In exercising its power, 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.
Offices & Congregations, Tribunals, and Papal Councils
These offices assist the Holy Father in managing the religious affairs of the Church. The major Curial offices are established through long tradition and confirmed in the Apostolic Constitution of 1998 “Pastor Bonus Constitutio Apostolica de Romana Curia.” With the exception of some very minor updates in names, etc., they remain substantially the same.
Offices & Congregations
The Secretariat of State This is the office that most closely assists the Holy Father in carrying out his major administrative functions in the Church. It is divided into two sections. The first, or “General Affairs” section, deals with a wide-ranging variety of matters, particularly those related to the affairs of the Church throughout the world. The “Second” section is the section for “Relations With States,” and does most of the Holy See’s diplomatic work. The Secretariat is led by the Secretary of State of the Vatican City State. Principal Officers of the First Section include:
Principal Officers of the Second Section include:
- Secretary President
Each Congregation, unless otherwise noted, is headed by a Cardinal Prefect
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith This Congregation is charged with maintaining the vitality and purity of the doctrine of faith throughout the world. This is the office that studies, validates, and/or formulates doctrine based on matters arising from developments in science and culture, and reproves doctrines opposed to the principles of the faith.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints This office is competent in all matters associated with the process of Beatification or Canonization of the Servants of God, and the Preservation of Relics.
The Congregation for the Variant Churches Matters pertaining to Churches of variant rite within the Communion of the Catholic Church (formerly, “Oriental Churches”) are under the jurisdiction of this Congregation. It supervises and assists the hierarchies of the variant churches in matters of persons, discipline, and rites.
The Congregation for Bishops This is the Congregation that deals with the constitution, organization, and provision of particular Churches—that is, how they will be composed in terms of regions, provinces, diocese, etc., how many Bishops will be required to serve them, and other administrative matters. It supervises the episcopal function in all Latin Churches except those under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. This congregation provides for the naming of bishops in all contexts—diocesan, auxiliary, coadjutant, and prelacies for special pastoral ministries.
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments This Congregation deals with the promotion and moderation of the liturgy and sacraments, in conjunction with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It safeguards the discipline of the sacraments and what constitutes licit and valid celebration or administration thereof, and has particular responsibilities in connection with the nonconsummation of marriage, the obligations connected with major orders, and the validity of ordination. This Congregation is headed by a Pro-Prefect.
The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Formerly, for Propagation of the Faith.) The work of missionary cooperation and the evangelization of peoples is directed by this Congregation, and Churches in territories subject to it rely on this Congregation to provide many of the functions (such as diocesan organization, development of clergy, etc.,) that are performed by other Congregations for Latin Churches not under missionary status.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life The forms of consecrated life and apostolic life (Orders) come under the jurisdiction of this Congregation. It deals with matters pertaining to Religious and Secular Institutes and various societies of common life and Third orders.
The Congregation for the Clergy “With due regard to the rights of bishops and their processes,” this Congregation is charged with matters dealing with priests and deacons of the secular clergy, providing support and administrative functions for a wide variety of pastoral activities including pastoral catechetical education, religious instruction, and the preservation and administration of the temporal goods of Churches that are not subject to other Congregations. This Congregation is headed by a Prefect.
The Congregation for Catholic Education This Congregation oversees the direction, discipline, and temporal administration of seminaries, secular institutes, Catholic Colleges and Universities, parochial and diocesan schools, and all other institutes of education that depend upon the authority of the Church. This Congregation is headed by a Prefect.
Apostolic Penitentiary This tribunal deals with matters of conscience, the formation, training, and appointment of confessors within the clerical hierarchy, matters of indulgences, etc. Principal Officers include:
- Major Penitentiary
Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura Authoritative in judging matters assigned to it under the Code of Canon Law. It is the Supreme Tribunal, prorogues the competence of other Tribunals, supervises the proper administration of justice; and provides for the establishment of regional and interregional tribunals. It enjoys the rights assigned to it in concordats between the Holy See and the various nations. Essentially, this is the “Supreme Court” of the Vatican. Principal Officers include:
Tribunal of the Roman Rota Popularly known as the “marriage court,” due to its function as the court of first instance for matters pertaining to nullity of marriage, that is a large through not comprehensive part of the Rota’s duties. It also exercises jurisdiction over the safeguarding of rights within the church and the uniform administration of jurisprudence. Principal Officers include:
All Councils, unless otherwise noted, are headed by Presidents.
Pontifical Council for the Laity: Deals with promoting and coordinating the lay apostolate.
