BOOK IV: THE SANCTIFYING OFFICE OF THE CHURCH
PART III : SACRED PLACES AND TIMES
TITLE I: SACRED PLACES
Can. 1205 Sacred places are those which are assigned to divine worship or to the burial of
the faithful by the dedication or blessing which the liturgical books prescribe for this purpose.
Can. 1206 The dedication of a place belongs to the diocesan Bishop and to those equivalent to
him in law. For a dedication in their own territory they can depute any Bishop or, in exceptional cases, a priest.
Can. 1207 Sacred places are blessed by the Ordinary, but the blessing of churches is reserved
to the diocesan Bishop. Both may, however, delegate another priest for the purpose.
Can. 1208 A document is to be drawn up to record the dedication or blessing of a church, or the
blessing of a cemetery. One copy is to be kept in the diocesan curia, the other in the archive of the church.
Can. 1209 The dedication or the blessing of a place is sufficiently established even by a single
unexceptionable witness, provided no one is harmed thereby.
Can. 1210 In a sacred place only those things are to be permitted which serve to exercise or
promote worship, piety and religion. Anything out of harmony with
the holiness of the place is forbidden. The Ordinary may however,
for individual cases, permit other uses, provided they are not
contrary to the sacred character of the place.
Can. 1211 Sacred places are desecrated by acts done in them which are gravely injurious and
give scandal to the faithful when, in the judgement of the local
Ordinary, these acts are so serious and so contrary to the sacred character of the place that worship may not be held there until
the harm is repaired by means of the penitential rite which is prescribed in the liturgical books.
Can. 1212 Sacred places lose their dedication or blessing if they have been in great measure
destroyed, or if they have been permanently made over to secular usage, whether by decree of the competent Ordinary or simply in
Can. 1213 Ecclesiastical authority freely exercises its powers and functions in sacred
CHAPTER I : CHURCHES
Can. 1214 The term church means a sacred building intended for divine worship, to which the
faithful have right of access for the exercise, especially the public exercise, of divine worship.
Can. 1215 §1 No church is to be built without the express and written consent of the diocesan Bishop.
§2 The diocesan Bishop is not to give his consent until he has consulted the council of priests
and the rectors of neighbouring churches, and then decides that the new church can serve the good of souls and that the necessary
means will be available to build the church and to provide for divine worship.
§3 Even though they have received the diocesan Bishop's consent to establish a new house
in a diocese or city, religious institutes must obtain the same
Bishop's permission before they may build a church in a specific and determined place.
Can. 1216 In the building and restoration of churches the advice of experts is to be used, and
the principles and norms of liturgy and of sacred art are to be observed.
Can. 1217 §1 As soon as possible after completion of the building the new church is to be
dedicated or at least blessed, following the laws of the sacred liturgy.
§2 Churches, especially cathedrals and parish churches, are to be dedicated by a solemn rite.
Can. 1218 Each church is to have its own title. Once the church has been dedicated this title
cannot be changed.
Can. 1219 All acts of divine worship may be carried out in a church which has been lawfully
dedicated or blessed, without prejudice to parochial rights.
Can. 1220 §1 Those responsible are to ensure that there is in churches such cleanliness and
ornamentation as befits the house of God, and that anything which
is discordant with the sacred character of the place is excluded.
§2 Ordinary concern for preservation and appropriate means of security are to be employed
to safeguard sacred and precious goods.
Can. 1221 Entry to a church at the hours of sacred functions is to be open and free of charge.
Can. 1222 §1 If a church cannot in any way be used for divine worship and there is no
possibility of its being restored, the diocesan Bishop may allow it to be used for some secular but not unbecoming purpose.
§2 Where other grave reasons suggest that a particular church should no longer be used for
divine worship, the diocesan Bishop may allow it to be used for a secular but not unbecoming purpose. Before doing so, he must
consult the council of priests; he must also have the consent of those who could lawfully claim rights over that church, and be
sure that the good of souls would not be harmed by the transfer.
CHAPTER II : ORATORIES AND PRIVATE CHAPELS
Can. 1223 An oratory means a place which, by permission of the Ordinary, is set aside for
divine worship, for the convenience of some community or group of
the faithful who assemble there, to which however other members
of the faithful may, with the consent of the competent Superior, have access.
Can. 1224 §1 The Ordinary is not to give the permission required for setting up an oratory
unless he has first, personally or through another, inspected the
place destined for the oratory and found it to be becomingly arranged.
§2 Once this permission has been given, the oratory cannot be converted to a secular usage
without the authority of the same Ordinary.
Can. 1225 All sacred services may be celebrated in a lawfully constituted oratory, apart from
those which are excluded by the law, by a provision of the local Ordinary, or by liturgical laws.
Can. 1226 The term private chapel means a place which, by permission of the local Ordinary,
is set aside for divine worship, for the convenience of one or more individuals.
Can. 1227 Bishops can set up for their own use a private chapel which enjoys the same rights
as an oratory.
Can. 1228 Without prejudice to the provision of Can. 1227, the permission of the local Ordinary
is required for the celebration of Mass and of other sacred functions in any private chapel.
Can. 1229 It is appropriate that oratories and private chapels be blessed according to the
rite prescribed in the liturgical books. They must, however, be
reserved for divine worship only and be freed from all domestic use.
CHAPTER III : SHRINES
Can. 1230 The term shrine means a church or other sacred place which, with the approval of the
local Ordinary, is by reason of special devotion frequented by
the faithful as pilgrims.
Can. 1231 For a shrine to be described as national, the approval of the Episcopal Conference
is necessary. For it to be described as international, the approval of the Holy See is required.
