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Pope Francis issues motu proprio on establishment of religious instituties Pope Francis issues motu proprio on establishment of religious instituties 

Holy See's approval required for new religious institutes in Oriental Churches

In an Apostolic Letter issued in the form of a 'motu proprio', Pope Francis amends the canon law of the Oriental Churches to require the Apostolic See’s approval for the valid recognition of new institutes and societies of eparchial law.

By Vatican News staff writer

Pope Francis, with the Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio "Ab initio", has modified canons 435 §1 and 506 §1 concerning the ecclesial recognition of new Institutes or new Societies of eparchial law in the Oriental Churches.

The latest amendments to the Canons establish that eparchial Bishops must receive written permission from the Apostolic See, which alone has final judgment, to establish an institute or society of eparchial law in the Eastern Catholic Churches.

The Apostolic Letter comes after the motu proprio “Authenticum charismatis” of 4 November 2020, with which Pope Francis modified canon law for the Latin Church, requiring the same written Approval from the Apostolic See for the establishment of institutes of consecrated life.

The new amendments to the laws will be promulgated in L’Osservatore Romano, and will come into force on 8 December. They will subsequently be published in the official commentary of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Spread of religious families

The Apostolic Letter notes that since the early days of the Church, some of the faithful have felt called to “consecrate their lives in a special way to the service of God and their brothers and sisters, witnessing their detachment from the world before the community in what would later become the profession of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.” This, the Apostolic letter continues, started by individual experiences first in the East, and then in the West by common fraternal life marked by the prescriptions of a Rule and submission to a superior.

Thus, it happened that like a tree planted in the field of the Lord, “various forms of solidarity and community life, as well as various religious families, have branched out in a marvelous and multiple way, both for the progress of the members of these various religious families themselves and the welfare of the entire Body of Christ” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, §43).

Apostolic See and new institutes

The Apostolic Letter further underlines that the Church welcomes the various forms of consecrated life as a “manifestation of the richness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” However, the ecclesiastical authority - particularly the pastors of the particular Churches, interpret the councils, regulate their practices and from them, constitute stable forms of life while avoiding “the imprudent emergence of institutes which are useless or lacking sufficient vigor" (Decree Perfectae caritatis, §19).

In this regard, it is the responsibility of the Apostolic See to accompany pastors in the process of discernment leading to the ecclesial recognition of a new institute or a new Society of eparchial law. The Apostolic See is also to be the final judge to test the authenticity of the inspiring purpose.

Same legislation for the whole Church

In an interview with Vatican News’ Gabriella Ceraso, the Secretary for the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Archbishop Giorgio Demetrio Gallaro, explained that through the 4 November Apostolic letter “Authenticum charismatis” and these latest amendments, Pope Francis is creating a similar legislative instrument for the whole Catholic Church, both of the East and the West.

The Archbishop added that since the Second Vatican Council, there have been many new forms of consecrated life and institutes which have sometimes led to duplications.

In order to avoid further instances of this nature, written permission from the Apostolic See will be required both for the Latin Church and Eastern through the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, respectively.

07 December 2020, 12:00