Christus Dominus - 28 October 1965


1. Christ the Lord, the Son of the living God, came to redeem his people from their sins[1] that all mankind might be sanctified. Having been sent by the Father, he in turn sent his apostles[2] whom he sanctified by conferring on them the Holy Spirit so that they also might glorify the Father on earth and procure the salvation of men "for the building up of the Body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12) which is the Church.

2. In this Church of Christ the Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the care of his sheep and his lambs, has been granted by God supreme, full, immediate and universal power in the care of souls. As pastor of all the faithful his mission is to promote the common good of the universal Church and the particular good of all the churches. He is therefore endowed with the primacy of ordinary power over all the churches.

The bishops also have been designated by the Holy Spirit to take the place of the apostles as pastors of souls[3] and together with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority, they are commissioned to perpetuate the work of Christ, the eternal Pastor.[4] For Christ commanded the apostles and their successor and gave them the power to teach all peoples, to sanctify men in truth and to give them spiritual nourishment. By virtue, therefore, of the Holy Spirit who

____________________________________________________________________ 1. Cf. Mt. 1:21. 2. Cf. Jn. 20:21. 3. Cf. VAT. 1, fourth session, part 1 of Dogm. Const. on the Church of Christ, ch. 3, _Denz._ 1828 (306). 4. Cf. VAT. I, fourth session, Introd. to Dogm. Const. on the Church of Christ: _Denz._ 1821 (3050).

has been given to them, bishops have been constituted true and authentic tic teachers of the faith and have been made pontiffs and pastors.[5]

3. United in one college or body for the instruction and direction of the universal Church, the bishops, sharing in the solicitude of all the churches, exercise this their episcopal function , which they have received by virtue of their episcopal consecration [6] in communion with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority. they exercise this function individually as regards that portion of the Lord's flock which has been entrusted to each one of them, each bishop having responsibility for the particular church assigned to him. On occasion a number of bishops will cooperate to provide for the common needs of their churches.

Accordingly the sacred Synod, having regard to the conditions of human society which have brought about a new order of things, has promulgated the following decrees in order to determine more exactly the pastoral functions of bishops.[7]




4. The bishops, by virtue of their sacramental consecration and their hierarchical communion with the head of the college and its other members, are constituted members of the episcopal body.[8] "The order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated. Together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him, they have supreme and full authority over the universal Church, but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff."[9] This authority "is exercised in a solemn way in an ecumenical council."[10] Accordingly the sacred Synod decrees that all bishops who are members of the episcopal college have the right to _

___________________________________________________________________ 5. Cf. VAT II, Dogm. Const. on the Church, ch. 3, nn. 21, 24, 25: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 24-25, 29-31. 6. Cf. VAT. II, Dogm. Const. on the Church, ch. 3, n. 21: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 24-25. 7. Cf. John XXIII, apost. const. _Humanae Salutis_, Dec. 25, 1961: AAS 54 (1962) p. 6. 8. Cf. VAT. II, Dogm. Const on the Church, ch. 3, n. 22: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 25-27. 9. Ibid. 10. Ibid.

take part in an ecumenical council. "This same collegiate power can be exercised in union with the Pope by the bishops whilst living in different parts of the world, provided the head of the college summon them to collegiate action, or at least approve or freely admit the corporate action of the unassembled bishops, so that a truly collegiate action may result."[11]

5. Bishops chosen from different parts of the world in a manner and according to a system determined or to be determined by the Roman Pontiff will render to the Supreme Pastor a more effective auxiliary service in a council which shall be known by the special name of Synod of Bishops.[12] This council, as it will be representative of the whole Catholic episcopate, will bear testimony to the participation of all the bishops in hierarchical communion in the care of the universal Church.[13]

6. Bishops, as legitimate successors of the apostles and members of the episcopal college, should appreciate that they are closely united to each other and should be solicitous for all the churches. By divine institution and by virtue of their apostolic office, all of them jointly are responsible for the Church.[14]

They should be especially solicitous for those parts of the world in which the word of God has not yet been proclaimed or in which, especially on account of the scarcity of priests, the faithful are in danger of falling away from the obligations of the Christian life or even of losing the faith itself. Bishops should, therefore, do their utmost to ensure that the activities of evangelization and the apostolate are zealously supported and promoted by the faithful. It should, moreover, be their special care that suitable priests, as well as lay and religious auxiliaries, be trained for those missions and regions suffering from a lack of clergy. They should arrange also, as far as it is possible, that some of their priests should go to these missions or dioceses to exercise the sacred ministry there, either permanently or for a fixed period.

Furthermore, bishops should bear it in mind that in the expenditure of ecclesiastical resources they must take into account the needs not only of their own dioceses but of other individual _

___________________________________________________________________ 11. Ibid. 12. Cf. Paul VI, motu proprio _Apostolica Solicitudo_, 15 Sept. 1965: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 775-780. 13. Cf. VAT. II, Dogm. Const. on the Church, ch. 3, n. 23: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 27-28. 14. Cf. Pius XII, encycl. letter _Fidei Donum_, 21 Apr. 1957: AAS 49 (1957) p. 27. Cf. also Benedict XV, apost. letter _Maximum Illud_, 30 Nov. 1919: AAS 11 (1919) p. 440; Pius XI, encycl. letter _Rerum Ecclesiae_, 28 Feb. 1926: AAs 18 (1926) pp. 68 ff.

churches, since they too form part of the one Church of Christ. Let it be their care also to give help according to their resources when other dioceses or regions are afflicted by disaster. (See D. _46_, 1-5.)

7. Above all, they should extend their brotherly care to those bishops who are harassed by calumny and hardship for the name of Christ, who are detained in prison or prevented from exercising their ministry. They should manifest an active fraternal interest in them so that their sufferings may be lessened and alleviated by the prayers and works of their brethren.


