Rorate Caeli

Francis, writing on the Council of Trent, explicitly affirms the authority of the 'hermeneutic of reform in continuity'

Today the Vatican website published the Latin letter addressed by Pope Francis to Cardinal Brandmuller on the celebrations for the 450th anniversary of the closing of the Council of Trent. 

The letter affirms the continued importance of the doctrine of Council of Trent. While some might dismiss this as mere routine, this letter has the significance of being the very first occasion (to our knowledge) that Francis has directly and explicitly invoked, when touching upon the interpretation of doctrine, the authority of Benedict XVI's epoch-dividing December 22, 2005 address on the "'hermeneutic of reform', of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church." (Sometimes shortened to 'hermeneutic of reform in continuity' and, with less precision, to 'hermeneutic of continuity'.)

Coming back to the letter's treatment of the Council of Trent: regardless of the actual "level" of this document (which at least is not a mere summary or an interview with a secular newspaper), and without the need to assume anything about future events in this unfolding Pontificate, we now have something "quotable" from this Pope about the continued importance of Trent -- not just as a historical event, but in its doctrinal heritage.


To our Venerable Brother
Walter Cardinal Brandmüller
Deacon of St. Julian of the Flemings

As the 450th anniversary of the day on which the fortunate Council of Trent was closed approaches, it behooves the Church to recall with more prompt and attentive eagerness the most fruitful doctrine which came out of that Council convened in the Tyrolese region. Certainly not without cause, the Church has for a long time already accorded so much care to the Decrees and Canons of that Council that are to be recalled and observed, since, indeed the most grave affairs and questions having appeared at that time, the Council Fathers summoned all diligence that the Catholic Faith appear more clearly and be better understood. No doubt, with the Holy Ghost inspiring and suggesting, it especially concerned the Fathers not only to guard the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine, but also to more clearly enlighten mankind, so that the saving work of the Lord may be poured out onto the whole world and the Gospel be spread through the entire world.

Graciously hearing the very same Holy Ghost, the Holy Church of our age, even now, continues to restore and meditate upon the most abundant doctrine of Trent. As a matter of fact, the “hermeneutic of renewal” (interpretatio renovationis) which Our Predecessor Benedict XVI explained in 2005 before the Roman Curia, refers not only to the Tridentine Council but also to the Vatican Council. The mode of interpretation, certainly, places one honourable characteristic of the Church in a brighter light that is given by the Same Lord (Benedict XVI): “She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God” (Christmas Address to the Roman Curia).

Therefore, we rejoice and express gladness that, glowing with such splendor of the Church, this event is celebrated in a more solemn manner in the City of Trent. Wherefore, the Venerable Brother Luigi Bressani, Metropolitan Archbishop of Trent, requested that We assign some honourable Prelate who, on the 3rd of the following December, may pronounce the exhortatory words to all who shall attend this gladsome commemoration. Deeming this request, therefore, as just, and willing to designate You, Our Venerable Brother, who indeed have expertly investigated and have wisely carried forward the decrees of this Council. We, therefore, name You in these letters OUR EXTRAORDINARY ENVOY to the celebrations of the 450th anniversary of the day on which the Conciliar Fathers completed the works of the Council of Trent. Indeed, You will exhort all who shall participate in this event, that, souls joined together with the soul of the Most Holy Redeemer, they may be fully conscious of all the fruits derived from this Council, and that they may unite themselves in bringing these fruits to others and in propagating them in every way. You shall greet on Our behalf the Metropolitan Archbishop of Trent and all other attending holy Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and lay faithful of Christ, and You shall show them Our benevolence.

[Concluding greetings and blessing.]

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on November 19th of the year 2013, 1st of our Pontificate.


[Source (in Latin): Letter of the Holy Father to the Special Envoy to the celebrations of the 450th Anniversary of the Closure of the Ecumenical Council of Trent  - Trent, December 1, 2013]

Original translation for Rorate was made by the owner of the Philippine Catholic blog Dei Praesidio Fultus. Adapted by NC.