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Roman Curia

The Roman Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Holy See, coordinating and providing the necessary organisation for the correct functioning of the Roman Catholic Church and the achievement of its goals. It is generally considered as representing the government of the Church.

Curia in medieval and later Latin usage means "court" in the sense of "royal court" rather than "court of law" (though those two meanings are related in history). The Roman Curia, then, is the Papal Court, and assists the Pope in carrying out his functions.

In this sense, the Roman Curia has grown little by little in the history of the Catholic Church, its importance reaching an apogee during the later times of Papacy's temporal power, de facto ended in 19th century (with the unification of Italy) and later formally too concluded in 1929 with the Lateran Treaties, or Concordato. After this act, the Curia obviously does not care any more about the administration of the Stati Pontificii (the extensive Papal States in central Italy), and is now mainly dedicated to the support of the Pope's ecclesiastical responsibilities.


"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." (Christus Dominus, 9)


The following organs or charges, according to the official Vatican website ([1]), compose the Curia:

  • The Secretariat of State (Secretaria Apostolica ) - created in the 15th century, it is the dicastery of the closest assistants of the Pope [2]. It is headed by the Cardinal Secretary of State.
    • Section for General Affairs
    • Section for Relations with States
  • The Congregations [3] -
    • the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (once the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition, later Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office) ([4]),
    • The Congregation for the Oriental Churches [5] (once the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide pro negotiis ritus orientalis)
    • The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments [6]
    • The Congregation for the Causes of Saints [7]
    • The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples [8] (better known as The Congregatio de Propaganda Fide)
    • The Congregation for the Clergy [9] (originated in the wake of the Council of Trent as Sacra Congregatio Cardinalium Concilii Tridentini Interpretum)
    • The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life [10]
    • The Congregation for Catholic Education (for Seminaries and Educational Institutions) [11] (born as Congregatio pro universitate studii romani, then Congregatio de Seminariis et Studiorum Universitatibus)
    • The Congregation for Bishops (Congregatio pro Episcopis)
  • The Tribunals
    • The Apostolic Penitentiary
    • The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature
    • The Tribunal of the Roman Rota (better known as Sacra Rota)
  • The Pontifical Councils [12]
    • The Pontifical Council for the Laity
    • The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of the Christians
    • The Pontifical Council for the Family
    • The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
    • The Pontifical Council Cour Unum
    • The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants
    • The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Workers
    • The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
    • The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue
    • The Pontifical Council for Culture
    • The Pontifical Council for Social Communications
  • The Offices
    • The Apostolic Chamber
    • The Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See
    • The Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See
    • The Prefecture for the Pontifical Household
    • The Office of the Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations
  • The Pontifical Commissions [13]
    • The Pontifical Commission for the cultural heritage of the Church
    • The Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology
    • The Pontifical Biblical Commission
    • The Pontifical Commission for revision of the Vulgata
    • The International Theological Commission
    • The Pontifical Commission for International Eucharistic Congresses
    • The Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences
    • The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei
    • The Pontifical Commission for the Vatican State City
    • The Pontifical Commission for Latin America
    • The Discipline Commission of the Roman Curia

It should be noted that it is normal for every Roman Catholic diocese to have a curia in its administration. For the Diocese of Rome, these functions are not handled by the Roman Curia, but by the Vicariate General of His Holiness for the City of Rome, as provided by the Apostolic Constitution Ecclesia in Urbe. The Vicar General, traditionally a Cardinal, and the Vicegerent, who holds the personal title of Archbishop, supervise the governance of the diocese with occasional reference to the Pope himself, but no responsibility to the Roman Curia as such.

See also

Politics of the Vatican City

Last updated: 08-29-2005 00:05:05
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13