Can. 1232 §1 The local Ordinary is competent to approve the statutes of a diocesan
shrine; the Episcopal Conference, those of a national shrine; the
Holy See alone, those of an international shrine.
§2 The statutes of a shrine are to determine principally its purpose, the authority of the
rector, and the ownership and administration of its property.
Can. 1233 Certain privileges may be granted to shrines when the local circumstances, the
number of pilgrims and especially the good of the faithful would
seem to make this advisable.
Can. 1234 §1 At shrines the means of salvation are to be more abundantly made available to
the faithful: by sedulous proclamation of the word of God, by
suitable encouragement of liturgical life, especially by the
celebration of the Eucharist and penance, and by the fostering of
approved forms of popular devotion.
§2 In shrines or in places adjacent to them, votive offerings of popular art and devotion
are to be displayed and carefully safeguarded.
CHAPTER IV : ALTARS
Can. 1235 §1 The altar or table on which the eucharistic Sacrifice is celebrated is termed
fixed if it is so constructed that it is attached to the floor
and therefore cannot be moved; it is termed movable, if it can be removed.
§2 It is proper that in every church there should be a fixed altar. In other places which are
intended for the celebration of sacred functions, the altar may be either fixed or movable.
Can. 1236 §1 In accordance with the traditional practice of the Church, the table of a fixed
altar is to be of stone, indeed of a single natural stone.
However, even some other worthy and solid material may be used,
if the Episcopal Conference so judges. The support or the base
can be made from any material.
§2 A movable altar can be made of any solid material which is suitable for liturgical use.
Can. 1237 §1 Fixed altars are to be dedicated, movable ones either dedicated or blessed,
according to the rites prescribed in the liturgical books.
§2 The ancient tradition of placing relics of Martyrs or of other Saints within a fixed altar
is to be retained, in accordance with the rites prescribed in the liturgical books.
Can. 1238 §1 An altar loses its dedication or blessing in accordance with Can. 1212.
§2 Altars, whether fixed or movable, do not lose their dedication or blessing as a result of
a church or other sacred place being made over to secular usage.
Can. 1239 §1 An altar, whether fixed or movable, is to be reserved for divine worship alone, to
the exclusion of any secular usage.
§2 No corpse is to be buried beneath an altar; otherwise, it is not lawful to celebrate Mass
at that altar.
CHAPTER V : CEMETERIES
Can. 1240 §1 Where possible, the Church is to have its own cemeteries, or at least an area in
public cemeteries which is duly blessed and reserved for the deceased faithful.
§2 If, however, this is not possible, then
individual graves are to be blessed in due form on each occasion.
Can. 1241 §1 Parishes and religious institutes may each have their own cemetery.
§2 Other juridical persons or families may each have their own special cemetery or burial place
which, if the local Ordinary judges accordingly, is to be blessed.
Can. 1242 Bodies are not to be buried in churches, unless it is a question of the Roman Pontiff
or of Cardinals or, in their proper Churches, of diocesan Bishops even retired.
Can. 1243 Appropriate norms are to be enacted by particular law for the management of cemeteries,
especially in what concerns the protection and the fostering of their sacred character.
TITLE II: SACRED TIMES
Can. 1244 §1 Only the supreme ecclesiastical authority can establish, transfer or suppress
holydays or days of penance which are applicable to the universal Church, without prejudice to the provisions of Can. 1246 §2.
§2 Diocesan Bishops can proclaim special holydays or days of penance for their own
dioceses or territories, but only for individual occasions.
Can. 1245 Without prejudice to the right of diocesan Bishops as in Can. 87, a parish priest, in
individual cases, for a just reason and in accordance with the
prescriptions of the diocesan Bishop, can give a dispensation
from the obligation of observing a holyday or day of penance, or
commute the obligation into some other pious works. The Superior
of a pontifical clerical religious institute or society of
apostolic life has the same power in respect of his own subjects
and of those who reside day and night in a house of the institute
CHAPTER I : FEAST DAYS
Can. 1246 §1 The Lord's Day, on which the paschal mystery is celebrated, is by apostolic
tradition to be observed in the universal Church as the primary
holyday of obligation. In the same way the following holydays are
to be observed: the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Epiphany, the Ascension of Christ, the feast of the Body and
Blood of Christ, the feast of Mary the Mother of God, her
Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, the feast of St Joseph,
the feast of the Apostles SS Peter and Paul, and the feast of All
§2 However, the Episcopal Conference may, with the prior approval of the Apostolic See,
suppress certain holydays of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.
Can. 1247 On Sundays and other holydays of obligation, the faithful are obliged to assist at
Mass. They are also to abstain from such work or business that
would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to
the Lord's Day, or the due relaxation of mind and body.
Can. 1248 §1 The obligation of assisting at Mass is satisfied wherever Mass is celebrated in a
catholic rite either on a holyday itself or on the evening of the previous day.
§2 If it is impossible to
assist at a eucharistic celebration, either because no sacred
minister is available or for some other grave reason, the
faithful are strongly recommended to take part in a liturgy of
the Word, if there be such in the parish church or some other
sacred place, which is celebrated in accordance with the
provisions laid down by the diocesan Bishop; or to spend an
appropriate time in prayer, whether personally or as a family or,
as occasion presents, in a group of families.
CHAPTER II : DAYS OF PENANCE
Can. 1249 All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do
penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain
common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On
these days the faithful are in a special manner to devote
themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity,
and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more
faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence
which the following canons prescribe.
Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole
year and the season of Lent.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal
Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity
should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be
observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of
fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the
beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents
are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not
bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true
meaning of penance.
Can. 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting
and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or
fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of
penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.
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