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Abbot, Abbess

(208 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
The words “abbot” and “abbess” come from Aram. abba (father). Abbots and abbesses are the heads of independent cloisters, especially Benedictine; an abbot may also be the head of an abbey church. Many abbots and abbesses, who are often esteemed as highly as bishops, have made their mark as missionaries, pioneers, preachers, poets, scientists, and territorial rulers. They typically receive an oath of obedience from those under them. The abbot general, or abbot president, is the head of a group of monasteries. The head of the confederated Benedictines, elected fo…

Offices

(218 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
The word “offices,” derived from Lat. officium (office, duty), is used in two main senses in the Roman Catholic Church. 1. “Office” denotes an ecclesiastical office (Ministry, Ministerial Offices). The reference is to a divinely or ecclesiastically ordained ministry and the acceptance of a spiritual mission (see 1983 CIC 145.1). In the broad sense the whole of the Christian way of faith constitutes the ministry, all believers being called “to exercise the mission which God entrusted to the Church” (can. 204.1) and pledged to participation in it (cans. 208–23). In the Roman curia, t…

Dimissorial

(241 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
A dimissorial, also (Littera) Dimissoria (from Lat. dimitto, “release”), is a certificate of discharge or release that one principal sends to another on behalf of certain individuals. In various forms it is customary in most Christian churches (church law). It approves or requests the giving of the sacraments or the performance of occasional services by another ordained person, presupposing the fulfillment of all preconditions and the making of a report. In some countries it is also important in relation to standing and income (Pastor, Pastorate). Present-day mobility makes the…

Pontificals

(152 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
In the Roman Catholic Church pontificals (Lat. pontificalia) are official acts by the chief clergy at which bishops, cardinals, abbots, or prelates carry the pontifical insignia of miters and staffs (e.g., at High Mass and confirmation; ¶ Initiation Rites). They include the ordination of deacons, priests, and bishops; the consecration of oil, altars, churches, and virgins; and certain blessings, visitations, and solemn jurisdictional acts. In these cases there is a uniform worldwide liturgical order (Liturgical Books). In the Roman Catholic Church and also in other den…

Filiation

(167 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
In church law “filiation” is used for offshoots of monasteries and parishes. Filiation was common in medieval orders and became a constitutional principle for the Cistercians. The abbot of the motherhouse had the right to visit (Visitation) daughter houses, and the “daughters” founded their own houses. Filiation of this type was later detached from the system of congregations (Orders and Congregations). Filiation was a transitional stage in the forming of parishes (Congregation). Modern Roman Catholic canon law calls such offshoots quasi parishes and sets…

Lourdes

(601 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
Lourdes, France, is a place of pilgrimage on the western slopes of the Pyrenees in the valley of the Gave du Pas River (Mary, Devotion to; Pilgrimage). There in February 1858 the 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous (1844–79, canonized in 1933), a day laborer’s daughter, had a vision of a woman in a niche of the grotto of Massabielle. The woman told her, “Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou” (I am the Immaculate Conception). She told Bernadette and the worshipers soon assembled with her to pray the r…

Exemption

(243 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
In church law the term “exemption” denotes the exclusion of persons, corporations, or territories from the normally expected associations or structures (Church Government) and their placement under higher or specially appointed officials (Jurisdiction, Ecclesiastical). In the Middle Ages exemptions were very important for particular orders and congregations, for such action placed them directly under the pope, and their heads were not subject to local bishops. This arrangement favored the development of monasteries, protected th…

Promotor fidei

(227 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
In the Roman Catholic Church the promotor fidei (Lat. promoter of the faith) is the theologian who, as part of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presides over meetings that weigh evidence for beatification and canonization. In the 17th century the church tightened up its procedures in these matters, giving an official judicial role to the promotor fidei. His task originally was to oppose the arguments of the postulator causae (the one who was episcopally appointed to plead the case) and the relatores (those who reported back to the curia). In popular parlance and in …

Cardinal

(323 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
“Cardinal” is the title of the highest dignitaries below the pope in the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinals were originally priests of the principal churches (sing. cardo) in or near Rome, from whom the pope sought help in leading the whole church. The beginnings of the College of Cardinals date back to the 12th century. The ranks of cardinal bishops, cardinal priests, and cardinal deacons reflect this origin. In the last few centuries the patriarchs of the Uniate churches of the East have also become cardinal bishops. The number of cardinals was fixed at 70 by Sixtus V in 1586. John XXIII (d. …

Encyclicals

(279 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
Encyclicals are circular letters issued by the pope. As litterae encyclicae, they are sent to all bishops who live in peace and fellowship with the apostolic see, or to all Roman Catholics, or to all people of good will. As epistolae encyclicae, they are addressed only to bishops and believers in a particular area. Written in either Latin or the vernacular, they deal with a wide range of matters of doctrine and church order, faith, piety and life, social order (Social Encyclicals), mission, and ecumenism. They are mostly concrete and ti…

Diocese

(321 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
The Greek word dioikēsis (housekeeping, government) quickly found its way into the official vocabulary of the Roman Empire in the sense of an administrative district. It first denoted individual parts of a province, then a larger unit consisting of several provinces. In the East the latter sense came into use for a division of the church. In the West the church retained the older Roman understanding and used the term for a bishopric (Bishop, Episcopate). Today the word has become a technical term in canon law and ecclesiology. For the Roman Catholic Church, local, or …

Secular Institutes

(686 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
In Christian history two motives have led to the founding of religious societies. The first has been a resolve to shun and flee the world (fuga mundi), the second a resolve to work in the world as it is by word and action (professio in hoc mundo). Many orders in Latin Christianity and congregations in the Roman Catholic Church resembled at first the modern secular institutes. We might think of the original efforts made by Angela Merici (1474–1540), Mary Ward (1585–1645), Vincent de Paul (1581–1660), and Pierre-Joseph Picot de Clorivière (17…

Bulls and Briefs

(289 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
Bulls and briefs are unofficial titles for papal deeds, edicts, and orders, especially before the appearance of Acta sanctae sedis (1865–1908). They represent communications of supreme significance from the standpoint of doctrine and canon law, as well as more localized directions and grants to individuals. They have defined dogma, established law (Canon Law), given decisions, set up or transformed bishoprics, confirmed orders and congregations, pronounced beatification and sainthood, appointed bishops and patrons,…

Prelature, Personal

(172 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
To meet the needs of pastoral care and to achieve the most effective possible presence of the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican II took steps to establish “personal prelacies” ( Presbyterorum ordinis 10), which would not primarily be territorial. In view are secular priests and deacons who are given special training and work with the laity, who in turn “can dedicate themselves to the apostolic work of a personal prelature by way of agreements made with the prelature” (1983 CIC  296). The only institution thus far to have the rank of a personal prelature is Opus Dei (granted in November 1982). Th…

Peter’s Pence

(228 words)

Author(s): Grote, Heiner
Peter’s Pence (Lat. denarius Sancti Petri) was an annual payment of devotion or recognition to the pope, almost a quasi-tribute. It first arose in 8th-century England at the initiative of secular rulers. Later it spread to most of the countries under the papacy. The efforts of Gregory VII (1073–85) and other popes to establish a feudal relation to the papacy on the basis of the Donation of Constantine came to nothing (Feudalism). In the 16th century the practice of paying Peter’s Pence fell into dis…