In the Catholic Church, an apostolic visitor (or Apostolic Visitator) is a papal representative with a transient mission to perform a canonical visitation of relatively short duration. The visitor is deputed to investigate a special circumstance in a diocese or country, and to submit a report to the Holy See at the conclusion of the investigation.
Apostolic visitors are church officials whom canonists commonly class with papal legates. Visitors differ from other Apostolic delegates, principally in this, that their mission is only transient and of comparatively short duration.
In ancient times, the popes generally exercised their right of inspecting the dioceses of various countries through their nuncios or delegates (c. 1, Extravag. Comm. de Consuet. I, 1; c. 17, X, de Cens. III, 39), though they occasionally, even in the primitive ages, sent special visitors.
In the modern time, the mission of papal nuncios is rather of a diplomatic than of a visitatorial character. Visitors are, however, deputed by the pope for special emergencies and not at stated intervals. Their duty is to inspect the state of the Church in the country confided to them and then to draw up a report to the Holy See. At times, this visitation is made with the same attention to details as is an episcopal visitation.
Visitors Apostolic are also appointed to visit the various provinces of a religious order, whenever, in the judgment of the pope, this becomes useful or necessary. In all cases of Apostolic visitation, the pope, through delegates, is putting into effect the supreme and immediate jurisdiction which is his for any and every part of the Church. The exact powers of a visitor can be known only from his brief of delegation. His office ceases as soon as he has submitted his report to the Holy See through the Consistorial Congregation.
For the city of Rome itself there is a permanent Commission of the Apostolic Visitation. Established by Urban VIII as one of the Roman congregations under the presidency of the cardinal vicar, it was changed into a commission by Pope Pius X through the Constitution "Sapienti Consilio" (29 June 1908). These Apostolic visitors annually inspect the parishes and institutions of Rome and made report on their spiritual and financial condition. They pay special attention to the fulfilment of the obligations springing from pious foundations and legacies for Masses and chaplaincies.
In Eastern Catholic (non-Latin) churches, the office of apostolic visitor can be indefinite and the closest thing to an ordinary for communities in regions which have not (yet) been organized into any ordinary jurisdiction. There are currently apostolic visitors in the Belarusian Greek Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
- The Belarusian Greek Catholic Church (Byzantine Rite) remains unorganized in terms of structural polity, with no erected proper jurisdictions, but has been served by Apostolic Visitors since 1960:
- Bishop Ceslaus Sipovich served as Apostolic Visitor for the Belarusian Greek-Catholic faithful abroad (outside of Belarus) from 1960 until his death in 1981.
- Bishop Uladzimir Tarasevich served as Apostolic Visitor for the Belarusian Greek-Catholic faithful abroad from 1983 until his death in 1986.
- Fr. Alexander Nadson served as Apostolic Visitor for the Belarusian Greek-Catholic faithful abroad from 1986 until his death in 2015.
- Fr. Sergiusz Gajek has served as Apostolic Visitor for the Belarusian Greek-Catholic faithful in Belarus since 1994.
- The Maronite Church (Antiochian Rite) currently has four apostolic visitors:
- Bishop Georges Chihane, the Maronite Eparch of Cairo, also serves as Apostolic Visitor in Northern Africa of the Maronites.
- Bishop Francois Eid, the Maronite Procurator at Rome, also serves as Apostolic Visitor in Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania of the Maronites.
- Bishop Nasser Gemayel, the Maronite Eparch of Paris (whose eparchy covers all of France), also serves as Apostolic Visitor in Western and Northern Europe of the Maronites.
- Fr. Simon Faddoul, the Maronite Apostolic Exarch of Western and Central Africa also serves as Apostolic Visitor in Southern Africa of the Maronites.
- The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (East Syrian Rite) currently has three apostolic visitors:
- Bishop Stephen Chirappanath, the Syro-Malabar Procurator at Rome, also serves as Apostolic Visitor in Europe of the Syro-Malabars.
- Bishop Bosco Puthur, the Syro-Malabar Eparch of Melbourne (whose eparchy covers all of Australia), also serves as Apostolic Visitor in New Zealand of the Syro-Malabars.
- Bishop Raphael Thattil, auxiliary bishop of Thrissur, also serves as Apostolic Visitor in India outside the proper territory of the Syro-Malabars.
- Also, Bishop Jacob Angadiath, the Syro-Malabar Eparch of Chicago (whose eparchy covers the entire United States), also served as Apostolic Visitor in Canada of Syro-Malabars from 2001 until the creation of the Syro-Malabar Apostolic Exarchate of Canada in 2015.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 
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