8.(a) Bishops, as the successors of the apostles, enjoy as of right in the dioceses assigned to them all ordinary, special and immediate power which is necessary for the exercise of their pastoral office, but always without prejudice to the power which the Roman Pontiff possesses, by virtue of his office, of reserving certain matters to himself or to some other authority.

(b) Individual diocesan bishops have the power to dispense from the general law of the Church in particular cases those faithful over whom they normally exercise authority. It must, however, be to their spiritual benefit and may not cover a matter which has been specially reversed by the supreme authority of the Church.

9. In exercising his supreme, full and immediate authority over the universal Church the Roman Pontiff employs the various departments of the Roman Curia, which act in his name and by his authority for the good of the churches and in the service of the sacred pastors. It is the earnest desire of the Fathers of the sacred Council that these departments, which have indeed rendered excellent service to the Roman Pontiff and to the pastors of the Church, should be reorganized and modernized, should be more in keeping with different regions and rites, especially in regard to the number, their names, their competence, their procedures and methods of coordination. It is hoped also that, in view of the pastoral role proper to bishops, the functions of the legates of the Roman Pontiff should be more precisely determined.

10. Furthermore, as these departments have been instituted for the good of the universal Church it is hoped that their members, officials and consultors, as well as the legates of the Roman Pontiff, may be chosen, as far as it is possible, on a more representative basis, so that the offices or central agencies of the Church may have a truly universal spirit. It is urged also that more bishops, especially diocesan bishops, be co-opted to membership of these departments, who will be better able to inform the Supreme Pontiff on the thinking, the hopes and the needs of all the churches. Finally, the Fathers of the Council judge that it would be most advantageous if these departments were to have more frequent recourse to the advice of laymen of virtue, knowledge and experience so that they also may have an appropriate role in the affairs of the Church.




11. A diocese is a section of the People of God entrusted to a bishop to be guided by him with the assistance of his clergy so that, loyal to its pastor and formed by him into one community in the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and the Eucharist, it constitutes one particular church in which the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active.

Individual bishops to whom the care of particular dioceses is committed care for their flocks under the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, in the name of God, as their proper, ordinary and immediate pastors, sanctifying and governing them. They should, however, recognize the rights which are conferred by law on Patriarchs of other hierarchial authorities.[1]

Bishops should devote themselves to their apostolic office as witnesses of Christ to all men. They should not limit themselves to those who already acknowledge the Prince of Pastors but should also devote their energies wholeheartedly to those who have strayed in any way from the path of truth or who have no knowledge of the gospel of Christ and of his saving mercy, so that ultimately all men may walk "in all goodness, justice and truth." (Eph. 5:9)

12. When they exercise their teaching role, bishops should proclaim the gospel of Christ to men. This is one of the principal duties of bishops.[2] Fortified by the Spirit they should call on men to believe or should strengthen them when they already have a living faith. They should expound to them the whole mystery of Christ, that is, all those truths ignorance of which means ignorance of Christ. They should show them, likewise, the way, divinely revealed, to give glory to God and thus attain eternal beatitude.[3]

____________________________________________________________________ 1. Cf. VAT II, Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches, 21 Nov. 1964, nn. 7-11: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 29 ff. 2. Cf. Council of Trent, fifth session, Decree __De reform__. ch. 2, Mansi 33, 30; twenty-fourth session, Decree __De reform__. ch. 4, Mansi 33, 159; VAT. II, Dogm. Const. on the Church, ch. 3, art. 25: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 29 ff. 3. Cf. VAT. II, Dogm. Const. on the Church, ch. 3, n. 25: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 29-31.

They should demonstrate that worldly things and human institutions are ordered, according to the plan of God the Creator, towards the salvation of men, and that they can therefore make no small contribution to the building up of the body of Christ.

Let them explain also how high a value, according to the doctrine of the Church, should be place on the human person, on his liberty and bodily life; how highly we should value the family, its unity and stability, the procreation and education of children, human society with its laws and professions, its labour and leisure, its arts and technical inventions, its poverty and abundance. They should expound likewise the principles governing the solution of those very grave problems concerning the possession, increase and just distribution of material goods, concerning peace and war, and the fraternal coexistence of all peoples.[4]

13. Bishops should present the doctrine of Christ in a manner suited to the needs of the times, that is, so it may be relevant to those difficulties and questions which men find especially worrying and intimidating. They should also safeguard this doctrine, teaching the faithful themselves to defend it and propagate it. In presenting this doctrine they should proclaim the maternal solicitude of the Church for all men, whether they be Catholics or not, and should be especially solicitous for the poor and weaker brethren whom the Lord has commissioned them to evangelize.

Since it is the mission of the Church to maintain close relation with the society in which she lives[5] the bishops should make it their special care to approach men and to initiate and promote dialogue with them. These discussion on religious matters should be marked by charity of expression as well as by humility and courtesy, so that truth may be combined with charity, and understanding with love. The discussions should likewise be characterized by due prudence allied, however, with sincerity which by promoting friendship is conducive to a union of minds.[6]

Bishops should also endeavour to use the various methods available nowadays for proclaiming Christian doctrine. There are, first of all, preaching and catechetical instruction, which always hold pride of place. There is also doctrinal instruction in schools, universities, conferences and meetings of every kind. Finally, there are public statements made by way of comment on events, as well as the

____________________________________________________________________ 4. Cf. John XXIII, Encycl. letter __Peace on Earth___, 11 Apr. 1963 passim: AAS 55 (1963) pp. 257-304. 5. Cf. Paul VI, Encycl. letter __Ecclesiam suam__, 6 Aug. 1964: AAS 56 (1964) p. 639. 6. Cf. Paul VI, ibid. AAS (1964) pp. 644-645.

press and other media of public communication, all of which should be employed for the promulgation of the gospel of Christ.[7]

14. Bishops should be especially concerned about catechetical instruction. Its function is to develop in men a living, explicit and active faith, enlightened by doctrine. It should be very carefully imparted, not only to children and adolescents but also to young people and even to adults. In imparting this instruction the teachers must observe an order and method suited not only to the matter in hand but also to the character, the ability, the age and the life-style of their audience. This instruction should be based on holy scripture, tradition, liturgy, and on the teaching authority and life of the church.

