Saturday 01.04.2017
Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father Francis in the form of a Motu Proprio “Sanctuarium in Ecclesia” with which transfer the competences on the sanctuaries to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization

1. The Sanctuary has a “great symbolic value” in the Church and to become pilgrims is a true profession of faith. Indeed, through the contemplation of the sacred images, we witness the hope of feeling stronger the closeness of God that opens the heart to the confidence of being heard and answered in the deepest desires. Popular piety, which is an “authentic expression of the spontaneous missionary activity of the people of God”, finds in the Sanctuary a privileged place to express the beautiful tradition of prayer, devotion and trust in the mercy of God inculturated in life Of all peoples.
From the first centuries the pilgrimage was first thought of the places where Jesus Christ had lived, announced the mystery of the Father and, above all, where there was a tangible sign of his resurrection: the empty tomb. The pilgrims then set out on their way to places where, according to the different traditions, the tombs of the Apostles were found. Throughout the centuries, in short, the pilgrimage also extended to those places, which have become a majority, where popular piety has felt first hand the mysterious presence of the Mother of God, the saints and the blessed

2. Sanctuaries today remain in all parts of the world a distinctive sign of the simple and humble faith of the believers who find in these sacred places the basic dimension of their believing existence. Here they deeply experience the closeness of God, the tenderness of the Virgin Mary and the company of the Saints: an experience of true spirituality that can not be devalued, on pain of mortifying the action of the Holy Spirit and the life of grace. Many Shrines have been perceived as part of the lives of individuals, families and communities to the extent that they have shaped the identity of entire generations, even affecting the history of some nations.
The great influx of pilgrims, the humble and simple prayer of the people of God, alternated with the Liturgical celebrations, the fulfillment of many graces that many believers attest to have received and the natural beauty of these places demonstrate that the Shrines, in the variety of their forms, express an irreplaceable opportunity for evangelization in our time.

3. These places, despite the crisis of faith affecting the contemporary world, are still perceived as Sacred places to go to as pilgrims to find a moment of rest, silence and contemplation in the midst of the often frenetic life of our day. A hidden desire causes the nostalgia of God to arise in many; And the Sanctuaries can be a true refuge to rediscover themselves and recover the forces necessary for conversion. In the Sanctuary, finally, the faithful can receive support for their usual path in the parish and in the Christian community. This osmosis between the pilgrimage to the Shrine and everyday life is an effective aid to the pastoral, because it makes it possible to revive the commitment of evangelization through a more convinced testimony. Therefore, walking towards the Sanctuary and participating in the spirituality expressed by these places are already an act of evangelization that deserves to be valued for its intense pastoral value.

4. By its very nature, therefore, the Shrine is a sacred place where the proclamation of the Word of God, the celebration of the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and the witness of charity express the great commitment of The Church in evangelization; And therefore are presented as a genuine place of evangelization where, from the first announcement to the celebration of the sacred mysteries. The powerful action with which the mercy of God in the lives of people acts.
Through the spirituality proper to each Sanctuary, the pilgrims are carried away with the “pedagogy of the Evangelization “towards an ever more responsible commitment both in its Christian formation and in the necessary testimony of charity that derives from it.The Shrine also contributes greatly to the catechetical effort of the Christian community, effectively transmitting in a coherent way With the times the message that began its foundation, enriches the life of the believers, giving them the reasons for a more mature and conscious commitment in faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1, 3). The doors to the sick, the disabled, and especially the poor, the marginalized, refugees and migrants.

5. In the light of these considerations, it is evident that the Shrines are called to play a role in the new evangelization of today’s society and that the Church is called to pastorally value the reasons of the heart that are expressed through pilgrimages to The Sanctuaries and places of devotion. Therefore, in order to foster the development of the pastoral care carried out in the Shrines of the Church, I have decided to transfer to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization the competences which, according to the article. 97, 1 of Const. Pastor Bonus,
Were assigned so far to the Congregation for the Clergy as well as those provided for in art. 151 of the same Constitution, in relation to travel for reasons of piety, without prejudice, however, to the duties of legitimate ecclesiastical authorities and those which, under special laws, correspond to other agencies in relation to certain Sanctuaries .
As a result, I establish that from now on it will be the task of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization:
A) the erection of international sanctuaries and the approval of their respective statutes, according to the cc. 1232-1233.
B) the study and application of measures to promote the evangelizing function of the Shrines and the cultivation of popular piety in them.
C) the promotion of an organic pastoral care of the Sanctuaries as centers that propel the new
D) the promotion of national and international meetings to promote a work of pastoral renewal common pastoral of popular piety and pilgrimages to places of worship.
E) promotion of the specific training of the operators of the Shrines and places of piety and devotion.
F) vigilance so that the pilgrims, in the places of the journey, can be offered a coherent and sustained spiritual and ecclesial assistance that favors the best personal fruits of these experiences.
G) cultural and artistic valorization of the Shrines according to the via pulchritudinis as a particular way of evangelization of the Church.

All that I have determined with this Apostolic Letter in the form of Motu Proprio, I order that it is observed in all its parts, notwithstanding any contrary provision, although it is worthy of particular mention, and I stipulate that it be promulgated through the publication in the newspaper L ‘ Osservatore Romano, coming into force fifteen days after the promulgation and then inserted into the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Given in Vatican City on February 11, 2017, liturgical memorial of the Virgin of Lourdes, IV year of the pontificate.


Download original letter 

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