CODE OF CANON LAW
BOOK II. THE PEOPLE OF GOD
PART II. THE HIERARCHICAL CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH
SECTION II. PARTICULAR CHURCHES AND THEIR GROUPINGS
AND THE AUTHORITY ESTABLISHED IN THEM (Cann. 368 - 430)
Can. 368 Particular churches, in which and from which the
one and only Catholic Church exists, are first of all dioceses, to which, unless
it is otherwise evident, are likened a territorial prelature and territorial
abbacy, an apostolic vicariate and an apostolic prefecture, and an apostolic
administration erected in a stable manner.
Can. 369 A diocese is a portion of the people of God which
is entrusted to a bishop for him to shepherd with the cooperation of the
presbyterium, so that, adhering to its pastor and gathered by him in the Holy
Spirit through the gospel and the Eucharist, it constitutes a particular church
in which the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ is truly
present and operative.
Can. 370 A territorial prelature or territorial abbacy is a
certain portion of the people of God which is defined territorially and whose
care, due to special circumstances, is entrusted to some prelate or abbot who
governs it as its proper pastor just like a diocesan bishop.
Can. 371 §1. An apostolic vicariate or apostolic prefecture
is a certain portion of the people of God which has not yet been established as
a diocese due to special circumstances and which, to be shepherded, is entrusted
to an apostolic vicar or apostolic prefect who governs it in the name of the
§2. An apostolic administration is a certain portion of the
people of God which is not erected as a diocese by the Supreme Pontiff due to
special and particularly grave reasons and whose pastoral care is entrusted to
an apostolic administrator who governs it in the name of the Supreme Pontiff.
Can. 372 §1. As a rule, a portion of the people of God
which constitutes a diocese or other particular church is limited to a definite
territory so that it includes all the faithful living in the territory.
§2. Nevertheless, where in the judgment of the supreme
authority of the Church it seems advantageous after the conferences of bishops
concerned have been heard, particular churches distinguished by the rite of the
faithful or some other similar reason can be erected in the same territory.
Can. 373 It is only for the supreme authority to erect
particular churches; those legitimately erected possess juridic personality by
the law itself.
Can. 374 §1. Every diocese or other particular church is to
be divided into distinct parts or parishes.
§2. To foster pastoral care through common action, several
neighboring parishes can be joined into special groups, such as vicariates
BISHOPS IN GENERAL
Can. 375 §1. Bishops, who by divine institution succeed to
the place of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who has been given to them,
are constituted pastors in the Church, so that they are teachers of doctrine,
priests of sacred worship, and ministers of governance.
§2. Through episcopal consecration itself, bishops receive
with the function of sanctifying also the functions of teaching and governing;
by their nature, however, these can only be exercised in hierarchical communion
with the head and members of the college.
Can. 376 Bishops to whom the care of some diocese is
entrusted are called diocesan; others are called titular.
Can. 377 §1. The Supreme Pontiff freely appoints bishops or
confirms those legitimately elected.
§2. At least every three years, bishops of an
ecclesiastical province or, where circumstances suggest it, of a conference of
bishops, are in common counsel and in secret to compose a list of presbyters,
even including members of institutes of consecrated life, who are more suitable
for the episcopate. They are to send it to the Apostolic See, without prejudice
to the right of each bishop individually to make known to the Apostolic See the
names of presbyters whom he considers worthy of and suited to the episcopal
§3. Unless it is legitimately established otherwise,
whenever a diocesan or coadjutor bishop must be appointed, as regards what is
called the ternus to be proposed to the Apostolic See, the pontifical legate is
to seek individually and to communicate to the Apostolic See together with his
own opinion the suggestions of the metropolitan and suffragans of the province
to which the diocese to be provided for belongs or with which it is joined in
some grouping, and the suggestions of the president of the conference of bishops.
The pontifical legate, moreover, is to hear some members of the college of
consultors and cathedral chapter and, if he judges it expedient, is also to seek
individually and in secret the opinion of others from both the secular and
non-secular clergy and from laity outstanding in wisdom.