They should, furthermore, ensure that catechists are adequately prepared for their task, being well-instructed in the doctrine of the Church and possessing both a practical and theoretical knowledge of the laws of psychology and of educational method.

They should take steps to reestablish or to modernize the adult catechumenate.

15. In exercising their mission of sanctification bishops should be mindful of the fact that they have been chosen from among men and made their representatives before God to offer gifts and sacrifices in expiation of sins. It is the bishops who enjoy the fullness of the sacrament of orders, and both priests and deacons are dependent on them in the exercise of their power. The former, in order that they may be prudent cooperators with the episcopal order, have also been consecrated as true priests of the New Testament; the latter, having been ordained for the ministry, serve the people of God in union with the bishop and his clergy. It is therefore bishops who are the principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, and it is their function to control, promote and protect the entire liturgical life of the Church entrusted to them.[8]

They should therefore see to it that the faithful know and live the paschal mystery more deeply through the Eucharist, forming one closely-knit body, united by the charity of Christ;[9] "devoting themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4).[10] They should aim to make of one mind in prayer all who are entrusted to their care, and to ensure their advancement in grace through the _

___________________________________________________________________ 7. Cf VAT II, Decree on the Instruments of Social Communication, 4 Dec. 1963: AAS 56 (1964) pp. 145-153. 8. Cf. VAT. II, Const. on the Sacred Liturgy, 4 Dec. 1963: AAS 56 (1964) pp. 97 ff; Paul VI, motu proprio __Sacram Liturgiam__, 25 Jan. 1964 AAS 56 (1964) pp. 139 ff. 9. Cf. Pius XII, Encycl. letter __Mediator Dei__, 20 NOv. 1947: AAS 39 (1947) pp. 97 ff; Paul VI, Encycl. __Mysterium Fidei__, 3 Sept. 1965: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 753-774. 10. Cf. Acts 1:14 and 2:46.

reception of the sacraments, and that they become faithful witnesses to the Lord.

As spiritual guides of their flocks, bishops should be zealous in promoting the sanctity of their clergy, their religious and their laity according to the vocation of each individual.[11] remembering that they are under an obligation to give an example of sanctity in charity, humility and simplicity of live. Let them so sanctify the churches entrusted to them that the mind of the universal Church of Christ may be fully reflected in them. They should, therefore, make every effort to foster vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life, and encourage missionary vocations especially.

16. In exercising his office of father and pastor the bishop should be with his people as one who serves,[12] as a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him, as a true father who excels in his love and solicitude for all, to whose divinely conferred authority all readily submit. He should so unite and mold his flock into one family that all, conscious of their duties, may live and act in the communion of charity.

In order to accomplish these things effectively the bishop "being ready for every good work" (2 Tim. 2:21) and "enduring all things for the sake of the elect" (2 Tim. 2:10) should so arrange his own life so to accommodate it to the needs of the times. His priests, who assume a part of his duties and concerns, and who are ceaselessly devoted to their work, should be the objects of his particular affection.. He should regard them as sons and friends.[13] He should always be ready to listen to them and cultivate an atmosphere of easy familiarity with them, thus facilitating the pastoral work of the entire diocese.

A bishop should be solicitous for the welfare --- spiritual, intellectual, and material --- of his priest, so that they may live holy and pious lives, and exercise a faithful and fruitful ministry. With this end in view he should encourage courses and arrange for special conferences for his priests from time. These could take the form of extended retreats for the renewal of their spiritual lives or courses intended to deepen their knowledge of ecclesiastical studies, especially of sacred scripture and theology, of the more important social questions, or of new methods of pastoral activity. (See D. 46, 7 and 8.)

A bishop should be compassionate and helpful to those priest who are in any kind of danger or who have failed in some respect.

____________________________________________________________________ 11. Cf. VAT. II, Dogm. Const. on the Church, ch. 6, nn. 44-45: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 50-52. 12. Lk. 22:26, 27. 13. Jn. 15:15.

In order to be able to provide for the welfare of the faithful as their individual circumstances demand, he should try to keep himself informed of their needs in the social circumstances in which they live. To this end he should employ suitable methods, especially social research. He should be solicitous for all men whatever their age, condition or nationality, whether they are natives , visitors or foreign immigrants. In exercising his ministry he should ensure that the faithful are duly involved in Church affairs; he should recognize their right and duty to play their part in building up the Mystical Body of Christ.

Bishops should show affectionate consideration in their relations with the separated brethren and should urge the faithful also to exercise all kindness and charity in their regard, encouraging ecumenism as it is understood by the Church.[14] The non-baptized also should be the object of their solicitude so that on them too may shine the charity of Christ of whom bishops are the witnesses before all men.

17. The various forms of the apostolate should be encouraged. Close collaboration and the coordination of all the apostolic works under the direction of the bishop should be promoted in the diocese as a whole or in parts of it. Thus all the undertakings and organizations, whether their object be catechetical, missionary, charitable, social, family, educational, or any other pastoral end, will act together in harmony, and the unity of the diocese will be more closely demonstrated.

