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The history of the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus responsible for managing the affairs of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, can be traced to the 11th century when informal methods of administration began to take on a more organized structure and eventual a bureaucratic form. The Curia has undergone a series of renewals and reforms, including a major overhaul following the loss of the Papal States, which fundamentally altered the range and nature of the Curia's responsibilities, removing many of an entirely secular nature.
The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, is the apostolic episcopal see of the bishop of Rome, known as the Pope, ex cathedra the universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, and a sovereign entity of international law. Founded in the 1st century by Saints Peter and Paul, by virtue of Petrine and Papal primacy according to Catholic tradition, it is the focal point of full communion for Catholic bishops and Catholics around the world organised in polities of the Latin Church, the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, and their dioceses and religious institutes.
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.
The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitively in 1870. At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.
Like every bishop, the pope was surrounded by a college of priests.The college met regularly to form councils to lead its diocese. Its function also extended a calling to the universal Church, and for matters relating to it, the Pope surrounded himself with other bishops around Rome to hear their advice. Gradually, these consistories took an almost permanent presence: the word "curia" is first used in the Church by a papal document in 1089, during the reign of Pope Urban II. Meetings were held three times a week under Pope Innocent III.
In the Roman Catholic Church a consistory is a formal meeting of the College of Cardinals called by the pope. There are two kinds of consistories, extraordinary and ordinary. An "extraordinary" consistory is held to allow the pope to consult with the entire membership of the College of Cardinals. An "ordinary" consistory is ceremonial in nature and attended by cardinals resident in Rome. For example, the pope elevates new cardinals to the College at a consistory; Pope Francis has called consistories for ceremonies of canonization.
Pope Innocent III, born Lotario dei Conti di Segni reigned from 8 January 1198 to his death in 1216.
Outside the presbyteries, which dealt with general topics, the pope set up specialized committees of Cardinals on particular topics. These commissions, first in temporary mandate, became more and more important and stable. Gradually, consistories lost their effectiveness and started to look like meetings apparatus. The real work was done within the congregations.
In the New Testament, a presbyter is a leader of a local Christian congregation. The word derives from the Greek presbyteros, which means elder or senior. The Greek word episkopos literally means overseer; it refers exclusively to the office of bishop. Many understand presbyteros to refer to the bishop functioning as overseer. In modern Catholic and Orthodox usage, presbyter is distinct from bishop and synonymous with priest. In predominant Protestant usage, presbyter does not refer to a member of a distinctive priesthood called priests, but rather to a minister, pastor, or elder.
In 1542, the first congregation, the Holy Office was established by Pope Paul III to fight against Protestantism and other heresies. Then other congregations were created on this model: one after the Council for the Interpretation of the Decrees of the Council of Trent in 1561, and one for the Index in 1571.
Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.
After the Council of Trent, Pope Sixtus V reorganized the administration of the Holy See on 22 January 1588 with the Apostolic Constitution Immensa Aeterni Dei which established as standard practice the organization of groups of cardinal as standing committees to examine or review defined categories problems. Some of these congregations were created to assist in the administration of the Papal States rather than those of the Holy See or the Church. The congregations established by Sixtus V were:for Holy Inquisition, for the Apostolic Signatura, for the erection of churches, for "the abundance of supplies and prosperity of the Church's temporal dominions", for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for equipping and maintaining the fleet for the defence of the Church's dominions, for an index of forbidden books, for the execution and interpretation of the Council of Trent, for relieving the ills of the States of the Church, for the University of the Rome, for regulating of religious orders, for regulating bishops and other prelates, for taking care of roads, bridges, and waters, for the Vatican printing-press, and for regulating the affairs of the Church's temporal dominions.
The Council of Trent, held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent, was the 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation.
Pope Sixtus V or Xystus V, born Felice Piergentile, was Pope of the Catholic Church from 24 April 1585 to his death in 1590. As a youth, he joined the Franciscan order, where he displayed talents as a scholar and preacher, and enjoyed the patronage of Pius V, who made him a cardinal.
Immensa Aeterni Dei is an apostolic constitution in the form of a papal bull issued by Pope Sixtus V on 22 January 1588. The constitution reorganized the Roman Curia, establishing permanent congregations of cardinals to advise the pope on various subjects. The primary role of the document was to provide instruction in condemning or correcting literature which were against Catholic doctrine. The document also had the authority to give permission for selected individuals to read books which were forbidden. It has since been superseded, most recently by Pope John Paul II's constitution Pastor Bonus.
There was another general reorganization in 1908 under Pope Pius X, which reflected the focus on ecclesiastical matters alone following the loss of the Papal States.
Pope Pius X, born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was head of the Catholic Church from August 1903 to his death in 1914. Pius X is known for vigorously opposing modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting liturgical reforms and orthodox theology. He directed the production of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the first comprehensive and systemic work of its kind.
While the Pope was sovereign of that region, the Curia had both religious and civil functions. The latter were lost when the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, expanding to include the greater part of Italy, seized most of the Papal States in 1860 and the city of Rome itself and its surrounding area in 1870, thus ending the Papacy's temporal power. The Curia was from then on dedicated in practice entirely to the Pope's ecclesiastical responsibilities. When the Holy See concluded the Lateran Pacts with the Italian State in 1929, the Holy See recognized the annexation by Italy of the Papal States, and Vatican City State was created. The Curia has continued to devote itself exclusively to ecclesiastical affairs, and a distinct body, not considered part of the Curia, was established for the governance of the minuscule state.
