The Supreme Authority

Can. 330 Just as, by the decree of the Lord, Saint Peter and the rest of the Apostles form one College, so for a like reason the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the Bishops, the successors of the Apostles, are united together in one.


Can. 331 The office uniquely committed by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, abides in the Bishop of the Church of Rome. He is the head of the College of Bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the universal Church here on earth. Consequently, by virtue of his office, he has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, and he can always freely exercise this power.

Can. 332 §1 The Roman Pontiff acquires full and supreme power in the Church when, together with episcopal consecration, he has been lawfully elected and has accepted the election. Accordingly, if he already has the episcopal character, he receives this power from the moment he accepts election to the supreme pontificate. If he does not have the episcopal character, he is immediately to be ordained Bishop.

§2 Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.

Can. 333 §1 By virtue of his office, the Roman Pontiff not only has power over the universal Church, but also has pre-eminent ordinary power over all particular Churches and their groupings. This reinforces and defends the proper, ordinary and immediate power which the Bishops have in the particular Churches entrusted to their care.

§2 The Roman Pontiff, in fulfilling his office as supreme Pastor of the Church, is always joined in full communion with the other Bishops, and indeed with the whole Church. He has the right, however, to determine, according to the needs of the Church, whether this office is to be exercised in a personal or in a collegial manner.

§3 There is neither appeal nor recourse against a judgement or a decree of the Roman Pontiff.

Can. 334 The Bishops are available to the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his office, to cooperate with him in various ways, among which is the synod of Bishops. Cardinals also assist him, as do other persons and, according to the needs of the time, various institutes; all these persons and institutes fulfil their offices in his name and by his authority, for the good of all the Churches, in accordance with the norms determined by law.

Can. 335 When the Roman See is vacant, or completely impeded, no innovation is to be made in the governance of the universal Church. The special laws enacted for these circumstances are to be observed.


Can. 336 The head of the College of Bishops is the Supreme Pontiff, and its members are the Bishops by virtue of their sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head of the College and its members. This College of Bishops, in which the apostolic body abides in an unbroken manner, is, in union with its head and never without this head, also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church.

Can. 337 §1 The College of Bishops exercises its power over the universal Church in solemn form in an Ecumenical Council.

§2 It exercises this same power by the united action of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world, when this action is as such proclaimed or freely accepted by the Roman Pontiff, so that it becomes a truly collegial act.

§3 It belongs to the Roman Pontiff to select and promote, according to the needs of the Church, ways in which the College of Bishops can exercise its office in respect of the universal Church in a collegial manner.

Can. 338 §1 It is the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff alone to summon an Ecumenical Council, to preside over it personally or through others, to transfer, suspend or dissolve the Council, and to approve its decrees.

§2 It is also the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to determine the matters to be dealt with in the Council, and to establish the order to be observed. The Fathers of the Council may add other matters to those proposed by the Roman Pontiff, but these must be approved by the Roman Pontiff .

Can. 339 §1 All Bishops, but only Bishops who are members of the College of Bishops, have the right and the obligation to be present at an Ecumenical Council with a deliberative vote.

§2 Some others besides, who do not have the episcopal dignity, can be summoned to an Ecumenical Council by the supreme authority in the Church, to whom it belongs to determine what part they take in the Council.

Can. 340 If the Apostolic See should become vacant during the celebration of the Council, it is by virtue of the law itself suspended until the new Supreme Pontiff either orders it to continue or dissolves it.

Can. 341 §1 The decrees of an Ecumenical Council do not oblige unless they are approved by the Roman Pontiff as well as by the Fathers of the Council, confirmed by the Roman Pontiff and promulgated by his direction.

§2 If they are to have binding force, the same confirmation and promulgation is required for decrees which the College of Bishops issues by truly collegial actions in another manner introduced or freely accepted by the Roman Pontiff.


