On Friday morning, 26 January, in the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father received in audience participants in the Plenary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. In his address to them, the Pope discussed the Sacraments, human dignity, evangelisation and ‘Fiducia Supplicans’. The following is a translation of the Holy Father discourse.
Dear brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Brothers and sisters!
I welcome you at the end of your Plenary Assembly. I greet the Prefect and the other Superiors, the Officials and the Members of the Dicastery: to all of you my gratitude for your precious work.
As the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium stipulates, “The task of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is to help the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world by promoting and safeguarding the integrity of Catholic teaching on faith and morals. It does this by drawing upon the deposit of faith and seeking an ever deeper understanding of it in the face of new questions” (Art. 69).
Precisely to achieve these ends, two distinct Doctrinal and Disciplinary Sections were created within the Dicastery, with the Motu proprio Fidem Servare (11 February 2022). In the letter I sent to the Prefect on 1 July 2023, on the occasion of his appointment, I referred to this provision to better define his role and the current mission of the Dicastery. On the one hand, I emphasized the importance of the presence of skilled professionals in the Disciplinary Section, to ensure care and rigour in the application of current canonical legislation, especially in the handling of cases of abuse of minors by clerics, and to promote canonical formation initiatives for the Ordinaries and for legal practitioners. On the other hand, I insisted on the urgency of giving greater space and attention to the sphere proper to the Doctrinal Section, where there is no shortage of trained theologians and qualified staff, also for the work at the Marriage Office and in the Archive, of which I recall the 25th anniversary of its opening to the public by Saint John Paul ii and Cardinal Ratzinger, then-Prefect of the Congregation [now Dicastery], in the period leading to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.
The Dicastery is thus engaged in the sphere of the intelligence of the faith in the face of the epochal change that characterizes our time. In this direction, I would like to share some thoughts with you, which I will group around three words: Sacraments, dignity and faith.
Sacraments. In these days you have reflected on the theme of the validity of the Sacraments. The life of the Church is nourished and grows through them. For this reason, special care is required from the ministers in administering them and in disclosing to the faithful the treasures of grace they communicate. Through the Sacraments, believers become capable of prophecy and witness. And our time has a particularly urgent need for prophets of new life, and witnesses of charity: let us therefore love and make [people] love the beauty and the salvific power of the Sacraments!
The second word: dignity. Inasmuch as we are Christians, we must not tire of insisting “on the primacy of the human person and the defence of his or her dignity beyond every circumstance” (Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum, 39). I know that you are working on a document on this subject. I hope that it may help us, as a Church, to always be close “to all those who, without fanfare, in concrete daily life, fight and personally pay the price for defending the rights of those who do not count” (Angelus, 10 December 2023), and to ensure that, “in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words” (Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, 6).
The third word is faith. In this regard, I would like to remember two events: the 10th anniversary, a short while ago, of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and the upcoming Jubilee, in which we will renew our faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, hope of history and the world. We cannot, however, hide the fact that, in vast areas of the planet, faith, as Benedict xvi said, no longer constitutes “a self-evident presupposition for life in society … but is often openly denied”, mocked, marginalized and ridiculed (Apostolic Letter issued Motu proprio Porta fidei, 2). It is time, therefore, to reflect anew and with greater passion on certain themes: the proclamation and communication of the faith in today’s world, especially to the younger generations; the missionary conversion of ecclesial structures and pastoral agents; the new urban cultures, with their load of challenges but also of unprecedented questions of meaning; and finally, above all, the centrality of the kerygma in the life and mission of the Church.
It is here that help is expected from the Dicastery: “keeping the faith” today translates into a commitment to reflection and discernment, so that the entire community strives for a real kerygmatic pastoral and missionary conversion, which can also help the ongoing synodal journey. What is essential, most beautiful, most attractive and at the same time most necessary for us is faith in Jesus Christ. Altogether, God willing, we will solemnly renew it throughout the coming Jubilee, and every one of us is called to proclaim it to every man and woman on earth. This is the fundamental task of the Church, to which I gave voice in Evangelii Gaudium.
In this context of evangelization, I also mention the recent Declaration Fiducia Supplicans. The intention of “pastoral and spontaneous blessings” is to tangibly demonstrate the closeness of the Lord and of the Church to all those who, finding themselves in various situations, ask for help to continue — sometimes to begin — a journey of faith. I would like to briefly underline two points: the first is that these blessings, outside of any liturgical context and form, do not require moral perfection in order to be received; the second, that when a couple spontaneously approaches [a minister] to ask for them, one does not bless the union, but simply the people who have required it together. Not the union, but the people, naturally taking into account the context, the sensibilities, and the places where one lives and the most appropriate ways to do it.
Dear friends, I reiterate my gratitude for your service, and I encourage you to continue with the Lord’s help. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.