Vatican City – In a significant move, Pope Francis has issued an Apostolic Letter in the form of a ‘Motu proprio’ that amends the Canon Law of the Oriental Churches.
The new law states that bishops emeritus who have attained the age of 80 will not be allowed to vote in the Episcopal Synods of which they are members. However the new rules are not applicable to those already in office.
The Episcopal Synods are meetings of bishops that take place every few years. They are responsible for discussing and making decisions on various issues related to the Church, such as the appointment of new bishops or the formulation of Church doctrine.
Until now, all bishops who were members of the Synod were eligible to vote, regardless of their age or whether they were retired or still active in their respective dioceses. However, the new law changes that by imposing a mandatory age limit of 80 years for voting rights.
The change came as a result of the “the difficulties that have emerged in the Synods of Bishops of the Patriarchal Churches and Major Archiepiscopal Churches, due to the number of Bishops Emeritus who participate in them with an active voice, especially in the election of the Bishops and of the Heads and Fathers of their respective sui iuris (autonomous, ed.) Churches”.
The change “will not apply” to the “Patriarchs, Major Archbishops, Eparchial Bishops and Exarchs” currently in office “despite them having reached the age of eighty”. The new rule will come into effect immediately and will apply to all Episcopal Synods that take place after the issuance of the Motu proprio.
The Vatican stated that the decision was made after extensive consultations with various bishops and experts in the field of Canon Law. The rationale behind the move is to ensure that the Synods remain dynamic and that the views of the younger generation of bishops are given due consideration.
In recent years, Pope Francis has been pushing for reforms within the Catholic Church, with a particular focus on making the institution more open and transparent. The new law is seen as part of that broader agenda and is expected to be welcomed by many within the Church who have been calling for more representation of the younger generation.
The move has been greeted with mixed reactions from various quarters. Some have welcomed the decision, saying that it will help to ensure that the Synods remain relevant and that the views of the younger bishops are given due consideration. Others, however, have expressed concern that the new law may exclude valuable contributions from older bishops who may have valuable insights and experience to offer.