In Latin, Pontificale Romanum ; one of the books of the Roman liturgy, it contains the rites for ordinations, consecrations, and all other liturgical rites and ceremonies reserved to bishops. The Roman Pontifical has its source in the early Roman Sacramentaries and Ordinals. Beginning with the 8th century, however, attempts were made to collect into one book the various rites proper to the bishop. The Pontifical of Egbert, archbishop of York (736–766), and the Pontifical of Poitiers (c. 800) are examples of this procedure. A more direct forerunner of the Roman Pontifical is seen in the Romano-Germanic Pontifical of the 10th century. Michel andrieu gave this name to a compilation of 10th-century manuscripts containing episcopal rites and published part of it in the Ordo L in volume 5 of his Ordines Romani du haut moyenâge (Louvain 1962). Brought to Rome by the Ottos, it was adapted and later appeared in the 12th century as a papal pontifical. In the 13th century, the Roman Curia accepted an edition from Avignon.
In 1294 Bp. William duranti, the Elder of Mende, France, wrote a new edition for his diocese which, in less than a century, was used in nearly every European diocese. He transcribed some prayers of identical meaning, allowing bishops a choice, but this was discontinued in subsequent editions and repetitions became obligatory. Innocent VIII (d. 1492) charged Agostino Patrizi and John Burckard (d. 1506) with revising Duranti's book for the Roman Curia. This revision was approved on March 2, 1486, but it was not made obligatory. After several further revisions, by Alberto Castellani in 1520 and Pius V in 1561, Clement VIII in 1596 promulgated an official edition and forbade the use of any other pontifical in the Latin Church.
Until 1961 the pontifical remained unchanged. In that year a revision was prepared by a commission named by Pius XII (d. 1958). Promulgated by John XXIII (d.1963) this was but a reform of Part II, in which some rites were reduced and placed into more logical order, and from which other repetitious, obsolete, or seldom-used ceremonies were eliminated. In its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Vatican Council II ordered a revised edition of Parts I and III.
In the wake of Vatican II, the various liturgical rites of the pontifical were revised in stages, in keeping with the directives of Vatican Council II (Sacrosanctum Concilium 25, 71, 76, 80). Translations of these, prepared by the international commission on english in the liturgy (icel), were first published separately. In 1978 the Roman Pontifical, Part I, appeared as a compilation of these rites. Except for two additions, the book corresponds in scope to the Pontificale Romanum, of Clement VIII, promulgated in 1596 in compliance with the decree of the Council of Trent on the matter (Session 25, Dec. 4, 1563: in Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta 3d ed., p. 797).
The following are the contents of the 1978 Roman Pontifical. Part One contains rites for the celebration of the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, i.e., Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, along with the rites of admission to the catechumenate and reception of baptized Christians to full communion. At all of these rites the accompanying instructions recommend that the bishop preside (although priests may and often do so). Part Two is on the institution of lay ministers, specifically of readers and acolytes. Part Three contains the rites of ordination of deacons, presbyters, and bishops; also of admission to candidacy for diaconate and presbyterate and of commitment to celibacy (the latter as a part of diaconal ordination for unmarried men). Part Four comprises blessings for persons publicly dedicated to God: the rite of consecration to a life of virginity, the blessing of an abbot or abbess. In addition, the Roman Pontifical contains two other rites, belonging to Part II of the Pontificale: the Blessing of Holy Oils and Consecration of Chrism (English, 1972) and the rite for the dedication of a church and altar.
Bibliography: m. andrieu, Le Pontifical Romain au moyenâge (Rome 1938–41). p. de puniet, Le Pontifical romain, histoire et commentaire, 2 v. (Paris 1930–31). c. vogel and r. elze, eds., Le Pontifical romanogermanique du X e siècle, 2 v. (Studi e Testi 226–227; 1963). g. catalani, Pontificale romanum … commentariis illustratum, 3 v. (1738–40; Paris 1850–52). n. k. rasmussen, "Unité et diversité des pontificaux latins au VIIIe, IXe et Xe siècles," in Liturgie de l'église particulière et liturgie de l'église universelle (Rome 1976) 393–410. p. journel, "The Pontifical and the Ritual," in The Church At Prayer Vol 3: The Sacraments, a. martimort, gen. ed. (Collegeville, Minn. 1988) 1–10. m. klÖckener, "Das Pontifikale: ein Liturgiebuch" Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft 28:3 (1986) 396–415. e. palazzo, A History of Liturgical Books from the beginning to the Thirteenth Century (Collegeville, Minn. 1998).
t. c. o'brien/eds.]