Apostolic constitution

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An Apostolic constitution (Latin constitutio apostolica) is a very solemn decree issued by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The use of the term constitution comes from Latin constitutio, which referred to any important law issued by the Roman emperor, and is retained in church documents because of the inheritance that the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church received from Roman law.

By their nature, apostolic constitutions are addressed to the public. Generic constitutions use the title Apostolic Constitution, and treat on solemn matters of the church, such as the promulgation of statutes or definitive teachings. The forms Dogmatic Constitution and Pastoral Constitution are titles sometimes used to be more descriptive as to the document's purpose.

Apostolic Constitutions are issued as Papal bulls due to their solemn, public form. The next highest category, after an Apostolic Constitution, is an Encyclical Letter.

Examples of Apostolic Constitutions

(note: external links)

  • Fidei depositum (1993) John II's Apostolic constitution on the new Catechism of the Catholic Church
  • Ut sit (1982) John Paul II's Apostolic constitution raising Opus Dei to the rank of a personal prelature
  • Missale Romanum (1969) Paul VI's Apostolic constitution on the revised liturgy
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