again, the annual curial retreat or spiritual exercises, will not take place outside of the Vatican due to the continuing health emergency caused by Covid-19. In January, the Holy Father asked ranking members of the curia, who usually gather together with the Pope for the retreat, to make their own, individual plans for a retreat from Sunday afternoon, March 6 to Friday, March 11.




Pope Francis on Thursday received in audience participants in the congress of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches.
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

The work of the , which brings together experts from the Eastern Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Churches, is of fundamental assistance to ecumenical dialogue, Pope Francis said on Thursday.

Speaking to some 80 participants in the 24th International Congress of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches, underway in Rome from September 16 to 20, he said that they can learn from one another in all areas of ecclesial life, such as theology, the experience of spirituality and liturgy, pastoral activity and canon law.

The Society aims at promoting better international and inter-confessional scholarly collaboration among specialists of the Law of the Eastern Churches and of the Civil Law on Eastern Churches, It is marking its 50th anniversary.

According to the Pope, “Canon law is essential for ecumenical dialogue.” Many of the theological dialogues pursued by the Catholic Church, especially with the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Churches, he said, are of an ecclesiological nature. Since ecclesiology finds expression in the institutions and the law of the Churches, theological dialogues, he said, also have a canonical dimension. Ecumenical dialogue also enriches canon law.

The Holy Father particularly focused on synodality, explaining that, when translated into established institutions and procedures of the Church, it expresses the ecumenical dimension of canon law. The Catholic Church can learn from the synodal experience of other traditions, especially the Eastern Churches, and its own experience of synodality is important for its relations with other Christians.

Synodality, he said, is a challenge for ecumenism. The commitment to build a synodal Church, to which all are called has significant ecumenical implications. In this regard, the Pope said that the current theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church seeks precisely a common understanding of primacy and synodality and their relationship in the service of the unity of the Church.

That they may be one
The work of the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches also has a synodal dimension as they walk together and, in mutual listening, evaluate their traditions and experiences to find ways to full unity as wished by the Lord in His prayer: “that they may all be one; […] so that the world may believe.”


The Council of Cardinals, a group of nine cardinals from different parts of the world chosen by Pope Francis at the start of his pontificate as papal advisors, met this week at the Vatican for the 31st time. Now only 6 cardinals and two bishops who act as secretaries, the group met Tuesday through Thursday, with Pope Francis participating when his schedule allowed.

There was no press conference this time to explain the work sessions to the media but the press office did issue a note today, stating that “the activity of this Council meeting focused on re-reading and modifying the draft of the new Apostolic Constitution on the basis of the many contributions that have arrived from Episcopal conferences, the precise observations of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the suggestions provided by the interested bodies. This first re-reading, which has come to an end, was a passage of listening and reflection that responds to the indications of the Holy Father in the sense of communion and synodality.”

The Council has set the calendar of meetings for 2020. The next meeting for 2019 will be December 2, 3 and 4.



Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, sent the following telegram to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami for the victims of the high school attack in Florida:

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Assuring all those affected by this devastating attack of his spiritual closeness, he prays that Almighty God may grant eternal rest to the dead and healing and consolation to the wounded and those who grieve. With the hope that such senseless acts of violence may cease, Pope Francis invokes upon all of you the divine blessings of peace and strength.”


Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke stated today: “In answer to questions from journalists, I can confirm that several times a month the Holy Father meets victims of sexual abuse, both individually and in groups. He listens to the victims and seeks to help them to heal the serious wounds caused by the sex abuse they underwent. The meetings take place in maximum confidentiality in respect for the victims and their suffering.”


Motu Proprio: Learning How To Resign

On 12 February, 2018, Pope Francis signed an Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio called “Learning How To Resign” (Imparare a congedarsi), which regulates age-related resignations of holders of honorary titles granted by the Pope

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

“The conclusion of an ecclesiastical office needs to be considered an integral part of that service, inasmuch as it requires a new form of availability,” Pope Francis writes in the introduction of his Motu Proprio on the theme of resigning from ecclesiastical positions in the Church.