The faithful should be carefully reminded of their obligation to promote the apostolate according to their state of life and aptitudes, and they should be urged to participate in or assist the various works of the lay apostolate, especially Catholic action. Those associations also should be inaugurated or encouraged which have, either directly or indirectly, a supernatural object such as the attainment of a more perfect life, the preaching of the gospel of Christ to all men, the promotion of Christian doctrine or of public worship, the pursuit of social aims, or the practice of works of piety or charity.

The forms of the apostolate should be duly adapted to the needs of the times, taking into account the human conditions, not merely spiritual and moral but also social, demographic and economic. this can be done effectively with the help of social and religious research conducted by institutes of pastoral sociology, the establishment of which is strongly recommended.

____________________________________________________________________ 14. Cf. VAT. II, Decree on Ecumenism: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 90-107.

18. Special concern should be shown for those members of the faithful who, on account of their way of life are not adequately catered for by the ordinary pastoral ministry of the parochial clergy or are entirely deprived of it. These include the many migrants, exiles and refugees, sailors and airmen, itinerants and others of this kind. Suitable pastoral methods should be developed to provide for the spiritual life of people on holidays.

Conferences of bishops, and especially national conferences, should give careful consideration to the more important questions relating to these categories. They should determine and provide by common agreement and united effort suitable means and directives to cater for their spiritual needs. In doing this they should give due consideration especially to the norms determined,[1] or to be determined, by the Holy See, adapting them to their own times, places and people. (See D. 46, 9.)

19. In the exercise of their apostolic function, which is directed towards the salvation of souls, bishops enjoy as of right full and perfect freedom and independence from all civil authority. It is, therefore, unlawful to obstruct them directly or indirectly in the exercise of their ecclesiastical office or to prevent them from communicating freely with the Apostolic See and other ecclesiastical authorities or with their subjects.

In fact, the sacred pastors in devoting themselves to the spiritual care of their flock are in fact promoting social and civil progress and prosperity. With this end in view they cooperate actively with the public authorities in a manner consonant with their office and fitting for bishops, enjoining obedience to just laws and prescribing reverence for legitimately constituted authority.

20. Since the apostolic office of bishops was instituted by Christ the Lord and is directed to a spiritual and supernatural end, the sacred Ecumenical Council asserts that the competent ecclesiastical authority has the proper, special, and, as of right, exclusive power to appoint and install bishops. Therefore in order to safeguard the liberty of the Church and the better and more effectively to promote the good of the faithful, it is the desire of the sacred Council that for the future no rights or privileges be conceded to the civil authorities in regard to the election, nomination or presentation to bishoprics. The civil authorities in question, whose good will towards the Church the sacred Synod gratefully acknowledges and highly appreciates, are respectfully asked to initiate discussions with the Holy See with the object of freely waiving the aforesaid _

___________________________________________________________________ 1. Cf. St. Pius X, motu proprio __Iampridem__, 19 Mar. 1914: AAS 6 (1914) pp. 173 ff; Pius XII, Apost. Const. __Exsul Familia__, 1 Aug. 1952: AAS 44 (1952) pp. 649 ff; Pius XII, __Regulations for the Apostolate of the Sea__, 21 Nov. 1957: AAS 50 (1958) pp. 375-383.

rights and privileges which they at present enjoy by agreement or custom. (See D. 46, 10.)

21. As the pastoral office of bishops is so important and onerous, diocesan bishops and others whose juridical position corresponds to theirs are earnestly requested to resign from their office if on account of advanced age or from any other grave cause they become less able to carry out their duties. This they should do on their own initiative or when invited to do so by the competent authority. If the competent authority accepts the resignation it will make provision for the suitable support of those who have retired and for the special rights to be accorded to them. (See D. 46, 11.)


22. For a diocese to fulfil its purpose it is necessary that the nature of the Church be clearly manifested in the people of God belonging to the diocese. Bishops must be able to carry out their pastoral function effectively among their people, and finally the spiritual welfare of the People of God must be catered for as perfectly as possible. This requires not only a proper determination of the territorial limits of the diocese but also a reasonable distribution of clergy and resources in accordance with the needs of the apostolate. All these things contribute to the good, not only of the clergy and the faithful who are directly involved, but also of the whole Church.

Therefore as regards diocesan boundaries the sacred Synod decrees that, insofar as the good of souls requires it, a prudent revision of diocesan boundaries be undertaken as soon as possible. This can be done by dividing, distributing or uniting dioceses, changing their boundaries, or appointing a more suitable place for the episcopal see, or finally, and especially in those dioceses which comprise larger cities, by establishing a new internal organization. (See D. 46, 12.)

23. In revising diocesan boundaries a first care should be the preservation of the organic unity of each diocese, as in a healthy living body. This applies to persons, offices and institutions. Due weight being given in individual cases to the particular circumstances, the following general criteria should be born in mind:

(1) In determining diocesan boundaries the variety of the composition of the People of God should be taken into consideration as far as possible, since this may materially contribute to more effective pastoral care.

At the same time an effort should be made to ensure as far as possible that the demographic groupings remain united with the civil offices and institutions which constitute their organic structure. For this reason the territory of each diocese should be continuous.

The limits of civil boundaries should also be taken into account where they occur, as well as the special characteristics --- psychological, economic, geographical or historical --- of people and regions.

(2) The size of the diocesan territory and the number of its inhabitants should as a general rule be such that on the one hand the bishop himself, assisted perhaps by others, is able to duly exercise his pontifical functions and carry out his pastoral visitations in it. He should also be in a position to control and coordinate effectively all the apostolic activities in his diocese, and especially to know his priests and all the religious and laymen who are involved in diocesan activities. On the other hand a diocese should provide sufficient and suitable scope for the bishop and his priests to employ usefully all their energies in the ministry, taking into account the needs of the universal Church.