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: Deals with initiatives and ecumenical activities for promoting unity among Christians. Also competent for religious relations with Judaism.
Pontifical Council for InterReligious Dialogue: Fosters and moderates relations with members and bodies of religious who are not Christian, and undertakes initiatives to bring about mutual respect and dialogue.
Pontifical Council for the Family: Promotes pastoral care of families and fosters their rights and dignity within the Church.
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: Promotes justice and peace internationally in accordance with the gospel and social teachings of the Church. The Office for Social Communications was folded into this Council during the Papacy of Sixtus VI.
Pontifical Council Cor Unum: Specifically concerned with administering the solicitude of the Church to the needy, to foster human fraternity and manifest the charity of Christ.
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People: This includes care for refugees and stateless people as well as displaced or trans-national peoples.
Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers: Aids those who carry out the ministry of mercy to the sick, including responding to new and emerging needs and challenges.
In addition to the plethora of offices and departments and councils dealing specifically with Papal business, the Vatican includes dozens of other institutions connected with the Faith, including:
The College of Cardinals The College has its own offices and business in the Vatican, dealing mainly with matters of the Cardinals’ appointments, working with the Pope to arrange Consistory meetings, ceremonies, etc. The principal officers are:
- Camerarius (or Camerlengo) of the College (distinct from the Camerlengo of the Church)
The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops This is the permanent office of the Synod and manages the Synod’s business between meetings, which are not held very often. The Secretariat is a Council of twelve bishops elected by their peers, and three appointed by the Pope headed by a President elected from among their number.
Colleges and Seminaries Rome is stiff with institutions for educating Catholics and training Catholic Clergy, including:
- Pontifical Roman Major Seminary
- Pontifical Roman Minor Seminary
- French Seminary (Pontifical)
- Lombard Seminary of SS. Ambrose and Charles (Pontifical))Founded in 1863.
- Armenian College (Pontifical)
- Beda College (Pontifical)
- Belgian College (Pontifical)
- Capranica College (Almo)
- Ethiopian College (Pontifical)
- GermanHungarian College (Pontifical)
- Greek College (Pontifical)
- English College (Venerabile)
- Irish College (Pontifical)
- Lithuanian College (Pontifical)
- Maronite College
- Nepomucene College (Pontifical)
- Philippine College (Pontifical)
- Pius XI Dutch College (Pontifical)
- Brazilian College (Pontifical)
- Latin American College (Pio Latino Americano)(Pontifical)
- Polish College (Pontifical)
- Portuguese College (Pontifical)
- Russian College of S. Theresa of the Child Jesus (Pontifical)
- Ukrainian College of Saint Josephat (Pontifical)
- College of St. Jerome of the Croatians (Pontifical)
- St. Thomas Aquinas
- Scots College (Pontifical)
- Spanish College (Pontifical)
- Teutonic College (S. Maria dell'Anima)
- Teutonic College (S Maria in Camposanto), for the study of Sacred Archaeology and Ecclesiastical History
- Polish Ecclesiastical Institute (Pontifical)
- Pontifical Gregorian University, with which are associated the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute
- Pontifical Lateran University
- Pontifical Ecclesiastical Institute
- Augustinianum Instituto Patristico at the Pontifical Lateran University
- Pontifical Urban University
- Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas
- Pontifical International Institute of St. Anselm
- Pontifical Salesian University
- Pontifical Antonianum Atheneum
- Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music
- Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology
- Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure of the Friars Minor Conventual
- Pontifical Theological Faculty "Teresianum”
- Pontifical Theological Faculty "Marianum”
- Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
Many of these colleges and universities are very old, the oldest being Capranica, founded by Cardinal Capranica in 1457. However, some are also quite recent, and new ones are established regularly. Most of these institutions have a President, Dean, or Rector heading their administrative operations; most of the advances Institutes and Universities also have a Grand Chancellor who is usually a Cardinal.
Religious Orders/General Chapters, etc. Religious orders fall into several categories. The most familiar are monks and nuns, both active (“Mendicant”) orders and cloistered (“Monastic”) orders of celibate clergy living under lifetime vows in a community. However, there are also other varieties of religious order, including missionary orders, Third orders (oblates,) Societies such as the Society of Jesus (“Jesuits,”) Society of Mary (“Marist” and “Marianist,”) Societies of Apostolic Life, and a large range of other affiliated groups officially recognized by the Church. Most of the larger ones maintain an office of their General Chapter in Rome, with a ranking leader or representative doing the Order’s business.
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