THE PASTORAL OFFICE OF BISHOPS
IN THE CHURCH
HIS HOLINESS, POPE PAUL VI
ON OCTOBER 28, 1965
1. Christ the
Lord, Son of the living God, came that He might save His people from their sins(1)
and that all men might be sanctified. Just as He Himself was sent by the Father,
so He also sent His Apostles.(2) Therefore, He sanctified them, conferring on
them the Holy Spirit, so that they also might glorify the Father upon earth and
save men, "to the building up of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12), which is the
2. In this Church
of Christ the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted
the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and
universal authority over the care of souls by divine institution. Therefore, as
pastor of all the faithful, he is sent to provide for the common good of the
universal Church and for the good of the individual churches. Hence, he holds a
primacy of ordinary power over all the churches.
themselves, however, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of
the Apostles as pastors of souls.(3) Together with the supreme pontiff and under
his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ,
the eternal pastor.(4) Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command
and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them.
Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith,
pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them.(5)
sharing in the solicitude for all the churches, exercise this episcopal office
of theirs, which they have received through episcopal consecration,(6) in
communion with and under the authority of the supreme pontiff. As far as their
teaching authority and pastoral government are concerned, all are united in a
college or body with respect to the universal Church of God.
They exercise this
office individually in reference to the portions of the Lord's flock assigned to
them, each one taking care of the particular church committed to him, or
sometimes some of them jointly providing for certain common needs of various
This sacred synod,
therefore, attentive to the conditions of human association which have brought
about a new order of things in our time,(7) intends to determine more exactly
the pastoral office of bishops and, therefore, has decreed the things that
RELATIONSHIP OF BISHOPS TO THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH
I. The Role of
the Bishops in the Universal Church
4. By virtue of
sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of
the college, bishops are constituted as members of the episcopal body.(1) "The
order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in teaching and
pastoral direction, or rather, in the episcopal order, the apostolic body
continues without a break. Together with its head, the Roman pontiff, and never
without this head it exists as the subject of supreme, plenary power over the
universal Church. But this power cannot be exercised except with the agreement
of the Roman pontiff."(2) This power however, "is exercised in a solemn manner
in an ecumenical council."(3) Therefore, this sacred synod decrees that all
bishops who are members of the episcopal college, have the right to be present
at an ecumenical council.
"The exercise of
this collegiate power in union with the pope is possible although the bishops
are stationed all over the world, provided that the head of the college gives
them a call to collegiate action, or, at least, gives the unified action of the
dispersed bishops such approval, or such unconstrained acceptance, that it
becomes truly collegiate action."(4)
5. Bishops chosen
from various parts of the world, in ways and manners established or to be
established by the Roman pontiff, render more effective assistance to the
supreme pastor of the Church in a deliberative body which will be called by the
proper name of Synod of Bishops.(5) Since it shall be acting in the name of the
entire Catholic episcopate, it will at the same time show that all the bishops
in hierarchical communion partake of the solicitude for the universal Church.(6)
6. As legitimate
successors of the Apostles and members of the episcopal college, bishops should
realize that they are bound together and should manifest a concern for all the
churches. For by divine institution and the rule of the apostolic office each
one together with all the other bishops is responsible for the Church.(7) They
should especially be concerned about those parts of the world where the word of
God has not yet been proclaimed or where the faithful, particularly because of
the small number of priests, are in danger of departing from the precepts of the
Christian life, and even of losing the faith itself.
therefore, make every effort to have the faithful actively support and promote
works of evangelization and the apostolate. Let them strive, moreover, to see to
it that suitable sacred ministers as well as auxiliaries, both religious and
lay, be prepared for the missions and other areas suffering from a lack of
clergy. They should also see to it, as much as possible, that some of their own
priests go to the above-mentioned missions or dioceses to exercise the sacred
ministry there either permanently or for a set period of time.
also be mindful, in administering ecclesiastical property, of the needs not only
of their own dioceses but also of the other particular churches, for they are
also a part of the one Church of Christ. Finally, they should direct their
attention, according to their means, to the relief of disasters by which other
dioceses and regions are affected.
7. Let them
especially embrace in brotherly affection those bishops who, for the sake of
Christ, are plagued with slander and indigence, detained in prisons, or held
back from their ministry. They should take an active brotherly interest in them
so that their sufferings may be assuaged and alleviated through the prayers and
good works of their confreres.
II. Bishops and
the Apostolic See
8. (a) To bishops,
as successors of the Apostles, in the dioceses entrusted to them, there belongs
per se all the ordinary, proper, and immediate authority which is required for
the exercise of their pastoral office. But this never in any way infringes upon
the power which the Roman pontiff has, by virtue of his office, of reserving
cases to himself or to some other authority.
(b) The general
law of the Church grants the faculty to each diocesan bishop to dispense, in a
particular case, the faithful over whom they legally exercise authority as often
as they judge that it contributes to their spiritual welfare, except in those
cases which have been especially reserved by the supreme authority of the
9. In exercising
supreme, full, and immediate power in the universal Church, the Roman pontiff
makes use of the departments of the Roman Curia which, therefore, perform their
duties in his name and with his authority for the good of the churches and in
the service of the sacred pastors.
The fathers of
this sacred council, however, desire that these departments-which have furnished
distinguished assistance to the Roman pontiff and the pastors of the Church-be
reorganized and better adapted to the needs of the times, regions, and rites
especially as regards their number, name, competence and peculiar method of'
procedure, as well as the coordination of work among them.(8) The fathers also
desire that, in view of the very nature of the pastoral office proper to the
bishops, the office of legates of the Roman pontiff be more precisely determined.
since these departments are established for the good of the universal Church, it
is desirable that their members, officials, and consultors as well as legates of
the Roman pontiff be more widely taken from various regions of the Church,
insofar as it is possible. In such a way the offices and central organs of the
Catholic Church will exhibit a truly universal character.
It is also desired
that some bishops, too-especially diocesan bishops-will be chosen as members of
the departments, for they will be able to report more fully to the supreme
pontiff the thinking, the desires, and the needs of all the churches.
fathers of the council think it would be most advantageous if these same
departments would listen more attentively to laymen who are outstanding for
their virtue, knowledge, and experience. In such a way they will have an
appropriate share in Church affairs.
BISHOPS AND THEIR PARTICULAR
CHURCHES OR DIOCESES
11. A diocese is a
portion of the people of God which is entrusted to a bishop to be shepherded by
him with the cooperation of the presbytery. Thus by adhering to its pastor and
gathered together by him through the Gospel and the Eucharist in the Holy Spirit,
it constitutes a particular church in which the one, holy, catholic, and
apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative.
who have been entrusted with the care of a particular church-under the authority
of the supreme pontiff-feed their sheep in the name of the Lord as their own,
ordinary, and immediate pastors, performing for them the office of teaching,
sanctifying, and governing. Nevertheless, they should recognize the rights which
legitimately belong to patriarchs or other hierarchical authorities.(1)
dedicate themselves to their apostolic office as witness of Christ before all
men. They should not only look after those who already follow the Prince of
Pastors but should also wholeheartedly devote themselves to those who have
strayed in any way from the path of truth or are ignorant of the Gospel of
Christ and His saving mercy until finally all men walk "in all goodness and
justice and truth" (Eph. 5:9).
12. In exercising
their duty of teaching-which is conspicuous among the principal duties of
bishops(2)-they should announce the Gospel of Christ to men, calling them to a
faith in the power of the Spirit or confirming them in a living faith. They
should expound the whole mystery of Christ to them, namely, those truths the
ignorance of which is ignorance of Christ. At the same time they should point
out the divinely revealed way to give glory to God and thereby to attain to
They should show,
moreover, that earthly goods and human institutions according to the plan of God
the Creator are also disposed for man's salvation and therefore can contribute
much to the building up of the body of Christ.
should teach, according to the doctrine of the Church, the great value of these
things: the human person with his freedom and bodily life, the family and its
unity and stability, the procreation and education of children, civil society
with its laws and professions, labor and leisure, the arts and technical
inventions, poverty and affluence. Finally, they should set forth the ways by
which are to be answered the most serious questions concerning the ownership,
increase, and just distribution of material goods, peace and war, and brotherly
relations among all countries.(4)
13. The bishops
should present Christian doctrine in a manner adapted to the needs of the times,
that is to say, in a manner that will respond to the difficulties and questions
by which people are especially burdened and troubled. They should also guard
that doctrine, teaching the faithful to defend and propagate it. In propounding
this doctrine they should manifest the maternal solicitude of the Church toward
all men whether they be believers or not. With a special affection they should
attend upon the poor and the lower classes to whom the Lord sent them to preach
Since it is the
mission of the Church to converse with the human society in which it lives,(5)
it is especially the duty of bishops to seek out men and both request and
promote dialogue with them. These conversations on salvation ought to be noted
for clarity of speech as well as humility and mildness in order that at all
times truth may be joined to charity and understanding with love. Likewise they
should be noted for due prudence joined with trust, which fosters friendship and
thus is capable of bringing about a union of minds.(6)
They should also
strive to make use of the various media at hand nowadays for proclaiming
Christian doctrine, namely, first of all, preaching and catechetical instruction
which always hold the first place, then the presentation of this doctrine in
schools, academies, conferences, and meetings of every kind, and finally its
dissemination through public statements at times of outstanding events as well
as by the press and various other media of communication, which by all means
ought to be used in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.(7)
14. Bishops should
take pains that catechetical instruction-which is intended to make the faith, as
illumined by teaching, a vital, explicit and effective force in the lives of
men-be given with sedulous care to both children and adolescents, youths and
adults. In this instruction a suitable arrangement should be observed as well as
a method suited to the matter that is being treated and to the character,
ability, age, and circumstances of the life of the students. Finally, they
should see to it that this instruction is based on Sacred Scripture, tradition,
the liturgy, magisterium, and life of the Church.
should take care that catechists be properly trained for their function so that
they will be thoroughly acquainted with the doctrine of the Church and will have
both a theoretical and a practical knowledge of the laws of psychology and of
also strive to renew or at least adapt in a better way the instruction of adult
15. In exercising
their office of sanctifying, bishops should be mindful that they have been taken
from among men and appointed their representative before God in order to offer
gifts and sacrifices for sins. Bishops enjoy the fullness of the sacrament of
orders and both presbyters and deacons are dependent upon them in the exercise
of their authority. For the presbyters are the prudent fellow workers of the
episcopal order and are themselves consecrated as true priests of the New
Testament, just as deacons are ordained for the ministry and serve the people of
God in communion with the bishop and his presbytery. Therefore bishops are the
principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, as well as being the governors,
promoters, and guardians of the entire liturgical life in the church committed
therefore, constantly exert themselves to have the faithful know and live the
paschal mystery more deeply through the Eucharist and thus become a firmly-knit
body in the unity of the charity of Christ.(9) "Intent upon prayer and the
ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4), they should devote their labor to this end
that all those committed to their care may be of one mind in prayer(10) and
through the reception of the sacraments may grow in grace and be faithful
witnesses to the Lord.
