CODE OF CANON LAW
BOOK II. THE PEOPLE OF GOD
- PART II. THE HIERARCHICAL CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH
THE SUPREME AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH (Cann.
330 - 367)
THE ROMAN PONTIFF AND THE COLLEGE OF BISHOPS
Can. 330 Just as by the Lord’s decision Saint Peter and the
other Apostles constitute one college, so in a like manner the Roman Pontiff,
the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, are
united among themselves.
THE ROMAN PONTIFF
Can. 331 The bishop of the Roman Church, in whom continues
the office given by the Lord uniquely to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and
to be transmitted to his successors, is the head of the college of bishops, the
Vicar of Christ, and the pastor of the universal Church on earth. By virtue of
his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power
in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.
Can. 332 §1. The Roman Pontiff obtains full and supreme
power in the Church by his acceptance of legitimate election together with
episcopal consecration. Therefore, a person elected to the supreme pontificate
who is marked with episcopal character obtains this power from the moment of
acceptance. If the person elected lacks episcopal character, however, he is to
be ordained a bishop immediately.
§2. If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his
office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and
properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.
Can. 333 §1. By virtue of his office, the Roman Pontiff not
only possesses power over the universal Church but also obtains the primacy of
ordinary power over all particular churches and groups of them. Moreover, this
primacy strengthens and protects the proper, ordinary, and immediate power which
bishops possess in the particular churches entrusted to their care.
§2. In fulfilling the office of supreme pastor of the
Church, the Roman Pontiff is always joined in communion with the other bishops
and with the universal Church. He nevertheless has the right, according to the
needs of the Church, to determine the manner, whether personal or collegial, of
exercising this office.
§3. No appeal or recourse is permitted against a sentence
or decree of the Roman Pontiff.
Can. 334 Bishops assist the Roman Pontiff in exercising his
office. They are able to render him cooperative assistance in various ways,
among which is the synod of bishops. The cardinals also assist him, as do other
persons and various institutes according to the needs of the times. In his name
and by his authority, all these persons and institutes fulfill the function
entrusted to them for the good of all the churches, according to the norms
defined by law.
Can. 335 When the Roman See is vacant or entirely impeded,
nothing is to be altered in the governance of the universal Church; the special
laws issued for these circumstances, however, are to be observed.
THE COLLEGE OF BISHOPS
Can. 336 The college of bishops, whose head is the Supreme
Pontiff and whose members are bishops by virtue of sacramental consecration and
hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college and in which the
apostolic body continues, together with its head and never without this head, is
also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church.
Can. 337 §1. The college of bishops exercises power over
the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council.
§2. It exercises the same power through the united action
of the bishops dispersed in the world, which the Roman Pontiff has publicly
declared or freely accepted as such so that it becomes a true collegial act.
§3. It is for the Roman Pontiff, according to the needs of
the Church, to select and promote the ways by which the college of bishops is to
exercise its function collegially regarding the universal Church.
Can. 338 §1. It is for the Roman Pontiff alone to convoke
an ecumenical council, preside over it personally or through others, transfer,
suspend, or dissolve a council, and to approve its decrees.
§2. It is for the Roman Pontiff to determine the matters to
be treated in a council and establish the order to be observed in a council. To
the questions proposed by the Roman Pontiff, the council fathers can add others
which are to be approved by the Roman Pontiff.
Can. 339 §1. All the bishops and only the bishops who are
members of the college of bishops have the right and duty to take part in an
ecumenical council with a deliberative vote.
§2. Moreover, some others who are not bishops can be called
to an ecumenical council by the supreme authority of the Church, to whom it
belongs to determine their roles in the council.
Can. 340 If the Apostolic See becomes vacant during the
celebration of a council, the council is interrupted by the law itself until the
new Supreme Pontiff orders it to be continued or dissolves it.
