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Marriage and the Family: Pope Renews the John Paul II Institute

September 19, 2017. Broadens Its Competencies “for the Culture of Life”

By the Motu Proprio “Summa Familiae Cura,” Pope Francis has created the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and the Family, instead of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, founded in 1981. The decision was made public on September 19, 2017, which widens the Institute’s competencies at the pastoral, missionary and academic level, in order to take into account “the reality of the family today in all its complexity, with its lights and shadows.”

The Argentine Pope recalls in the Motu Proprio, dated September 8, that the Institute was founded by John Paul II, moved by “great concern for the family,” after the Synod of Bishops of 1980, and located within the Pontifical Lateran University, and developed in the course of the years in all the Continents.

In recent times the Church has put marriage and the family at the center, notably during the two Synodal Assemblies of October 2014 and October 2015, which concluded with the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, published in 2016.

These events led to “renewed awareness of the Gospel of the Family and new pastoral challenges, to which the Christian community is called to respond,” notes the Argentine Pontiff, who stresses that the present “anthropological and cultural change” calls for “an analytical and diversified approach.” Thus, he insists, “we must not limit ourselves to practices of pastoral care and the mission that reflect forms and models of the past.”

“We must be conscious and passionate interpreters of the wisdom of the faith in a context where individuals are less supported by social structures than in the past in their affective and family life,” he continues.

It is about “looking, with an intelligence of love and wise realism, at the reality of the family today in all its complexity, with its lights and its shadows.”

It’s from this point of view that Pope Francis confers “a new legal framework on the John Paul II Institute, so that Saint John Paul II’s visionary intuition, his intense desire for this academic institution, is still better recognized and appreciated in its fruitfulness and timeliness.”

The Motu Proprio enlarges the Institute’s competencies, at the pastoral level as well as that of the ecclesial mission, “of human sciences and of the anthropological culture, in an area so fundamental for the culture of life.”

The new structure, which will continue to be linked to the Lateran University, succeeds the former Institute, which “comes to an end.” However, the original inspiration must continue “to fecund” the new engagements, specifies the text.

The Institute will have “an academic center of reference, at the service of the mission of the universal Church,” which will deepen “the sciences concerning marriage and the family and the themes connected to the fundamental alliance of man and woman for the safeguarding of generation and Creation.”

It will enjoy a privileged link “with the ministry and magisterium of the Holy See,” notably by the intermediary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life and the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Theological Institute will have the faculty to confer University Diplomas to its students — doctorates and licentiates – in the  “sciences on marriage and the family”; it will be equipped with the necessary instruments – Chairs, teachers, programs, administrative personnel – to carry out the scientific and ecclesial mission entrusted to it.