APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum
John Paul II, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God, as an everlasting memorial
The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for studies on Marriage and Family, established in 1981 by His Holiness John Paul II, with its central faculty in Rome at the Pontifical Lateran University has a network of specialized sessions for studies on Marriage and Family across the whole world. The Institute is in a certain sense an “unicum” among the Ecclesiastical Academies. In fact, the Institute is one (with one Chancellor and one President) and, at the same time, it is structured on each Continent by means of the juridical figure known as Session. Through the Apostolic Constitution Magnum Matrimonii Sacramentum of 07 October 1982, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Central Session of the Institute was established and its identity and purpose were defined. On that occasion the Institute was entrusted in a special way to the care of the most Blessed Virgin Mary under her title, Our Lady of Fatima.
Since the foundation of the Central session in Rome, the Institute has spread to the five Continents with sessions in Washington D.C (United States), Mexico City and Guadalajara (Mexico), Valencia (Spain), Salvador de Bahia (Brazil), Cotonou (Benin-Africa), Melbourne (Australia) and Changanacherry (India). Though the courses at this Indian Session of the Institute had already started in the year 1997, only in November 2001 did the Institute become the Indian Session of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute through a Decree from the Congregation for Catholic Education. The studies undertaken at this Institute are awarded with Pontifical degrees from the Lateran University. The academic Authorities are personal and collegial (See Apostolic Constitution Veritatis Gaudium, art. 15). The personal authorities are: for the entire Institute and the Central Session, the Grand Chancellor and the President of the Institute; for the Central Session its Vice-President; for the extra-urban Sessions, also their respective Vice-Grand Chancellor and Vice-President.
The collegial authorities for the entire Institute are Higher Council and the Council of the Institute; for the Central Session the Council of the Central Session; for the respective Sessions the Session Council.
“The future of humanity passes by way of the family” (FC n.86). This is the time of the family, inside the Church and within society. Addressing the members of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute on March 23, 1992, the Holy Father John Paul II said, “the gospel message on the family is today at the centre of crucial concern for the Christian existence and the new Evangelization”. In the Encyclical Letter “Redemptor Hominis”, he stated the animated word: “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself; his life is senseless if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it” (n.24).
In the Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI makes clear that “Marriage based on exclusive and definite love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love” (n.11). Keeping the spirit of its founder Pope John Paul II, the ultimate goal of research in the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, is to provide a deeper understanding of God’s plan on Marriage and Family by means of multidisciplinary education rooted in sound philosophical, theological, psychological and other areas of human sciences.
John Paul II Institute prepares postgraduates (laypersons, priests, and religious) for many types of activities in the field of marriage and the family. In some cases this activity is directly pastoral and apostolic, while in other cases it is combined with professional activity. It prepares persons for research in academic work in the social- medical field, educators in the schools, in the fields of counselling, health care institution, and family pastoral ministries.
John Paul II Institute is devoted to the study of the truth about human person in all its dimensions: theological, philosophical, psychological and other human sciences. Established “for India and the neighbouring countries”, this Institute at Changanacherry is committed to serving the whole of India and the neighbouring countries and all Christian Churches.
The Institute bases its study on the fact that Marriage and Family are rooted in the inmost nucleus of the truth about man and his destiny. Sacred Scripture reveals that the vocation to love is part of the authentic Image and Likeness of God. It focuses on the study on the newness of John Paul II’s teaching on human love. A philosophy of marriage and Family that reveals the Communio Personarum is one of the main areas of our teaching. The systematic theology that allows an “adequate” anthropology is another central theme. This anthropological study seriously takes the notion of nuptial mystery in order to find the truth and meaning of Marriage and Family. The sacramental value of marriage and the ecclesiology of Marriage and Family are studied from various dimensions. A moral theology of Excellence in Love and Action is another key area of our research. The moral theology searches how the experience of love is inscribed in human action. The method proper to the Institute and one of its specific tasks in studying marriage and family consists in the interdisciplinary use of the human sciences: psychology, pedagogy, sociology, law, bio-ethics, biology, medicine etc.
The Institute offers two Licentiate Degrees in Marriage and Family. Both these programmes are designed upon the model of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute across the world, while remaining sensitive to local academic and intellectual traditions, and to the particular challenges facing marriage and family in Asian region. Other than the degree programmes, the Institute offers different diploma programmes in Counselling and Family Ministry.
Pope Francis, on 8th September 2017 through his motu proprio Summa familiae cura “By the greatest concern for the family” gave to the institute a new name and redefined its mission.
According to Pope Francis, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church...We do well to focus on concrete realities, since ‘the calls and the demands of the Spirit resound in the events of history’, and through these the Church can also be guided to a more profound understanding of the inexhaustible mystery of marriage and the family.” Therefore, he states, “we must look, with the intellect of love and with wise realism, at the reality of the family today in all its complexity, with its lights and its shadows.” In this context Pope Francis thinks that it is timely to give a new legal disposition to the John Paul II Institute, so that this academic institution today be better recognised and appreciated. Therefore, Pope Francis decided to institute a new John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, broadening its field of interest, both in relation to the new dimensions of the pastoral task and of the ecclesial mission, and with reference to developments in the human sciences and in anthropological culture in a field so fundamental for the culture of life.
A total vision of the new institute would be clear through the articles 1 to 6 of the same document.
The Institute in India enjoys the warm encouragement of the Bishops’ Conference of India and the special interest of the Major Superiors and Provincials of the religious congregations. The Graduates from the Indian Session are actively involved in the socio-medical field, in the fields of counselling, health care institutions, personal and family law and family pastoral ministries in various dioceses in India. The Institute has attracted students not only from India but also from other neighbouring countries and all the Christian Churches. Here they have found a strong sense of family spirit and a great quality in academic research. By this time, these programmes have proven themselves to be a productive way of replying to the ever-increasing demand that the pastoral care of families is placing on local Churches and society. The Institute also hopes to award in the near future, secular University degrees in affiliation with the Indian universities.
JOHN PAUL II PONTIFICAL INSTITUTE
Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences