History of the Roman Curia

The history of the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus responsible for managing the affairs of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, can be traced to the 11th century when informal methods of administration began to take on a more organized structure and eventual a bureaucratic form. The Curia has undergone a series of renewals and reforms, including a major overhaul following the loss of the Papal States, which fundamentally altered the range and nature of the Curia's responsibilities, removing many of an entirely secular nature.

Historical origins

Like every bishop, the pope was surrounded by a college of priests.[1] The college met regularly to form councils to lead its diocese. Its function also extended a calling to the universal Church, and for matters relating to it, the Pope surrounded himself with other bishops around Rome to hear their advice. Gradually, these consistories took an almost permanent presence: the word "curia" is first used in the Church by a papal document in 1089, during the reign of Pope Urban II. Meetings were held three times a week under Pope Innocent III.[2]

Outside the presbyteries, which dealt with general topics, the pope set up specialized committees of Cardinals on particular topics. These commissions, first in temporary mandate, became more and more important and stable. Gradually, consistories lost their effectiveness and started to look like meetings apparatus. The real work was done within the congregations.

In 1542, the first congregation, the Holy Office was established by Pope Paul III to fight against Protestantism and other heresies. Then other congregations were created on this model: one after the Council for the Interpretation of the Decrees of the Council of Trent in 1561, and one for the Index in 1571.

After the Council of Trent, Pope Sixtus V reorganized the administration of the Holy See on 22 January 1588 with the Apostolic Constitution Immensa Aeterni Dei which established as standard practice the organization of groups of cardinal as standing committees to examine or review defined categories problems. Some of these congregations were created to assist in the administration of the Papal States rather than those of the Holy See or the Church. The congregations established by Sixtus V were:[3] for Holy Inquisition, for the Apostolic Signatura, for the erection of churches, for "the abundance of supplies and prosperity of the Church's temporal dominions", for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for equipping and maintaining the fleet for the defence of the Church's dominions, for an index of forbidden books, for the execution and interpretation of the Council of Trent, for relieving the ills of the States of the Church, for the University of the Rome, for regulating of religious orders, for regulating bishops and other prelates, for taking care of roads, bridges, and waters, for the Vatican printing-press, and for regulating the affairs of the Church's temporal dominions.

There was another general reorganization in 1908 under Pope Pius X, which reflected the focus on ecclesiastical matters alone following the loss of the Papal States.

While the Pope was sovereign of that region, the Curia had both religious and civil functions. The latter were lost when the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, expanding to include the greater part of Italy, seized most of the Papal States in 1860 and the city of Rome itself and its surrounding area in 1870, thus ending the Papacy's temporal power. The Curia was from then on dedicated in practice entirely to the Pope's ecclesiastical responsibilities. When the Holy See concluded the Lateran Pacts with the Italian State in 1929, the Holy See recognized the annexation by Italy of the Papal States, and Vatican City State was created. The Curia has continued to devote itself exclusively to ecclesiastical affairs, and a distinct body, not considered part of the Curia, was established for the governance of the minuscule state.

Modern era

The Second Vatican Council was followed by further changes. Some offices ceased to exist, because their former functions were abolished, as happened with the Dataria. The functions of some others were transferred to another office, as the remaining functions of the Apostolic Chancery and those of the Secretariate of Briefs were transferred to the Secretariat of State, and those of the Congregation of Ceremonies to the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household. Others were split into separate offices, as the Congregation of Rites became the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Congregation for Divine Worship, the latter of which later became, by fusion with another office, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Others again were simply given a new name.