§4. Unless other provision has been legitimately made, a
diocesan bishop who judges that an auxiliary should be given to his diocese is
to propose to the Apostolic See a list of at least three presbyters more
suitable for this office.
§5. In the future, no rights and privileges of election,
nomination, presentation, or designation of bishops are granted to civil
Can. 378 §1. In regard to the suitability of a candidate
for the episcopacy, it is required that he is:
1/ outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for
souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues, and endowed with other qualities
which make him suitable to fulfill the office in question;
2/ of good reputation;
3/ at least thirty-Five years old;
4/ ordained to the presbyterate for at least Five years;
5/ in possession of a doctorate or at least a licentiate in
sacred scripture, theology, or canon law from an institute of higher studies
approved by the Apostolic See, or at least truly expert in the same disciplines.
§2. The definitive judgment concerning the suitability of
the one to be promoted pertains to the Apostolic See.
Can. 379 Unless he is prevented by a legitimate impediment,
whoever has been promoted to the episcopacy must receive episcopal consecration
within three months from the receipt of the apostolic letter and before he takes
possession of his office.
Can. 380 Before he takes canonical possession of his
office, the one promoted is to make the profession of faith and take the oath of
fidelity to the Apostolic See according to the formula approved by the Apostolic
Can. 381 §1. A diocesan bishop in the diocese entrusted to
him has all ordinary, proper, and immediate power which is required for the
exercise of his pastoral function except for cases which the law or a decree of
the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme authority or to another
§2. Those who preside over the other communities of the
faithful mentioned in ⇒ can.
368 are equivalent in law to a diocesan bishop unless it is otherwise apparent
from the nature of the matter or from a prescript of law.
Can. 382 §1. One promoted as bishop cannot assume the
exercise of the office entrusted to him before he has taken canonical possession
of the diocese. Nevertheless, he is able to exercise offices which he already
had in the same diocese at the time of promotion, without prejudice to the
prescript of ⇒ can.
§2. Unless he is prevented by a legitimate impediment, one
promoted to the office of diocesan bishop must take canonical possession of his
diocese within four months of receipt of the apostolic letter if he has not
already been consecrated a bishop; if he has already been consecrated, within
two months from receipt of this letter.
§3. A bishop takes canonical possession of a diocese when
he personally or through a proxy has shown the apostolic letter in the same
diocese to the college of consultors in the presence of the chancellor of the
curia, who records the event. In newly erected dioceses, he takes canonical
possession when he has seen to the communication of the same letter to the
clergy and people present in the cathedral church, with the senior presbyter
among those present recording the event.
§4. It is strongly recommended that the taking of canonical
possession be done within a liturgical act in the cathedral church with the
clergy and people gathered together.
Can. 383 §1. In exercising the function of a pastor, a
diocesan bishop is to show himself concerned for all the Christian faithful
entrusted to his care, of whatever age, condition, or nationality they are,
whether living in the territory or staying there temporarily; he is also to
extend an apostolic spirit to those who are not able to make sufficient use of
ordinary pastoral care because of the condition of their life and to those who
no longer practice their religion.
§2. If he has faithful of a different rite in his diocese,
he is to provide for their spiritual needs either through priests or parishes of
the same rite or through an episcopal vicar.
§3. He is to act with humanity and charity toward the
brothers and sisters who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church and
is to foster ecumenism as it is understood by the Church.
§4. He is to consider the non-baptized as committed to him
in the Lord, so that there shines on them the charity of Christ whose witness a
bishop must be before all people.
Can. 384 With special solicitude, a diocesan bishop is to
attend to presbyters and listen to them as assistants and counselors. He is to
protect their rights and take care that they correctly fulfill the obligations
proper to their state and that the means and institutions which they need to
foster spiritual and intellectual life are available to them.
He also is to take care that provision is made for their
decent support and social assistance, according to the norm of law.
Can. 385 As much as possible, a diocesan bishop is to
foster vocations to different ministries and to consecrated life, with special
care shown for priestly and missionary vocations.