(3) Finally, for the more effective exercise of the ministry of salvation, each diocese should normally have enough priest capable of looking after the People of God. Those offices, institutions and activities should not be lacking which are suited to a particular diocese and which experience shows to be necessary for its efficient administration and for its apostolate. Lastly, resources for the care of personnel and the maintenance of institutions should be already in hand or at least it should be foreseen that they will be provided from elsewhere. Accordingly, where there are believers of different rites, the bishop of that diocese should make provision for their spiritual needs either by providing priests of those rites, or special parishes, or by appointing episcopal vicars, with the necessary faculties. If necessary, such a vicar may be ordained bishop. Alternatively, the bishop himself may perform the functions of an Ordinary for each of the different rites. And if the Apostolic See judges that, on account of some special circumstances, none of these alternatives are practicable, a special hierarchy should be established for each different rite.[2]

Likewise in similar circumstances provision should be made for the faithful of a different language group either by appointing priests who speak that language, or by creating special parishes, or by appointing an episcopal vicar well versed in it. If it is deemed suitable he may be ordained bishop, or the matter may be dealt with in some other appropriate way. (See D. 46, 12.)

24. The competent episcopal conferences should examine all matters relating to the changes and alterations to be made in dioceses in their territories, in accordance with nn. 22, 23. This is without prejudice to the discipline of the Oriental Church. A special episcopal commission may be established for the purpose, but the views of the bishops of the provinces or regions involved should always be taken especially into consideration. Finally, they should present _

____________________________________________________________________ 2. Cf. VAT. II, Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches, n. 4: AAS 57 (1965) p. 77.

their recommendations and wishes to the Apostolic See. (See D. 46, 12.)


A. Coadjutor and auxiliary bishops

25. In governing their dioceses, bishops must take the good of the Lord's flock as their highest objective. This will often demand the appointment of auxiliary bishops, the bishop of the diocese being unable to perform his duty sufficiently well for the good of souls on his own, either because of the great size of the diocese, the number of inhabitants, some special pastoral problem, or for some other reasons. Sometimes indeed special circumstances may require that a coadjutor bishop be appointed to assist the diocesan bishop. Suitable faculties should be conferred on those coadjutors and auxiliary bishops so that, without prejudice to the unity of the diocesan administration or to the authority of the diocesan bishop, their labours may be more effective and the dignity of the episcopal office duly safeguarded.

Since coadjutors and auxiliary bishops are chosen to share the burdens of the diocesan bishop, they should so perform their ministry that in all matters they act in single-minded accord with him. They should show all respect and reverence for the bishop of the diocese, who for his part should have a fraternal affection for his coadjutors or auxiliaries and should hold them in esteem. (See D 46, 13.)

26. When the good of souls requires it the diocesan bishop should not hesitate to ask for one or more auxiliaries, who will be appointed for the diocese, however, without any right of succession.

If it is not expressly provided in the letters of nomination, the diocesan bishop should appoint his auxiliary --- or each of his auxiliaries --- vicar general or at least episcopal vicar. The will, however, be dependent on his authority. He may think it well to consult them in deciding matters of greater importance, especially questions of pastoral significance.

Unless it has been otherwise provided by the competent authority, the powers and faculties conferred by law on auxiliary bishops are not terminated by the departure from office of the diocesan bishop. It is indeed desirable, unless there are grave reasons to the contrary, that the responsibility of governing the diocese during the vacancy of the see should be entrusted to the auxiliary bishops, or if there are several, to one of them

A coadjutor bishop, that is, one nominated with the right of succession, should always be appointed vicar general by the diocesan bishop. More extensive faculties may, in particular cases, be granted to him by the competent authority.

For the greater present and future good of the diocese the diocesan bishop and his coadjutor should consult each other on matters of major importance. (See D. 46, 13.)

B. The diocesan curia and councils

27. In the diocesan curia the office of vicar general is preeminent. When, however, the good government of the diocese requires it, the bishop may appoint one or more episcopal vicars who by the very fact of their appointment will enjoy in specified parts of the diocese, or in specific types of affairs, or in regard to the faithful of particular rites, that authority which is conferred by the general law on the vicar general.

Among the cooperators of the bishop in the governing of the diocese are included the priest who constitute his senate or council, such as the cathedral chapter, the council of consultors, or other committees according to the circumstances and character of different localities. These councils, and especially the cathedral chapters, should be reorganized, as far as is necessary, to suit contemporary needs.

Priest and laymen who are attached to the diocesan curia should be mindful that they are collaborating in the pastoral work of the bishop.

The diocesan curia should be so organized that it may be a useful medium for the bishop, not only for diocesan administration, but also for pastoral activity.

It is highly desirable that in every diocese a special pastoral council be established, presided over by the diocesan bishop himself, in which clergy, religious, and laity specially chosen for the purpose will participate. It will be the function of this council to investigate and consider matters relating to pastoral activity and to formulate practical conclusions concerning them. (See D. 46, 14-17.)

C. The diocesan clergy

28. All priests, whether diocesan or religious, share and exercise with the bishop the one priesthood of Christ. They are thus constituted providential cooperators of this episcopal order. The diocesan clergy have, however, a primary role in the care of souls because, being incardinated in or appointed to a particular church, they are wholly dedicated in its service to the care of a particular section of the Lord's flock, and accordingly form one priestly body and one family of which the bishop is the father. In order to allot the sacred ministries more suitably and more equitably among his priests, the bishop must have the requisite liberty in making appointments to ministries and benefices. All rights and privileges which in any way restrict that liberty should accordingly be abrogated.

The relations between the bishop and the diocesan clergy should be based before all else on supernatural charity, so that their unity of purpose will make their pastoral activity more effective. Therefore, to ensure an increasingly effective apostolate, the bishop should be willing to engage in dialogue with his priests, individually and collectively, not merely occasionally, but if possible, regularly. Furthermore, the diocesan priests should be united among themselves and should be genuinely zealous for the spiritual welfare of the whole diocese. They should bear in mind that the worldly goods which they acquire through their ecclesiastical functions are closely connected with their sacred office, and they should therefore contribute liberally to the material needs of the diocese, according to the bishop's directives. (See D. 46, 18.)

29. Priests to whom the bishop entrusts a pastoral duty or apostolic work of a trans-parochial nature collaborate even more closely with him, whether they are assigned to a portion of the diocese, a special group of the faithful, or a particular kind of work.

Outstanding assistance is rendered also by those priests who whom the bishop entrusts various apostolic activities in schools or in other institutions or associations.

Moreover, those priests who are involved in trans-diocesan activities should be shown particular solicitude especially by the bishop in whose diocese they reside, since they are engaged in apostolic work of great importance.

30. Parish priests are in a special sense collaborators with the bishop. They are given, in a specific section of the diocese, and under the authority of the bishop, the care of souls as their particular shepherd.

(1) In exercising the care of souls parish priests and their assistants should carry out their work of teaching, sanctifying and governing in such a way that the faithful and the parish communities may feel that they are truly members both of the diocese and of the universal Church. They should therefore collaborate both with other parish priests and with those priest who are exercising a pastoral function in the district (such as vicars and deans) or who are engaged in works of an extra-parochial nature, so that the pastoral work of the diocese may be rendered more effective by a spirit of unit. Furthermore, the care of souls should always be inspired by a missionary spirit, so that it extends with due prudence to all those who live in the parish. And if the parish priest cannot make contact with certain groups of people he should call to his aid others, including laymen, to assist him in matters relating to the apostolate.

For the better ordering of the care of souls priests are strongly recommended to live in common, especially those attached to the same parish. This on one hand is helpful to their apostolate work, and on the other gives to the faithful an example of charity and unity.

(2) In their role as teachers it is the duty of parish priests to preach the word of God to all the faithful so that they, being firmly rooted in faith, hope and charity, may grow in Christ, and the Christian community may give that witness to charity which the Lord commended.[3] They should likewise by means of catechetical instruction lead all the faithful, according to their capacity, to a full knowledge of the mystery of salvation. In providing this instruction, they should invoke the help not only of religious, but of the laity by establishing the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

In carrying out their work of sanctification parish priests should ensure that the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the center and culmination of the entire life of the Christian community. It should also be their aim to ensure that the faithful receive spiritual nourishment from a frequent and devout reception of the sacraments and from an attentive and fervent participation in the liturgy. Parish priests must bear it constantly in mind how much the sacrament of penance contributes to the development of the Christian life and should therefore be readily available for the hearing of the confessions of the faithful. If necessary they should call on other priest who are fluent in different languages to help in this work.

In carrying out their duties as pastors parish priests should make it their special concern to know their parishioners. Since they are the shepherds of all the individual sheep they should endeavour to stimulate a growth of the Christian life in each one of the faithful, in families, in associations, especially those dedicated to the apostolate, and, finally, in the parish as a whole. They should therefore, visit the homes and the schools as their pastoral function requires of them. They should manifest a special interest in adolescents and young people; they should exercise a paternal charity towards the poor and the sick. Finally, they should have a special care for the workers, and should urge the faithful to give their support to apostolic activities.

(3) Curates, as co-workers with the parish priest, should be eager and fervent in their daily exercise of their pastoral ministry under the authority of the parish priest. There should therefore be a fraternal relationship between the parish priest and his curates; mutual charity and respect should prevail, and they should assist each other by advice, practical help and example, providing with harmonious will and a common zeal for the needs of the parish. (See D. 46, 19.)

31. In forming a judgment as to the suitability of a priest for governing a parish, the bishop should take into consideration not only his learning but also his piety, his zeal for the apostolate, and those other gifts and qualities which are necessary for the proper care of souls.

____________________________________________________________________ 3. Cf. Jn. 13:35.

Moreover the care of souls is the whole function of a parish priest. It follows that, if a bishop is more easily and efficiently too make provision for the parishes, all rights whatsoever of presentation, nomination and reservation should be abrogated, without prejudice, however, to the rights of religious. Regulations for _ _concursus__, whether general or particular, should also be rescinded where they exist.

Each parish priest should enjoy that security of tenure in his parish as the good of souls requires. Therefore the distinction between removable and irremovable parish priests should be abandoned and the procedure for the transfer or removal of a parish priest should be reexamined and simplified so that the bishop, while observing the principles of natural and canonical justice, may more suitably provide for the good of souls.

Parish priests who on account of advanced years or for some other grave reason are unable to perform their duties adequately and fruitfully are earnestly requested to tender their resignation spontaneously, or when the bishop invites them to do so. The bishop will make suitable provision for the support of those who retire. (See D. 46, 20.)

32. finally, the same concern for the salvation of souls should be the motive for determining or reconsidering the erection or suppression of parishes and other changes of this kind. The bishop may act in these matters on his own authority. (See D. 46, 21.)

D. Religious

33. All religious (including for the purposes of this section members of other institutes professing the evangelical counsels) are under an obligation, in accordance with the particular vocation of each, to work zealously and diligently for the building up and growth of the whole Mystical Body of Christ and for the good of the particular churches. It is their duty to promote these objectives primarily by means of prayer, works of penance, and by the example of their own lives. The sacred Synod earnestly exhorts them to develop an ever-increasing esteem and zeal for these practices. But, with due consideration for the special character of each religious institute, they should apply themselves more zealously to the external works of the apostolate.