Interior Attitudes

The Pope offers a reflection on certain interior attitudes that are necessary for those who face resignation due to age, as well as for those whose office may be prolonged due to a variety of realities. He invites those preparing to step down from positions of leadership to “discern through prayer how to live the period about to begin, drawing up a new project of life.” To those who may be requested to serve beyond the age of retirement (75 years), Pope Francis says that this “pontifical decision is not automatic, but it is an act of governing, and as a consequence requires the virtue of prudence which will help…to make the appropriate decision.”

While upholding the contents of the Rescriptum ex audientia of 3 November 2014, Pope Francis says that he wants to establish some modifications to article 2 of that document which states: “Resignation from the above-mentioned pastoral offices is effective only from the moment in which it is accepted by the legitimate authority.”

What has changed?

With the present Motu Proprio, Pope Francis makes two changes to previous legislation: 1) After submitting a letter of resignation, the person remains in office until “the acceptance or extension, for a specified or unspecified amount of time, is communicated to the person” (Art 5). This Article is a change to Canon 189 § 3 of the Code of Canon Law and 970 § 1 of the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches. 2) Heads of Dicasteries of the Roman Curia who are not Cardinals, as well as other prelates who hold office in the Holy See, or Papal Representatives do not cease holding office automatically on reaching the age of 75. Rather now they must present their resignation to the Supreme Pontiff who “will decide evaluating the concrete circumstances” (Art 2 and 3).

Pope Francis says in his Motu Proprio that he “became aware of the need to update the norms regarding the times and methods of resignation from office upon reaching the age limit.” And he writes that the clarifications he is making come “after having carried out the necessary consultations.”



Yesterday afternoon, February 14, Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, Pope Francis processed from the church of Sant’Anselmo to the basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill, thus renewing a centuries-old Roman tradition of celebrating Mass at what are known here as Lenten station or stational churches.

At San Anselmo, there was a moment of prayer, followed by a penitential procession to the basilica of Santa Sabina. Joining the Pope in the procession were cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of San Anselmo, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and the lay faithful.

In Santa Sabina, the Holy Father then presided at Mass, delivered a homily, after which there was the rite of the blessing and imposition of ashes. The Pope received ashes as well.

The elegant Aventine neighborhood overlooks the Circus Maximus and the Baths of Caracalla. Situated on the Aventine’s Piazza Pietro d’Illyria, the basilica of Santa Sabina (St. Sabina) – chronologically the first Lenten station church – was established at the start of the fifth century by a priest named Peter who was from Illyria.

In 1222 Pope Honorius III gave the adjacent ancient turreted palace of the Crescenzi family to the Dominicans as a monastery and, in fact, over the years both Sts. Dominic and Thomas Aquinas lived here. Modifications and additions in the 16th century basilica altered its appearance.

In the early 1900’s, the church was restored to its original design. It has three aisles and 24 fluted Corinthian columns. Little is left of the original mosaics. In the middle of the nave is the mosaic tombstone dedicated to Munoz de Zamora, master general of the Dominicans and a biographer of St. Dominic. Adjacent to the church is the cloister built by St. Dominic in 1220 and restored between 1936-39.

The practice of station churches had its origins in the first centuries of Christianity when most of the early Popes celebrated the liturgy on special days at special churches in the Eternal City. This eventually became principally a Lenten devotion. In his liturgical reform, Pope St. Gregory the Great, who reigned from 590 to 604, established a station church for each day of Lent, thus making the whole season a pilgrimage on the path to conversion while preparing for Easter. The first Station Church every year is always St. Sabina where the Pope celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass.

In the early days of the Church, Lent was a time in which catechumens began their journey of faith and conversion prior to receiving Baptism.

Part II of the story of Lenten Station Churches will appear here tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is the schedule of station churches for the first week of Lent. This is from the web site of the Pontifical North American College ( which every Lent published the names of the churches, some history, and usually some photos. The priests and seminarians walk to these churches every day. The distance to the church from NAC and the time NACers will leave the campus is indicated on this table, IE, they left at 6:15am this morning for the 35-minute walk to San Giorgio al Velabro. Sunday Mass is usually at the College.

