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Rafael Domingo, Full Professor of Roman Law at the University of Navarra

Javier Hervada, father of the modern Canon Law

Tue, 17 Mar 2020 16:19:00 +0000 Published in La Vanguardia

Javier Hervada Xiberta, born in Barcelona in 1934, has died in Pamplona. He has left us a great jurist who has carried the good name of the Spanish university across the seas. He was one of the great renovators of the post-conciliar Canon Law and made significant contributions, albeit on a smaller scale, in the field of the Philosophy of law and the theory of natural law. He formed an extensive school of thought in Spain, Italy, Poland and Latin America and was the solid foundation of two important Schools of Canon Law: one at the University of Navarre and the other, born of the former, at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

An original and profound thinker, a simple, wise and discreet man, Hervada approached the law with realism, from realism, as he liked to say, tackling the most controversial issues with courage, rigour, discipline and passion. Without fear or complexes. Before any new topic , as diverse as the first organ transplants, or the establishment of Opus Dei as the first prelature staff of the Catholic Church, Hervada's voice immediately became a point of reference. One could agree or disagree with Hervada agreement, I personally did not agree with him on many occasions, but his intelligent judgement could not be ignored, as he always shed new light.

Hervada found a fragmented, dispersed Canon Law , even though it had already been codified since 1917, in the process of change, and he was able to give it systematic and conceptual unity by taking advantage of the great renewal brought about by John Paul II in the light of the ecclesiology of Vatican II and the consequent promulgation of the new Code of 1983. Hervada's greatest contribution was that of a founding father: to constitutionalise the new Canon Law with all its consequences, transforming it into an authentic modern juridical order at the service of the People of God, which is the Church.

Under Hervada's guidance, thousands of students took their first steps in the legal world in the classrooms of the University of Navarra's Law School School , where he was Dean for a good number of years. For Hervada, rooted in the medieval tradition, the two Schools, civil and canonical, constituted an inseparable and harmonious unity: Tanto monta, monta tanto monta tanto. I personally met him in 1981. I remember going to him, after an interesting class, to ask him if it was contrary to human dignity to take one's own life on the way to the stake in order not to die by burning to death surrounded by hungry cannibals. Hervada treated me as if he had nothing else to do all day but answer my macabre question. From then until today, as cloister mates, our friendship has only grown.

From Hervada I learned to deeply love the university official document , to dialogue on an equal footing with the great classical and contemporary thinkers, to harmonise tradition and modernity, faith and reason, love and justice, theory and internship, category and anecdote. At final, to be a better jurist, to be a better person. May he rest in peace.