Ecclesiastical letter

Ecclesiastical letters are publications or announcements of the organs of Roman Catholic ecclesiastical authority, e.g. the synods, but more particularly of pope and bishops, addressed to the faithful in the form of letters.

Letters of the popes in the period of the early church

The popes began early, by virtue of the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff, to issue canon laws as well for the entire Church as for individuals, in the form of letters which popes sent either of their own will or when application was made to them by synods, bishops or individual Christians.

Apart from the Epistles of the Apostle Peter, the first example of this is the Letter of Pope Clement I (90-99?) to the Corinthians, in whose community there was grave dissension. Only a few papal letters of the first three Christian centuries have been preserved in whole or part, or are known from the works of ecclesiastical writers. Among them are Adversus Aleatores by Pope Victor I, some fragments of a letter by Pope Stephen I, three letters by Pope Cornelius, and one by Pope Dionysius.[1] As soon as the Church was recognized by the (Roman) State and could freely spread in all directions, the papal primacy of necessity began to develop, and from this time on the number of papal letters increased.

No part of the Church and no question of faith or morals failed to attract the papal attention. The popes called these letters with reference to their legal character, decreta, statuta, decretalia constituta, even when the letters were often hortatory in form. Thus Siricius, in his letter of the year 385 to Himerius of Tarragona, a Greek Sophist, Rhetorician and archbishop of Tarragona.[2] Or the letters were called sententiæ, i. e. opinions;[3] præcepta;[4] auctoritates.[5] On the other hand, more general letters, especially those of dogmatic importance, were also called at times tomi; indiculi; commonitoria; epistolae tractoriae, or simply tractatoriae.

If the matter were important, the popes issued the letters not by their sole authority, but with the advice of the Roman presbytery or of a synod. Consequently, such letters were also called epistolae synodiae.[6] By epistola synodica was also understood in Christian antiquity the letter of the newly elected bishop or pope by which he notified the other bishops of his elevation and of his agreement with them in the Faith. Thus an epistola of this kind had a certain relationship to the litterae formatae by which a bishop certified, for presentation to another bishop, to the orthodoxy and unblemished moral character of an ecclesiastic of his diocese. Closely related to the litterae formatae are the litterae dimissoriae (dimissorials) by which a bishop sends a candidate for ordination to another bishop to be ordained.

While these names indicate sufficiently the legal character of the papal letters, it is to be noted that the popes repeatedly demanded in explicit terms the observance of their decrees; thus Siricius, in his letter of the year 385 to Himerius,[7] and Innocent I in his letter of the year 416 addressed to Decentius, Bishop of Gubbio.[8] In the same manner they repeatedly required from the persons to whom they wrote that these should bring the letter in question to the notice of others. Thus again Siricius, in his letter to Himerius;[9] and Pope Zosimus, in the year 418 to Hesychius of Sabona.[10]

In order to secure such knowledge of the papal laws, several copies of the papal letters were occasionally made and dispatched at the same time. In this way arose the letters a pari: a paribus uniformes, ta isa.[11]

Following the example of the Roman emperors, the popes soon established archives (scrinium) in which copies of their letters were placed as memorials for further use, and as proofs of authenticity. The first mention of papal archives is found in the Acts of a synod held about 370 under Pope Damasus I.[12] Pope Zosimus also makes mention in 419 of the archives.[13] Nevertheless, forged papal letters appeared even earlier than this. But by far the greater number of the papal letters of the first millennium have been lost; only the letters of Pope Leo I, edited by the Ballerini brothers, the "Registrum Epistolarum" of Gregory I, edited by Ewald and Hartmann, and the "Registrum Epistolarum" of Gregory VII, edited by Jaffé, have been more or less completely preserved.

As befitted their legal importance, the papal letters were also soon incorporated in the collections of canon law.[14] The first to collect the epistles of the popes in a systematic and comprehensive manner was the monk Dionysius Exiguus, at the beginning of the sixth century.[15] In this way the papal letters took rank with the canons of the synods as of equal value and of equal obligation. The example of Dionysius was followed afterwards by almost all compilers of the canons, Pseudo-Isidore and the Gregorian canonists, e.g. Anselm of Lucca, Deusdedit etc.

