Title given to a delegate of the holy father, i.e., an ecclesiastic who receives a papal commission to handle a special affair (generally judicial) in the pope's name. Originally the commissaries apostolic were charged with judging all appeals from tribunals of the first instance; because of this important duty, Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303) decreed that they be endowed with some ecclesiastical dignity. This was confirmed by the Council of Trent. Nowadays a commissary apostolic is normally a cardinal, residing in Rome, judging the appeal of a special case (e.g., one involving heads of state) that has already passed through the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature and that by sovereign order is to be revised.
[p. c. van lierde]