UNKNOWN TRIBUNAL OF MERCIFULNESS
Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik talks with prelate priest dr. Krzysztof Nykiel – a Regent of Apostolic Penitentiary
FR. PAWEŁ RYTEL-ANDRIANIK: – What is Apostolic Penitentiary?
PRELATE PRIEST KRZYSZTOF NYKIEL: – Despite its long history, the tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary is hardly known, although it is the oldest dicastery of the Roman Curia and does work directly connected with ‘salus animarum’ (salvation of souls).
On its helm there is cardinal Penitentiary the grander – cardinal Maruo Piacenza. Competences of the Apostolic Penitentiary concern only the inner forum (conscience), that is, a hidden area of relationship between Merciful God and a penitent. The Inner Forum is sacramental, and is strictly connected with the sacrament of penance and non-sacramental- is matters of conscience are analyzed out of the sacrament of confession.
The Apostolic Penitentiary does not have legal functions connected with the outer forum, like the Roman Rota or Apostolic Signature. It performs jurisdiction of grace.
Our dicastery – within its competences – in particular cases gives: absolution, dispensations, graces, validations, conversions and indulgences.
We are right to call it the Mercifulness Tribunal because its main mission is helping people in the process of reconciliation with God and with the Church, who are in a situation impossible to reconcile with their eternal salvation.
– Prelate Priest is a deputy of Cardinal in this dicastery, that is, a regent who has the title of the Excellency. Could Priest present his work to our readers?
– The regent’s office is an equivalent of a Secretary in other dicasteries. I was given this office in 2012 by pope Benedict XVI. Regent with prelates: a theologian, canonist and three consultants are a Council of Prelates, with which cardinal penitentiary consults in making decisions in the most complicated matters. Priests clerks participate in everyday meetings held under the supervision of the regent in order to investigate matters coming during 24 hours, considering salvation of souls.
– On 24-28 March the Apostolic Penitentiary organized a course for confessors. According to Prelate Priest, what features of a good confessor should there be?
– I will answer this question with reference to the spiritual experience of the great saint confessor, who was St. Alfons Maria Liguori, who emphasized that a confessor should be: ‘a father who cuddles, a doctor who treats, a teacher who teaches, a judge who shows mercy’.
At this point I want to say that the Apostolic Penitentiary, called Mercifulness Tribunal in ministry to confessors and penitents, is very grateful to the Holy Father Francis that in his many pronouncements and speeches he shows the beauty of the sacrament of reconciliation, reminds priests that they are ministers of Divine Mercifulness and calls believers not to be afraid of asking God for forgiveness, healing and conversion thanks to His Love.
During a meeting with parish priests and priests who work in Roman parishes, on 6 March 2014, pope Francis – apart from reminding the words of blessed John Paul II that ‘for the whole Church there is the time of mercifulness’ – emphasized that ‘a priest shows insides of mercifulness in a particular way; he shows it in his whole behavior, in a kind of his attitude towards a penitent, giving advice and giving indulgence….But it results from the fact of how a priest himself experiences this sacrament, how he allows God embrace himself during a confession and how he remains in this embrace…’
The pope also added: ‘Neither an extremely indulgent confessor nor a rigorous confessor give a testimony to Jesus Christ because neither the first nor the second ones take responsibility for a person whom they meet. A rigorous priest is washing his hands: he is nailing a person with a cold and rigid law; an indulgent priest is also washing his hands: but he is only allegedly merciful because in fact he does not take seriously the problem of this conscience and diminishes a sin. Real mercifulness takes responsibility for a person, listens to the person carefully and has a respectful attitude towards this situation and accompanies the person on the reconciliation way’.
– It has already been a year of the pontificate of pope Francis. What is surprising for Prelate Priest in the attitude of the Holy Father?
– On these days people all over the world expressed their opinions about this pontificate of pope Francis and the mission of Peter of our times. Many of us – cooperators of the Holy Father – had a grace of experiencing the first anniversary of his election for the Holy See, participating in Lent retreats of Roman Curia held in Ariccia town. The days of the retreats were a rich spiritual experience, I would say, unforgettable. Everyday Holy Mass was presided over by the Holy Father, there were conferences, meditations and meals. Spiritual practices finished with Vespers and Adoration of the Holy Sacrament. After the retreats, on Friday 14 March, we returned with Pope to Vatican by the same bus. During the retreats we could see how much time the Holy Father devoted to a prayer and how much he is a man of entrustment to Divine Mercifulness.