VATICAN CITY (CNS) – All the Catholic Church’s structures, including tribunals and faculties of canon law, must undergo a “pastoral and missionary conversion” to ensure the church is giving the world “the only thing it needs: the Gospel of the mercy of Jesus,” Pope Francis wrote.

“To be pastoral does not mean that the norms should be set aside, and one sets off in whatever direction one wishes, but that in applying the norms one should make certain that the Christian faithful find in them the presence of the merciful Jesus, who does not condemn but exhorts them to sin no more because he gives grace,” the pope wrote to an international group of canon law scholars.

Code of Canon Law books for the Latin and Eastern Catholic churches are pictured in Rome at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in this Sept. 15, 2016, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis made his remarks in a message to the “Consociatio Internationalis Studio Iuris Canonici Promovendo” (literally translated as the international association for promoting the study of canon law), which was celebrating its 50th anniversary with a conference in Rome Dec. 1.

When canon law is an instrument of mercy, the pope wrote, “even when a severe sanction is to be applied to one who has committed a very serious crime, the Church, which is mother, will offer him the help and spiritual support that is indispensable so that in repentance he may encounter the merciful face of the Father.”

In its application, he said, each church law must be interpreted in light of the “supreme law,” which is “salus animarum,” the salvation of souls.

The application of canon law is something which must be done in prayer and with fidelity to the word of God, the living tradition of the church and the magisterium or teachings of the popes, he said.

“The wisdom that comes from God, received in prayer and in listening to others,” he said, should guide canonists “in distinguishing what is essential in the daily life of the Church, inasmuch as it is desired by Christ himself and established by the Apostles, and also expressed in the Magisterium, and what instead is merely a set of external forms, perhaps useful and significant in the past, but no longer so in the present or, indeed sometimes, an impediment to a witness that, especially today, requires greater simplicity to be credible.”

As a model, Pope Francis pointed to most Catholics’ mothers, who first taught them the faith. This essentiality of faith is what was transmitted to us by our mothers, the first evangelizers. “Why not take her as a point of reference regarding the attitude of spirit to be lived in the various situations of Church life?”

The pope thanked the canon lawyers for their contributions to church life and prayed that they would be “instruments of God’s justice, which is always inseparably united with his mercy.”




The entrance procession at the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Dec. 10 featured several young girls honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Following the distribution of Holy Communion, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera blessed the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was brought into the Cathedral by several parishioners.

Following Mass, hundreds attended a reception at the Diocesan Pastoral Center which featured food, music and cultural dancing.

During the Presentation of the Gifts, families brought several gifts to the altar, which were received by Bishop Bambera.

A woman prays silently during Mass.




In challenging times, find hope in the example and presence of Mary

Bishop Bambera celebrates Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in parishes around Diocese


SCRANTON – As he celebrated Masses for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in both Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, told parishioners it is Mary’s journey of faith that can help each of us embrace the power and presence of God.
“Following her election by God to be the mother of the Savior, Mary immediately journeyed to visit Elizabeth. But her willingness to follow God’s invitation didn’t end with that encounter. She journeyed to Bethlehem where her son was born and then to Egypt to keep him safe for his mission. She journeyed to Cana where Jesus performed the first sign revealing his glory and then she followed Jesus all the way to the cross. And after Jesus’ resurrection, Mary journeyed with his disciples to receive the Spirit and to build the Church – the redeemed People of God,” Bishop Bambera said.
The bishop said Mary’s journey continued well beyond the earliest days of the Church.
“She journeyed all the way to Tepeyac to accompany Juan Diego. And she continues to this very day – to journey throughout our world, assisted by your prayers and devotions. She journeys to homes and prison cells, to hospital rooms, schools, rest homes, and even to our borders with those seeking refuge, safety, and peace,” he continued.
It is the appearance nearly five centuries ago, Dec. 9, 10, and 12, 1531 in Tepeyac, near present-day Mexico City, when God sent Mary as his messenger appearing before Blessed Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian, that brings out hundreds of people to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in parishes all around the Diocese of Scranton. The Blessed Mother’s appearance is believed to have resulted in millions of conversions to Catholicism.
The Cathedral of Saint Peter was nearly filled on Dec. 10 for a Mass organized by Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish in South Scranton.
On Dec. 12, hundreds of others participated in a procession through the streets of Wilkes-Barre, ending with Mass celebrated at Saint Nicholas Church.
“She brings all of our communities together, especially with people coming from different countries,” Karla Andrade of Saint Theresa of Calcutta Parish said.
While the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is especially important to members of the Latino and Hispanic populations, she is the Patroness of the Americas, and we should all celebrate her.
“I feel so happy to be part of this celebration,” Wenceslao De La Cruz of Scranton said following Mass on Dec. 10 at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.
“It is something that is truly embedded into our communities, our homes, it is a huge celebration,” Jenny Gonzalez of Scranton said. “It’s a day when a lot of people gather together. They will pray and show a lot of gratitude but it’s also a day when they genuinely ask Our Lady of Guadalupe for something special for their families.”
Gonzalez really enjoyed watching all the young people take part in the Mass and reception which followed at the Diocesan Pastoral Center which featured music and dancing.
“It is really an important day not only for our community but also for our diocese,” she added.
Parishes in Brodheadsville, East Stroudsburg, Hazleton, Jermyn, Meshoppen, Plains and West Hazleton also held Feast Day celebrations.