Pope Francis speaks Saturday January 25 to judges of the Roman Rota

Francis looks to strengthen role of married couples to cover lack of priests

Married couples are evangelizers on the move who, open to the Holy Spirit, become models of married life with their closeness, gratuitousness and the leaven of their witness.

The Pope made the point January 25 to the members of the Roman Rota, the Catholic Church highest court that handles ‎appeals of marriage ‎annulment ‎cases.  It also deals with other judicial and non-administrative cases related to Canon Law.

He held up Aquila and Priscilla, described in the Acts of the Apostles, as a holy model of married life.

The Pope said this is what our parishes need, especially in urban areas where the parish priest and his clerical collaborators will never have time and strength to reach the faithful who don’t frequent the sacraments and perhaps are almost unaware of the knowledge of Christ.

Proximity and gratuitousness

Fired by the passion for the Lord and for the Gospel, the Pope explained, Aquila and Priscilla were close to the most needy brothers with their welcome and care, given freely.

The Pope asked the judges of the Roman Rota whether in judging they are close to the heart of the people, whether they open their hearts gratuitously without any economic and commercial interests.

Shaking off slumber

Stressing that “the Lord came to seek sinners, not the perfect”, Pope Francis urged pastors, bishops, parish priests and even judges to shake themselves out of their slumber and inertia, like the missionary married couple, and reach out to the squares, building and cities where the light of Christ has not penetrated. 

Guarding marriage from ideologies

The Holy Father also reminded pastors of their task of enlightening and guiding holy Christian couples, giving them visibility, making them capable of living their marriage and guarding them against the ideologies that undermine the solidity of the sacrament.

Holy Spirit the true protagonist

The Pope pointed out that the apostolic action of parishes is illuminated by the presence of spouses who are always on the move and moving out to others.

In this regard, he stressed the primacy of the Holy Spirit, saying He is the protagonist of the Church’s mission.

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“If the Spirit is not invoked and therefore remains unknown and absent in the context of our particular Churches,” the Pope said, “we will be deprived of the strength that makes Christian married couples the soul and form of evangelization.”

It is the Holy Spirit who continues to animate the holy Christian couples to come out and open themselves to others and transform interpersonal relationship into fraternity.

Not the Church of a few

The Pope said that the Holy Spirit does not want a Church of a few, as if content to remain an isolated yeast, deprived of that capacity of the spouses of the New Testament to be able to multiply themselves in humility and obedience to Him.

The Church, he said, does not grow out of proselytism but out of the witness of people that attracts.  

History does not say whether Aquila and Priscilla died as martyrs, but the Holy Father said they certainly were martyrs in the spiritual sense, that is, as witnesses of being a leaven to the flour, of dying to become the mass. “This,” the Pope said, “is possible today and everywhere.”

Pope approves election of Dean and Vice-Dean of College of Cardinals

Also on Saturday, the Holy See Press Office Bulletin announced that the Holy Father has approved the election of the Dean and Vice-Dean and Deputy Dean of the Cardinal of Cardinals.

The statement reported that “On 18 January 2020 the Holy Father approved the election – by the cardinals of the Order of Bishops – of the dean of the College of Cardinals”. For the next five years, His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re will fulfill this important role.  In addition to holding  the Title of the Suburbicarian Church of Sabina-Poggio Mirteto, he “will also assume the Title of the Suburbicarian Church of Ostia”, the statement said.

Pope Francis approved the election of the Vice-Dean, His Eminence Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, of the Title of Santi Biagio e Carlo ai Catinari, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

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Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re is  Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops and President emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He was born on 30 January 1934 in Borno (Brescia), Italy and ordained a priest in 1957. In 1987 he was appointed Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, two years later he was named Substitute of the Secretariat of State, a post he held for 11 years. On 16 September 2000 the Holy Father appointed him Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. John Paul II named him a cardinal in 2001. He has exercised the role of Vice-Dean since June 2017.

Role of the Cardinal Dean

Called the “First among equals”, the Cardinal Dean presides over the College of Cardinals. In the event of the death or resignation of a pope, he plays a key role in governing the Vatican while the See remains vacant. He calls his fellow cardinals to Rome and presides over the daily General Congregations held prior to a conclave. If he is under the age of 80, he also presides over the conclave itself.

Father Aemilius is the Pope’s new Personal Secretary

Lastly, on Saturday too, the Vatican announced that the Pope has chosen Father Gonzalo Aemilius as his new personal secretary, to take the place left open by Father Pedacchio last December.

Pope Francis and the Uruguayan priest, Gonzalo Aemilius, have known each other since 2006, since Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, made contact with him because he had heard of Father Aemilius’ work with street kids.

Gonzalo Aemilius, a Doctor of Theology, is the Pope’s new Special Secretary. He takes the place of Father Fabian Pedacchio, the Argentine priest who worked alongside the Pope from 2013 to 2019, and who returned last December to his post at the Congregation of Bishops.

Father Aemilius was born in Montevideo on 18 September 1979 and was ordained a priest on 6 May 2006.

His face may be familiar to many because he is the one, who the Pope greeted and summoned to him when he was part of the crowd gathered outside a Vatican Gate to welcome Pope Francis at the beginning of his pontificate on the morning of 17 March 2013. He recognized him and invited him to accompany him into the church where he was about to celebrate his first Mass with the faithful after his election. At the end of the liturgy, Pope Francis introduced Father Aemilius to all those present, asking them to pray for him and for his work with street children.

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Interviewed by the “Osservatore Romano” on the following day, Father Aemilius said that Archbishop Bergoglio’s ability to integrate different values and channel them in a single direction had struck him deeply:

“Experiencing this ability of his was decisive in my life,” he said, “He taught me to take the best that is in each individual, however different he or she may be from others, and to put it to good use for the good of all”.

The Uruguayan priest chosen by Pope Francis will accompany his current Personal Secretary, Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid.

(Source: Vatican News)

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Pope urges Christians “to listen to small and weak”: “It is often the weakest who bring the most important message of salvation”

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Mada Jurado

Reporter and community manager at Novena
Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.