Vatican official visits diocesan Tribunal staff

By Deacon Michael P. Forbes
Guest Correspondent

The Diocese of Austin was honored to host two distinguished visitors in October at the Pastoral Center: Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto and Father Roger H. Keeler. Msgr. Pinto is Dean of the Roman Rota at the Vatican, the church’s highest court of appeals. Father Keeler, previously Judicial Vicar at the appellate tribunal in San Antonio, is currently executive coordinator of the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) headquartered in Washington
In the days preceding his Austin visit, Msgr. Pinto was the featured speaker in Houston at the CLSA national convention. That event drew some 300 canon lawyers and tribunal personnel from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. 
Msgr. Pinto presented talks on Pope Francis’ procedural changes to some marriage-law canons which went into effect last December. He emphasized how these changes represented a culmination of pastoral concern common to Popes Francis, Benedict XVI and John Paul II. It is the purpose of these changes to the canons to speed up the process for final decisions to be reached in annulment cases. And, rather importantly, they highlight the paternal responsibility that bishops have in their particular dioceses.
Msgr. Pinto mentioned the friendship he has with the diocese’s Judicial Vicar, Father Christopher Ferrer, whom he mentored when Father Ferrer was a young priest studying canon law in Rome. At the luncheon with the diocesan Tribunal staff at the Pastoral Center, Msgr. Pinto shared small vignettes of his interaction with the Holy Father. He characterized Pope Francis as “a truly joyful man in a peaceful way” who otherwise is “distressed and saddened” when he ponders a marriage nullity process that takes too long. 
Msgr. Pinto described how the Roman Rota tries to implement the Holy Father’s focus on mercy and compassion while protecting the integrity of canon law. He reminded the staff of the importance of the local (diocesan and regional) church within the mission of the universal church. He and Father Keeler were pleased to discover how Austin’s diocesan Tribunal has taken the lead with Pope Francis’ new procedural rules on nullity by assembling a process handbook and effectively implementing the new procedures. 
Msgr. Pinto then spent some time visiting and talking with Bishops Joe Vásquez and Daniel Garcia. He complimented Bishop Vásquez for his initiative, “Annulment: Pathways to Healing,” as a truly unique, practical and spiritual proactive response to the results of the synod meetings on the family with its emphasis on bringing the grace of healing to all affected Catholics.
For more information on the diocesan Tribunal and annulments, visit www.austindiocese.org or call (512) 949-2400.