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The Roman Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and the central governing body through which the Roman Pontiff conducts the business of the entire Catholic Church.[notes 1] It acts in his name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular Churches and provides the necessary central organization for the correct functioning of the Church and the achievement of its goals.
"In exercising supreme, full, and immediate power in the universal Church, the Roman pontiff makes use of the departments of the Roman Curia which, therefore, perform their duties in his name and with his authority for the good of the churches and in the service of the sacred pastors"
— Decree concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, Christus Dominus
The structure and organization of responsibilities within the Curia is at present regulated by the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus issued by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988, which Pope Francis has decided to revise radically.
Curia in medieval and later Latin usage means "court" in the sense of "royal court" rather than "court of law". The Roman Curia, then, sometimes anglicized as the Court of Rome, as in the 1534 Act of Parliament that forbade appeals to it from England, is the Papal Court, and assists the Pope in carrying out his functions. The Roman Curia can be loosely compared to cabinets in governments of countries with a Western form of governance, but only the Second Section of the Secretariat of State, known also as the Section for Relations with States, the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and the Congregation for Catholic Education, can be directly compared with specific ministries of a civil government.
It is normal for every Latin Catholic diocese to have its own curia for its administration. For the Diocese of Rome, these functions are not handled by the Roman Curia, but by the Vicariate General of His Holiness for the City of Rome, as provided by the Apostolic Constitution Ecclesia in Urbe. The Vicar General of Rome, traditionally a Cardinal, and his deputy the Vicegerent, who holds the personal title of Archbishop, supervise the governance of the diocese by reference to the Pope himself, but with no more dependence on the Roman Curia, as such, than other Catholic dioceses throughout the world. A distinct office, the Vicar General for Vatican City, administers the portion of the Diocese of Rome in Vatican City.
Until recently, there still existed hereditary officers of the Roman Curia, holding titles denominating functions that had ceased to be a reality when the Papal States were lost to the papacy. A reorganization, ordered by Pope Pius X, was incorporated into the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Further steps toward reorganization were begun by Pope Paul VI in the 1960s. Among the goals of this curial reform were the modernization of procedures and the internationalization of the curial staff. These reforms are reflected in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The offices of the Vatican City State are not part of the Roman Curia, which is composed only of offices of the Holy See. The following organs or charges, according to the official website of the Holy See, comprise the Curia. It should be noted that all members of the Curia except the Cardinal Camerlengo and the Major Penitentiary resign their office immediately after a papal death or resignation. See sede vacante
The Secretariat of State is the oldest dicastery in the Roman Curia, the government of the Roman Catholic Church. It is headed by the Secretary of State, since 15 October 2013 Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who is responsible for all the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See. The Secretariat is divided into two sections, the Section for General Affairs and the Section for Relations with States, known as the First Section and Second Section, respectively. The Secretariat of State was created in the 15th century and is now the dicastery most involved in coordinating the Holy See's activities.
The Roman Congregations are a type of dicastery (department with a jurisdiction) of the Roman Curia, the central administrative organism of the Catholic Church. Each Congregation is led by a prefect, who is a Cardinal. Until recently, a non-cardinal appointed to head a congregation was styled as pro-prefect until he was made cardinal in a consistory. This practice has recently been abandoned.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) (Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei), previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, and sometimes simply called the Holy Office, is the oldest of the nine congregations of the Roman Curia. Among the most active of these major Curial departments, it oversees Catholic doctrine. The CDF is the modern name for what used to be the Holy Office of the Inquisition. The current prefect is Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller.
The Congregation for the Oriental Churches (Congregatio pro Ecclesiis Orientalibus) is the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for contact with the Eastern Catholic Churches for the sake of assisting their development, protecting their rights and also maintaining whole and entire in the one Catholic Church, alongside the liturgical, disciplinary and spiritual patrimony of the Latin Rite, the heritage of the various Oriental Christian traditions. It has exclusive authority over the following regions: Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, southern Albania and Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Ukraine.
The Congregation for the Oriental Churches has its origins in the "Congregatio de Propaganda Fide pro negotiis ritus orientalis" founded by Pope Pius IX on 6 January 1862. Included in the Congregation's membership are all Eastern Catholic patriarchs and major archbishops, as well as the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. It was formally set up by Pope Benedict XV on 1 May 1917. The title of Prefect was held by the Popes from 1917 until 1967, with the head of the Congregation titled as Secretary. Currently headed by its prefect, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum) is the congregation of the Roman Curia that handles most affairs relating to liturgical practices of the Latin Catholic Church as distinct from the Eastern Catholic Churches and also some technical matters relating to the Sacraments. It is headed by Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera as prefect. It is the direct successor of the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments (Sacra Congregatio de Disciplina Sacramentorum) (1908–1969).