34. Religious priests, who have been raised to the priesthood to be prudent cooperators with the episcopal order, are able nowadays to give more help to bishops in view of the more pressing needs of souls. Thus they may be said in a certain sense to belong to the diocesan clergy inasmuch as they share in the care of souls and in the practice of apostolic works under the authority of bishops. The other members, too, of religious institutes, both men and women, also belong in a special sense to the diocesan family and render valuable help to the sacred hierarchy, and in view of the growing needs of the apostolate they can and should constantly increase the aid they give.

35. In order, however, that the works of the apostolate may always be carried out harmoniously in the individual dioceses and that the unity of diocesan discipline be preserved intact, the following fundamental principles are decreed:

(1) Religious should at all times treat the bishops, as the successors of the apostles, with loyal respect and reverence. Moreover, whenever legitimately called upon to do apostolic work, they must carry out these duties in such a way as to be the auxiliaries of the bishop and subject to him. Furthermore, religious should comply promptly and faithfully with the requests or desires of the bishops when they are asked to undertake a greater share in the ministry of salvation. Due consideration should be given to the character of the particular institute and to its constitutions, which may, if necessary, be adapted for this purpose in accord with the principles of this decree of the Council.

Especially in view of the urgent needs of souls and of the lack of diocesan clergy, those religious institutes which are not dedicated to a purely contemplative life may be called upon by the bishop to help in various pastoral ministries. The special character of each religious institute should be taken into consideration. Superiors should make every effort to cooperate, even taking responsibility for parishes on a temporary basis.

(2) Religious who are engaged in the external apostolate should be inspired by the spirit of their own institute, should remain faithful to the observance of their rule, and should be obedient to their superiors. Bishops should not fail for their part to insist on this obligation.

(3) The privilege of exemption whereby religious are reserved to the control of the Supreme Pontiff, or of some other ecclesiastical authority, and are exempted from the jurisdiction of bishops, relates primarily to the internal organization of their institutes. Its purpose is to ensure that everything is suitably and harmoniously arranged within them, and the perfection of the religious life promoted.[1] The privilege ensure also that the Supreme Pontiff may employ these religious for the good of the universal Church,[2] or that some other competent authority may do so for the good of the churches under its jurisdiction. This exemption, however, does not prevent religious being subject to the jurisdiction of the bishops in the individual diocese in accordance with the general law, insofar as is required for the performance of their pastoral duties and the proper care of souls.[3]

(4) All religious, whether exempt or non-exempt, are subject to the authority of the local ordinary in the following matters: public worship, without prejudice, however, to the diversity of rites; the care of souls; preaching to the people; the religious and moral education, catechetical instruction and liturgical formation of the faithful, especially of children. They are also subject to diocesan rules regarding the comportment proper to the clerical state and also the various activities relating to the exercise of their sacred apostolate. Catholic schools conducted by religious are also subject to the local ordinaries as regards their general policy and supervision without prejudice, however, to the right of the religious to manage them. Likewise, religious are obliged to observe all those prescriptions which episcopal councils or conferences legitimately decreed as binding on all.

(5) Organized cooperation should be encouraged between the various religious institutes and between them and the diocesan clergy. There should be the closest possible coordination of all apostolic works and activities. This will depend mainly on a supernatural attitude of heart and mind grounded on charity. It is the responsibility of the Apostolic See to foster this coordination in regard to the universal Church; it is for each bishop to do so in his own diocese and for the patriarchs and episcopal synods and conferences in their territories.

____________________________________________________________________ 1. Cf. Leo XIII, Apost. Const. __Romanos Pontifices__, 8 May 1881: __Acta Leonis XIII__, vol. 2, 1882, p. 234. 2. Cf. Paul VI, Allocution, 23 May 1964: AAS 56 (1965) pp. 570-571. 3. Cf. Pius XII Allocution, 8 Dec. 1950: AAS 43 (1951) p. 28.

There should be consultations beforehand between bishops or episcopal conferences and religious superiors or conferences of major superiors, with regard to apostolic activities to be undertaken by religious.

(6) In order to promote harmonious and fruitful relations between the bishops and religious, the bishops and superiors should meet at regular intervals and as often as seems opportune to discuss business matters of general concern in their territory. (See D. 46, 22-40.)




36. From the earliest ages of the Church, bishops in charge of particular churches, inspired by a spirit of fraternal charity and by zeal for the universal mission entrusted to the apostles, have pooled their resources and their aspirations in order to promote both the common good and the good of individual churches. With this end in view synods, provincial councils and, finally, plenary councils were established in which the bishops determined on a common program to be followed in various churches both for teaching the truths of the faith and for regulating ecclesiastical discipline.

This sacred Ecumenical Synod expresses its earnest hope that these admirable institutions --- synods and councils --- may flourish with renewed vigor so that the growth of religion and the maintenance of discipline in the various churches may increasingly be more effectively provided for in accordance with the needs of the times.

37. It is often impossible, nowadays especially, for bishops to exercise their office suitably and fruitfully unless they establish closer understanding and cooperation with other bishops. Since episcopal conferences --- many such have already been established in different countries --- have produced outstanding examples of a more fruitful apostolate, this sacred Synod judges that it would be in the highest degree helpful if in all parts of the world the bishops of each country or region would meet regularly, so that by sharing their wisdom and experience and exchanging views they may jointly formulate a program for the common good of the Church.

Therefore, the sacred Synod makes the following decrees concerning episcopal conferences:

38. (1) An episcopal conference is a form of assembly in which the bishops of a certain country or region exercise their pastoral office jointly in order to enhance the Church's beneficial influence on all men, especially by devising forms of the apostolate and apostolic methods suitably adapted to the circumstances of the times.