Can. 342 The synod of Bishops is a group of Bishops selected from different parts of the world, who meet together at specified times to promote the close relationship between the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops. These Bishops, by their counsel, assist the Roman Pontiff in the defence and development of faith and morals and in the preservation and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline. They also consider questions concerning the mission of the Church in the world.

Can. 343 The function of the synod of Bishops is to discuss the matters proposed to it and set forth recommendations. It is not its function to settle matters or to draw up decrees, unless the Roman Pontiff has given it deliberative power in certain cases; in this event, it rests with the Roman Pontiff to ratify the decisions of the synod.

Can. 344 The synod of Bishops is directly under the authority of the Roman Pontiff, whose prerogative it is:

1° to convene the synod, as often as this seems opportune to him, and to designate the place where the meetings are to be held

2° to ratify the election of those who, in accordance with the special law of the synod, are to be elected, and to designate and appoint other members;

3° at a suitable time before the celebration of the synod, to prescribe the outlines of the questions to be discussed, in accordance with the special law;

4° to determine the agenda;

5° to preside over the synod personally or through others;

6° to conclude, transfer, suspend or dissolve the synod.

Can. 345 The synod of Bishops can meet in general assembly, in which matters are dealt with which directly concern the good of the universal Church; such an assembly is either ordinary or extraordinary. It can also meet in special assembly, to deal with matters directly affecting a determined region or regions.

Can. 346 §1 The synod of Bishops meeting in ordinary general assembly is comprised, for the most part, of Bishops elected for each assembly by the Episcopal Conferences, in accordance with the norms of the special law of the synod. Other members are designated according to the same law; others are directly appointed by the Roman Pontiff. Added to these are some members of clerical religious institutes, elected in accordance with the same special law.

§2 The synod of Bishops meeting in extraordinary general assembly for the purpose of dealing with matters which require speedy resolution, is comprised for the most part, of Bishops who, by reason of the office they hold, are designated by the special law of the synod; others are appointed directly by the Roman Pontiff. Added to these are some members of clerical religious institutes, elected in accordance with the same law.

§3 The synod of Bishops which meets in special assembly is comprised of members chosen principally from those regions for which the synod was convened, in accordance with the special law by which the synod is governed.

Can. 347 §1 When the meeting of the synod of Bishops is concluded by the Roman Pontiff, the function entrusted in it to the Bishops and other members ceases.

§2 If the Apostolic See becomes vacant after the synod has been convened or during its celebration, the meeting of the synod, and the function entrusted in it to the members, is by virtue of the law itself suspended, until the new Pontiff decrees either that the assembly is to be dissolved or that it is to continue.

Can. 348 §1 There is to be a permanent general secretariat of the synod, presided over by a Secretary general appointed by the Roman Pontiff. The Secretary is to have the assistance of a council of the secretariat, composed of Bishops, some elected by the synod of Bishops itself in accordance with the special law, others appointed by the Roman Pontiff. The function of all these persons ceases with the beginning of a new general assembly.

§2 For each assembly of the synod of Bishops there are one or more special secretaries, who are appointed by the Roman Pontiff. They remain in office only until the end of the synod assembly.


Can. 349 The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church constitute a special College, whose prerogative it is to elect the Roman Pontiff in accordance with the norms of a special law. The Cardinals are also available to the Roman Pontiff, either acting collegially, when they are summoned together to deal with questions of major importance, or acting individually, that is, in the offices which they hold in assisting the Roman Pontiff 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 those Cardinals to whom the Roman Pontiff assigns the title of a suburbicarian Church, and eastern-rite Patriarchs who are made members of the College of Cardinals; the presbyteral order, and the diaconal order.

§2 Cardinal priests and Cardinal deacons are each assigned a title or a deaconry in Rome by the Roman Pontiff.

§3 Eastern Patriarchs within the College of Cardinals have their patriarchal see as a title.

§4 The Cardinal Dean has the title of the diocese of Ostia, together with that of any other Church to which he already has a title.

§5 By a choice made in Consistory and approved by the Supreme Pontiff, Cardinal priests may transfer to another title; Cardinal deacons may transfer to another deaconry and, if they have been a full ten years in the diaconal order, to the presbyteral order: priority of order and of promotion is to be observed.