SAN GIORGIO (photos from romaoggi, Wikipedia and

Wishing you a prayerful pilgrimage and Lent!

Date Lenten Day Church Map Walking time Departure
2/14/2018 Ash Wednesday S. Sabina all’Aventino [Map] 40 min. 5:55 AM
2/15/2018 Thursday S. Giorgio al Velabro [Map] 35 min. 6:15 AM
2/16/2018 Friday Ss. Giovanni e Paolo [Map] 50 min. 6:05 AM
2/17/2018 Saturday S. Agostino [Map] 20 min. 6:30 AM
2/18/2018 Sunday–WEEK I S. Giovanni in Laterano [Map]


First things first! September 8, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Happy Birthday to Our Lady!

Even though yesterday was, of course, Labor Day in the U.S. and a holiday for EWTN employees, I fully intended to write a column but I’ve been down for several days with a strange bug that I had heard was travelling around Italy. I don’t know if we “met” at the airport” or where! I wrote about this on Facebook and know I owe a note of apology to my blog readers who do not have access to Facebook. However, I also want to thank my Facebook followers for the prayers for a speedy recovery and best wishes for continued good health! Grazie! It seems they have helped as I am much better today, can sit up for longer periods and the fever broke this morning.

I only posted a few blogs during my vacation but I did post a lot of photos and videos, principally from Hawaii, on Facebook and I’m sorry those of you who don’t have a Facebook page missed out on some great Travelblogue© material! I missed being with you as well!

Today’s post is exclusively about a very important piece of news from Pope Francis – the reform of the process of nullity of marriage in the Code of Canon Law in the Latin Church and in the Code of Canons for the Oriental Churches.

The first article is some background material I have provided for you, the second ia Vatican Radio’s look at today’s press conference and the third is another Vatican Radio piece on the basic content of the papal Motu proprio.


Pope Francis’ two Motu Proprio in which he reformed the process of nullity of marriage were presented at the Holy See Press Office this morning. The papal Letter Motu proprio (by his own hand)“Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” (“The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge”), speaks to the reform of canonical processes for the declaration of nullity of marriage in the Code of Canon Law (CIC) for the Latin Church. The Letter Motu proprio “Mitis et misericors Iesus” (“Clement and merciful Jesus”) speaks to the canons regarding nullity in the CCEO, the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO).

Book VI of the Code of Canon Law (CIC part III, title I, chapter I) on processes for the declaration of the nullity of marriage (canons 1671 to 1691) will be entirely substituted by the new norms, with effect from December 8, 2015, the opening day of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus”, Pope Francis writes, in part:

“Throughout the centuries, the Church, in matters of marriage, acquiring a clearer awareness of the Words of Christ, has understood and explained in greater depth the doctrine of the indissolubility of the sacred conjugal bond, has developed the system for the annulment of matrimonial consent, and has more suitably disciplined the relevant judicial process, so that ecclesiastical discipline is more consistent with the truth of the professed faith”.

“All this has always been done with the supreme law of the salvation of souls as a guide. … Aware of the above, I have undertaken to reform the processes for the declaration of nullity of marriage, and for this purpose I have constituted a Group of persons eminent for their competence in legal doctrine, their pastoral prudence and their forensic experience who, under the guidance of the Most Excellent Dean of the Roman Rota, have drafted a plan for reform, without prejudice to the principle of the indissolubility of the marriage bond. … This Group has developed a framework for reform which, after thoughtful consideration with the assistance of other experts, has provided the basis for this ‘Motu proprio’”.

“It is therefore the concern for the salvation of souls that, today as yesterday, remains the supreme objective of the institutions and laws, and drives the Bishop of Rome to offer to the Bishops this reform document, insofar as they share with him the task of the Church to protect unity in faith and in discipline regarding marriage, the cornerstone and origin of the Christian family. The drive to reform has been fuelled by the enormous number of faithful who, while wishing to be at peace with their conscience, are too often separated from the legal structures of the Churches due to physical or moral distance; charity and mercy therefore require that the same Church, as a mother, to be closer to her children who consider themselves separated”.

