Message by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna
The Metropolitan Tribunal, Valletta
23rd January 2019
I would like first of all to express our gratitude for the work of the tribunals: the judicial vicars of the Regional Tribunal of the Metropolitan Tribunal and the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Gozo will give us a short run of the great amount of work done by our tribunals which is an important ministry of justice. I would like to emphasise the word ‘justice’.
Justice is not only a cardinal virtue but is also a hallmark of civilisation. When societies lack justice, they are less civilised. The more their nurture promote and live the virtue of justice, the more civilised they are.
I know that we, as a family, have our own difficulties in being just with each other at times, perceptions may deceive, but I think that this tension trying to be as just as possible, should never leave us. The foundation of justice is truth. There is no justice without the respect for truth.
I think one of the challenges of the great reform promulgated by our Holy Father Francis in Mitis and through Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus is this sense of great responsibility put on the parties, on the defender of the bond and on the judges. If truth is not respected, we are not going to respect our own consciences.
We have also to be faithful to our people who call on us asking for the ministry of justice
So for example when faced with the possibility of the processus brevior one realises that this all hinges on the good faith and the thirst for truth of the parties. And we all know that in this world, where justice is not always infallible, if there is no good faith then the result is not always the best possible result. We have also to be faithful to our people who call on us asking for the ministry of justice and to owe them this: that we owe them the truth even if the truth is not what they are expecting of us.
At times an invented narrative may be the short way out of a situation but it will never give peace to the conscience. Therefore, our jurisdiction is based on fidelity to conscience because the jurisdiction that we exercise has no coercion except that of the voluntary submission of faith and of the will.
People subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the Church and of its tribunals out of a thirst for truth that they expect from a faith community. They are free to go to other jurisdictions for solutions and it is an indicator of the importance of our ministry when we see that people still request the discernment of the Church on the marriage situations. Society today provides so many other solutions: divorce, civil nullity, declarations and there are so many other models of marriage as well but people still request the discernment of our tribunals and that is apart from surveys and sentences it is also an indicator of a thirst for truth within the context of a faith community.
But the message has to be very clear: the ministry that the church offers should not be closed to those who cannot or are not in a position to pay.
Now the Holy Father has asked that this ministry is available for everybody and to everybody without distinction, without any constraints whether economical or financial and this is a challenge that we have to take. So I am very grateful for people who can afford to support the tribunals when they decide that they are going to do that. But the message has to be very clear: the ministry that the church offers should not be closed to those who cannot or are not in a position to pay. This is something that Pope Francis has repeated on a number of occasions and it has to be also very clear.
We have expenses and both dioceses, the diocese of Malta and the diocese of Gozo, take on all the expenses necessary to ensure that the tribunals are run properly, function well and with dignity.
I would like to end this short introduction by renewing my gratitude not only to the Vicars Judicial in charge of the different tribunals at the different levels but also all the staff: the judges, the defenders of the bond, the notaries, the chancery people, all the staff. Today is an opportunity for the bishop and for us bishops. I would like also to represent the gratitude of His Lordship the Bishop of Gozo, who is indisposed and very much wanted to be here today but I said to him: ‘Listen, we need you alive so primum vivere and so please stay at home’. There are so many other people who have decided not to come because they are sick and we are also very grateful that they decided not to come, we miss them but we also take the opportunity to greet them.
This is the moment I would be unjust if I do not say thank you very much for all the hard work you do. I think this is the cue for us all to listen to what all this work has to be, but I’m sure I have to give the word now to Alessandra whom I would like to thank also for organising this event together with so many other members of the staff. Thank you so much.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta8