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Pope Francis, at his Wednesday Angelus address yesterday, has made changes to canon law for the Eastern Churches. (Vatican Media)

In a new Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio, Pope Francis has revised the penal law of the Eastern Churches, harmonising some aspects of the Eastern discipline with that of the Latin Church, while preserving the distinctive features of Eastern law. Source: Vatican News.

The Letter, Vocare peccatores , was signed on March 20, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, this year, and published yesterday. The new law will enter into force on June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Pope Francis had already amended Book VI of the Code of Canon Law concerning penal sanctions in the Latin Church in 2021, with the Apostolic Constitution Pascite gregem Dei. This was a work of revision begun under Pope Benedict XVI.

At the time, Pope Francis explained, it was clear that the penal discipline promulgated by St John Paul II in the 1983 Code of Canon Law needed to be revised, “so that the Church’s pastors can employ it as a more flexible means of correction and salvation, capable of being applied swiftly and with pastoral charity in order to avoid more serious evils and to bring healing to injuries caused by human weakness”. The new Book VI of the Latin Code entered into force on December 8, 2021.

In today’s Apostolic Letter, the Pope states clearly that the purposes of punishment are the restoration of justice, the correction of the offender, and the reparation of the offence and the damage. Pastors, therefore, manifest their solicitude when they strive to correct the behaviour of the Christian faithful who do wrong.

“The new norms determine much more clearly when ecclesiastical authority must intervene in the case of offences,” explains Monsignor Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Dicastery for Legislative Texts. “They are more precise and the penalties to be imposed are also clearer, better determined. Moreover, Eastern discipline has also been harmonised with Latin discipline in many aspects, such as the abuse of minors and the protection of the sacraments.”


Pope revises penal law of the Eastern Churches (Vatican News)