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New motu proprio on harmonizing codes of canon law: full English translation

The first English translation of the Pope’s announcement on harmonising Eastern and Latin canon law. Translated by Fr James Bradley and Ed Condon





Moved by Our constant solicitude for the concordance between the two Codes We became aware of some points not in perfect harmony between the rules of the Code of Canon Law and those of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

The two codes have, on the one hand, common standards, and on the other, peculiarities, which make them mutually independent. It is however necessary that even in the particular rules there be a sufficient amount of correlation. In fact these discrepancies could affect negatively on pastoral practice, especially in cases which pertain to the relationships of individuals belonging respectively to the Latin Church and to an Eastern Church.

This is particularly true in our day in which the mobility of the population has effected the presence of a large number of Eastern faithful in Latin territories. This new situation generates many pastoral and legal issues, which need to be resolved with appropriate standards. It must be recalled that the Eastern faithful are obliged to observe their own rite wherever they are (cf. CCEO c. 40 § 3; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 6) and therefore the “competent ecclesiastical authority has the serious responsibility to provide them with appropriate means for them to fulfill this obligation” (cf. CCEO c. 193 § 1; CIC c. 383 §§ 1-2; post-synodal apostolic exhortation,Pastores Gregis, 72). Legislative concordance is certainly one of the means by which the development of the venerable Eastern rites is beneficially promoted (cf. CCEO c. 39), allowing the Churches sui iuris to act pastorally in the most effective way.

However one must keep in mind the need to recognize the disciplinary peculiarities of the local context in which inter-ecclesial relations take place. In the West, which is in most parts Latin, a equilibrium must be struck between protecting the rights of the Eastern minority and respecting the tradition of the Latin canonical majority so as to avoid undue interference and conflicts, and to promote effective cooperation between all the Catholic communities present in a given territory.

A further reason to integrate the CIC legislation with explicit parallel provisions to those existing in the CCEO is the need to better determine the relationship with the faithful belonging to the Eastern Catholic Churches now present in larger number in the Latin territories.

It should be noted that the canonical doctrine indicates some discrepancies between the two Codes, and proposes means for substantial convergence, identifying the questions and how to render them in agreement.

Finally, therefore, the norms introduced by this apostolic letter givenmotu proprio comprise a concordant discipline that offers certainty in the pastoral way of acting in particular cases.

The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, by means of a Commission of Experts in Eastern and Latin Canon Law, has identified the main issues in need of regulatory compliance, developing a text sent to thirty Consultors and experts around the world, as well as to authorities of the Latin Ordinariates for [the Eastern faithful]. After consideration of the comments received, the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts has approved a new text.

All things considered, We now dispose the following:

 Art. 1. CIC Canon 111 the entirety of the text is substituted, in which is included a new paragraph and the changes to some terms:

§ 1. Through the reception of baptism, the child of parents who belong to the Latin Church is enrolled in it, or, if one or the other does not belong to it, both parents have chosen by mutual agreement to have the offspring baptized in the Latin Church. If there is no mutual agreement, however, the child is enrolled in the Church sui iuris to which the father belongs.

§ 2. If only one of the parents be catholic, the baptized is ascribed to the Church to which the catholic parent pertains.

§ 3. Anyone to be baptized who has completed the fourteenth year of age can freely choose to be baptized in the Latin Church or in another Church sui iuris; in that case, the person belongs to the Church which he or she has chosen.

Art. 2. CIC Canon 112 the entirety of the text is substituted, in which is included a new paragraph and the changes to some terms:

§1. After the reception of baptism, the following are enrolled in another Church sui iuris:

1° a person who has obtained permission from the Apostolic See;

2° a spouse who, at the time of or during marriage, has declared that he or she is transferring to the Church sui iuris of the other spouse; when the marriage has ended, however, the person can freely return to the Latin Church;

3° before the completion of the fourteenth year of age, the children of those mentioned in nn. 1 and 2 as well as, in a mixed marriage, the children of the Catholic party who has legitimately transferred to another Church sui iuris; on completion of their fourteenth year, however, they can return to the Latin Church.

§2. The practice, however prolonged, of receiving the sacraments according to the rite of another Church sui iuris does not entail enrollment in that Church

§3. All those transfers to another Church sui iuris have force from the moment of the declaration of the fact before the local Ordinary of the Church or the proper pastor or priest by delegation and two witnesses, unless a rescript of the Apostolic See provides otherwise; and [this is to be] noted in the baptismal register.

Art. 3. The second paragraph of CIC can. 535 is entirely replaced by the following text:

§2. In the baptismal register are also to be noted ascription to a Church sui iuris and/or any transfer, also confirmation, and those things which pertain to the canonical status of the Christian faithful by reason of marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1133, of adoption, of the reception of sacred orders, of perpetual profession made in a religious institute, and of change of rite. These notations are always to be noted on a baptismal certificate.

Art. 4. The second number of the first paragraph of CIC can. 868 is entirely replaced by the following text:

2º there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion, see §3; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.

Art. 5. CIC Canon 868 will from now on contain a third paragraph with the following text:

§3. Infants of non-Catholic Christians are licitly baptized if their parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place request it and if it is physically or morally impossible for them to approach their own minister.

Art. 6. CIC Canon 1108 will from now on contain a third paragraph with the following text:

§3. Only a priest validly assists at marriages between eastern parties or between one Latin party and one Eastern party whether Catholic or non-Catholic.

Art. 7. CIC Canon 1109 is entirely replaced with the following text:

Unless the local ordinary and pastor have been excommunicated, interdicted, or suspended from office or declared such through a sentence or decree, by virtue of their office and within the confines of their territory they assist validly at the marriages not only of their subjects, but also provided at least one of the parties is ascribed to the Latin Church, those who are not their subjects.

Art. 8. The first paragraph of CIC can. 1111 is entirely replaced with the following text:

§1. As long as they hold office validly, the local ordinary and the pastor can delegate to priests and deacons the faculty, even a general one, of assisting at marriages within the limits of their territory, according to what is prescribed in can. 1108 §3.

Art. 9. The first paragraph of CIC can. 1112 is entirely replaced with the following text:

Where there is a lack of priests and deacons, the diocesan bishop can delegate lay persons to assist at marriages, with the previous favorable vote of the conference of bishops and after he has obtained the permission of the Holy See, according to what is prescribed in can. 1108 §3.

Art. 10. CIC Canon 1116 will from now on contain a third paragraph with the following text:

§3. In judging the cases, mentioned in §1, nn. 1 and 2, the local ordinary can give to any catholic priest the faculty of blessing the marriage of the Christian faithful of an Eastern Church which does not have full communion with the Catholic Church if [those faithful] voluntarily ask for this, as long as nothing stands in the way of a valid and licit celebration [of the marriage]. The same priest, always with necessary prudence, is to inform the competent authority of the non-Catholic Church, who are concerned, of the fact.

Art. 11. The first paragraph of CIC can. 1127 is entirely replaced with the following text:

The prescripts of can. 1108 are to be observed for the form to be used in a mixed marriage. Nevertheless, if a Catholic party contracts marriage with a non-Catholic party of an Eastern rite, the canonical form of the celebration must be observed for liceity only; for validity, however, the presence of a priest is required and the other requirements of law are to be observed.

By resolution of this apostolic letter issued motu proprio We order to have formal and stable force, anything to the contrary notwithstanding, even if worthy of special mention, and that it is to be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano and then published in the official commentary Acta Apostolicae Sedis. 

Given at Rome, from Saint Peter’s, this XXXI day of the month of May in the year MMXVI, the fourth of Our pontificate.



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