Can. 341 §1. The decrees of an ecumenical council do not
have obligatory force unless they have been approved by the Roman Pontiff
together with the council fathers, confirmed by him, and promulgated at his
§2. To have obligatory force, decrees which the college of
bishops issues when it places a truly collegial action in another way initiated
or freely accepted by the Roman Pontiff need the same confirmation and
THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
Can. 342 The synod of bishops is a group of bishops who
have been chosen from different regions of the world and meet together at fixed
times to foster closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and bishops, to assist
the Roman Pontiff with their counsel in the preservation and growth of faith and
morals and in the observance and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline, and
to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world.
Can. 343 It is for the synod of bishops to discuss the
questions for consideration and express its wishes but not to resolve them or
issue decrees about them unless in certain cases the Roman Pontiff has endowed
it with deliberative power, in which case he ratifies the decisions of the synod.
Can. 344 The synod of bishops is directly subject to the
authority of the Roman Pontiff who:
1/ convokes a synod as often as it seems opportune to him
and designates the place where its sessions are to be held;
2/ radios the election of members who must be elected
according to the norm of special law and designates and appoints other members;
3/ determines at an appropriate time before the celebration
of a synod the contents of the questions to be treated, according to the norm of
4/ defines the agenda;
5/ presides at the synod personally or through others;
6/ concludes, transfers, suspends, and dissolves the synod.
Can. 345 The synod of bishops can be assembled in a general
session, that is, one which treats matters that directly pertain to the good of
the universal Church; such a session is either ordinary or extraordinary. It can
also be assembled in a special session, namely, one which considers affairs that
directly pertain to a determinate region or regions.
Can. 346 §1. A synod of bishops assembled in an ordinary
general session consists of members of whom the greater part are bishops elected
for each session by the conferences of bishops according to the method
determined by the special law of the synod; others are designated by virtue of
the same law; others are appointed directly by the Roman Pontiff; to these are
added some members of clerical religious institutes elected according to the
norm of the same special law.
§2. A synod of bishops gathered in an extraordinary general
session to treat affairs which require a speedy solution consists of members of
whom the greater part are bishops designated by the special law of the synod by
reason of the office which they hold; others are appointed directly by the Roman
Pontiff; to these are added some members of clerical religious institutes
elected according to the norm of the same law.
§3. A synod of bishops gathered in a special session
consists of members especially selected from those regions for which it was
called, according to the norm of the special law which governs the synod.
Can. 347 §1. When the Roman Pontiff concludes a session of
the synod of bishops, the function entrusted in it to the bishops and other
§2. If the Apostolic See becomes vacant after a synod is
convoked or during its celebration, the session of the synod and the function
entrusted to its members are suspended by the law itself until the new Pontiff
has decided to dissolve or continue the session.
Can. 348 §1. The synod of bishops has a permanent general
secretariat presided over by a general secretary who is appointed by the Roman
Pontiff and assisted by the council of the secretariat. This council consists of
bishops, some of whom are elected by the synod of bishops itself according to
the norm of special law while others are appointed by the Roman Pontiff. The
function of all these ceases when a new general session begins.
§2. Furthermore, for each session of the synod of bishops
one or more special secretaries are constituted who are appointed by the Roman
Pontiff and remain in the office entrusted to them only until the session of the
synod has been completed.
THE CARDINALS OF THE HOLY ROMAN CHURCH
Can. 349 The cardinals of the Holy Roman Church constitute
a special college which provides for the election of the Roman Pontiff according
to the norm of special law. The cardinals assist the Roman Pontiff either
collegially when they are convoked to deal with questions of major importance,
or individually when they help the Roman Pontiff through the various offices
they perform, especially in the daily care of the universal Church.
Can. 350 §1. The college of cardinals is divided into three
orders: the episcopal order, to which belong cardinals to whom the Roman Pontiff
assigns title of a suburbicarian church and Eastern patriarchs who have been
brought into the college of cardinals; the presbyteral order and the diaconal
§2. The Roman Pontiff assigns each of the cardinals of the
presbyteral or diaconal orders his own title or diaconia in Rome.
§3. Eastern patriarchs who have been made members of the
college of cardinals have their own patriarchal see as a title.
§4. The cardinal dean holds as his title the Diocese of
Ostia together with the other church he already has as a title.