As those who lead
others to perfection, bishops should be diligent in fostering holiness among
their clerics, religious, and laity according to the special vocation of
each.(11) They should also be mindful of their obligation to give an example of
holiness in charity, humility, and simplicity of life. Let them so hallow the
churches entrusted to them that the feeling of the universal Church of Christ
may shine forth fully in them. For that reason they should foster priestly and
religious vocations as much as possible, and should take a special interest in
16. In exercising
their office of father and pastor, bishops should stand in the midst of their
people as those who serve.(12) Let them be good shepherds who know their sheep
and whose sheep know them. Let them be true fathers who excel in the spirit of
love and solicitude for all and to whose divinely conferred authority all
gratefully submit themselves. Let them so gather and mold the whole family of
their flock that everyone, conscious of his own duties, may live and work in the
communion of love.
effectively to accomplish these things, bishops, "ready for every good work" (2
Tim. 2:21) and "enduring all things for the sake of the chosen ones" (2 Tim.
2:10), should arrange their life in such a way as to accommodate it to the needs
of our times.
always embrace priests with a special love since the latter to the best of their
ability assume the bishops' anxieties and carry them on day by day so zealously.
They should regard the priests as sons and friends(13) and be ready to listen to
them. Through their trusting familiarity with their priests they should strive
to promote the whole pastoral work of the entire diocese.
They should be
solicitous for the spiritual, intellectual and material welfare of the priests
so that the latter can live holy and pious lives and fulfill their ministry
faithfully and fruitfully. Therefore, they should encourage institutes and hold
special meetings in which priests might gather from time to time both for the
performance of longer exercises and the renewal of their spiritual life and for
the acquisition of deeper subjects, especially Sacred Scripture and theology,
the more important social questions, and the new methods of pastoral activity.
With active mercy
bishops should pursue priests who are involved in any danger or who have failed
in certain respects.
In order to be
able to look more closely to the welfare of the faithful according to the
condition of each one, bishops should strive to become duly acquainted with
their needs in the social circumstances in which they live. Therefore, they
ought to employ suitable methods, especially social research. They should
manifest their concern for everyone, no matter what their age, condition, or
nationality, be they natives, strangers, or foreigners. In exercising this
pastoral care they should preserve for their faithful the share proper to them
in Church affairs; they should also respect their duty and right of actively
collaborating in the building up of the Mystical Body of Christ.
They should deal
lovingly with the separated brethren, urging the faithful also to conduct
themselves with great kindness and charity in their regard and fostering
ecumenism as it is understood by the Church.(14) They should also have a place
in their hearts for the non-baptized so that upon them too there may shine the
charity of Christ Jesus, to whom the bishops are witnesses before all men.
17. Various forms
of the apostolate should be encouraged, and in the whole diocese or in any
particular areas of it the coordination and close connection of all apostolic
works should be fostered under the direction of the bishop. Thus all
undertakings and organizations, be they catechetical, missionary, charitable,
social, familial, educational, or anything else pursuing a pastoral aim, should
be directed toward harmonious action. Thus at the same time the unity of the
diocese will also be made more evident.
should be earnestly urged to assume their duty of carrying on the apostolate,
each according to his state in life and ability. They should be admonished to
participate in and give aid to the various works of the apostolate of the laity,
especially Catholic Action. Those associations should also be promoted and
supported which either directly or indirectly pursue a supernatural objective,
that is, either the attaining of a more perfect life, the spreading of the
Gospel of Christ to all men, and the promoting of Christian doctrine or the
increase of public worship, or the pursuing of social aims or the performing of
works of piety and charity.
The forms of the
apostolate should be properly adapted to the needs of the present day with
regard not only for man's spiritual and moral circumstances but also for his
social, demographic, and economic conditions. Religious and social research,
through offices of pastoral sociology, contributes much to the efficacious and
fruitful attainment of that goal, and it is highly recommended.
concern should be shown for those among the faithful who, on account of their
way of life, cannot sufficiently make use of the common and ordinary pastoral
care of parish priests or are quite cut off from it. Among this group are the
majority of migrants, exiles and refugees, seafarers, air-travelers, gypsies,
and others of this kind. Suitable pastoral methods should also be promoted to
sustain the spiritual life of those who go to other lands for a time for the
sake of recreation.
conferences, especially national ones, should pay special attention to the very
pressing problems concerning the above-mentioned groups. Through voluntary
agreement and united efforts, they should look to and promote their spiritual
care by means of suitable methods and institutions. They should also bear in
mind the special rules either already laid down or to be laid down by the
Apostolic See(15) which can be wisely adapted to the circumstances of time,
place, and persons.
19. In discharging
their apostolic office, which concerns the salvation of souls, bishops per se
enjoy full and perfect freedom and independence from any civil authority. Hence,
the exercise of their ecclesiastical office may not be hindered, directly or
indirectly, nor may they be forbidden to communicate freely with the Apostolic
See, or ecclesiastical authorities, or their subjects.
sacred pastors devote themselves to the spiritual care of their flock, they also
in fact have regard for their social and civil progress and prosperity.
According to the nature of their office and as behooves bishops, they
collaborate actively with public authorities for this purpose and advocate
obedience to just laws and reverence for legitimately constituted authorities.
20. Since the
apostolic office of bishops was instituted by Christ the Lord and pursues a
spiritual and supernatural purpose, this sacred ecumenical synod declares that
the right of nominating and appointing bishops belongs properly, peculiarly, and
per se exclusively to the competent ecclesiastical authority.
Therefore, for the
purpose of duly protecting the freedom of the Church and of promoting more
conveniently and efficiently the welfare of the faithful, this holy council
desires that in future no more rights or privileges of election, nomination,
presentation, or designation for the office of bishop be granted to civil
authorities. The civil authorities, on the other hand, whose favorable attitude
toward the Church the sacred synod gratefully acknowledges and highly
appreciates, are most kindly requested voluntarily to renounce the
above-mentioned rights and privileges which they presently enjoy by reason of a
treaty or custom, after discussing the matter with the Apostolic See.
