.- Earlier today, the Vatican made public new norms, written by Pope Benedict on the Feast of the Visitation of Mary, for the practice of worship in the pontifical basilica of St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls, which clarify specific questions of jurisdiction and administrative aspects of the ancient basilica and it’s grounds. The Holy Father noted that the basilica sits on the site, which, according to tradition, St. Paul himself, was martyred. It also serves as the church for a Benedictine abbey, which is located on the same complex.
In accordance with the Lateran Pacts of 1929, international law, and successive agreements between the Italian government and the Vatican, the Pope holds civil authority over the basilica and the entire extraterritorial complex despite its relative distance from the Vatican itself.
The Pope pointed out that, in the past, the Holy See was only able to define some aspects of the jurisdiction of the pontifical administration of the basilica and the adjoining abbey, but wrote today that he now sees it "appropriate to emanate some general norms with the aim of clarifying and defining the principle aspects of the pastoral and administrative management of the complex of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls.”
“This”, he said, “will make it possible to compile a statute laying down the duties of the parties involved, and regulating their dealings with one another."
Holding to the norms of the Church’s other major basilicas, Pope Benedict opted to appoint an archpriest to St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, who will exercise "ordinary and immediate jurisdiction."
Likewise, he will make the abbot of the Benedictine abbey vicar for pastoral care and delegate for the complex’s administrative tasks. The new archpriest will coordinate the various administrative bodies of the complex, in accordance to the particular purpose of each, except in matters that are the exclusive jurisdiction of the abbot within the abbey.
After having been canonically elected, the monastery’s abbot must be confirmed by the Pope and will then enjoy all the rights and prerogatives as superior of the Benedictine community.
In order to also enable the abbot to attend to his duties in the monastic community, the late John Paul II defined "that the extraterritorial area around the abbey should be removed from the jurisdiction of the abbot of St. Paul's, who will nonetheless conserve his ordinary jurisdiction 'intra septa monasterii' and his liturgical function within the basilica, as defined in this document and as will be specified in the forthcoming statute."
In March of 2005, the abbey took the name of "Abbey of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls," and suffered the loss of much of it’s own identity and territorial autonomy.
To correct this, the Pope wrote that with the exception of the duties of St. Paul’s archpriest and the abbot, "the power of ordinary pastoral jurisdiction over the entire extraterritorial area of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, falls to the cardinal vicar of Rome, who exercises that power through the territorially-competent diocesan parish."
With this, the pontifical administration of the basilica "is suppressed and all its functions are transferred to the archpriest, who will exercise them in keeping with the statute to be approved by the competent offices of the Holy See."
Noting that the basilica is a popular pilgrimage site, and to protect the ministry of Penance, specific to the basilica, Pope Benedict confirmed the norms established by Pope Pius XI in his Apostolic Constitution, "Quod divina favente," that "the administration of the Sacrament of Penance should continue to be entrusted to the care of the penitentiaries, chosen from the Benedictine monks and constituted according to the terms of the forthcoming statute".
Also not wanting to sacrifice particular ecumenical events, celebrated in the basilica, the Pope wrote that, "It will, therefore, be the task of the monks, under the supervision of the archpriest, to organize, coordinate and develop such programs, also with the help of their Benedictine confreres from other abbeys and in accordance with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity."
Pope Benedict concluded with a prayer, asking the ‘Apostle of the People’, as St. Paul is often called, to illuminate those who work in the basilica and the pilgrims who travel there.