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Toespraak bij diplomauitreiking kerkelijk recht in Leuven

dear students, with your diploma’s in Canon law and in Society, law and religion. I want to congratulate all students with the results of your efforts. Even failing will help you to proceed and stimulate to excel the next time even more!

As staff of this faculty we are very pleased with the results and that we can hand out these diploma’s, not only because the faculty exists because of you and we can show off with these results to our beloved university of KULeuven, but also because of the qualities that you have shown the years of your studies and the contribution you deliver to our esteemed discipline of canon law.

The students of our faculty spread throughout the world like a wildfire! You have heard the places the students come from: twelve different nationalities and four continents. This will not change the world right away. But there will be crucial moments when canon lawyers have to be vigilant and defend the values supported by canon law. These decisive moments canon lawyers can make the difference, they wíll make the difference.

We wish that your contribution to the modern world will be threefold:
1 That as canon lawyers you remind the church that justice and mercy belong together and that the inspiration of administrators in the church should go beyond positive law. You will open up the treasures of the canon law tradition and reveal the scriptural and evangelical inspiration that is still present in this rich tradition of canonists searching for this evangelical balance between justice and mercy. The renewal of the church brought about by pope Francis needs a proper canon law basis. I don’t have the impression that the Holy Father is very fond of canonists, though our meeting with him in March this year was most cordial. We are called to provide the ecclesia semper reformanda with the proper canon law sources and instruments, faithful to the gospel. 2 That as canon lawyers you remind the church that she can act as an authentic instrument of charity and mercy. Canon lawyers may show that for the development of a just ecclesial communion our tradition provides for the values that can help to provide a just society: solidarity as an instrument for a leadership that remains united with the common people, collegiality and synodality that support strong leadership that is not monarchical but imbedded in the administrative and consultative organs in the church.

3 Canon lawyers also have a calling in the secular society. There people are searching for new sources of inspiration. The lack of shared values makes our society, especially the Western society a fragmented and individualistic society. This society needs protocols and contracts. Lacking a common vision on how to live together, canon lawyers might show how a communion, a living together of human beings can respect individual autonomy in balance with the necessary solidarity. Creating a bond of friendship among his disciples on the last day of his earthly life, Christ gave us the commandment to love one another. We know how frail we are, but we do not forget this commandment, and find the proper ways to restore this friendship in our community even after horrible crises that we might experience.

These are some assignments with which you proceed in your life. We bid you God’s blessing.

Never forget our university and especially never forget our beloved discipline of canon law.

Prof dr Ad van der Helm, Leuven, september 13th, 2019