21. Since the
pastoral office of bishops is so important and weighty, diocesan bishops and
others regarded in law as their equals, who have become less capable of
fulfilling their duties properly because of the increasing burden of age or some
other serious reason, are earnestly requested to offer their resignation from
office either at their own initiative or upon the invitation of the competent
authority. If the competent authority should accept the resignation, it will
make provision both for the suitable support of those who have resigned and for
special rights to be accorded them.
22. For a diocese
to fulfill its purpose the nature of the Church must be clearly evident to the
people of God who constitute that diocese. To this end also bishops must be able
to carry out their pastoral duties effectively among their people. Finally, the
welfare of the people of God must be served as perfectly as possible.
All this demands,
then, a proper determination of the boundaries of dioceses and a distribution of
clergy and resources that is reasonable and in keeping with the needs of the
apostolate. All these things will benefit not only the clergy and Christian
people involved, but also the entire Catholic Church.
diocesan boundaries, therefore, this sacred synod decrees that, to the extent
required by the good of souls, a fitting revision of diocesan boundaries be
undertaken prudently and as soon as possible. This can be done by dividing
dismembering or uniting them, or by changing their boundaries, or by determining
a better place for the episcopal see or, finally, especially in the case of
dioceses having larger cities, by providing them with a new internal
23. In revising
diocesan boundaries first place must be accorded to organic unity of each
diocese, with due regard to the personnel, the offices and institutions, which
form, as it were, a living body. In individual cases all circumstances should be
carefully studied and the general criteria which follow should be kept in mind.
1.) In determining
a diocesan boundary, as far as possible consideration should be given the
variety in composition of the people of God, for this can contribute greatly to
a more effective exercise of the pastoral office. At the same time the natural
population units of people, together with the civil jurisdictions and social
institutions that compose their organic structure, should be preserved as far as
possible as units. For this reason, obviously, the territory of each diocese
should be continuous.
also be given, if necessary, to civil boundaries and the special characteristics
of regions and peoples, such as their psychological, economic, geographic and
2.) The extent of
the diocese and the number of its inhabitants should generally be such that, on
the one hand, the bishop himself- even though assisted by others-can officiate
at pontifical functions, make pastoral visitations, faithfully direct and
coordinate all the works of the apostolate in the diocese and know well
especially his priests, and also the religious and lay people who are engaged in
diocesan projects. On the other hand, an adequate and suitable area should be
provided so that bishop and clergy, mindful also of the needs of the universal
Church, can usefully devote all their energies to the ministry.
3.) Finally, in
order that the ministry of salvation be more effectively carried out in each
diocese, it should be considered a general rule that each diocese have clergy,
in number and qualifications at least sufficient, for the proper care of the
people of God; also, there should be no lack of the offices, institutions and
organizations which are proper to the particular church and which experience has
shown necessary for its efficient government and apostolate; finally, resources
for the support of personnel and institutions should be at hand or at least
prudently foreseen in prospect.
For this same
purpose, where there are faithful of a different rite, the diocesan bishop
should provide for their spiritual needs either through priests or parishes of
that rite or through an episcopal vicar endowed with the necessary faculties.
Wherever it is fitting, the last named should also have episcopal rank.
Otherwise the Ordinary himself may perform the office of an Ordinary of
different rites. If for certain reasons, these prescriptions are not applicable
in the judgment of the Apostolic See, then a proper hierarchy for the different
rites is to be established.(16)
similar situations exist, provision should be made for the faithful of different
language groups, either through priests or parishes of the same language, or
through an episcopal vicar well versed in the language-and if needs be having
the episcopal dignity- or at least in some other more appropriate way.
24. In order to
bring about the changes and alterations of dioceses as set forth in numbers
22-23-and leaving untouched the discipline of the Oriental Churches-it is
desirable that the competent episcopal conferences examine these matters each
for its respective territory. If deemed opportune, they may employ a special
episcopal commission for this purpose, but always taking into account the
opinions of the bishops of the provinces or regions concerned. Finally, they are
to propose their recommendations and desires to the Apostolic See.
in the Pastoral Office of the Diocesan Bishops
and auxiliary bishops
25. The pastoral
office of Bishops should be so constituted for the governing of dioceses that
the good of the Lord's flock is always the supreme consideration. Rightly to
achieve this goal, auxiliary bishops will frequently be appointed because the
diocesan bishop cannot personally fulfill all his episcopal duties as the good
of souls demands, either because of the vast extent of the diocese or the great
number of its inhabitants, or because of the special nature of the apostolate or
other reasons of a different nature. Sometimes, in fact, a particular need
requires that a coadjutor bishop be appointed to assist the diocesan bishop.
Coadjutor and auxiliary bishops should be granted those faculties necessary for
rendering their work more effective and safeguarding the dignity proper to
bishops. This, of course, should always be accomplished without detriment to the
unity of the diocesan administration and the authority of the diocesan bishop.
coadjutor and auxiliary bishops, since they are called to share part of the
burden of the diocesan bishops, so should exercise their office that they may
proceed in all matters in single-minded agreement with him. In addition, they
should always show respect and reverence for the diocesan bishop and he, in
turn, should have a fraternal love for coadjutor and auxiliary bishops and hold
them in esteem.
26. To the extent
that the good of souls demands, the diocesan bishop should not hesitate to ask
the competent authority for one or more auxiliaries who will be appointed for
the diocese without the right of succession.
If there is no
provision for it in the letter of nomination, the diocesan bishop is to appoint
his auxiliary or auxiliaries as vicar generals or at least as episcopal vicars.
They shall be dependent upon his authority only and he may wish to consult them
in examining questions of major importance, especially of a pastoral nature.
authority has otherwise determined, the powers and faculties which auxiliary
bishops have by law do not cease when the office of the diocesan bishop comes to
an end. It is also desirable that when the See is vacant the office of ruling
the diocese-unless some serious reasons persuade otherwise-should be committed
to the auxiliary bishop or, when there are more than one, to one of the
bishop, appointed with the right of succession, must always be named vicar
general by the diocesan bishop. In particular cases the competent authority can
grant him even more extensive faculties.
