Pope Francis changes law to allow Vatican City court to judge cardinals, bishops

He also quoted Gaudium et spes, Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which says that “all men have the same nature and the same origin; all, redeemed by Christ, enjoy the same vocation and the same divine destiny; it is therefore necessary to recognize more and more the fundamental equality of all.”

“The awareness of these values ​​and principles, which has progressively matured in the ecclesial community, today calls for an ever more adequate compliance with them even in the Vatican system,” Francis said.

In the update, Pope Francis repealed article 24 of a law issued on March 16, 2020, which declared that “the court of cassation is the only competent to judge, with consent of the Supreme Pontiff, the Most Eminent Cardinals and the Most Excellent Bishops in criminal cases.”

In the 2020 norms, Law CCCLI, the pope grounded Vatican City civil law in the Church’s canonical legal system, making the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the curia’s highest canonical appeals court, the final court of cassation for the civil judicial system.

The court of cassation consists of the cardinal prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, currently Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, plus two cardinal members of the signatura and two or more judges appointed for three-year terms.

The court of cassation is usually ruled by a bench of cardinal judges but can include other judges if circumstances require.

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In the April 30 amendment, Pope Francis added a paragraph to article 6 of the 2020 law, stating that “in cases involving the Most Eminent Cardinals and the Most Excellent Bishops … the tribunal [court of first instance] shall judge with the consent of the Supreme Pontiff.”

The amendment makes note of the exception to this rule contained in canon 1405 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that only the pope can judge cardinals and bishops in penal cases regarding spiritual matters or a violation of Church law involving sin and the imposition of ecclesial penalties.

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