Can. 386 §1. A diocesan bishop, frequently preaching in
person, is bound to propose and explain to the faithful the truths of the faith
which are to be believed and applied to morals. He is also to take care that the
prescripts of the canons on the ministry of the word, especially those on the
homily and catechetical instruction, are carefully observed so that the whole
Christian doctrine is handed on to all.
§2. Through more suitable means, he is firmly to protect
the integrity and unity of the faith to be believed, while nonetheless
acknowledging a just freedom in further investigating its truths.
Can. 387 Since the diocesan bishop is mindful of his
obligation to show an example of holiness in charity, humility, and simplicity
of life, he is to strive to promote in every way the holiness of the Christian
faithful according to the proper vocation of each. Since he is the principal
dispenser of the mysteries of God, he is to endeavor constantly that the
Christian faithful entrusted to his care grow in grace through the celebration
of the sacraments and that they understand and live the paschal mystery.
Can. 388 §1. After the diocesan bishop has taken possession
of the diocese, he must apply a Mass for the people entrusted to him each Sunday
and on the other holy days of obligation in his region.
§2. The bishop himself must personally celebrate and apply
a Mass for the people on the days mentioned in §1. If he is legitimately impeded
from this celebration, however, he is to apply the Masses either on the same
days through another or on other days himself.
§3. A bishop to whom other dioceses besides his own have
been entrusted, even under title of administration, satisfies the obligation by
applying one Mass for all the people entrusted to him.
§4. A bishop who has not satisfied the obligation mentioned
in §§1-3 is to apply as soon as possible as many Masses for the people as he has
Can. 389 He is frequently to preside at the celebration of
the Most Holy Eucharist in the cathedral church or another church of his diocese,
especially on holy days of obligation and other solemnities.
Can. 390 A diocesan bishop can perform pontifical functions
in his entire diocese but not outside his own diocese without the express, or at
least reasonably presumed, consent of the local ordinary.
Can. 391 §1. It is for the diocesan bishop to govern the
particular church entrusted to him with legislative, executive, and judicial
power according to the norm of law.
§2. The bishop exercises legislative power himself. He
exercises executive power either personally or through vicars general or
episcopal vicars according to the norm of law. He exercises judicial power
either personally or through the judicial vicar and judges according to the norm
Can. 392 §1. Since he must protect the unity of the
universal Church, a bishop is bound to promote the common discipline of the
whole Church and therefore to urge the observance of all ecclesiastical laws.
§2. He is to exercise vigilance so that abuses do not creep
into ecclesiastical discipline, especially regarding the ministry of the word,
the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the
veneration of the saints, and the administration of goods.
Can. 393 The diocesan bishop represents his diocese in all
its juridic affairs.
Can. 394 §1. A bishop is to foster various forms of the
apostolate in the diocese and is to take care that in the entire diocese or in
its particular districts, all the works of the apostolate are coordinated under
his direction, with due regard for the proper character of each.
§2. He is to insist upon the duty which binds the faithful
to exercise the apostolate according to each one’s condition and ability and is
to exhort them to participate in and assist the various works of the apostolate
according to the needs of place and time.
Can. 395 §1. Even if a diocesan bishop has a coadjutor or
auxiliary, he is bound by the law of personal residence in the diocese.
§2. Apart from ad limina visits, councils, synods of
bishops, conferences of bishops which he must attend, or some other duty
legitimately entrusted to him, he can be absent from his diocese for a
reasonable cause but not beyond a month, whether continuous or interrupted, and
provided that he makes provision so that the diocese will suffer no detriment
from his absence.
§3. He is not to be absent from the diocese on Christmas,
during Holy Week, and on Easter, Pentecost, and the Feast of the Body and Blood
of Christ, except for a grave and urgent cause.
§4. If a bishop has been illegitimately absent from the
diocese for more than six months, the metropolitan is to inform the Apostolic
See of his absence; if it concerns the metropolitan, the senior suffragan is to
Can. 396 §1. A bishop is obliged to visit the diocese
annually either in whole or in part, so that he visits the entire diocese at
least every Five years either personally or, if he has been legitimately impeded,
through the coadjutor bishop, an auxiliary, vicar general, episcopal vicar, or
§2. A bishop is permitted to choose the clerics he prefers
as companions and assistants on a visitation; any contrary privilege or custom
Can. 397 §1. Persons, Catholic institutions, and sacred
things and places, which are located within the area of the diocese, are subject
to ordinary episcopal visitation.