“This direction was also indicated by the votes of the majority of my Brothers in the Episcopate, gathered in the recent extraordinary Synod, who called for faster and more accessible processes. In full harmony with this desire I have decided to introduce, by this Motu proprio, provisions that favour not the nullity of marriage but rather the speed of processes, along with the appropriate simplicity, so that the heart of the faithful who await clarification of their status is not long oppressed by the darkness of doubt due to the lengthy wait for a conclusion.”

As was stated in the lengthy press conference today that introduced the two papal Letters, “the reforms do not touch the nature and purpose either of marriage, or of the Church’s marriage law: marriage is a sacrament and is by its nature indissoluble; when a marriage is accused of nullity, the Church merely investigates to see whether the parties presumed to be married ever actually executed a valid marriage contract in the eyes of the Church.”

Nullity, to be clearly understood, means that conditions never existed the day of the marriage, even though a Catholic Mass had been celebrated for example, for a valid marriage to have taken place. For example, if one of the parties does not wish to have children, is a party is underage, if consent was not willing but forced, if there is too close a degree of consanguinity (blood relationships), if the contract is defective of will because of “mental incapacity, ignorance, error about the person, error about marriage, fraud, knowledge of nullity, simulation, conditioned consent, force or grave fear” or the contract is defective of capacity if either party was married to another and thus unable to enter into the contract.

An annulment, therefore, is a declaration that “the marriage never existed.” However, it must be stressed that children born of such a marriage are considered legitimate.

A declaration of nullity is in NO way a “Catholic divorce.” It is a statement that a valid marriage in fact never took place.

Pope Francis intends for the changes in the nullity process – including greatly streamlining the process and reducing waiting times – to be seen as acts of mercy towards couples whose waiting period for a decree might have extended to years, during which time their lives have been put on hold.


(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis issued two Apostolic Letters motu proprio on Tuesday, by which he introduced reforms to the legal structures of the Church, which deal with questions of marital nullity. At a news conference presenting the reforms to journalists at the Holy See Press Office on Tuesday, the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio – who was also a member of the Special Commission appointed to study the issue and make the recommendations on which the reform is based – explained that the reforms do not touch the nature and purpose either of marriage, or of the Church’s marriage law: marriage is a sacrament and is by its nature indissoluble; when a marriage is accused of nullity, the Church merely investigates to see whether the parties presumed to be married ever actually executed a valid marriage contract in the eyes of the Church.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio (R): (


“We are not strictly talking then, about a legal process that leads to the ‘annulment’ of a marriage,” as though the act of the Church court were one of nullification. “Nullity,” Cardinal Coccopalmerio explained, “is different from annulment – declaring the nullity of a marriage is absolutely different from decreeing the annulment of a marriage.”

The President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts went on to explain that the concern of the Holy Father is in the first place for the good of all the faithful, especially those of the faithful whose situations have been a cause of difficulty in living the Christian life as fully as possible. “The problem,” he said, “is rather of an exquisitely pastoral nature, and consists in rendering marriage nullity trials more swift and speedy, so as the more solicitously to serve the faithful who find themselves in such situations.”

Three specific changes most directly address the question of speed in the process: the removal of the need for a twofold conforming sentence from both the court of first instance and then from the appellate court, which automatically reviewed the acts of the first instance trial – meaning that a single trial in the first instance will be considered sufficient for persons, whose presumed marriage has been declared null, to enter into new marriages under Church law; the introduction of the possibility for a single judge to try and issue rulings on individual cases; the creation of an expedited trial process for certain cases, in which the evidence of nullity is abundant, and both parties accuse the marriage of nullity.