(2) Members of the episcopal conferences include all local ordinaries of whatever rite (but not vicars general), coadjutor and auxiliary bishops and other titular bishops to whom the Apostolic See or the episcopal conferences have entrusted some special work. Other titular bishops and legates of the Roman Pontiff, in view of their special position in the region, are not __de jure__ members of the conference.

The local ordinaries and coadjutors have a deliberative vote. The statutes of the conference will determine whether auxiliary bishops and other bishops entitled to attend the conference be given a deliberative or consultative voice.

(3) Each episcopal conference will draw up its own statutes, which will be subject to the approval of the Apostolic See. These statutes will provide, among other things, for the setting up of those offices which are requisite for the effectiveness of the conference, for example, a permanent council of bishops, episcopal commissions and a general secretariat.

(4) Decisions of the episcopal conference, provided they have been legitimately approved by at least two thirds of the votes of the prelates who have a deliberative vote in the conference, and provided they have been confirmed by the Apostolic See, shall have the force of law, but only in those cases in which it is so prescribed by the common law, or when it has been so declared by a special mandate of the Apostolic See promulgated on its own initiative or at the request of the conference itself.

(5) When the special circumstances require it, bishops of different countries may, subject to the approval of the Apostolic See, establish one joint conference. Moreover, contacts between episcopal conferences of different countries are to be encouraged for the promotion of the common good.

(6) It is earnestly recommended to prelates of the Oriental Churches that when engaged in the improvement of morals in their own Church and in the promotion of activities beneficial to religion, they should take into consideration the common good of the whole of a region in which there happen to be Churches of different rites. They should meet representatives of other rites and discuss matters with them, in accordance with rules to be determined by the competent authority. (See D. 46, 41.)


39. The The good of souls requires well-adjusted boundaries, not only of dioceses, but also of ecclesiastical provinces; it may indeed call for the establishment of ecclesiastical regions in order that better provision may be made for the needs of the apostolate in accordance with social and local circumstances. In this way easier and more fruitful relations may be established between bishops themselves and between them and their Metropolitans and other bishops of the same country, and also between bishops and the civil authorities.

40. Therefore, in order to achieve these objectives, the sacred Synod decrees the following:

(1) The boundaries of ecclesiastical provinces should be reviewed as soon as is practicable, and the rights and privileges of Metropolitans should be determined according to new and well-devised regulations.

(2) As a general rule all dioceses, and other territorial divisions which in law are equivalent to dioceses, should be incorporated in an ecclesiastical province. Thus those dioceses which are now immediately subject to the Apostolic See and which are not united with any other diocese should either be consolidated into new ecclesiastical provinces, if that is practicable, or should be joined to the nearest and most suitable provinces. They should be made subject to the authority of the metropolitan archbishops in accordance with the norm of the common law.

(3) Whenever it seems expedient, ecclesiastical provinces should be consolidated into ecclesiastical regions, the organization of which is to be determined by law.

41. The competent episcopal conferences should examine the question of the boundaries of provinces of this kind and the establishment of regions in accordance with the provisions concerning the boundaries of dioceses in nn. 23, 24 and should submit their decisions to the Apostolic See. (See D. 46, 42.)


42. As the needs of the apostolate make joint control and promotion of certain pastoral activities increasingly necessary, it is desirable that some offices be established for the service of all or several dioceses in a particular region or nation, and these may be entrusted to a bishop.

The sacred Synod recommends also that fraternal relations and unity of purpose in their pastoral zeal for souls should prevail between the prelates or bishops exercising these functions and the diocesan bishops and the episcopal conferences. These relations should be determined by the common law.

43. The spiritual welfare of military personnel, on account of the special nature of their life, should be the object of particular solicitude. A special military vicariate should therefore, if possible, be established in every country. Both the vicar and his chaplains should devote themselves with all zeal to this difficult work in harmonious cooperation with diocesan bishops.[4]

Diocesan bishops should for this purpose release to the military vicar a sufficient number of priests well-fitted for this difficult work. They should also give every encouragement to undertaking intended to promote the spiritual welfare of the military personnel.[5]


44. The sacred Synod prescribes that in the revision of the Code of Canon Law, suitable laws should be drawn up in conformity with the principles enunciated in this decree, due consideration being given to the comments made by individual commissions or the Fathers of the Council

The sacred Synod further decrees that general directories concerning the care of souls be compiled for the use both of bishops and parish priests so that they may have definite directives to guide them in the discharge of their particular pastoral function.

A special directory should also be compiled concerning the pastoral care of special groups of the faithful according to the various circumstances of different countries or regions, and also a directory for the catechetical instruction of the Christian people in which the fundamental principles of this instruction and its organization will be dealt with and the preparation of books relating to it. In this preparation of these directories due consideration should be given to the views expressed both by the commissions and by the Conciliar Fathers.


____________________________________________________________________ 4. Cf. Sac. Consist. Congr., Instruction to Military Ordinaries, 23 April 1951: AAS 43 (1951), pp. 562-562; also Formula Regarding the conferring of the Status of Military Ordinariates, 20 Oct. 1956: AAS 49 (1957), pp. 150- 163; also Decree on Ad Limina Visits of Military Ordinariates, 28 Feb. 1959: AAS 51 (1959), pp. 272-274; also Decree on the Granting of Faculties for Confession to Military Chaplains, 27 Nov. 1960: AAS 53 (1961), pp. 49-50; also Instruction of Sac. Congr. Of Religious Military Chaplains, 2 Feb. 1955: AAS 47 (1955), pp. 93-97. 5. Cf. Sac. Consist. Congr., __Letter to the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and other ordinaries of Spanish-speaking nations__, 21 June 1951: AAS 43 (1951) p. 566.