In order to
provide for the greatest possible present and future good of the diocese, the
diocesan bishop and his coadjutor should not fail to consult with each other on
matters of great importance.
diocesan curia and commissions
27. The most
important office in the diocesan curia is that of vicar general. However, as
often as the proper government of the diocese requires it, one or more episcopal
vicars can be named by the bishop. These automatically enjoy the same authority
which the common law grants the vicar general, but only for a certain part of
the diocese, or for a determined type of transaction or for the faithful of a
collaborators of the bishop in the government of the diocese are numbered those
presbyters who constitute his senate, or council, such as the cathedral chapter,
the board of consultors or other committees according to the circumstances or
nature of various localities. These institutions, especially the cathedral
chapters, should be reorganized wherever necessary in keeping with present day
Priests and lay
people who belong to the diocesan curia should realize that they are making a
helpful contribution to the pastoral ministry of the bishop.
The diocesan curia
should be so organized that it is an appropriate instrument for the bishop, not
only for administering the diocese but also for carrying out the works of the
It is greatly
desired that in each diocese a pastoral commission will be established over
which the diocesan bishop himself will preside and in which specially chosen
clergy, religious and lay people will participate. The duty of this commission
will be to investigate and weigh pastoral undertakings and to formulate
practical conclusions regarding them.
presbyters, both diocesan and religious, participate in and exercise with the
bishop the one priesthood of Christ and are thereby constituted prudent
cooperators of the episcopal order. In the care of souls, however, the first
place is held by diocesan priests who are incardinated or attached to a
particular church, for they have fully dedicated themselves in the service of
caring for a single portion of the Lord's flock. In consequence, they form one
presbytery and one family whose father is the bishop. In order to distribute
more equitably and properly the sacred ministries among his priests, the bishop
should possess a necessary freedom in bestowing offices and benefices.
Therefore, rights or privileges which in any way limit this freedom are to be
between the bishop and the diocesan priests should rest most especially upon the
bonds of supernatural charity so that the harmony of the will of the priests
with that of their bishop will render their pastoral activity more fruitful.
Wherefore, for the sake of greater service to souls, let the bishop call the
priests into dialogue, especially about pastoral matters. This he should do not
only on a given occasion but at regularly fixed intervals insofar as this is
diocesan priests should be united among themselves and so should share a genuine
concern for the spiritual welfare of the whole diocese. They should also be
mindful that the benefits they receive by reason of their ecclesiastical office
are closely bound up with their sacred work. Therefore they should contribute
generously, as the bishop may direct and as their means permit, to the material
needs of the diocese.
29. The closer
collaborators of the bishop are those priests who are charged with a pastoral
office or apostolic organizations of a supra-parochial nature, whether in a
certain area of the diocese or among special groups of the faithful or with
respect to a specific kind of activity.
by the bishop to various works of the apostolate, whether in schools or in other
institutions or associations, contribute an exceedingly valuable assistance.
Those priests also who are engaged in supra-diocesan works are commended to the
special consideration of the bishop in whose diocese they reside, for they
perform outstanding works of the apostolate.
however, are cooperators of the bishop in a very special way, for as pastors in
their own name they are entrusted with the care of souls in a certain part of
the diocese under the bishop's authority.
1.) In exercising
this care of souls, pastors and their assistants should so fulfill their duty of
teaching, sanctifying and governing that the faithful and the parish communities
will truly realize that they are members both of the diocese and of the
universal Church. For this reason, they should collaborate with other pastors
and priests who exercise a pastoral office in the area (such as vicars forane
and deans), as well as with those engaged in works of a supra-parochial nature.
In this way the pastoral work in the diocese will be unified and made more
Moreover, the care
of souls should always be infused with a missionary spirit so that it reaches
out as it should to everyone living within the parish boundaries. If the pastor
cannot contact certain groups of people, he should seek the assistance of
others, even laymen who can assist him in the apostolate.
To render the care
of souls more efficacious, community life for priests-especially those attached
to the same parish-is highly recommended. This way of living, while it
encourages apostolic action, also affords an example of charity and unity to the
2.) In the
exercise of their teaching office it is the duty of pastors to preach God's word
to all the Christian people so that, rooted in faith, hope and charity, they
will grow in Christ, and as a Christian community bear witness to that charity
which the Lord commended.(17) It is also the duty of pastors to bring the
faithful to a full knowledge of the mystery of salvation through a catechetical
instruction which is consonant with each one's age. In imparting this
instruction they should seek not only the assistance of religious but also the
cooperation of the laity, establishing also the Confraternity of Christian
their duty of sanctifying their people, pastors should see to it that the
celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the center and culmination of the
whole life of the Christian community. They should labor without stint that the
faithful are nourished with spiritual food through the devout and frequent
reception of the Sacraments and through intelligent and active participation in
the Liturgy. Pastors should also be mindful of how much the sacrament of Penance
contributes to developing the Christian life and, therefore, should always make
themselves available to hear the confessions of the faithful. If necessary, they
should invite the assistance of priests who are experienced in various
their office as shepherd, pastors should take pains to know their own flock.
Since they are the servants of all the sheep, they should encourage a full
Christian life among the individual faithful and also in families, in
associations especially dedicated to the apostolate, and in the whole parish
community. Therefore, they should visit homes and schools to the extent that
their pastoral work demands. They should pay especial attention to adolescents
and youth. They should devote themselves with a paternal love to the poor and
the sick. They should have a particular concern for workingmen. Finally, they
should encourage the faithful to assist in the works of the apostolate.
pastors, as cooperators with the pastor, make under the authority of the pastor
an indispensable and active contribution to the pastoral ministry. Therefore,
there should always be fraternal association, mutual charity and reverence
between the pastor and his assistants. They should assist one another with
counsel, help and example, providing a united will and common zeal in the
service of the parish.
