Congregation for the Oriental Churches
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of the Catholic Church
The Congregation for the Oriental Churches (Latin: Congregatio pro Ecclesiis Orientalibus) is a dicastery of the Roman Curia, and the curial congregation responsible for contact with the Eastern Catholic Churches for the sake of assisting their development and protecting their rights. It also maintains whole and entire in the one Catholic Church, alongside the liturgical, disciplinary, and spiritual patrimony of the Latin Rite, the heritage and Oriental canon law of the various Eastern Catholic traditions. It has exclusive authority over the following regions: Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, southern Albania and Bulgaria, Romania, Southern Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iran, Iraq, India, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Ukraine. It was founded by the Motu Proprio Dei Providentis of Pope Benedict XV as the "Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church" on 1 May 1917 and "considers those matters, whether concerning persons or things, affecting the Catholic Oriental Churches."
Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Oriental Churches, and the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, are members of this Congregation by virtue of the Law itself. The consultors and officials are selected reflecting the diversity of rites.
This congregation has authority over
- all matters which relate to the Oriental Churches referred to the Holy See (structure and organisation of the Churches; exercise of the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling; status, rights, and obligations of persons) and
- the ad limina visits of Eastern bishops.
This congregation's competence does not include the exclusive competence of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for the Causes of Saints, of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, including what pertains to dispensations from a marriage ratum sed non consummatum ('"ratified but not consummated").[note 1] In matters which affect the Eastern as well as the Latin Churches, the Congregation operates, if the matter is important enough, in consultation with the Dicastery that has competence in the matter for the Latin Church.
The Congregation pays special attention to communities of Eastern Catholic faithful who live in the territory of the Latin Church and attends to their spiritual needs by providing visitors and even their own hierarchs, so far as possible and where numbers and circumstances require, in consultation with the Congregation competent to establish Particular Churches in the region.
In regions where the Eastern Churches have been dominant from ancient times, apostolic and missionary activity is solely the responsibility of this Congregation, even if the above is carried out by Latin Rite missionaries.
The congregation collaborates with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in matters that concern relations with non-Catholic Eastern Churches and with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in matters within the scope of the latter.
Until 1917, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith had a division for the "Affairs of the Oriental Rite", which ceased to exist on 30 November 1917.
Structure in 1917
In May 1917, Pope Benedict XV established a congregation for the Eastern Catholic Churches. It was presided over by the Supreme Pontiff himself and included several Cardinals, one of which functioned in the capacity of Secretary.
There were also Councillors, chosen from among the more distinguished clergy and those experienced in things oriental.
Cardinal Secretaries (to 1967)
Note: From 1917 to 1967, the Pope served also as Prefect of the Congregation.
- Niccolò Marini (1917–1922)
- Giovanni Tacci Porcelli (1922–1927)
- Luigi Sincero (1927–1936)
- Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Tisserant (1936–1959)
- Amleto Giovanni Cicognani (1959–1961)
- Gabriel Acacius Coussa (pro-prefect 1961, prefect 1962)
- Gustavo Testa (1962–1967)
- Gustavo Testa (1967–1968)
- Maximilien de Furstenberg (1968–1973)
- Paul-Pierre Philippe (1973–1980)
- Władysław Rubin (1980–1985)
- Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy (1985–1991)
- Achille Silvestrini (1991–2000)
- Ignatius Moussa Daoud (2000 – 9 June 2007)
- Leonardo Sandri (9 June 2007 – )
- Ap. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 56
- Ap. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 57 §1
- Ap. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 57 §2
- Ap. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 58 §1
- Ap. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 58 §2
- Ap. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 59
- Ap. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 60
- Ap. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 61
- Benedict XV, Motu Proprio Dei Providentis, 1
- John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy (New York: Random House, 2011), pg. 426.
- Benedict XV, Motu Proprio Dei Providentis, 2
- Benedict XV, Motu Proprio Dei Providentis, 2
- This is according to the Ap. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 58 §2. However, on 30 August 2011, Pope Benedict XVI amended Pastor Bonus with the Motu Proprio Quaerit Semper, thereby transferring jurisdiction over marriages ratum sed non consummatum from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to a special Office at the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. The law obrogated the provision stating the "exclusive competence" of the Congregation for Divine Worship regarding these marriages, for this provision was not expressly abrogated and the Office at the Roman Rota now oversees dispensations from such marriages. (Cf. Benedict XVI, MP Quaerit Semper, accessed August 8, 2012.)