Pope Benedict XVI made only modest changes to the structure of the Roman Curia. In March 2006, he placed both the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace under a single president, Cardinal Renato Martino. When Martino retired in 2009, the Councils each received its own preside once again. Also in March 2006 the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue was briefly merged into the Pontifical Council for Culture under Cardinal Paul Poupard. Those Councils maintained their separate officials and staffs while their status and competencies continued unchanged, and in May 2007 Interreligious Dialogue was restored to its separate status again with its own president.[4] In June 2010 Benedict created the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, appointing Archbishop Rino Fisichella its first president.[5] On 16 January 2013 Pope Benedict transferred responsibility for catechesis from the Congregation for the Clergy to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Niccolò Del Re, La Curia Romana: Lineamenti Storico-Giuridici (Rome: 4th ed., 1998) p.21
  2. ^ Niccolò Del Re, La Curia Romana: Lineamenti Storico-Giuridici (Rome: 4th ed., 1998) p.26
  3. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, Roman Congregations
  4. ^ Allen Jr., John L. (30 May 2006). "Council for Interreligious Dialogue to be restored, Vatican says". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Pope appoints Archbishop Fisichella to lead Council for New Evangelization". Catholic News Agency. 30 June 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Pope transfers responsibility for catechesis, seminaries". Catholic News Agency. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
Alfonso Muzzarelli

Alfonso Muzzarelli (22 August 1749, Ferrara - 25 May 1813, Paris) was an Italian Jesuit theologian and scholar.


A cardinal-nephew (Latin: cardinalis nepos; Italian: cardinale nipote; Spanish: valido de su tío; French: prince de fortune) was a cardinal elevated by a pope who was that cardinal's relative. The practice of creating cardinal-nephews originated in the Middle Ages, and reached its apex during the 16th and 17th centuries. The last cardinal-nephew was named in 1689 and the practice was extinguished in 1692. The word nepotism originally referred specifically to this practice, when it appeared in the English language about 1669. From the middle of the Avignon Papacy (1309–1377) until Pope Innocent XII's anti-nepotism bull (a papal charter), Romanum decet pontificem (1692), a pope without a cardinal-nephew was the exception to the rule. Every Renaissance pope who created cardinals appointed a relative to the College of Cardinals, and the nephew was the most common choice, although one of Alexander VI's creations was his own son.

The institution of the cardinal-nephew evolved over seven centuries, tracking developments in the history of the papacy and the styles of individual Popes. From 1566 until 1692, a cardinal-nephew held the curial office of the Superintendent of the Ecclesiastical State, known as the Cardinal Nephew, and thus the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. The curial office of the Cardinal Nephew as well as the institution of the cardinal-nephew declined as the power of the Cardinal Secretary of State increased and the temporal power of popes decreased in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The list of cardinal-nephews includes at least fifteen, and possibly as many as nineteen popes (Gregory IX, Alexander IV, Adrian V, Gregory XI, Boniface IX, Innocent VII, Eugene IV, Paul II, Alexander VI, Pius III, Julius II, Leo X, Clement VII, Benedict XIII, and Pius VII; perhaps also John XIX and Benedict IX, if they were really promoted cardinals; as well as Innocent III and Benedict XII, if in fact they were related to their elevators); one antipope (John XXIII); and two or three saints (Charles Borromeo, Guarinus of Palestrina, and perhaps Anselm of Lucca, if he was really a cardinal).

Cardinal protector

Since the thirteenth century it has been customary at Rome to confide to some particular Cardinal a special solicitude in the Roman Curia for the interests of a given religious order or institute, confraternity, church, college, city, nation etcetera. Such a person is known as a Cardinal Protector. He was its representative or orator when it sought a favor or a privilege, defended it when unjustly accused, and besought the aid of the Holy See when its rights, property or interests were violated or imperiled.

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Curial response to Catholic sexual abuse cases

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Cursores is the plural of the Latin Cursor, 'runner'. There have been various corps of auxiliary officers in various institutions by that name.

At universities, the term has been used for the candidates for the license.


The Ecthesis (Greek: Ἔκθεσις) is a letter published in 638 CE by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius which defined monotheletism as the official imperial form of Christianity.

Gaetano Sanseverino

Gaetano Sanseverino (1811 – 16 November 1865) was an Italian philosopher and theologian. He made a comparative study including the scholastics, particularly St. Thomas Aquinas, and of the connection between their doctrine and that of the church fathers.