31. In forming a
judgment on the suitability of a priest for the administration of any parish the
bishop should take into consideration not only his knowledge of doctrine but
also his piety, apostolic zeal and other gifts and qualities which are necessary
for the proper exercise of the care of souls.
Now the parish
exists solely for the good of souls. Wherefore, the bishop should be able to
provide more easily and effectively for vacant pastorates. To this end all
rights whatsoever of presentation, nomination, reservation, excepting the right
of Religious-and where it exists, the law of concursus whether general or
particular-are to be suppressed.
enjoy in their respective parishes that stability of office which the good of
souls demands. The distinction between removable and irremovable pastors is to
be abrogated and the procedure for transferring and removing pastors is to be
re-examined and simplified. In this way the bishop, while observing natural and
canonical equity, can better provide for the needs of the good of souls.
Pastors who are
unable to fulfill their office properly and fruitfully because of the increasing
burden of old age or some other serious reason are urgently requested to tender
their resignation voluntarily upon the invitation of the bishop. The bishop
should provide suitable support for those who have resigned.
32. Finally, the
same concern for souls should be the basis for determining or reconsidering the
erection or suppression of parishes and any other changes of this kind which the
bishop is empowered to undertake on his own authority.
33. (In all that
follows with Religious are included also the members of other institutes who
profess the evangelical counsels.) All Religious have the duty, each according
to his proper vocation, of cooperating zealously and diligently in building up
and increasing the whole Mystical Body of Christ and for the good of the
It is their first
duty to foster these objectives by prayer, works of penance and the example of
their own life for which this sacred synod strongly urges them to increase their
esteem and zeal. With due consideration for the character proper to each
religious community, they should also enter more vigorously into the external
works of the apostolate.
priests are by consecration assumed into the responsibilities of the
presbyterate so as to become themselves the prudent cooperators of the episcopal
order. Today they can be of even greater help to bishops in view of the greater
needs of souls. Therefore, they can be said in a real sense to belong to the
clergy of the diocese inasmuch as they share in the care of souls and in
carrying out works of the apostolate under the authority of the prelates.
Other members of
religious communities, both men and women, also belong in a special way to the
diocesan family and offer great assistance to the sacred hierarchy. With the
increasing demands of the apostolate they can and should offer that assistance
even more and more.
35. In order that
the works of the apostolate be carried out harmoniously in individual dioceses
and that the unity of diocesan discipline be preserved intact, these principles
are established as fundamental:
1.) All Religious
should always look upon the bishops, as upon successors of the Apostles, with
devoted respect and reverence. Whenever they are legitimately called upon to
undertake works of the apostolate, they are obliged to discharge their duties as
active and obedient helpers of the bishops.(18) Indeed, Religious should
consider it an honor to respond promptly and faithfully to the requests and
desires of the bishops and in such a way they may assume an even more ample role
in the ministry of human salvation. This they should do with due respect for the
character of their institute and in keeping with their constitutions which, if
needs be, should be accommodated to this goal in accord with the principles of
this conciliar decree.
Especially in view
of the urgent need of souls and the scarcity of diocesan clergy, Religious
communities which the not dedicated exclusively to the contemplative life can be
called upon by the bishops to assist in various pastoral ministries. They
should, however, keep in mind the particular character of each community.
Superiors should encourage this work to the utmost, by accepting parishes, even
on a temporary basis.
engaged in the active apostolate, however, must always be imbued with the spirit
of their Religious community, and remain faithful to the observance of their
rule and spirit of submissiveness due to their own superiors. Bishops should not
neglect to impress this obligation upon them.
3. ) The institute
of exemption, by which Religious are called to the service of the supreme
pontiff or other ecclesiastical authority and withdrawn from the jurisdiction of
bishops, refers chiefly to the internal order of their communities so that in
them all things may be properly coordinated and the growth and perfection of the
Religious common life promoted.(19) These communities are also exempt so that
the supreme pontiff can dispose of them for the good of the universal Church(20)
and any other competent authority for the good of the churches under its own
however, does not exclude Religious in individual dioceses from the jurisdiction
of bishops in accordance with the norm of law, insofar as the performance of
their pastoral office and the right ordering of the care of souls requires.(21)
4.) All Religious,
exempt and non-exempt, are subject to the authority of the local Ordinaries in
those things which pertain to the public exercise of divine worship-except where
differences in rites are concerned-the care of souls, the sacred preaching
intended for the people, the religious and moral education of the Christian
faithful, especially of the children, catechetical instruction and liturgical
formation. They are subject to the local Ordinary also in what pertains to the
decorum proper to the clerical state as well as in the various works which
concern the exercise of the sacred apostolate. Catholic schools conducted by
Religious are also subject to the authority of the local Ordinaries for purposes
of general policy- making and vigilance, but the right of Religious to direct
them remains intact. Religious also are bound to observe all those things which
councils or conferences of bishops shall legitimately prescribe for observance
5.) A well-ordered
cooperation is to be encouraged between various religious communities and
between them and the diocesan clergy. There should also be a very close
coordination of all apostolic works and activities which especially depend upon
a supernatural attitude of hearts and minds, rooted in and founded upon charity.
The Apostolic See is competent to supervise this coordination for the universal
Church; sacred pastors are competent in their own respective dioceses: and
patriarchal synods and episcopal conferences in their own territory.
For those works of
the apostolate which Religious are to undertake, bishops or episcopal
conferences, religious superiors or conferences of major religious superiors
should take action only after mutual consultations.
6. ) In order to
foster harmonious and fruitful mutual relations between bishops and religious,
at stated times and as often as it is deemed opportune, bishops and religious
superiors should meet to discuss those affairs which pertain to the apostolate
in their territory.