§6 A Cardinal who by choice transfers from the diaconal to the presbyteral order, takes precedence over all Cardinal priests who were promoted to the Cardinalate after him.

Can. 351 §1 Those to be promoted Cardinals are men freely selected by the Roman Pontiff, who are at least in the order of priesthood and are truly outstanding in doctrine, virtue, piety and prudence in practical matters; those who are not already Bishops must receive episcopal consecration.

§2 Cardinals are created by decree of the Roman Pontiff, which in fact is published in the presence of the College of Cardinals. From the moment of publication, they are bound by the obligations and they enjoy the rights defined in the law.

§3 A person promoted to the dignity of Cardinal, whose creation the Roman Pontiff announces, but whose name he reserves in petto, is not at that time bound by the obligations nor does he enjoy the rights of a Cardinal. When his name is published by the Roman Pontiff, however, he is bound by these obligations and enjoys these rights, but his right of precedence dates from the day of the reservation in petto.

Can. 352 §1 The Dean presides over the College of Cardinals. When he is unable to do so, the sub-Dean takes his place. The Dean, or the sub-Dean, has no power of governance over the other Cardinals, but is considered as first among equals.

§2 When the office of Dean is vacant, those Cardinals who have a suburbicarian title, and only those, under the presidency of the sub-Dean if he is present, or of the oldest member, elect one of their number to act as Dean of the College. They are to submit his name to the Roman Pontiff, to whom it belongs to approve the person elected.

§3 In the same way as set out in §2, the sub-Dean is elected, with the Dean presiding. It belongs to the Roman Pontiff to approve also the election of the sub-Dean.

§4 If the Dean and sub-Dean do not already have a domicile in Rome, they acquire it there.

Can. 353 §1 Cardinals assist the Supreme Pastor of the Church in collegial fashion particularly in Consistories, in which they are gathered by order of the Roman Pontiff and under his presidency. Consistories are either ordinary or extraordinary.

§2 In an ordinary Consistory all Cardinals, or at least those who are in Rome, are summoned for consultation on certain grave matters of more frequent occurrence, or for the performance of especially solemn acts.

§3 All Cardinals are summoned to an extraordinary Consistory, which takes place when the special needs of the Church and more serious matters suggest it.

§4 Only an ordinary Consistory in which certain solemnities are celebrated, can be public, that is when, in addition to the Cardinals, Prelates, representatives of civil states and other invited persons are admitted.

Can. 354 Cardinals who head the departments and other permanent sections of the Roman Curia and of Vatican City, who have completed their seventy-fifth year, are requested to offer their resignation from office to the Roman Pontiff, who will consider all the circumstances and make provision accordingly.

Can. 355 §1 It belongs to the Cardinal Dean to ordain the elected Roman Pontiff a Bishop, if he is not already ordained. If the Dean is prevented from doing so, the same right belongs to the sub-Dean or, if he is prevented, to the senior Cardinal of the episcopal order.

§2 The senior Cardinal Deacon announces the name of the newly elected Supreme Pontiff to the people. Acting in place of the Roman Pontiff, he also confers the pallium on metropolitan Bishops or gives the pallium to their proxies.

Can. 356 Cardinals have the obligation of cooperating closely with the Roman Pontiff. For this reason, Cardinals who have any office in the Curia and are not diocesan Bishops, are obliged to reside in Rome. Cardinals who are in charge of a diocese as diocesan Bishops, are to go to Rome whenever summoned by the Roman Pontiff.

Can. 357 §1 When a Cardinal has taken possession of a suburbicarian Church or of a titular Church in Rome, he is to further the good of the diocese or church by counsel and patronage. However, he has no power of governance over it, and he should not for any reason interfere in matters concerning the administration of its goods, or its discipline, or the service of the church.

§2 Cardinals living outside Rome and outside their own diocese, are exempt in what concerns their person from the power of governance of the Bishop of the diocese in which they are residing.