Giovanni Maria Cornoldi

Giovanni Maria Cornoldi (29 September 1822 – 18 January 1892) was an Italian Jesuit academic, author, and preacher.

Immensa Aeterni Dei

Immensa Aeterni Dei is an apostolic constitution in the form of a papal bull issued by Pope Sixtus V on 22 January 1588. The constitution reorganized the Roman Curia, establishing permanent congregations of cardinals to advise the pope on various subjects. The primary role of the document was to provide instruction in condemning or correcting literature which were against Catholic doctrine. The document also had the authority to give permission for selected individuals to read books which were forbidden. It has since been superseded, most recently by Pope John Paul II's constitution Pastor Bonus.

Johann Michael Sailer

Johann Michael Sailer (Aresing, 17 October 1751 – Regensburg, 20 May 1832) was a German Jesuit professor of theology and Bishop of Regensburg.

Louis Thomassin

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Palatinus in the Catholic Church

Palatinus (plural: Palatini), Latin for "palatial", entered into designations for various ecclesiastical offices in the Catholic Church, primarily, of certain high officials in the papal court.

Pietro Luigi Galletti

Pietro Luigi Galletti was an Italian Benedictine, historian and archaeologist; b. Rome in 1724; d. there, 13 December 1790.

Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church

The Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church (Latin: Pontificia Commissio de Patrimonio Artis et Historiae conservando) was an institution within the Roman Curia of the Catholic Church that presided over the guardianship of the historical and artistic patrimony of the entire Church - that is to say, works of art, historical documents, books, and everything kept in ecclesiastical museums as well as in ecclesiastical libraries and archives.

It also collaborated with the particular Churches and with national episcopal conferences in the conservation of this patrimony, and was charged with promoting an ever greater awareness in the Church about these riches.

Pontifical Commission on Birth Control

The Pontifical Commission on Birth Control was a committee within the Roman Curia tasked with analyzing the modern impact of birth control on the Roman Catholic Church. The disagreements within the commission ultimately led to the publication of the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Squadrone Volante

The Squadrone Volante ("Flying Squad") was a 17th-century group of independent and liberal cardinals within the College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. It attempted to influence the outcome of a number of papal conclaves.

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The vestararius was the manager of the medieval Roman Curia office of the vestiarium (cf. the Byzantine imperial wardrobe and treasury, the vestiarion), responsible for the management of papal finances as well as the papal wardrobe. The vestiarium is mentioned as the papal treasury as early as the seventh century, during the period of Byzantine cultural hegemony in the West called the "Byzantine Papacy", but the vestararius itself is attested to only from the eighth century.Along with the highest financial officers arcarius and the sacellarius, the vestararius was one of the three most important staff officials of the Lateran Palace (the palatini). By the ninth century the vestararius was a member of the papal household second only to the seven judges, while the other two offices figured among the "seven judges of the palace" who constituted the core of the papal court. While the other offices were responsible for the collection and dispensation of papal assets, respectively, the vestararius was responsible for guarding the wealth, possibly depositing in the wardrobe along with the papal vestiments. The vestararius was also responsible for the written financial archives and accounts, and may have received and distributed some sums independently of the other offices.By 813, the vestararius was seated beside the pope in the Palace in giving judgement and in 875 was sent as an embassy to the Holy Roman Emperor. Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum, who for all intents and purposes ran the temporal affairs of the papacy during the saeculum obscurum of the first half of the tenth century, was a holder of the office of vestararius. His wife, Theodora, held the extraordinary position of vestararissa.The financial administration of the papacy as a whole began to be referred to as a camera in 1017, but the name change may not have been of any real significance. The last known reference to the office of vestararius appears in 1033. There is no concrete evidence of continuity between the vestararius and the camerarius, which is referred to for the first time in 1099, although their functions are nearly the same. Either office (or both) may have existed during this period, or the responsibilities may have fallen to some third office, often hypothesized to have been filled by Hildebrand.

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