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints (Congregatio de Causis Sanctorum) is the congregation of the Roman Curia which oversees the complex process which leads to the canonisation of saints, passing through the steps of a declaration of "heroic virtues" and beatification. After preparing a case, including the approval of miracles, the case is presented to the pope, who decides whether or not to proceed with beatification or canonization. The predecessor of the congregation was the Sacred Congregation for Rites, founded by Pope Sixtus V on 22 January 1588 in the Bull Immensa Aeterni Dei. The congregation dealt both with regulating divine worship, and the causes of saints.
On 8 May 1969, Pope Paul VI issued the Apostolic Constitution Sacra Rituum Congregatio, dividing it into two congregations, the Congregation for the Divine Worship and one for the causes of saints. The latter was given three offices, those of the judiciary, the Promoter General of the Faith and the historical-juridical. With the changes in the canonization process introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1983, a College of Relators was added to prepare the cases of those declared as Servants of God. This office is vacant due to the resignation of Benedict XVI.
The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Congregatio pro Gentium Evangelizatione) is the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for missionary work and related activities. It is perhaps better known by its former title, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide). Renamed by Pope John Paul II in 1982, its mission continues unbroken. This office is vacant due to the resignation of Benedict XVI.
The Congregation for the Clergy is the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for overseeing matters regarding priests and deacons not belonging to institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life, as well as for the seminaries (except those regulated by the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples and for the Oriental Churches), and houses of formation of religious and secular institutes. The Congregation for the Clergy handles requests for dispensation from active priestly ministry, as well as the legislation governing presbyteral councils and other organisations of priests around the world. The Congregation does not deal with clerical sexual abuse cases, as those are handled exclusively by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (Congregatio pro Institutis Vitae Consecratae et Societatibus Vitae Apostolicae) is the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for everything which concerns institutes of consecrated life (religious institutes and secular institutes) and societies of apostolic life, both of men and of women, regarding their government, discipline, studies, goods, rights, and privileges.
The Congregation for Catholic Education (for Seminaries and Educational Institutions)(Congregatio de Institutione Catholica (de Seminariis atque Studiorum Institutis)) is the Pontifical congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for:
The Congregation for Bishops (Congregatio pro Episcopis) is the congregation of the Roman Curia which oversees the selection of new bishops that are not in mission territories or those areas that come under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches who deal with the Eastern Catholics, pending papal approval. It also schedules the papal audiences required quinquennially for bishops and arranges the creation of new dioceses. This office is vacant due to the resignation of Benedict XVI.
The Apostolic Penitentiary, more formally the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, is one of the three tribunals of the Roman Curia. The Apostolic Penitentiary is chiefly a tribunal of mercy, responsible for issues relating to the forgiveness of sins in the Roman Catholic Church. The Apostolic Penitentiary has jurisdiction only over matters in the internal forum. Its work falls mainly into these categories:
The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church besides the Pope himself, who is the supreme ecclesiastical judge. In addition, it is an administrative office for matters pertaining to the judicial activity of the whole Church.
Appeals in standard judicial processes, if appealed to the Apostolic See, normally are not handled by the Signatura. Those go to the Roman Rota, which is the ordinary appellate tribunal of the Apostolic See. The Supreme Tribunal handles some of the more specialized kinds of cases, including the following:
Although a Rotal decision can be appealed, if not res judicata, to a different panel (turnus) of the Rota, there is no right of appeal from a decision of the Signatura, although a complaint of nullity on formal grounds is possible. As an administrative office, it exercises jurisdiction (vigilance) over all the tribunals of the Catholic Church. It can also extend the jurisdiction of tribunals, grant dispensations for procedural laws, establish interdiocesan tribunals, and correct advocates.
The Tribunal of the Roman Rota is the highest appellate tribunal. While usually trying cases in appeal in third instance (as is normally the case in the Eastern Catholic Churches), or even in second instance if appeal is made to it directly from the sentence of a tribunal of first instance, it is also a court of first instance for cases specified in the law and for others committed to the Rota by the Roman Pontiff. It fosters the unity of jurisprudence and, through its own sentences, is a help to lower tribunals.
The greater Part of its decisions concern the nullity of marriage. In such cases its competence includes marriages between two Catholics, between a Catholic and non-Catholic, and between two non-Catholic parties whether one or both of the baptized parties belongs to the Latin or an Eastern Rite.
The court is named Rota (Latin for: wheel) because the judges, called auditors, originally met in a round room to hear cases.
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The Pontifical Council for the Laity has the responsibility of assisting the Pope in his dealings with the laity in lay ecclesial movements or individually, and their contributions to the Church. This office is vacant due to the resignation of Benedict XVI.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is a pontifical council of the Roman Curia dedicated chiefly to the promotion of dialogue and unity with other Christian churches and ecclesial communities, but also, through a closely linked specific commission, to advancing religious relations with Jews.
