Monday, January 28, 2008

Code of Canon Law at 25: Vatican Plans Assessment

The Code of Canon Law is similar to a painting that depicts the identity and mission of each of the faithful within the Church, said a Vatican official.

Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, affirmed this today in a press conference ahead of a congress commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1983 code. Archbishop Coccopalmerio was joined by the secretary of the council, Monsignor Juan Arrieta.

The congress will run Thursday through Friday and will be dedicated to "Canon Law in the Life of the Church: Research and Perspectives in the Context of Recent Pontifical Magisterium."

The 1983 Code of Canon Law was promulgated Jan. 25 of that year.

"Twenty-five years ago, the long process of revising the 1917 Code of Canon Law came to an end," the archbishop said. He explained how the revision had been announced by Pope John XXIII the same day he proclaimed the celebration of the Second Vatican Council, and how it aimed "to re-examine the central corpus of the Church's legislative code in accordance with doctrinal aspects contained in the conciliar documents."

The Code of Canon Law "is not just a collection of norms created by the will of ecclesiastical legislators," Archbishop Coccopalmerio added. It "indicates the duties and rights inherent to the faithful and to the structure of the Church as instituted by Christ."

And the legislator, he continued, having identified fundamental duties and rights, "also establishes a series of norms that have the aim of defining, applying and defending [those] duties and rights."

"For this reason," the archbishop stated, "the Code of Canon Law is like a large and complex painting depicting the faithful and the communities within the Church, and defining the identity and 'mission' of each. And the painter of this work of art is the ecclesiastical legislator" whose model comes "from the doctrine of the Church and from [...] Vatican Council II, as Pope John Paul II taught us when he promulgated the current code."


Archbishop Coccopalmerio said the 1983 code is different in various ways from that of 1917. He mentioned Canon 208 from which, he said, "arise many tangible consequences that concern all the faithful and especially the lay faithful: All are called to play an active role in the Church."

The 1983 Code of Canon Law, the archbishop acknowledged, is "like all human works ... perfectible."

The upcoming congress will aim "to identify certain points in need of a little restoration," he said.

Monsignor Arrieta further explained the aims of the congress: "to undertake a purposeful study [...] into the progress of the application of the Code, and of all the other norms that the various offices of the Roman Curia and individual legislators have produced over the last 25 years."

The congress will begin with an "overall assessment of the development of these norms" presented by Cardinal Julian Herranz, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who Monsignor Arrieta called "the historical memory on this subject, having followed the entire process personally since Vatican Council II."

Four other prefects of Vatican congregations will speak, as will other Vatican officials. The Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will conclude the congress.

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