§5. Through a choice made in consistory and approved by the
Supreme Pontiff and with priority of order and promotion observed, cardinals
from the presbyteral order can transfer to another title, and cardinals from the
diaconal order to another diaconia and if they have been in the diaconal order
for ten full years, even to the presbyteral order.
§6. A cardinal transferring through choice from the
diaconal order to the presbyteral order takes precedence over all those
cardinal presbyters who were brought into the cardinalate after him.
Can. 351 §1. The Roman Pontiff freely selects men to be
promoted as cardinals, who have been ordained at least into the order of the
presbyterate and are especially outstanding in doctrine, morals, piety, and
prudence in action; those who are not yet bishops must receive episcopal
§2. Cardinals are created by a decree of the Roman Pontiff
which is made public in the presence of the college of cardinals. From the
moment of the announcement they are bound by the duties and possess the rights
defined by law.
§3. When the Roman Pontiff has announced the selection of a
person to the dignity of cardinal but reserves the name of the person in
pectore, the one promoted is not bound in the meantime by any of the duties of
cardinals nor does he possess any of their rights. After the Roman Pontiff has
made his name public, however, he is bound by the same duties and possesses the
same rights; he possesses the right of precedence, though, from the day of
reservation in pectore.
Can. 352 §1. The dean presides over the college of
cardinals; if he is impeded, the assistant dean takes his place.
Neither the dean nor the assistant dean possesses any power
of governance over the other cardinals but is considered as first among equals.
§2. When the office of dean is vacant, the cardinals who
possess title to a suburbicarian church and they alone are to elect one from
their own group who is to act as dean of the college; the assistant dean, if he
is present, or else the oldest among them, presides at this election. They are
to submit the name of the person elected to the Roman Pontiff who is competent
to approve him.
§3. The assistant dean is elected in the same manner as
that described in §2, with the dean himself presiding.
The Roman Pontiff is also competent to approve the election
of the assistant dean.
§4. If the dean and assistant dean do not have a domicile
in Rome, they are to acquire one there.
Can. 353 §1. The cardinals especially assist the supreme
pastor of the Church through collegial action in consistories in which they are
gathered by order of the Roman Pontiff who presides. Consistories are either
ordinary or extraordinary.
§2. For an ordinary consistory, all the cardinals, at least
those present in Rome, are called together to be consulted concerning certain
grave matters which occur rather frequently or to carry out certain very solemn
§3. For an extraordinary consistory, which is celebrated
when particular needs of the Church or the treatment of more grave affairs
suggests it, all the cardinals are called together.
§4. Only the ordinary consistory in which some solemnities
are celebrated can be public, that is, when prelates, representatives of civil
societies, and others who have been invited to it are admitted in addition to
Can. 354 The cardinals who preside over dicasteries and
other permanent institutes of the Roman Curia and Vatican City and who have
completed the seventy-fifth year of age are asked to submit their resignation
from office to the Roman Pontiff who will see to the matter after considering
Can. 355 §1. The cardinal dean is competent to ordain as a
bishop the one elected as Roman Pontiff if he needs to be ordained; if the dean
is impeded, the assistant dean has the same right, and if he is impeded, the
oldest cardinal from the episcopal order.
§2. The senior cardinal deacon announces the name of the
newly elected Supreme Pontiff to the people; likewise, in the place of the Roman
Pontiff, he places the pallium upon metropolitans or hands it over to their
Can. 356 Cardinals are obliged to cooperate assiduously
with the Roman Pontiff; therefore, cardinals who exercise any office in the
curia and who are not diocesan bishops are obliged to reside in Rome. Cardinals
who have the care of some diocese as the diocesan bishop are to go to Rome
whenever the Roman Pontiff calls them.
Can. 357 §1. The cardinals who have been assigned title to
a suburbicarian church or a church in Rome are to promote the good of these
dioceses or churches by counsel and patronage after they have taken possession
Nevertheless, they possess no power of governance over
them nor are they to intervene in any way in those matters which pertain to the
administration of their goods, their discipline, or the service of the churches.
