The Apostolic Camera administers the property and guards the temporal rights of the Holy See during its vacancy (Pastor bonus, art. 171). It is presided over by the Cardinal Camerlengo (Chamberlain) of the Holy Roman Church, and assisted by the Vice-Camerlengo together with other prelates (art. 171 §1). Art. 171 §2 of the apostolic constitution, Pastor bonus directs the Cardinal Camerlengo, upon the vacancy of the Apostolic See, to ascertain the financial and economic status of the various administrative units and dependencies of the Apostolic See, and report his findings to the College of Cardinals. He also has such other duties and responsibilities as may be assigned to him by special law.
History. The camerarius (chamberlain, camerlengo) dates from the end of the 11th century, when he appears as the chief financial administrator of papal properties and revenues. In the 13th and 14th centuries he acquired also judicial functions not only in fiscal matters but also in other civil and penal cases. The Camera thus became an extremely important administrative office and judicial tribunal. The senior assistants of the camerarius were the clerici Camerae. Several special assignments, branching off from the office of the chamberlain, subsequently developed into independent offices. The vice chamberlain became the gubernator urbis or governor of Rome; the general treasurer remained in charge of financial administration; the auditor general was a strictly judicial officer with a tribunal of prelates and doctors of laws at his disposal. The highest court was the Tribunal plenae Camerae, with appellate jurisdiction; its judges were the clerici Camerae already mentioned. Since the events of 1870 and the end of the Papal States, there remains only a trace of all this activity.
Bibliography: e. heston, The Holy See at Work (Milwaukee 1950). b. ojetti, De Romana Curia: Commentarium in constitutionem apostolicam "Sapienti consilio" (Rome 1910). John Paul II, apostolic constitution, Pastor bonus (June 28, 1988).
[t. l. bouscaren/eds.]