Letters of the medieval Popes

With the development of the papal primacy in the Middle Ages the papal letters grew enormously in number. The popes, following the earlier custom, insisted that their rescripts, issued for individual cases, should be observed in all analogous ones. According to the teaching of the canonists, above all of Gratian, every papal letter of general character was authoritative for the entire Church without further notification.

The names of the letters of general authority were very varied: constitutio(n);[16] edict(um);[17] statutum;[18] decretum;[19] decretalis;[20] sanctio.[21] Decrees (decreta) was the name given especially to general ordinances issued with the advice of the cardinals.[22] On the other hand, ordinances issued for individual cases were called rescripta, responsa, mandata. Thus a (papal) constitution was always understood to be a papal ordinance which regulated ecclesiastical conditions of a general character judicially, in a durable manner and form, for all time; but by a rescript was understood a papal ordinance issued at the petition of an individual that decided a lawsuit or granted a favour. Compare the Bulls of promulgation prefixed to the "Decretals" of Gregory IX, the "Liber Sextus" of Boniface VIII and the "Clementinæ"; also the titles, "De constitutionibus" and "De rescriptis" in the "Corpus Juris Canonici". Notwithstanding all this, usage remained uncertain.[23]

The above-mentioned distinctions between papal documents were based on the extent of their authority. Other names again had their origin in the form of the papal documents. It is true they all had more or less evidently the form of letters. But essential differences appeared, especially in regard to the literary form (stylus) of the document and the method of sealing, these depending in each case on the importance of the contents of the respective document. It was merely the difference in the manner of sealing that led to the distinction between Bulls and Briefs. For Papal Bulls, legal instruments almost entirely for important matters, the seal was stamped in wax or lead, seldom in gold, enclosed in a case, and fastened to the document by a cord. For Briefs, instruments used as a rule in matters of less importance, the seal was stamped upon the document in wax. Curial letters (litterae curiales or litterae de curia) denoted particularly letters of the popes in political affairs.

During the Middle Ages, just as in the early Church, the letters of the popes were deposited in the papal archives either in the original or by copy. They are still in existence, and almost complete in number, from the time of Innocent III (1198–1216). Many papal letters were also incorporated, as their legal nature required, in the "Corpus Juris Canonici". Others are to be found in the formularies, many of which appeared unofficially in the Middle Ages, similar in kind to the ancient official Liber Diurnus of the papal chancery in use as late as the time of Gregory VII. The papal letters were forwarded by the papal officials, above all by the Apostolic Chancery, for whose use the chancery rules, regulae cancellariae Apostolicae, were drawn up with regard to the execution and dispatch of the papal letters, dating back to the twelfth century. Nevertheless, the forging of papal letters was even more frequent in the Middle Ages than in the early Church. Innocent III[24] refers to no less than nine methods of falsification. From the thirteenth century on to January, 1909 it sufficed, in order to give a papal document legal force, to post it up at Rome on the doors of St. Peter's, of the Lateran, the Apostolic Chancery and in the Piazza del Campo di Fiori, but since they acquired force only by publication in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Letters of the popes in modern times

In the modern period also, papal letters have been constantly issued, but they proceed from the popes themselves less frequently than in the Middle Ages and Christian antiquity; most of them are issued by the papal officials, of whom there is a greater number than in the Middle Ages, and to whom have been granted large delegated powers, which include the issuing of letters. Following the example of Paul III, Pius IV and Pius V, Sixtus V by the Papal Bull "Immensa aeterni" of 22 January 1587, added to the already existing bodies of papal officials a number of congregations of cardinals with clearly defined powers of administration and jurisdiction. Succeeding popes added other congregations.

Pius X in the Constitution "Sapienti consilio" of 29 June 1908, reorganized the papal Curia, papal writings being divided into (Apostolic) Constitutions, (papal) Rescripts, (Papal) Bulls, (Papal) Briefs and Apostolic Letters (Litterae Apostolicae).