§2. In those matters which pertain to their own person,
cardinals living outside of Rome and outside their own diocese are exempt from
the power of governance of the bishop of the diocese in which they are residing.
Can. 358 A cardinal to whom the Roman Pontiff entrusts the
function of representing him in some solemn celebration or among some group of
persons as a legates a latere, that is, as his alter ego, as well as one to whom
the Roman Pontiff entrusts the fulfillment of a certain pastoral function as his
special envoy (missus specialis) has competence only over those things
which the Roman Pontiff commits to him.
Can. 359 When the Apostolic See is vacant, the college of
cardinals possesses only that power in the Church which is attributed to it in
THE ROMAN CURIA
Can. 360 The Supreme Pontiff usually conducts the affairs
of the universal Church through the Roman Curia which performs its function in
his name and by his authority for the good and service of the churches. The
Roman Curia consists of the Secretariat of State or the Papal Secretariat, the
Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, congregations, tribunals, and
other institutes; the constitution and competence of all these are defined in
Can. 361 In this Code, the term Apostolic See or Holy See
refers not only to the Roman Pontiff but also to the Secretariat of State, the
Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, and other institutes of the Roman
Curia, unless it is otherwise apparent from the nature of the matter or the
context of the words.
LEGATES OF THE ROMAN PONTIFF
Can. 362 The Roman Pontiff has the innate and independent
right to appoint, send, transfer, and recall his own legates either to
particular churches in various nations or regions or to states and public
authorities. The norms of international law are to be observed in what pertains
to the mission and recall of legates appointed to states.
Can. 363 §1. To the legates of the Roman Pontiff is
entrusted the office of representing the Roman Pontiff in a stable manner to
particular churches or also to the states and public authorities to which they
§2. Those who are designated as delegates or observers in a
pontifical mission at international councils or at conferences and meetings also
represent the Apostolic See.
Can. 364 The principal function of a pontifical legate is
daily to make stronger and more effective the bonds of unity which exist between
the Apostolic See and particular churches. Therefore, it pertains to the
pontifical legate for his own jurisdiction:
1/ to send information to the Apostolic See concerning the
conditions of particular churches and everything that touches the life of the
Church and the good of souls;
2/ to assist bishops by action and counsel while leaving
intact the exercise of their legitimate power;
3/ to foster close relations with the conference of bishops
by offering it assistance in every way;
4/ regarding the nomination of bishops, to transmit or
propose to the Apostolic See the names of candidates and to instruct the
informational process concerning those to be promoted, according to the norms
given by the Apostolic See;
5/ to strive to promote matters which pertain to the peace,
progress, and cooperative effort of peoples;
6/ to collaborate with bishops so that suitable relations
are fostered between the Catholic Church and other Churches or ecclesial
communities, and even non-Christian religions;
7/ in associated action with bishops, to protect those
things which pertain to the mission of the Church and the Apostolic See before
the leaders of the state;
8/ in addition, to exercise the faculties and to fulfill
other mandates which the Apostolic See entrusts to him.
Can. 365 §1. It is also the special function of a
pontifical legate who at the same time acts as a legate to states according to
the norms of international law:
1/ to promote and foster relations between the Apostolic
See and the authorities of the state;
2/ to deal with questions which pertain to relations
between Church and state and in a special way to deal with the drafting and
implementation of concordats and other agreements of this type.
§2. In conducting the affairs mentioned in §1, a pontifical
legate, as circumstances suggest, is not to neglect to seek the opinion and
counsel of the bishops of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction and is to inform them
of the course of affairs.
Can. 366 In view of the particular character of the
function of a legate:
1/ the seat of a pontifical legation is exempt from the
power of governance of the local ordinary unless it is a question of celebrating
2/ after he has notified in advance the local ordinaries
insofar as possible, a pontifical legate is permitted to perform liturgical
celebrations in all churches of his legation, even in pontificals.
Can. 367 The function of a pontifical legate does not cease
when the Apostolic See becomes vacant unless the pontifical letter establishes
otherwise; it does cease, however, when the mandate has been fulfilled, when the
legate has been notified of recall, or when the Roman Pontiff accepts the