Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA
Pope Francis has modified Canon 579 which permitted diocesan bishops to erect institutions of Consecrated life within their territory provided the Apostolic See was consulted but now requires that the bishops get approval from the Holy See prior to establishing a new Religious institute in the diocese.
According to the Pontiff’s letter “Authenticum Charismatis” dated Wednesday, November 4, “It is the responsibility of the Apostolic See to accompany the Pastors in the process of discernment leading to the ecclesial recognition of a new Institute or a new Society under diocesan law.”
The Holy Father referenced the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Vita Consecrata,” which states that the “vitality of new Institutes and Societies “must be judged by the authority of the Church which has the responsibility of examining them in order to discern the authenticity of the purpose for their foundation and to prevent the proliferation of institutions similar to one another, with the consequent risk of a harmful fragmentation into excessively small groups.”
In this regard, the statement reads in part, “The new Institutes of Consecrated Life and the new Societies of Apostolic Life, therefore, must be officially recognized by the Apostolic See, which alone has final judgement.”
Pope Francis acknowledged the importance of responding to the gifts the Spirit awakens in the particular Church with thanksgiving but at the same time, it must be avoided that “communities may be needlessly brought into being which are useless or which lack sufficient resources.”
“I order that what has been deliberated with this Apostolic Letter in the form of Motu proprio have firm and stable implementation, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even if worthy of special mention,” the Pope noted in the letter adding that the new modified law shall be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano and will be in force on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, and will then be published in the official commentary of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.
Giving reference to Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, ‘On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World’, the Apostolic Letter notes that “a sure sign of the authenticity of a charism is its ecclesial character, its ability to be integrated harmoniously into the life of God’s holy and faithful people for the good of all.”
It adds, “The faithful, therefore, have the right to be alerted by their pastors about the authenticity of the charism and the reliability of those who present themselves as founders after genuine discernment.”