  1. The Litterae Apostolicae are further divided into Litterae Apostolicae simplices or Brevetti, Chirographa, Encyclicae (Encyclicals) and Motus Proprii. By Litterae Apostolicae simplices are understood all documents drawn up by virtue of papal authorization, and signed with the pope's name but not by the pope personally. Documents signed by the pope personally are called Chirographa. Encyclicals are letters of a more hortatory nature, addressed to all or to a majority of the higher officials of the Church. A Motu Proprio is a document prepared at the personal initiative of the pope, without previous petition to him, and issued with a partial avoidance of the otherwise customary forms of the chancery.
  2. By Constitution is understood, as in the Middle Ages, a papal document of general authority; by Rescript, a similar document applicable to an individual case.
  3. Bulls and Briefs are distinguished from each other by characteristics of form which have always remained essentially the same.

The papal documents are still deposited in the Roman archives. There are no official collections of them corresponding to the medieval "Corpus Juris Canonici". The last(?) official collection is that of the Constitutions of Benedict XIV (1740–1758). From the sixteenth century, on the other hand, private collections have appeared, some of which are called bullaria, from the more important part of their contents. Many papal letters are also found in the collections of the Acts of the Councils. The documents issued by the officials of the Curia and the Congregations of Cardinals contain either resolutions (decisions) for individual cases, or declarations (extensivae or comprehensivae) interpreting laws, or decrees, which are entirely new laws. Some congregations of cardinals have issued official collections of their decisions.

Collections of the letters of the Popes and of the Roman officials

Coustant, "Epistolæ Romanorum Pontificum et quæ ad eos scriptæ sunt a S. Clemente I usque ad Innocentium III" (Paris, 1721), goes to only 440; Schönemann, "Pontificum Romanorum a Clemente I usque ad Leonem M. genuinæ ... epistolæ" (Göttingen, 1796); Thiel, "Epistolæ Romanorum Pontificum genuinæ ... a S. Hilaro usque ad Pelagium II" (Brunsberg, 1868).

From 1881 the École Française of Rome has published, with particular reference to France, the "Registra" of Gregory IX, Innocent IV, Alexander IV, Urban IV, Clement IV, Gregory X, John XXI, Nicholas III, Martin IV, Honorius IV, Nicholas IV, Boniface VIII, and Benedict XI. The "Registra" of the Avignon popes are also in course of publication. Cf. "Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire", XXV, 443 sqq.; Joseph Hergenröther, "Leonis X Pontificis Maximi Regesta" (Freiburg, 1884-); "Regesta Clementis Papæ V cura et studio monachorum ordinis S. Benedicti" (Rome, 1885-); Pressuti, "Registrum Honorii III" (Rome, 1888-).

There are innumerable collections of papal letters issued from a partisan point of view. All known papal letters up to 1198 are enumerated by Jaffé in the "Regesta Rom. Pont." The papal letters of 1198-1304 are found in August Potthast, Regesta Pontificum Romanorum ab anno 1198 ad annum 1304 (Berlin, 1874).

Paul Kehr prepared a critical edition of all papal letters up to Innocent III. See the "Nachrichten", of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, 1896, 72 sqq.; "Pii IX acta" (Rome, 1854-); "Leonis XIII acta" (Rome, 1881); "Pii X acta" (Rome, 1907). For the Bullaria, see Tomasetti, "Bullarum, diplomatum et privilegiorum s. Romanorum Pontificum Taurinensis editio locupletissima" (Turin, 1857-); for collections of the Acts of the Councils, Mansi, "Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio" (Florence and Venice, 1759), goes to 1439. It is continued by "Collectio conciliorum recentioris ecclesiæ universæ", ed. Martin and Petit (Paris, 1905); "Decreta authentica S. Congregationis Indulgentiarum edita jussu et auctoritate Leonis XIII" (Ratisbon, 1883); "Jus Pontificium de Propaganda Fide Leonis XIII jussu recognitum" (Rome, 1888); "Decreta authentica Congregationis S. Rituum ... promulgata sub auspiciis Leonis XIII" (Rome, 1898).

The above-mentioned Sapienti Consilio of Pope Pius X decreed, that all papal laws were to be promulgated through publication in an official bulletin called the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the first issues of which, at intervals of about twice a month, appeared in 1909. From 1865 to 1908, papal documents had been published in a similar series under the title Acta Sanctae Sedis, which was declared official in 1904. Before 1865, papal documents were not systematically published in documentary fashion and were promulgated by other means such as being affixed to the doors of basilicas in Rome.[25]

Letters of bishops

Just as the popes rule the Church largely by means of letters, so also the bishops make use of letters for the administration of their dioceses. The documents issued by a bishop are divided according to their form into pastoral letters, synodal and diocesan statutes, mandates or ordinances or decrees, the classification depending upon whether they have been drawn up more as letters, or have been issued by a synod or the diocesan chancery.