CONCERNING BISHOPS COOPERATING FOR THE COMMON GOOD OF MANY CHURCHES
Councils and especially Episcopal Conferences
36. From the very
first centuries of the Church bishops, as rulers of individual churches, were
deeply moved by the communion of fraternal charity and zeal for the universal
mission entrusted to the Apostles. And so they pooled their abilities and their
wills for the common good and for the welfare of the individual churches. Thus
came into being synods, provincial councils and plenary councils in which
bishops established for various churches the way to be followed in teaching the
truths of faith and ordering ecclesiastical discipline.
ecumenical synod earnestly desires that the venerable institution of synods and
councils flourish with fresh vigor. In such a way faith will be deepened and
discipline preserved more fittingly and efficaciously in the various churches,
as the needs of the times require.
37. In these days
especially bishops frequently are unable to fulfill their office effectively and
fruitfully unless they develop a common effort involving constant growth in
harmony and closeness of ties with other bishops. Episcopal conferences already
established in many nations-have furnished outstanding proofs of a more fruitful
apostolate. Therefore, this sacred synod considers it to be supremely fitting
that everywhere bishops belonging to the same nation or region form an
association which would meet at fixed times. Thus, when the insights of prudence
and experience have been shared and views exchanged, there will emerge a holy
union of energies in the service of the common good of the churches.
sacred synod decrees the following concerning episcopal conferences:
38. 1.) An
episcopal conference is, as it were, a council in which the bishops of a given
nation or territory jointly exercise their pastoral office to promote the
greater good which the Church offers mankind, especially through the forms and
methods of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of the age.
2. ) Members of
the episcopal conference are all local Ordinaries of every rite-excluding vicar
generals-and coadjutors, auxiliaries and other titular bishops who perform a
special work entrusted to them by the Apostolic See or the episcopal
conferences. Other titular bishops, legates of the Roman pontiff, because of
their exceptional office in the territory are not de iure members of the
conferences. Local Ordinaries and coadjutors hold a deliberative vote.
Auxiliaries and other bishops who have a right to attend the conference will
hold either a deliberative or a consultative vote, as the statutes of the
3.) Each episcopal
conference is to draft its own statutes for recognition by the Apostolic See. In
these statutes, among other things, offices should be established which will aid
in achieving its purpose more efficaciously, for example, a permanent board of
bishops, episcopal commissions and a general secretariat.
4.) Decisions of
the episcopal conference, provided they have been approved legitimately and by
the votes of at least two-thirds of the prelates who have a deliberative vote in
the conference, and have been recognized by the Apostolic See, are to have
juridically binding force only in those cases prescribed by the common law or
determined by a special mandate of the Apostolic See, given either spontaneously
or in response to a petition of the conference itself.
special circumstances require and with the approbation of the Apostolic See,
bishops of many nations can establish a single conference.
between episcopal conferences of different nations should be especially
encouraged in order to promote and safeguard the common good.
6.) It is highly
recommended that the prelates of the Oriental Churches, promoting the discipline
of their own churches in synods and efficaciously fostering works for the good
of religion, should take into account also the common good of the whole
territory where many churches of different rites exist. They should exchange
views at inter-ritual meetings in keeping with norms to be given by the
Boundaries of Ecclesiastical Provinces and the Erection of Ecclesiastical
39. The good of
souls requires fitting boundaries not only for dioceses but also for
ecclesiastical provinces; indeed it sometimes counsels the establishment of new
ecclesiastical regions. Thus the needs of the apostolate will be better met in
keeping with social and local circumstances. Thus, too, the relationships of the
bishops with each other and with their metropolitans, and with other bishops of
the same nation and even between bishops and civil authorities will be rendered
easier and more fruitful.
40. Therefore, in
order to accomplish these aims this sacred synod decrees as follows:
boundaries of ecclesiastical provinces are to be submitted to an early
review and the rights and privileges of metropolitans are to be defined by
new and suitable norms.
) As a general
rule all dioceses and other territorial divisions that are by law equivalent
to dioceses should be attached to an ecclesiastical province. Therefore
dioceses which are now directly subject to the Apostolic See and which are
not united to any other are either to be brought together to form a new
ecclesiastical province, if that be possible, or else attached to that
province which is nearer or more convenient. They are to be made subject to
the metropolitan jurisdiction of the bishop, in keeping with the norms of
the common law.
advantageous, ecclesiastical provinces should be grouped into ecclesiastical
regions for the structure of which juridical provision is to be made.
41. It is fitting
that the competent episcopal conferences examine the question of boundaries of
such provinces and the establishment of regions in keeping with the norms given
with respect to diocesan boundaries in numbers 23-24. They are then to submit
their suggestions and desires to the Apostolic See.
Having an Inter-Diocesan Office
42. Since pastoral
needs require more and more that some pastoral undertakings be directed and
carried forward as joint projects, it is fitting that certain offices be created
for the service of all or many dioceses of a determined region or nation. These
offices can be filled by bishops.
This sacred synod
recommends that between the prelates or bishops serving in these offices and the
diocesan bishops and the episcopal conferences, there exist always fraternal
association and harmonious cooperation in the expression of pastoral concern.
relationships should also be clearly defined by common law.
43. Since, because
of the unique conditions of their way of life, the spiritual care of military
personnel requires special consideration, there should be established in every
nation, if possible, a military vicariate. Both the military vicar and the
chaplains should devote themselves unsparingly to this difficult work in
complete cooperation with the diocesan bishops.(1)
should release to the military vicar a sufficient number of priests who are
qualified for this serious work. At the same time they should promote all
endeavors which will improve the spiritual welfare of military personnel.(2)
44. This sacred
synod prescribes that in the revision of the code of canon law suitable laws be
drawn up in keeping with the principles stated in this decree. Due consideration
should also be given the observations made by the commissions and the council
This sacred synod
also prescribes that general directories be prepared treating of the care of
souls for the use of both bishops and pastors. Thus they will be provided with
certain methods which will help them to discharge their own pastoral office with
greater ease and effectiveness.
