Pope makes changes to Church law promoting ‘healthy decentralisation’

Pope promoting ‘healthy decentralisation’

Pope Francis unveiled new changes to Church law in an apostolic letter published on Tuesday, saying that he was seeking to promote a ‘healthy decentralisation’ in the Church.

In the motu proprio (“on his own impulse”), the pope said his intention with the changes was to “foster a sense of collegiality and pastoral responsibility” on the part of bishops, local bishops’ conferences, and major superiors 0f religious communities.

Among the changes in the document entitled Assegnare alcune competenze (“Assigning some competencies”) were articles regarding the establishment of interdiocesan seminaries, the incardination of clerics, the publication of catechisms by bishops’ conferences, and laws concerning temporary professed vows.

For setting up an interdiocesan seminary, drafting a programme for the formation of priests or publishing a national catechism, with the new law, the bishop or bishops’ conferences involved simply need to obtain a “confirmation” from the Vatican. They are no longer required to seek the “approval” of the Vatican.

Pope Francis explained that he wanted to encourage “a more rapid effectiveness of the pastoral action of government on the part of the local authority”.

Bishop Marco Mellino, the secretary of the Council of Cardinals and a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, told Vatican News that he saw the motu proprio as part of “the work of reform that Pope Francis has initiated since the beginning of his pontificate.

“It responds to Pope Francis’ spirit of ‘healthy decentralisation’ indicated in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium which aimed at favouring and enhancing the dynamics of proximity in the Church, without compromising hierarchical communion with this,” he said.

He added: “It is evident, in fact, that when the authority has a direct and closer knowledge of the persons and cases in point that require a pastoral action of government, this action, by virtue of its proximity, can be of more rapid efficacy”.


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