Pope Francis addressing members of the DDF in 2022 Pope Francis addressing members of the DDF in 2022  (Vatican Media)

Pope Francis: Bless the persons, not the union

In an address to the plenary assembly of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Francis discusses the Sacraments, human dignity, evangelisation, and Fiducia supplicans.

By Joseph Tulloch

Pope Francis addressed the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith on Friday, as the department brought its annual plenary assembly to a close.

Thanking officials for their “precious work”, the Pope recalled that, in his 2022 reform of the Roman Curia, he divided the Dicastery into two sections, one concerned with Doctrine and the other with Discipline.

It was the former subject, the Pope said, that he wanted to touch on in his address, and he offered a number of thoughts organised around three words: ‘Sacraments’, ‘dignity’, and ‘faith’. 

New document from DDF

The first word that Pope Francis touched on in his address was ‘Sacraments’.

The Sacraments, he said, “feed and make grow the life of the Church”, he said, and thus require “special care” on the part of those who administer them.

“Let us," the Pope urged the DDF officials, “love and cherish the beauty and saving power of the Sacraments!”

Pope Francis then moved on to discuss dignity, noting that the DDF is “working on a document on this subject.“

“I hope,” he said, “that it will 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 are disregarded.”

Proclaiming the Gospel today

The Pope’s third subject, faith, was the one he dwelt on for the longest period.

“We cannot hide the fact," he said, ”that in large areas of the planet, faith, as Benedict XVI put it, no longer constitutes an obvious prerequisite for common living.”

Indeed, Pope Francis noted, faith is often “denied, mocked, marginalised, and ridiculed.”

The proclamation and communication of faith in today's world, he said, must therefore take a number of factors into account.

In particular, Pope Francis specified the “new urban cultures, with their many challenges but also the unprecedented questions of meaning they raise”, the need for “missionary conversion of ecclesial structures”, and, finally, “the centrality of kerygma [‘proclamation’] in the life and mission of the Church.”

“It is here," the Pope said, “that help is expected from this Dicastery.”

Pastoral blessings

It was "in this context of evangelisation,” Pope Francis continued, that he wanted to mention the recent Declaration Fiducia supplicans.

The purpose of the “pastoral and spontaneous blessings” discussed in the Declaration, the Pope stressed, is to “concretely show the closeness of the Lord and the Church to all those who, finding themselves in different situations, ask for help to continue—sometimes to begin—a journey of faith.”

In this regard, the Pope emphasized two points.

Firstly, he said, “these blessings, outside of any liturgical context and form, do not require moral perfection to be received.”

Secondly, he noted, “when a couple spontaneously approaches [a minister] and asks for them, he is not blessing the union, but simply the people who together have requested it.”

“Not the union,” the Pope stressed, “but the persons, naturally taking into account the context, sensitivities, the places where one lives, and the most appropriate ways to do it.”

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26 January 2024, 11:29