§2. A bishop can visit members of religious institutes of
pontifical right and their houses only in the cases expressed in law.
Can. 398 A bishop is to strive to complete the pastoral
visitation with due diligence. He is to take care that he does not burden or
impose a hardship on anyone through unnecessary expenses.
Can. 399 §1. Every Five years a diocesan bishop is bound to
make a report to the Supreme Pontiff on the state of the diocese entrusted to
him, according to the form and time determined by the Apostolic See.
§2. If the year determined for submitting a report falls
entirely or in part within the first two years of his governance of a diocese, a
bishop can refrain from making and submitting his report on this one occasion.
Can. 400 §1. Unless the Apostolic See has established
otherwise, during the year in which he is bound to submit a report to the
Supreme Pontiff, a diocesan bishop is to go to Rome to venerate the tombs of the
Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul and to present himself to the Roman Pontiff.
§2. A bishop is to satisfy the above-mentioned obligation
personally unless he is legitimately impeded. In that case, he is to satisfy it
through his coadjutor, if he has one, or auxiliary, or a suitable priest of his
presbyterium who resides in his diocese.
§3. An apostolic vicar can satisfy this obligation through
a proxy, even one living in Rome. This obligation does not bind an apostolic
Can. 401 §1. A diocesan bishop who has completed the
seventy-fifth year of age is requested to present his resignation from office to
the Supreme Pontiff, who will make provision after he has examined all the
§2. A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill
his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly
requested to present his resignation from office.
Can. 402 §1. A bishop whose resignation from office has
been accepted retains the title of emeritus of his diocese and can retain a
place of residence in that diocese if he so desires, unless in certain cases the
Apostolic See provides otherwise because of special circumstances.
§2. The conference of bishops must take care that suitable
and decent support is provided for a retired bishop, with attention given to the
primary obligation which binds the diocese he has served.
COADJUTOR AND AUXILIARY BISHOPS
Can. 403 §1. When the pastoral needs of a diocese suggest
it, one or more auxiliary bishops are to be appointed at the request of the
diocesan bishop. An auxiliary bishop does not possess the right of succession.
§2. In more serious circumstances, even of a personal
nature, an auxiliary bishop provided with special faculties can be given to a
§3. If it appears more opportune to the Holy See, it can
appoint ex officio a coadjutor bishop who also has special faculties. A
coadjutor bishop possesses the right of succession.
Can. 404 §1. A coadjutor bishop takes possession of his
office when he, either personally or through a proxy, has shown the apostolic
letter of appointment to the diocesan bishop and college of consultors in the
presence of the chancellor of the curia, who records the event.
§2. An auxiliary bishop takes possession of his office when
he has shown the apostolic letter of appointment to the diocesan bishop in the
presence of the chancellor of the curia, who records the event.
§3. If the diocesan bishop is completely impeded, however,
it suffices that both the coadjutor bishop and the auxiliary bishop show the
apostolic letter of appointment to the college of consultors in the presence of
the chancellor of the curia.
Can. 405 §1. A coadjutor bishop and an auxiliary bishop
have the obligations and rights which are determined in the prescripts of the
following canons and are defined in the letter of their appointment.
§2. A coadjutor bishop and the auxiliary bishop mentioned in can.
403, §2 assist the diocesan bishop in the entire governance of the diocese and
take his place if he is absent or impeded.
Can. 406 §1. The diocesan bishop is to appoint a coadjutor
bishop and the auxiliary bishop mentioned in can.
403, §2 as vicar general. Moreover, the diocesan bishop is to entrust to him
before others those things which by law require a special mandate.
§2. Unless the apostolic letter has provided otherwise and
without prejudice to the provision of §1, a diocesan bishop is to appoint his
auxiliary or auxiliaries as vicars general or at least as episcopal vicars,
dependent only on his authority or that of the coadjutor bishop or auxiliary
bishop mentioned in can.
