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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Curia Romana

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in the narrower sense, a collective appellation of all the authorities in Rome which exercise the rights and privileges enjoyed by the pope as supreme bishop of the Roman Catholic Church; in a wider sense, the collective appellation of all officers and authorities which assist the pope both in his secular and spiritual rule, or belong in any way to his retinue. In the following article we speak only of those authorities which assist the pope as supreme bishop, and in the papal court.

I. Judicial Authorities. They are the following:

1. The Rota Romana (Italian, Ruota Ronana), the supreme Court of the Roman Catholic Church, and in particular the highest court of appeal. (See ROTA ROMANA).

2. The Signatura Justitice. It decides on the admissibility of appeals to the Rota, and consists of a cardinal as president (praefectus), seven (formerly twelve) voting prelates, some referendaries who prep ire the reports on law cases, and have, with regard to them, a decisive vote. An Auditor of the Rota decides what matter may be brought before the Rota, and decides various preliminary questions; but appeal may be taken from his decisions to the full court of the Signatura. The decisions of the Signatura are signed by the pope with the word Fiat, or, in the presence and by order of the pope, by a cardinal, with the formula Concessum in proesentia Domini nostri Papae.

3. The Signatura gratioc decides on those cases on which a decision is expected from the personal grace of the pope, and which on that account must be expedited more promptly. The pope himself presides in this college, which consists of cardinals appointed by him. The cardinal penitentiary, the secretary of the briefs, and the prefect of the dataria, belong to it in virtue of their office. The reports are made by three referendaries. The members have only a consultative vote. The pope alone decides, and signs personally all decisions.

II. Boards of Administration. These are as follows:

1. Secretaria Apostolica. To it belong the cardinal secretaryg of memorials, who has to receive and report on all memorials not belonging to any other board, and the cardinal secretary of briefs (carditalis a secretis brevium), who has to draw up certain papal briefs, which he signs and seals with the fisher's ring. This office is now part of the bureau of the cardinal secretary of state for foreign affairs, the leading officer of the papal government, who conducts the negotiations on Church affairs with all the foreign governments. The nuncios and other diplomatic agents of the papal government are his subordinates, receive from him his instructions, and have to report to him on the condition of the Church in those states to which they have been sent. His office employs a large number of clerks. In important questions he consults extraordinary "congregations," and even the regular congregation of ecclesiastical affairs. He reports to the pope on indulgences, on dispensations from the defectus cetatis, natalium, interstitiorun, and on holy days.

2. The Dataria Apostolica was formerly a board of expedition, but in the course of time has become an independent board of administration. Its president is called datarius, and if he is as is usually the case a cardinal, prodatarius. It has its name from the common subscription, Datum apud Sanctum Petrum. Within the jurisdiction of the Dataria belong the granting of certain privileges, of dispensations from certain cases of consanguinity, etc. Among the officers of the Dataria is the officialis ad obitum, to whom belongs the management of those ecclesiastical benefices which become vacant in consequence of the deaths of their occupants. The Datarius, after obtaining the consent of the pope, signs Annuit Sanctissminus.

3. The Cancellaria Apostolica (Apostolical Chancellory) issues bulls or briefs on all important subjects which have been transacted in the Consistory or in the Dataria. Its chief is a cardinal vice-chancellor, the name vice-chancellor having originated in the fact that formerly (until the thirteenth century) the honorary dignity of chancellor was conferred upon some foreign prelate, and having been retained since, although from that time the presidency of the Chancellory has always been vested in a cardinal.

4. The Camera Apostolica (the Apostolical Chamber) has the administration of the papal revenues. Its president is a cardinal chamberlain (camerarius or camerlengo). The ecclesiastical revenues having been greatly reduced in the course of time, the chief business of the Apostolical Chamber is the administration of the finances of the papal territory.

5. The Panitentiaria Romana (Penitentiary) acts in all cases of absolutions and dispensations which are reserved to the pope; as regards dispensations, however, only in secret cases, or inforo interno. The president of the board is a cardinal, who has the title Paenitentiarius Major.

III. The Papal Court, or the so-called "Papal Family" (Famiglia Pontifica). It comprises the officers on service who live in the papal palace (palatini),besides a large number of honorary members. Among them are:

1. The cardinales palatini; namely, the cardinal secretary of state, the cardinal secretary of briefs, and the cardinal prodatarius.

2. The praelatini palatini, embracing a court marshal, a master of ceremonies; a master of the sacred palace (always a Dominican monk, who is also censor of the books published in Rome), the sacristan of the palace (always an Augustinian monk, who assists the pope in his private chapels), an auditor sanctissimi (a lawyer who is consulted by the pope), a large number of privy chamberlains and of honorary domestic prelates (prelati domestics), and bishops assistant of the throne (vescovi assistenti al soglio). These latter titles are conferred on a large number of bishops and priests in all parts of the world. Among the earlier writings on the papal curia, the best is that by the chevalier Lunadoro, Relazione della Corte di Roma (Padua, 1641; many edit. since; latest edition, with all the necessary additions, Rome, 1830, 2 vols.). See also Dr. O. Mejer, Die heutige romische Curie, in Jacobson's Zeitschrift fuir das Recht der Kirche (Leips. 1847); Wetzer und Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 2:944.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Curia Romana'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/c/curia-romana.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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