For the greater spiritual good of the faithful, eparchial and diocesan Bishops are granted the faculty of imparting the Papal Blessing with the attendant Plenary Indulgence once a year, in the co-cathedral churches which were formerly the cathedrals of eparchies or dioceses that no longer exist as dioceses or eparchies. In no way does this grant diminish the triple concession established by law for each particular Church.
The cathedral church, "with the majesty of its architectural structure, represents the spiritual temple that is built within each soul in the splendour of grace, in accordance with the Apostle's words: "You in fact are the temple of the living God'" (II Cor 6,16). The cathedral is also a powerful symbol of the visible Church of Christ who prays, sings and worships on this earth; that is, it should be seen as an image of the mystical Body whose members are united through charity and nourished by the outpouring of supernatural gifts (cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution, Mirificus eventus, n. 72, 7 December 1965).
It is very profitable for the faithful to feel a special bond of affection for the cathedral church, the most noble seat and symbol of the Bishop's magisterium and liturgical ministry. Indeed, on the one hand, with this religious disposition the faithful express their recognition and veneration for the certain charism of truth (cf. St Irenaeus of Lyons, Ad haereses, Book IV, c. 40,n. 2), with which the bishops are endowed who are hierarchically united with the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ; and, on the other hand, they wish to participate in and, insofar as they are empowered, celebrate the sacred realities in communion with the Pastor who on earth represents the Eternal Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (cf. I Pt 2,25).
In recent times, new social, geographical and economic shifts, new lifestyles, the unfortunate reduction in number of sacred ministers in many regions that had an ancient Catholic tradition, and the justifiable need to coordinate pastoral activity have led to the suppression of some particular Churches, while their territory and population have been merged with that of the Bishop of a larger particular Church.
However, out of consideration for their venerable antiquity, for famous historical events or for the remarkable degree of holiness which flourished among many of the faithful of these former particular Churches, to those church buildings that at one time had been cathedrals the title of co-cathedral was given for the precise purpose of fostering the devotion of the faithful to their previous church, while preserving the wholly spiritual and canonical communion with their Bishop who is bound by a privileged bond to the present cathedral.
Approving these filial sentiments and desiring to make them ever more spiritually perfect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, at an audience granted on 13 June 2002, to the undersigned Superiors of the Apostolic Penitentiary, established that Bishops in those churches that had once been cathedrals, and today are co-cathedrals existing in their territory, without prejudice to the provision that allows for the Papal Blessing to be [imparted in the Cathedral] on three Solemnities in the year, as established in art. n. 7, 2 of the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, have the faculty to impart the Papal Blessing along with a Plenary Indulgence once a year, on the celebration of a solemnity that the bishops themselves will designate. In this way the faithful present in these co-cathedral churches can receive the Blessing and Indulgence, in a spirit that is detached from all affection for any sin, and under the usual conditions required for receiving a Plenary Indulgence (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Supreme Pontiff's intentions). The present Decree is perpetually valid, notwithstanding anything to the contrary.
Given in Rome, at the offices of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 29 June 2002, on the Solemnity of the Apostles, Sts Peter and Paul.
Archbishop Luigi De Magistris,