The Second Vatican Council was followed by further changes. Some offices ceased to exist, because their former functions were abolished, as happened with the Dataria. The functions of some others were transferred to another office, as the remaining functions of the Apostolic Chancery and those of the Secretariate of Briefs were transferred to the Secretariat of State, and those of the Congregation of Ceremonies to the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household. Others were split into separate offices, as the Congregation of Rites became the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for Divine Worship, the latter of which later became, by fusion with another office, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Others again were simply given a new name.
Pope Benedict XVI made only modest changes to the structure of the Roman Curia. In March 2006, he placed both the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace under a single president, Cardinal Renato Martino. When Martino retired in 2009, the Councils each received its own preside once again. Also in March 2006 the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was briefly merged into the Pontifical Council for Culture under Cardinal Paul Poupard. Those Councils maintained their separate officials and staffs while their status and competencies continued unchanged, and in May 2007 Interreligious Dialogue was restored to its separate status again with its own president.In June 2010 Benedict created the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, appointing Archbishop Rino Fisichella its first president. On 16 January 2013 Pope Benedict transferred responsibility for catechesis from the Congregation for the Clergy to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
The Roman Curia comprises the administrative institutions of the Holy See and the central body through which the affairs of the Catholic Church are conducted. It acts in the Pope’s name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the particular Churches and provides the central organization for the Church to advance its objectives.
A dicastery is a department of the Roman Curia, the administration of the Holy See through which the pope directs the Roman Catholic Church. The most recent comprehensive constitution of the church, Pastor bonus (1988), includes this definition:
By the word "dicasteries" are understood the Secretariat of State, Congregations, Tribunals, Councils and Offices, namely, the Apostolic Camera, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
Ivan Dias was an Indian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He was Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 2006 to 2011, Archbishop of Bombay from 1996 to 2006, and before that a papal diplomat in the Balkans, East Asia, and West Africa. He was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 2001.
William Wakefield Baum was an American cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau (1970–73) and Archbishop of Washington (1973–80) before serving in the Roman Curia as Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (1980–90) and Major Penitentiary (1990–2001). He was elevated to the College of Cardinals in 1976. At the time of his 1980 appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, he was the highest-ranking American ever in the Church. Cardinal Baum was the longest-serving American cardinal in history.
Jozef Tomko is a Slovak Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 1985 to 2001, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1985.
Agostino Cacciavillan is an Italian Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was Pro-Nuncio to Kenya, India, Nepal, and the United States between 1976 and 1998, and then served as President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See from 1998 to 2002. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2001.
Sergio Sebastiani is an Italian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and the president emeritus of Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
The Secretariat of State is the oldest dicastery in the Roman Curia, the central papal governing bureaucracy of the Catholic Church. It is headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State and performs all the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See. The Secretariat is divided into three sections, the Section for General Affairs, the Section for Relations with States, and, since 2017, the Section for Diplomatic Staff.
The Congregation for the Oriental Churches 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."
There are currently nine congregations of the Roman Curia, the central administration of the Catholic Church. They are second highest-ranking departments, below the two Secretariats, and above the pontifical councils, pontifical commissions, tribunals and offices.
Franc Rode is a Slovenian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, having served as prefect from 2004 to 2011. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2006.
Leonardo Sandri is an Argentine Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He has been the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches since June 2007 and a cardinal since November of that year. He served in the diplomatic service of the Holy See from 1974 to 1991, in several overseas assignments including as permanent observer of the Holy See before the Organization of American States from 1989 to 1991, and in Rome as Substitute for General Affairs in the Secretariat of State from 1977 to 1989.
The pontifical councils are a group of several mid-sized dicasteries, each led by a cardinal or archbishop as president, which are part of the larger organization called the Roman Curia. The Roman Curia is charged with helping the Pope in his governance and oversight of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pastor bonus is an apostolic constitution promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988. It instituted a number of reforms in the process of running the central government of the Roman Catholic Church, as article 1 states "The Roman Curia is the complex of dicasteries and institutes which help the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and service of the whole Church and of the particular Churches. It thus strengthens the unity of the faith and the communion of the people of God and promotes the mission proper to the Church in the world".
Raffaele Farina SDB is an Italian Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives, Librarian of the Vatican Library, and president of Scuola Vaticana di Paleografia, Diplomatica e Archivistica. Farina was elevated to the cardinalate in 2007.
Stanisław Ryłko is a Polish Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He held positions in the Roman Curia beginning in 1987 and was president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity from 2003 to 2016. He was made a cardinal in 2007. He has been Archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore since 28 December 2016.
Pope Paul VI's reform of the Roman Curia was accomplished through a series of decrees beginning in 1964, principally through the apostolic constitution Regimini Ecclesiae universae issued on 15 August 1967.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, also translated as Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, is a dicastery of the Roman Curia whose creation was announced by Pope Benedict XVI at vespers on 28 June 2010, eve of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, to carry out the New Evangelization. The Pope said that "the process of secularisation has produced a serious crisis of the sense of the Christian faith and role of the Church", and the new pontifical council would "promote a renewed evangelisation" in countries where the Church has long existed "but which are living a progressive secularisation of society and a sort of 'eclipse of the sense of God'."
Santos Abril y Castelló is a Spanish prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. After a career in the diplomatic corps of the Holy See, he held a number of positions in the Roman Curia and from 2011 to 2016 was Archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
The Council of Cardinal Advisers, formally the Council of Cardinals (C9), is a group of Catholic cardinals appointed by Pope Francis to serve as his advisers. Announced on 13 April 2013, one month after his election, it was formally established on 28 September of the same year. The Council currently has six members, following the decision by Pope Francis to remove three of its members in late 2018.