There should be
prepared also a particular directory concerning the pastoral care of special
groups of the faithful as the different circumstances of individual nations or
regions require. Another directory should be composed concerning the
catechetical instruction of the Christian people; this directory will consider
the fundamental principles of such instruction, its disposition and the
composition of books on the subject. In preparing these directories, special
attention should be given to the views which have been expressed both by the
commissions and the council Fathers.
1. cf. Matt. 1:21.
2. cf. John 20:21.
3. cf. First
Vatican Council, fourth session, part 1 of Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
of Christ, c. 3, Denz. 1828 (3061).
4. cf. First
Vatican Council, fourth session, Introduction to Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church of Christ, Denz. 1821 (3050).
5. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 3, nos. 21, 24 and
25: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 24-25, 29-31.
6. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 3, no. 21: A.A.S. 57
(1965) pp. 24-25.
7. cf. John
XXIII's apostolic constitution, Humanae Salutis, Dec. 25, 1961: A.A.S. 54 (1962)
1. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 3, no. 22: A.A.S. 57
(1965) pp. 25-27.
5. cf. Paul VI's
motu proprio, Apostolica Sollicitudo, Sept. 15, 1965.
6. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 3, no. 23: A.A.S. 57
(1965) pp. 27-28.
7. cf. Pius XII's
encyclical letter, Fidei Donum, April 21, 1957: A.A.S. 49 (1957) p. 27 ff.; also
cf. Benedict XV's apostolic letter, Maximum Illud, Nov. 30, 1919: A.A.S. 11
(1919) p. 440; Pius XI's encyclical letter, Rerum Ecclesiae, Feb. 28, 1926:
A.A.S. 18 (1926) p.68.
8. cf. Paul VI's
allocution to the cardinals, prelates and various officials of the Roman curia,
Sept. 21, 1963: A.A.S. 55 (1963) p. 793 ff.
1. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches, Nov. 21, 1964, nos. 7-11
A.A.S. 57 (1965) p. 29 ff.
2. cf. Council of
Trent, fifth session, Decree De Reform., c. 2, Mansi 33, 30: 24th session,
Decree De Reform., c. Mansi 33, 159 [cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church. chap. 3, no. 25: A.A.S. 57 (1965) p. 29 ff.]
3. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 3, no. 25: A.A.S. 57
(1965) pp. 29-31.
4. cf. John
XXIII's encyclical letter, Pacem in Terris, April 11, 1963, passim: A.A.S. 55
(1963) pp. 257-304.
5. cf. Paul VI's
encyclical letter, Ecclesiam Suam, April 6, 1964: A.A.S. 56 (1964) p. 639.
6. cf. Paul VI's
encyclical letter, Ecclesiam Suam, April 6, 1964: A.A.S. 56 (1964) pp. 644-645.
7. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Decree on Communications Media, Dec. 4, 1963: A.A.S. 56 (1964)
8. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Dec. 4, 1963: A.A.S. 56
(1964) p. 97 ff; Paul VI's motu proprio, Sacram Liturgiam, Jan. 25, 1964: A.A.S.
56 (1964) p. 139 ff.
encyclical letter, Mediator Dei, Nov. 20, 1947: A.A.S. 39 (1947) p. 97 ff.; Paul
VI's encyclical letter, Mysterium Fidei, Sept. 3, 1965.
10. cf. Acts 1:14
11. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chap. 6, nos. 44 and 45:
A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 50-52.
12. cf. Luke
13. cf. John
14. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Decree on Ecumenism, Nov. 21 1964: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 90-107.
15. cf. St. Pius
X's motu proprio, Iampridem, March 19, 1914: A.A.S. 6 (1914) p. 174 ff.; Pius
XII's apostolic constitution, Exul Familia, Aug. 1, 1952: A.A.S. 54 (1952) p.
652 ff.; Leges Operis Apostolatus Maris, compiled under the authority of Pius
XII Nov. 21, 1957: A.A.S. 50 (1958) p. 375 ff.
16. cf. Second
Vatican Council, Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches, Nov. 21, 1964, no. 4:
A.A.S. 57 (1965) p. 77.
17. cf. John
18. cf. Pius XII's
allocution of Dec. 8, 1950: A.A.S. 43 (1951) p. 28; also cf. Paul VI's
allocution of May 23, 1964: A.A.S. 56 (1964) p. 571.
19. cf. Leo XIII's
apostolic constitution, Romanos Pontifices, May 8, 1881: Acta Leonis XIII, vol.
2, 1882, p. 234.
20. cf. Paul VI's
allocution of May 23, 1964: A.A.S. 56 (1965) pp. 570-571.
21. cf. Pius XII's
allocution of Dec. 8, 1950, 1. c.
Consistorial Congregation's Instruction to Military Ordinariates, April 23,
1951: A.A.S. 43 (1951) pp. 562-565; Formula Regarding the Conferring of the
Status of Military Ordinariates, Oct. 20, 1956: A.A.S. 49 (1957) pp. 150-163;
Decree on Ad Limina Visits of Military Ordinariates, Feb. 28, 1959: A.A.S. 51
(1959) pp. 272-274; Decree on the Granting of Faculties for Confessions to
Military Chaplains, Nov. 27, 1960: A.A.S. 53 (1961) pp. 49-50. Also cf.
Congregation of Religious' Instruction on Religious Military Chaplains, Feb. 2,
1955: A.A.S. 47 (1955) pp. 93-97.
Consistorial Congregation's letter to the cardinals, archbishops and bishops of
Spanish-speaking nations, June 27, 1951: A.A.S. 43 (1951) p. 566.