The pastoral letters are addressed either to all the members of the diocese (litterae pastorales) or only to the clergy, in this case generally in Latin (litterae encyclicae). The mandates, decrees or ordinances are issued either by the bishop himself or by one of his officials.

The synodal statutes are ordinances issued by the bishop at the diocesan synod, with the advice, but in no way with the legislative co-operation, of the diocesan clergy. The diocesan statutes, regularly speaking, are those episcopal ordinances which, because they refer to more weighty matters, are prepared with the obligatory or facultative co-operation of the cathedral chapter.

In order to have legal force the episcopal documents must be published in a suitable manner and according to usage. Civil laws by which episcopal and also papal documents have to receive the approval of the State before they can be published are irrational and out of date according to the First Vatican Council (Sess. III, De eccles., c. iii). (See Exequatur.)

See also


  1. ^ Ancient Papal Documents
  2. ^ Jaffé, "Regesta Pontificum Romanorum" (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1885-88), I, no. 255.
  3. ^ Syn. Tur., II, an. 567, c. ii.
  4. ^ Syn. Bracar., I, an. 561, præf.
  5. ^ Zosimus, an. 417; Jaffé, "Regesta", 2nd ed., I, no. 349.
  6. ^ Syn. Tolet., III, an. 589, c. i.
  7. ^ Jaffé, "Regesta", 2nd ed., I, no. 255.
  8. ^ Jaffé, "Regesta", 2nd ed., I, no. 311.
  9. ^ Jaffé, "Regesta", 2nd ed., I, no. 255
  10. ^ Jaffé, "Regesta", 2nd ed., I, no. 339.
  11. ^ Jaffé, "Regesta", 2nd ed., I, nos. 331, 334, 373.
  12. ^ Pierre Coustant, "Epistolæ Romanorum Pontificum", Paris, 1721, 500.
  13. ^ Jaffé, "Regesta", 2nd ed., I, no. 350.
  14. ^ Friedrich Maassen, "Geschichte der Quellen und Literatur des kanonischen Rechts im Abendlande bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters", Graz, 1870, 231 sqq.
  15. ^ Maassen, "Geschichte der Quellen", 422 sqq.
  16. ^ c. vi, X, De elect., I, vi.
  17. ^ c. unic., in VIto, De postul., I, v.
  18. ^ c. xv, X, De sent. excomm., V, xxxix.
  19. ^ c. i, in VIto, De præb., III, iv.
  20. ^ c. xxix, in VIto, De elect., I, vi.
  21. ^ c. unic., in VIto, De cler. ægrot., III, v.
  22. ^ Schulte, "Geschichte der Quellen und Literatur des kanonischen Rechtes", Stuttgart, 1876, I, 252 sq.
  23. ^ c. xiv, in VIto, De præb., III, iv.
  24. ^ in c. v, X, De crimine falsi, V, xx.
  25. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2012 (Libreria Edictrice Vaticana 2012 ISBN 978-88-209-8722-0), p. 1821


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.

Apostolic constitution

An apostolic constitution (Latin: constitutio apostolica) is the most solemn form of legislation issued by the Pope. The use of the term constitution comes from Latin constitutio, which referred to any important law issued by the Roman emperor, and is retained in church documents because of the inheritance that the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church received from Roman law.

By their nature, apostolic constitutions are addressed to the public. Generic constitutions use the title apostolic constitution and treat on solemn matters of the church, such as the promulgation of laws or definitive teachings. The forms dogmatic constitution and pastoral constitution are titles sometimes used to be more descriptive as to the document's purpose.

Apostolic constitutions are issued as papal bulls because of their solemn, public form. Among types of papal legislation, apostolic letters issued motu proprio are next in solemnity.

