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COVID-19: Vatican Tribunal hearings suspension prolonged

A Rescript, signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State on Wednesday, and published on Thursday, prolongs the period in which hearings by the Vatican Tribunal are suspended.

By Vatican News

In an audience with the Substitute of the Secretary of State on 31 March, Pope Francis gave his consent that the date of 3 April 2020, designated in the Rescript dated 18 March 2020 on which the Vatican's Tribunal would resume normal activity, would be prolonged until 4 May. A Rescript to this effect was signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on 1 April, and published the following day.

Rescript of 18 March, 2020

Pope Francis has decided to suspend judicial activity in Vatican City State as a precautionary measure to protect people involved. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, signed a rescript explaining that the measure was taken: "In order to counter the COVID-19 epidemiological emergency, and to contain negative effects surrounding judicial activity".

The provision establishes that from tomorrow (20 March), with some exceptions, "the trial hearings in progress at all judicial offices will be postponed until after 3 April 2020". Also suspended are all deadlines for completing any step in the procedural process. Any dates that had been set to initiate any judicial process which land during the period of this suspension will be postponed until after the suspension period is over, the Rescript states. All “statutes of limitations” shall also be suspended for all intents and purposes, subject to certain exceptions.

The exceptions provided for are as follows: the suspension order does not apply to "civil proceedings where it can reasonably be foreseen that postponement is impracticable, and where the delay in dealing with the case could cause serious harm to the parties"; to "criminal proceedings for which the trial of first instance is not yet in progress"; to "criminal proceedings against persons who are detained or who would otherwise be burdened by measures restricting their personal freedom"; to "criminal proceedings in which the urgent need has been deduced to obtain evidence".

The President of the Tribunal may also limit access to judicial offices. He may also “guarantee access to persons who must carry out urgent activities". At his discretion, the President may also limit opening hours of judicial offices; regulate "access to judicial offices when appointments have been made, including by telephone or digital means of communication, ensuring that the convocation of users is scheduled for fixed hours"; provide that “closed door" hearings may take place as long as the reason they are being held falls under the exceptions; and establish a work schedule for administrative and clerical staff, even should this mean derogating from “ordinary provisions".

This article has been updated as of 2 April 2020.

19 March 2020, 14:34