Can. 407 §1. In order to foster the present and future good
of the diocese as much as possible, a diocesan bishop, a coadjutor, and the
auxiliary mentioned in can.
403, §2 are to consult one another on matters of major importance.
§2. In considering cases of major importance, especially of
a pastoral character, a diocesan bishop is to wish to consult the auxiliary
bishops before others.
§3. Since a coadjutor bishop and an auxiliary bishop are
called to share in the solicitude of the diocesan bishop, they are to exercise
their duties in such a way that they proceed in harmony with him in effort and
Can. 408 §1. A coadjutor bishop and an auxiliary bishop who
are not prevented by a just impediment are obliged to perform pontificals and
other functions to which the diocesan bishop is bound whenever the diocesan
bishop requires it.
§2. A diocesan bishop is not to entrust habitually to
another the episcopal rights and functions which a coadjutor or auxiliary bishop
Can. 409 §1. When the episcopal see is vacant, the
coadjutor bishop immediately becomes the bishop of the diocese for which he had
been appointed provided that he has legitimately taken possession of it.
§2. When the episcopal see is vacant and unless competent
authority has established otherwise, an auxiliary bishop preserves all and only
those powers and faculties which he possessed as vicar general or episcopal
vicar while the see was filled until a new bishop has taken possession of the
see. If he has not been designated to the function of diocesan administrator, he
is to exercise this same power, conferred by law, under the authority of the
diocesan administrator who presides over the governance of the diocese.
Can. 410 Like the diocesan bishop, a coadjutor bishop and
an auxiliary bishop are obliged to reside in the diocese.
Except for a brief time, they are not to be absent from it
other than to fulfill some duty outside the diocese or for vacation, which is
not to exceed one month.
Can. 411 The prescripts of cann. 401 and 402,
§2 on resignation from office apply to a coadjutor and auxiliary bishop.
THE IMPEDED SEE AND THE VACANT SEE
THE IMPEDED SEE
Can. 412 An episcopal see is understood to be impeded if by
reason of captivity, banishment, exile, or incapacity a diocesan bishop is
clearly prevented from fulfilling his pastoral function in the diocese, so that
he is not able to communicate with those in his diocese even by letter.
Can. 413 §1. When a see is impeded, the coadjutor bishop,
if there is one, has governance of the diocese unless the Holy See has provided
otherwise. If there is none or he is impeded, governance passes to an auxiliary
bishop, the vicar general, an episcopal vicar, or another priest, following the
order of persons established in the list which the diocesan bishop is to draw up
as soon as possible after taking possession of the diocese. The list, which must
be communicated to the metropolitan, is to be renewed at least every three years
and preserved in secret by the chancellor.
§2. If there is no coadjutor bishop or he is impeded and
the list mentioned in §1 is not available, it is for the college of consultors
to select a priest to govern the diocese.
§3. The one who has assumed the governance of a diocese
according to the norm of §§1 or 2 is to advise the Holy See as soon as possible
of the impeded see and the function he has assumed.
Can. 414 Whoever has been called according to the norm of can.
413 to exercise the pastoral care of a diocese temporarily and only for the
period in which the see is impeded is bound by the obligations and possesses the
power in the exercise of the pastoral care of the diocese which a diocesan
administrator has by law.
Can. 415 If an ecclesiastical penalty prevents a diocesan
bishop from exercising his function, the metropolitan or, if there is none or it
concerns him, the suffragan senior in promotion, is to have recourse immediately
to the Holy See so that it will make provision.
THE VACANT SEE
Can. 416 An episcopal see is vacant upon the death of a
diocesan bishop, resignation accepted by the Roman Pontiff, transfer, or
privation made known to the bishop.
Can. 417 Everything that a vicar general or episcopal vicar
does has force until they have received certain notice of the death of the
diocesan bishop. Likewise, everything that a diocesan bishop, a vicar general,
or an episcopal vicar does has force until they have received certain notice of
the above-mentioned pontifical acts.
Can. 418 §1. Upon certain notice of transfer, a bishop must
claim the diocese to which he has been transferred (ad quam) and take
canonical possession of it within two months. On the day that he takes
possession of the new diocese, however, the diocese from which he has
been transferred (a qua) is vacant.