Apostolic exhortation

An apostolic exhortation is a type of communication from the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It encourages a community of people to undertake a particular activity but does not define Church doctrine. It is considered lower in formal authority than a papal encyclical, but higher than other ecclesiastical letters, Apostolic Letters and other papal writings.

Apostolic exhortations are commonly issued in response to an assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in which case they are known as post-synodal apostolic exhortations.


A camauro (from the Latin camelaucum and from the Greek kamelauchion, meaning "camel skin hat") is a cap traditionally worn by the Pope of the Catholic Church.

Papal camauros are made from red wool or velvet with white ermine trim, and are usually worn during the winter in place of the zucchetto. Like the biretta worn by lower clergy and the mortarboard worn by academics, the camauro derives from the academic cap (the pileus), originally worn to protect tonsured clerical heads in the cold season. It is often worn with a red mozzetta.

Catholic Church and the Age of Discovery

The Catholic Church during the Age of Discovery inaugurated a major effort to spread Christianity in the New World and to convert the indigenous peoples of the Americas and other indigenous people by any means necessary. The evangelical effort was a major part of, and a justification for the military conquests of European powers such as Portugal, Spain and France. Christian Missions to the indigenous peoples ran hand-in-hand with the colonial efforts of Catholic nations. In the Americas and other colonies in Asia and Africa, most missions were run by religious orders such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and Jesuits. In Mexico the early systematic evangelization by mendicants came to be known as the "Spiritual Conquest of Mexico."Antonio de Montesinos, a Dominican friar on the island of Hispaniola, was the first member of the clergy to publicly denounce all forms of enslavement and oppression of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Theologians such as Francisco de Vitoria and Bartolomé de las Casas drew up theological and philosophical bases for the defense of the human rights of the colonized native populations, thus creating the basis of international law, regulating the relationships between nations. Important contemporary ecclesiastical documents taking a strong stance on enslaving or despoiling the indigenous peoples of the Americas was the ecclesiastical letter Pastorale officium and the superseding encyclical Sublimis Deus.

In the early years most mission work was undertaken by the religious orders. Over time it was intended that a normal church structure would be established in the mission areas. The process began with the formation of special jurisdictions, known as apostolic prefectures and apostolic vicariates. These developing churches eventually graduated to regular diocesan status with the appointment of a local bishop. After decolonization, this process increased in pace as church structures altered to reflect new political-administrative realities.


An encyclical was originally a circular letter sent to all the churches of a particular area in the ancient Roman Church. At that time, the word could be used for a letter sent out by any bishop. The word comes from Late Latin encyclios (from Latin encyclius, a Latinization of Greek ἐγκύκλιος enkyklios meaning "circular", "in a circle", or "all-round", also part of the origin of the word encyclopedia).

The term has been used by Catholics, Anglicans and the Eastern Orthodox.


The falda is a particular papal vestment that forms a long skirt extending beneath the hem of the alb. When it is worn, the skirts of the falda are so long that the Pope needs train-bearers both in front and behind while he walks. It was used when the Pope celebrated Mass.This form of vestment has its origins in the 15th century and earlier. It was initially made of cream-coloured silk and worn over the alb and under the chasuble or cope. It can be used in papal funerals, where it was draped over the body when it lay in state. It has, since the Pontificate of Paul VI, fallen into disuse.

Indult Catholic

Indult Catholic was a traditionalist Catholic loaded term used from the early 21st century until 2007 as a pejorative label applied to Catholics who attended only the licit celebrations of the Tridentine Mass in Latin according to the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal and regulated by the local bishop through an indult that conformed to the 1984 Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments norms in the ecclesiastical letter Quattuor abhinc annos.

