Around noon today, Pope Benedict spoke to the participants of a conference being held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law, telling them that they must show people that the Church’s law “makes us free to follow Jesus.”
“The 'ius ecclesiae' (law of the Church)”, the Pope said, is not just a collection of norms produced by the ecclesial Legislator for the people who form the Church of Christ. Rather, the law is “founded on the Sacraments and which, consequently, derive from what Christ Himself instituted".
The Pope quoted a phrase used by Blessed Antonio Rosmini to the effect that "the human person is the essence of law". This, he went on, is something "we must also emphasize for Canon Law: the essence of Canon Law is the Christian individual in the Church".
"Moreover", he added, Canon Law "must be clearly and unambiguously formulated in such a way as to remain in harmony with the other laws of the Church. Hence it is necessary to abrogate norms that have become outdated, modify those in need of correction, interpret (in the light of the living Magisterium of the Church) those that are unclear and, finally, fill any 'lacunae legis' (gaps in the law)".
The Pope reminded the members of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of their duty to ensure "that the activities of those structures within the Church called to dictate norms for the faithful may always reflect ... the union and communion that are characteristic of the Church".
"The Law of the Church is, first of all, 'lex libertatis': the law that makes us free to follow Jesus", the Holy Father emphasized. "Hence it is important we know how to show the People of God, the new generations and all those called to follow Canon Law, the real bond [that law] has with the life of the Church".
This must be done in order "to defend the delicate interests of the things of God and to protect the rights of the weakest, ... but also in order to defend that delicate 'good' which each of the faithful has gratuitously received (the gift of faith, of the grace of God), which in the Church cannot remain without adequate legal protection", Benedict XVI concluded.