Agents of Roman Congregations
Agents of Roman Congregations are persons whose business it is to look after the affairs of their patrons at the Roman Curia.
We first meet these agents for ecclesiastical matters not at the court of Rome, but at the imperial palace of Constantinople. Owing to the close connection between Church and State under the early Christian emperors and the absence of canons concerning many matters of mixed jurisdiction, the principal bishops found it necessary to maintain agents to look after their interests at the imperial court. Until the French Revolution, the prelates of France maintained similar agents at the royal court of St. Denis. (See Assembly of the French clergy.)
In modern times the agents of the Roman Congregations are employed by bishops or private persons to transact their affairs in the pontifical courts. Such an agency is undertaken temporarily or perpetually. The principal business of the agents is to urge the expedition of the cases of their patrons. They undertake both judicial and extrajudicial business. If it is a question of papal favors, such as dispensations or increased faculties, these agents prepare the proper supplications and call repeatedly on the officials of the proper congregation until an answer is obtained. They expend whatever money is necessary to pay for the legal documents or to advance in general the affairs of those who employ them.
The agents have a recognized position in the Roman Curia, and rank next in dignity before the apostolic notaries. The money they expend and the pay they receive depend entirely on the will of their employers.
Some authors include under this name the solicitors and Apostolic Expeditors of the Roman Curia, whose business it is to assist the procurators in the mechanical details of the preparation of cases for the congregational tribunals. Usually, however, these functionaries are considered as distinct from agents and as outranking them in dignity.