Ordinatio sacerdotalis

Ordinatio sacerdotalis (English: Priestly Ordination) is an ecclesiastical letter issued by Pope John Paul II on 22 May 1994 in which he discussed the Catholic Church's position requiring "the reservation of priestly ordination to men alone" and wrote that "the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women". While the document states that it was written so "that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance", it has been contested by some Catholics, as to both the substance and in the authoritative nature of its teaching. Many scholars agree it is not an infallible statement, as it does not define a teaching related to faith or morals. On the contrary, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller argues this prevalent opinion ignores that the document itself specifies that this matter does pertain to faith since it is "a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself", and it is the Pope's prerogative to make such definitions: "It is the province of the Magisterium to decide if a question is dogmatic or disciplinary: in this case, the Church has already decided that this proposition is dogmatic and that, because it is divine law, it cannot be changed or even reviewed"Citing an earlier Vatican document, Inter insigniores, "on the question of the Admission of women to the Ministerial Priesthood", issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in October 1976, Pope John Paul explains the official Roman Catholic understanding that the priesthood is a special role specially set out by Jesus when he chose twelve men out of his group of male and female followers. Pope John Paul notes that Jesus chose the Twelve after a night in prayer (cf. Lk 6:12) and that the Apostles themselves were careful in the choice of their successors. The priesthood is "specifically and intimately associated in the mission of the Incarnate Word himself."The letter concludes with the words:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of Our ministry of confirming the brethren. We declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.

The phrase "definitively held by all the Church's faithful" pertains to the full assent of faith that is given to the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, one opinion is that Ordinatio sacerdotalis was not issued under the extraordinary papal magisterium as an ex cathedra statement, and so is not considered infallible in itself. Some consider its contents infallible under the ordinary magisterium, saying this doctrine has been held consistently by the Church. In a responsum ad dubium (reply to a doubt) explicitly approved by Pope John Paul II and dated October 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its opinion that the teaching of Ordinatio sacerdotalis had been "set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium" and accordingly was "to be held definitively, as belonging to the deposit of faith".In 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued another opinion, a Doctrinal Commentary on Ad tuendam fidem, which said that the teaching of Ordinatio sacerdotalis was not taught as being divinely revealed explicitly, although it might someday be so taught in the future, that is to say, it has not been determined whether the doctrine is "to be considered an intrinsic part of revelation or only a logical consequence", yet in either case it is certainly definitive and to be believed infallibly.

Papal Apartments

The Papal Apartments is the non-official designation for the collection of apartments, which are private, state, and religious, that wrap around a courtyard (the Courtyard of Sixtus V, Cortile di Sisto V) on two sides of the third (top) floor of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.Since the 17th century the Papal Apartments have been the official residence of the Pope in his religious capacity (as Supreme Pontiff). Prior to 1870, the Pope's official residence in his temporal capacity (as sovereign of the Papal States) was the Quirinal Palace, which is now the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic. The Papal Apartments are referred to in Italian by several terms, including appartamento nobile and appartamento pontificio.

Papal consistory

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.A meeting of the College of Cardinals to elect a new pope is not a consistory, but a conclave.

Papal cross

The papal cross is a Christian cross, which serves as an emblem for the office of the Pope in ecclesiastical heraldry. It is depicted as a staff with three horizontal bars near the top, in diminishing order of length as the top is approached. The cross is thus analogous to the two-barred archiepiscopal cross used in heraldry to indicate an archbishop, and seems to have been used precisely to indicate an ecclesiastical rank still higher than that of archbishop. In the past, this design of the cross was often used in ecclesiastical heraldry as a distinctive mark of his office. It was often merely an artistic device, as use of a staff or crosier was not part of the traditional papal insignia. However, at least one staff surmounted with a papal cross does exist.

Symbolism connected with the papal powers have been attached to the three crossbars, similar to the symbolism attached to the three bands on the papal tiara.

Papal fanon

The fanon (old Germanic for cloth) is a vestment that around the 10th or 12th century became reserved for the Pope alone and for use only during a pontifical Mass. The Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon has the same privilege.

Papal shoes

The Papal shoes were the red leather outdoor shoes worn by the Pope. They should not be confused with the indoor Papal Slippers or the Episcopal sandals, which are the liturgical footwear proper to all ordained Catholic bishops of the Latin Rite.

Pastorale officium

Pastorale officium was a Apostolic Brief issued by Pope Paul III, May 29, 1537, to Cardinal Juan Pardo de Tavera which declares that anyone who enslaved or despoiled indigenous Americans would be automatically excommunicated.The harsh threat of punishment (Latae sententiae) contained in Pastorale officium made the Conquistadors complain to the Spanish king and Emperor. Charles V went on to argue that the letter was injurious to the Imperial right of colonization and harmful to the peace of the Indies. The urging of Charles V to revoke the briefs and bulls of 1537 and exemplifies the tension of the concern for evangelisation as manifested in the teachings of 1537 and the pressure to honor the system of royal patronage. The weakened position of the pope and the memory of the Sack of Rome (1527) a decade earlier by imperial troops, made the ecclesiastical authorities hesitant in engaging in any possible confrontation with the Emperor. Under mounting pressure Pope Paul III succumbed and removed the ecclesiastical censures in the letter titled "Non Indecens Videtur ".

