Eastern Churches, Congregation for the
EASTERN CHURCHES, CONGREGATION FOR THE
The Congregation for the Eastern Churches (Congregatio pro Ecclesiis Orientalibus ) was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 pursuant to the apostolic constitution, Regimini Ecclesiae Universae. It replaced the Congregation for the Oriental Church (Congregatio pro Ecclesia Orientali ) that was established as a separate curial office of the Holy See in 1917, although its nucleus lies in the 16th century. In 1573 Gregory XIII instituted a Congregation for the Affairs of the Greeks. This office was entrusted not only with handling matters pertaining to Greek Catholics, but also with promoting communion and unity between the Holy See and the other churches of the Christian East.
Clement VIII (1592–1605) changed this office to the Congregation for Matters of the Holy Faith and Catholic Religion. Like its predecessor, it was charged with treating the affairs of the Greeks and other Eastern Christians; at the same time there was added to its competency the promotion of the Catholic faith in pagan lands. Thus it became a kind of forerunner of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which Gregory XV erected on June 22, 1622. Within this Congregation Urban VIII (1623–44) set up two commissions to administer Oriental affairs: the one treating questions of the Eastern Churches; the other, charged with editing their liturgical books, was expanded by Clement XI in 1719 to the Congregation for Editing the Books of the Oriental Church.
In the course of time it became increasingly evident that the same office could not deal with the approach to problems and methods for both the missions among the pagans and the affairs of the Eastern Churches. Accordingly, Pius IX, in 1862, set up a separate department for handling the affairs of the Eastern Christians within the Congregation for the propagation of the faith. It was called the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith for the Matters of the Oriental Rites (Congregatio de Propaganda Fide pro negotiis ritus orientalis ). The whole office remained under one cardinal prefect, but it was divided into two sections, each with its own secretary, officials, consultors, archives, and office of protocol.
Erection and Competence. This arrangement, however, did not turn out to be entirely satisfactory: the unfavorable impression was created that this department was a mere appendage of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith; the work for the Eastern Churches increased to such an extent that an independent congregation was thought to be necessary. On May 1, 1917, Benedict XV, with the motu proprio Dei Providentis, erected the Congregation for the Oriental Church (Congregatio pro Ecclesia Orientali ), reserving to himself the post of prefect.
The Congregation is responsible for all matters pertaining to the Eastern Churches, relations between the Latin and Eastern Churches, and all issues arising from the implementation of the code of canons of the east-ern churches and the production of liturgical texts. These faculties are exercised without derogating from the traditional jurisdictional rights of Patriarchs and their Holy Synods in such matters.
Jurisdiction. The territories in which the Congregation has complete and exclusive jurisdiction are: Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, southern Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Afghanistan.
Bibliography: Congregatio pro Ecclesia Orientali, Oriente cattolico, cenni storici e statistiche (Vatican City 1962).