The Pontifical Council for the Family is part of the Curia of the Roman Catholic Church. It was established by Pope John Paul II on 9 May 1981 with the Motu Proprio Familia a Deo Instituta and substituted for the Committee for the Family of Pope Paul VI, which had been established in 1973. The Council "promotes the pastoral care of families, protects their rights and dignity in the Church and in civil society, so that they may ever be more able to fulfill their duties."
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is a part of the Roman Curia dedicated to "action-oriented studies" for the international promotion of justice, peace, and human rights from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church. To this end, it cooperates with various religious institutes and advocacy groups, as well as scholarly, ecumenical, and international organizations.
The Pontifical Council Cor Unum for Human and Christian Development is part of the Curia of the Catholic Church. It was established by Pope Paul VI on 15 July 1971 and is based in the Palazzo San Callisto, in Piazza San Callisto, Rome. Its mission is "the care of the Catholic Church for the needy, thereby encouraging human fellowship and making manifest the charity of Christ", and it undertakes this mission by carrying out humanitarian relief operations following disasters, fostering charity, and encouraging cooperation and coordination of other Catholic organizations.
The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants (Pontificium Consilium de Spirituali Migrantium atque Itinerantium Cura) is a dicastery of the Roman Curia. The Council, established by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988, is dedicated to the spiritual welfare of migrants and itinerant people.
The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers was set up by the Motu Proprio Dolentium Hominum of 11 February 1985, by Pope John Paul II who reformed the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers into its present form in 1988. This office is vacant due to the resignation of Benedict XVI. The apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus describes the work of the council as
The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts is part of the Roman Curia. Its work "consists mainly in interpreting the laws of the Church". (Pastor Bonus, 154). This office is vacant due to the resignation of Benedict XVI.
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is the central office of the Catholic Church for the promotion of interreligious dialogue in accordance with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, in particular the declaration Nostra Aetate. It has the following responsibilities:
The Pontifical Council for Culture (Latin: Pontificium Consilium de Cultura) is a Pontifical Council of the Roman Catholic Church with a mission to oversee the relationship of the Catholic Church with different cultures. The Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers was merged with the Pontifical Council for Culture in 1993. On 30 July 2012, Pope Benedict XVI united the Council with the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Goods of the Church.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications (Pontificium Consilium de Communicationibus Socialibus) is a dicastery of the Roman Curia. Established by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988, it is responsible for using the various forms of the media in spreading the Gospel.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization is a pontifical council of the Roman Curia dedicated to catechetics and promoting the faith in parts of the world ("the West") where Christianity is well-established but is being affected by secularism.
The Synod of Bishops was formed during the Second Vatican Council, introduced by the decree Christus Dominus. It is an advisory body of the Pope, whose members are elected by bishops from around the world. The Pope serves as its president or appoints its president, determines its agenda, summons, suspends, and dissolves the synod, and can also appoint additional members to it (can. 344). Members of the synod express their opinions on matters on an individual basis (i.e., no decrees or resolutions are issued by the synod), but the Pope, at his option, can grant it that power, in which case its decrees or resolutions are approved and promulgated by him alone (can. 343). The Synod of Bishops is suspended when the Holy See is vacant.
The Holy See's financial authorities are made up of three Offices.
The Apostolic Camera, or in Latin (Reverenda) Camera Apostolica or Apostolica Camera, is the central board of finance in the Papal administrative system, which at one time was of great importance in the government of the States of the Church, and in the administration of justice, led by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See is part of the Roman Curia that deals with the "properties owned by the Holy See in order to provide the funds necessary for the Roman Curia to function". (Pastor Bonus, 172). It was established by Pope Paul VI on 15 August 1967. This office is vacant due to the resignation of Benedict XVI. Cardinals Attilio Nicora, Lorenzo Antonetti and Agostino Cacciavillan are former Presidents. It is composed of two sections. The Ordinary Section continues the work of the Administration of the Property of the Holy See, a commission to which Pope Leo XIII entrusted the administration of the property remaining to the Holy See after the complete loss of the Papal States in 1870. The Extraordinary Section administers the funds given by the Italian government to implement the Financial Convention attached to the Lateran Treaty of 1929. These funds were previously managed by the Special Administration of the Holy See.
The Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, is an office of the Roman Curia, erected on 15 August 1967, and entrusted with overseeing all the offices of the Holy See that manage finances, regardless of their degree of autonomy. It does not manage finances itself, but instead audits the balance sheets and budgets of the offices that do. It then prepares and publishes annually a general financial report. It must be consulted on all projects of major importance undertaken by the offices in question.
The Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church is an institution that guards the historical and artistic patrimony of the entire Church which includes works of art, historical documents, books, everything kept in museums as well as the libraries and archives.
The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei is a commission of the Roman Catholic Church established by Pope John Paul II's motu proprio Ecclesia Dei of 2 July 1988 for the care of those former followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who broke with him as a result of his consecration of four priests of his Society of St. Pius X as bishops on 30 June 1988, an act the Holy See deemed illicit and schismatic. On 2 July 2009 this commission was closely linked with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose Prefect is now ex officio President of the commission, which however maintains its separate identity.
The Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology was created by Pius IX (6 January 1852) "to take care of the ancient sacred cemeteries, look after their preventive preservation, further explorations, research and study, and also safeguard the oldest mementos of the early Christian centuries, the outstanding monuments and venerable Basilicas in Rome, in the Roman suburbs and soil, and in the other Dioceses in agreement with the respective Ordinaries". Pius XI made the Commission pontifical and expanded its powers.
The International Theological Commission (ITC) is a dicastery of the Roman Curia consisting of 30 Catholic theologians from around the world. Its function is to advise the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) of the Roman Catholic Church. The Prefect of the CDF is ex officio the president of the ITC, which is based in Rome.
An example of a temporary commission set up to deal with a matter involving the work of several departments of the Roman Curia was the Interdicasterial Commission for the Catechism of the Catholic Church instituted in 1993 to prepare the definitive text in Latin of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Its secretariat was in the building that houses the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It produced the Latin editio typica of the Catechism four years later, in 1997.
The Annuario Pontificio lists five interdicasterial commissions of longer duration. An example is the Standing Interdicasterial Commission for the Church in Eastern Europe, which replaced the earlier Pontifical Commission for Russia. Set up by Pope John Paul II by a motu proprio of 15 January 1993, it is presided over by the Cardinal Secretary of State and includes also the Secretary and the Undersecretary for Relations with States, and the Secretaries of the Congregations for the Eastern Churches, for the Clergy, and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The Pontifical Commission for Latin America is a dicastery of the Roman Curia. Established by Pope Pius XII on 19 April 1958, it is charged with providing assistance to and examining matters pertaining to the Church in Latin America. The Commission operates under the auspices of the Congregation for Bishops.
The "Corps of the Pontifical Swiss Guard" or "Swiss Guard" (Ger: Schweizergarde, Ital. Guardia Svizzera Pontificia, Lat. Pontificia Cohors Helvetica, or Cohors Pedestris Helvetiorum a Sacra Custodia Pontificis) is a small force responsible for the safety of the Pope since 1506, including the security of the Apostolic Palace and access to the entrances to the Vatican City. Its official language is Swiss German. It serves as the de facto, if not de jure, military of the Vatican City. As of 2003, it consists of 134 professional soldiers.
The Labour Office of the Apostolic See is responsible for labour relations of the Holy See with its employees. The office also settles labour issues which arise. It was instituted by Pope John Paul II on 1 January 1989 by an apostolic letter in the form of a motu proprio.
Founded under the title Collegium Cultorum Martyrum, in 1879, the Pontifical Academy of Martyrs promotes devotion to them, enhances and deepens the exact history of the witnesses of the faith, and monuments related to them, from the first centuries of Christianity.
The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (Pontificia Ecclesiastica Academia) is dedicated to training priests to serve in the diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State of the Holy See. The diplomatic service of the Holy See can be traced back to the First Council of Nicaea when Pope Sylvester I sent legates to represent him during the discussions of the council. The present Academy was created as the Pontifical Academy of Ecclesiastical Nobles in 1701 by the abbot Pietro Garagni.
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences was founded by the Roman Catholic Church in 1936 under its current name by Pope Pius XI and is placed under the protection of the reigning Pope. Its aim is to promote the progress of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences and the study of related epistemological problems. The Academy has its origins in the Accademia dei Lincei ("Academy of Lynxes") established in Rome in 1603, under Pope Clement VIII by the learned Roman prince, Federico Cesi (1585–1630), who was a young botanist and naturalist, and which claimed Galileo Galilei as its president. The current president is the microbiologist Werner Arber. The Academy is headquartered in the Casina Pio IV at the heart of the Vatican Gardens. The academy holds a membership roster of the most respected names in 20th century science, including Stephen Hawking and many nobel laureates such as Charles Hard Townes.
The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences was established by Pope John Paul II on 1 January 1994 (AAS 86 , 213), with the aim of promoting the study and progress of the social sciences, primarily economics, sociology, law and political science. The Academy, through an appropriate dialogue, thus offers the Church the elements which she can use in the development of her social doctrine, and reflects on the application of that doctrine in contemporary society. The Academy, which is autonomous, maintains a close relationship with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.