Can. 358 A Cardinal may be deputed by the Roman Pontiff to represent him in some solemn celebration or assembly of persons as a 'Legatus a latere', that is, as his alter ego; or he may, as a special emissary, be entrusted with a particular pastoral task. A Cardinal thus nominated is entitled to deal only with those affairs which have been entrusted to him by the Roman Pontiff himself.

Can. 359 When the Apostolic See is vacant, the College of Cardinals has only that power in the Church which is granted to it by special law.


Can. 360 The Supreme Pontiff usually conducts the business of the universal Church through the Roman Curia, which acts in his name and with his authority for the good and for the service of the Churches. The Curia is composed of the Secretariat of State or Papal Secretariat, the Council for the public affairs of the Church, the Congregations, the Tribunals and other Institutes. The constitution and competence of all these is defined by special law.

Can. 361 In this Code the terms Apostolic See or Holy See mean not only the Roman Pontiff, but also, unless the contrary is clear from the nature of things or from the context, the Secretariat of State, the Council for the public affairs of the Church, and the other Institutes of the Roman Curia.


Can. 362 The Roman Pontiff has an inherent and independent right to appoint Legates and to send them either to particular Churches in various countries or regions, or at the same time to States and to public Authorities. He also has the right to transfer or recall them, in accordance with the norms of international law concerning the mission and recall of representatives accredited to States.

Can. 363 §1 To Legates of the Roman Pontiff is entrusted the office of representing in a stable manner the person of the Roman Pontiff in the particular Churches, or also in the States and public Authorities, to whom they are sent.

§2 Those also represent the Apostolic See who are appointed to pontifical Missions as Delegates or Observers at international Councils or at Conferences and Meetings.

Can. 364 The principal task of a Papal Legate is continually to make more firm and effective the bonds of unity which exist between the Holy See and the particular Churches. Within the territory assigned to him, it is therefore the responsibility of a Legate:

1° to inform the Apostolic See about the conditions in which the particular Churches find themselves, as well as about all matters which affect the life of the Church and the good of souls;

2° to assist the Bishops by action and advice, while leaving intact the exercise of their lawful power;

3° to foster close relations with the Episcopal Conference, offering it every assistance;

4° in connection with the appointment of Bishops, to send or propose names of candidates to the Apostolic See, as well as to prepare the informative process about those who may be promoted, in accordance with the norms issued by the Apostolic See;

5° to take pains to promote whatever may contribute to peace, progress and the united efforts of peoples;

6° to work with the Bishops to foster appropriate exchanges between the Catholic Church and other Churches or ecclesial communities, and indeed with non-christian religions;

7° to work with the Bishops to safeguard, so far as the rulers of the State are concerned, those things which relate to the mission of the Church and of the Apostolic See;

8° to exercise the faculties and carry out the other instructions which are given to him by the Apostolic See.

Can. 365 §1 A papal Legate who at the same time acts as envoy to the State according to international law, has in addition the special role:

1° of promoting and fostering relationships between the Apostolic See and the Authorities of the State;

2° of dealing with questions concerning relations between Church and State, especially, of drawing up concordats and other similar agreements, and giving effect to them.

§2 As circumstances suggest, in the matters mentioned in §1, the papal Legate is not to omit to seek the opinion and counsel of the Bishops of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction and to keep them informed of the course of events.

Can. 366 Given the special nature of a Legate's role:

1° the papal Legation is exempt from the power of governance of the local Ordinary, except for the celebration of marriages;

2° the papal Legate has the right to perform liturgical celebrations, even in pontificalia, in all churches of the territory of his legation; as far as it is possible, he is to give prior notice to the local Ordinary.

Can. 367 The office of papal Legate does not cease when the Apostolic See is vacant, unless otherwise specified in the pontifical Letters - it does cease, however, on the expiry of the mandate, on receipt by him of notification of recall, and on acceptance of his resignation by the Roman Pontiff.

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