Goodbye to the unofficial satellite centres, the unregulated study programs and the shifting faculty members.

Pope Francis has put his foot down over these and more problems at the centres of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Spain.

Driving the news

The Vida Nueva website, close to the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, reported Thursday that Pope Francis has decided to overhaul the John Paul II Institute centres in Spain, in line with this summer’s renovation of the Institute in Rome.

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Vatican sources told Vida Nueva that, as in the case with the Institute in Rome, the driving force behind the renewal of the school in Spain is Pope Francis’ 2017 motu proprio Summa familiae cura.

That motu proprio refounded the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, set up by the late Polish pope in 1981, as the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Matrimonial and Family Science.

The reason? The “renewed awareness of the Gospel of the Family” the Church came to after the 2014-2015 Synods on the Family, said the Pope, “and of the new pastoral challenges to which the Christian community is called upon to answer”.

“Anthropological-cultural change, that today influences all aspects of life and requires an analytic and diversified approach, does not permit us to limit ourselves to practices in pastoral ministry and mission that reflect forms and models of the past”, Francis explained in his motu proprio.


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Why it matters

But this renewed theological vision isn’t the Pope’s only reason for reforming the John Paul II centres in Spain, in line with the Institute’s new statutes published in July.

There’s also the fact that the Bishop of Alcalá de Henares and first director of the John Paul II Institute in Spain, Juan Antonio Reig Pla, set up unofficial Institute satellite centres in Murcia, Alcalá de Henares and Madrid.

Those are the reasons why the Vatican, the archdiocese of Madrid and the Spanish Bishops’ Conference are presently in talks to create a new official John Paul II Institute centre in Madrid, to join the one set up in Valencia in 1994.

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What’s next

This new centre in Madrid must serve “to get the situation of the students back on track”, Vatican sources told Vida Nueva.

The unofficial centres “were offering unregulated study programs, with even with weekend meets for which a few credits were given”, the insiders said.

Not only that, but the new Madrid centre will put an end to the isolation of the unofficial centres, by integrating into the new school faculty from other Church institutions.

The Vatican wants that all diocesan institutions work together “to spread the Gospel of the family in regulated study programs” under the umbrella of the Bologna Process, said Vida Nueva‘s sources.

“It’s not about erasing what’s been done, but about accepting that this is a second moment and a second institution, at a different time, and with a different Pope, who has given us a very beautiful assignment”.

Those same insiders explained that the John Paul II Institute’s renovation in Spain “is not a re-foundation”.

“What’s been done is an extinction of the previous Institute”, they emphasised.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.