§2. Upon certain notice of transfer until the canonical
possession of the new diocese, a transferred bishop in the diocese from which he
has been transferred:
1/ obtains the power of a diocesan administrator and is
bound by the obligations of the same; all power of the vicar general and
episcopal vicar ceases, without prejudice to can.
2/ receives the entire remuneration proper to this office.
Can. 419 When a see is vacant and until the designation of
a diocesan administrator, the governance of a diocese devolves upon the
auxiliary bishop or, if there are several, upon the one who is senior in
promotion. If there is no auxiliary bishop, however, it devolves upon the
college of consultors unless the Holy See has provided otherwise.
The one who so assumes governance of the diocese is to
convoke without delay the college competent to designate a diocesan
Can. 420 When the see is vacant in an apostolic vicariate
or prefecture, the governance is assumed by the pro-vicar or pro-prefect,
appointed only for this purpose by the vicar or prefect immediately after the
vicar or prefect has taken possession of the vicariate or prefecture, unless the
Holy See has established otherwise.
Can. 421 §1. The college of consultors must elect a
diocesan administrator, namely the one who is to govern the diocese temporarily,
within eight days from receiving notice of the vacancy of an episcopal see and
without prejudice to the prescript of can.
§2. If a diocesan administrator has not been elected
legitimately within the prescribed time for whatever cause, his designation
devolves upon the metropolitan, and if the metropolitan church itself is vacant
or both the metropolitan and the suffragan churches are vacant, it devolves upon
the suffragan bishop senior in promotion.
Can. 422 An auxiliary bishop or, if there is none, the
college of consultors is to inform the Apostolic See of the death of a bishop as
soon as possible. The one elected as diocesan administrator is to do the same
concerning his own election.
Can. 423 §1. One diocesan administrator is to be
designated; any contrary custom is reprobated. Otherwise, the election is
§2. A diocesan administrator is not to be the finance
officer at the same time. Therefore, if the Finance officer of the diocese has
been elected as administrator, the Finance council is to elect a temporary
Can. 424 A diocesan administrator is to be elected
according to the norm of cann.
Can. 425 §1. Only a priest who has completed thirty-Five
years of age and has not already been elected, appointed, or presented for the
same vacant see can be designated validly to the function of diocesan
§2. A priest who is outstanding in doctrine and prudence is
to be elected as diocesan administrator.
§3. If the conditions previously mentioned in §1 have been
neglected, the metropolitan or, if the metropolitan church itself is vacant, the
suffragan bishop senior in promotion, after he has ascertained the truth of the
matter, is to designate an administrator in his place. The acts of the one who
was elected contrary to the prescripts of §1, however, are null by the law
Can. 426 When a see is vacant, the person who is to govern
the diocese before the designation of a diocesan administrator possesses the
power which the law grants to a vicar general.
Can. 427 §1. A diocesan administrator is bound by the
obligations and possesses the power of a diocesan bishop, excluding those
matters which are excepted by their nature or by the law itself.
§2. When he has accepted election, the diocesan
administrator obtains power and no other confirmation is required, without
prejudice to the obligation mentioned in can.
833, n. 4.
Can. 428 §1. When a see is vacant, nothing is to be altered.
§2. Those who temporarily care for the governance of the
diocese are forbidden to do anything which can be prejudicial in some way to the
diocese or episcopal rights. They, and consequently all others, are specifically
prohibited, whether personally or through another, from removing or destroying
any documents of the diocesan curia or from changing anything in them.
Can. 429 A diocesan administrator is obliged to reside in
the diocese and to apply Mass for the people according to the norm of can.
Can. 430 §1. The function of a diocesan administrator
ceases when the new bishop has taken possession of the diocese.
§2. The removal of a diocesan administrator is reserved to
the Holy See. If an administrator resigns, the resignation must be presented in
authentic form to the college competent to elect, but it does not need
If a diocesan administrator has been removed, resigns, or
dies, another diocesan administrator is to be elected according to the norm of can.