“The power of the keys of Peter remains ever unchanged,” explained the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, SJ, who was also a member of the reform commission and present at the press conference on Tuesday. “In this [nullity] process as well, the appeal to the Apostolic See is open to all, in order that the bond between the See of Peter and the particular Churches be confirmed.” Archbishop Ladaria concluded his remarks saying, “We all hope that this reform of the Code of Canon Law will bring with it the fruit the Holy Father desires, and that many Pastors and faithful desire with him as well.”


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued two Apostolic Letters motu proprio on Tuesday, by which he introduced reforms to the legal structures of the Church which deal with questions of marital nullity. One of the Letters motu proprio, known by its Latin title, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus – or “The Lord Jesus, Clement Judge” – reforms the Code of Canon Law (CIC) governing the Latin Church, while the other, Mitis et misericors Iesus or “Clement and merciful Jesus” – reforms the Code of Canon Law for Oriental Churches (CCEO).

According to the prefatory remarks attached to both Letters, the reforms are the result of an expert group appointed to study the current state of law and practice in the Church as far as marriage law is concerned. The Holy Father goes on in the preface to explain that the reforms are guided by seven specific criteria, ample excerpts of which Vatican Radio offers below in its own unofficial English translation:

  1. That there be only one sentence in favor of executive nullity – It appeared opportune, in the first place, that there no longer be required a twofold decision in favor of marital nullity, in order that the parties be admitted to new canonically valid marriages: the moral certainty reached by the first judge according to law should be sufficient.
  2. A single judge under the responsibility of the Bishop – The constitution of a single judge in the first instance, who shall always be a cleric, is placed under the responsibility of the Bishop, who, in the pastoral exercise of his own proper judicial power shall guarantee that no laxity be indulged in this matter.

3  The Bishop is judge – In order that the teaching of the II Vatican Council be finally translated into practice in an area of great importance, the decision was made to make evident the fact that the Bishop is, in his Church – of which he is constituted pastor and head – is by that same constitution judge among the faithful entrusted to him. It is desired that, in Dioceses both great and small, the Bishop himself should offer a sign of the conversion of ecclesiastical structures, and not leave the judicial function completely delegated to the offices of the diocesan curia, as far as matters pertaining to marriage are concerned.

4. Increased brevity in the legal process – In fact, beyond making the marriage annulment process more agile, a briefer form of trying nullity cases has been designed – in addition to the documentary process already approved and in use – which is to be applied in cases in which the accusation of marital nullity is supported by particularly evident arguments. In any case, the extent to which an abbreviated process of judgment might put the principle of the indissolubility of marriage at risk, did not escape me [writes Pope Francis – ed.]: thus, I have desired that, in such cases the Bishop himself shall be constituted judge, who, by force of his pastoral office is with Peter the greatest guarantor of Catholic unity in faith and in discipline.

5. Appeal to the Metropolitcan See – It is fitting that the appeal to the Metropolitan See be re-introduced, since that office of headship of an Ecclesiastical province, stably in place through the centuries, is a distinctive sign of the synodality of the Church

6.  The proper role of the Bishops’ Conferences – The Bishops’ Conferences, which must be driven above all by the anxious apostolic desire to reach the far-off faithful, should formally recognize the duty to share the aforesaid conversion, and respect absolutely the right of the Bishops to organize judicial power each within his own particular Church.

The re-establishment of vicinity between the judge and the faithful, in fact, shall not be successful if the stimulus does not come from the Conferences to the single Bishops, along with the necessary assistance, to put into practice the reform of the marital nullity process.

7.  Appeal to the Apostolic See – It is fitting that the appeal to the ordinary Tribunal of the Apostolic See, i.e. the Roman Rota, be maintained: this, in respect of a most ancient juridical principle, so that the bond between the See of Peter and the particular Churches be reinforced – having care, in any case, in the discipline of the use of said appeal, to contain any and all abuse of right, in order that the salvation of souls be given no cause for harm.

Pope Francis and the Roman Rota (


Indeed, the prefatory remarks make clear from the very start, that the single most important principle guiding the Holy Father’s action and the work of reform undertaken, is that of salus animarum – the salvation of souls – which is the suprema Ecclesiae lex – the supreme law of the Church.