The annulling of the ecclesiastical letter was not a denial of the doctrinal teaching of the spiritual equivalence of all human beings. The annulation gave rise to the subsequent

papal encyclical Sublimis Deus promulgated by Pope Paul III on June 2, 1537 Thus the Pastorale officium has been seen as a companion document for the encyclical Sublimis Deus.Stogre (1992) notes that "Sublimus Dei" is not present in Denzinger compendium of theological-historical source texts.

Pontifical academy

A pontifical academy is an academic honorary society established by or under the direction of the Holy See. Some were in existence well before they were accepted as "Pontifical."

Rota (papal signature)

The rota is one of the symbols used by the Pope to authenticate documents such as papal bulls. It is a cross inscribed in two concentric circles. Pope Leo IX was the first pope to use it.

The four inner quadrants contain: "Petrus", "Paulus", the Pope's name, and the Pope's ordinal number. The Pope's autograph or motto is sometimes inscribed between the concentric circles.

A rota was also used by monarchs for the authentication of documents and diplomas.

Servant of the servants of God

Servant of the servants of God (Latin: servus servorum Dei) is one of the titles of the pope and is used at the beginning of papal bulls.

Sublimis Deus

Sublimis Deus (English: The sublime God; erroneously cited as Sublimus Dei) is a papal encyclical promulgated by Pope Paul III on June 2, 1537, which forbids the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas (called Indians of the West and the South) and all other people. It goes on to state that the Indians are fully rational human beings who have rights to freedom and private property, even if they are heathen. It strengthens the recent decree issued by Charles V of Spain in 1530 in which the King prohibited the enslavement of Indians. Another related document is the ecclesiastical letter Pastorale officium, issued May 29, 1537, and usually seen as a companion document to Sublimis Deus.There is still some controversy about how this bull is related to the documents known as Veritas ipsa, Unigenitus Deus and Pastorale officium (May 29, 1537). Alberto de la Hera (see footnote 1) believes that Veritas ipsa and Unigenitus Deus are simply other versions of Sublimis Deus, and not separate bulls. Joel Panzer (The Popes and Slavery [New York: Alba House, 1996] p. 17) sees Veritas ipsa as an earlier draft of Sublimis Deus. While some scholars see Sublimis Deus as a primary example of Papal advocacy of Indian rights, others see it as part of an inconsistent and politically convenient stance by Paul III, who later rescinded Sublimis Deus or the Pastorale in 1538.

In Sublimis Deus, Paul III unequivocally declares the indigenous peoples of the Americas to be rational beings with souls, denouncing any idea to the contrary as directly inspired by the "enemy of the human race" (Satan). He goes on to condemn their reduction to slavery in the strongest terms, declaring it null and void for any people known as well as any that could be discovered in the future, entitles their right to liberty and property, and concludes with a call for their evangelization.

The bull had a strong impact on the Valladolid debate, and its principles eventually became the official position of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, although it was often ignored by the colonists and conquistadores themselves. The executing brief for the bull ("Pastorale Officium") was annulled by Paul in 1537 at the request of the Spanish who had rescinded the decree previously issued by Charles. The bull is cited at times as evidence of a strong condemnation by the church of slavery in general, but some scholars point out that Paul sanctioned slavery elsewhere after the issuing of Sublimis Deus.


The zucchetto (English: , Italian: [dzuˈkːetto; tsu-]; meaning "small gourd", from zucca, "pumpkin") is a small, hemispherical, form-fitting ecclesiastical skullcap worn by clerics of various Catholic churches, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and by the higher clergy in Anglicanism. The plural is zucchetti; it is also known by the names pilus, pilos, pileus, pileolus (pileolo), subbiretum, submitrale, soli deo (solideo), berrettino, calotte (calotta).

Major basilicas
Papal names
Eponymic entities

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