Canon Law Council: More Than Rules and Regulations

President Says Dicastery’s Aim Is Helping Pope

By Marta Lago

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2008 ( The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which deals with canon law in all of its dimensions, has a role much broader than considering norms and rules. It carries out its functions with one objective: to help the Pope.

The president of the pontifical council, Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, explained the task of the council by noting its historical evolution. His explanation came during Tuesday’s presentation of the forthcoming congress organized by the dicastery for the 25th anniversary of the current Code of Canon Law (1983).

Pope John XXIII established the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law in 1963, the archbishop noted. The code in use at that time was the 1917 version. Pope John Paul II promulgated the fruit of the commission’s work, the current Code of Canon Law, on Jan. 25, 1983. With its work completed, the pontifical commission dedicated to the revision of the 1917 code was then transformed into the pontifical commission for the Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law.

Some four years later, the 1988 apostolic constitution “Pastor Bonus” reformed the whole of the Roman Curia. The canon law commission became a pontifical council. Soon after, it was assigned the task of interpreting the common norms of the Eastern Catholic Churches, following the approval of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, promulgated in 1990.

The current name, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, was established in 2000.

Archbishop Coccopalmerio explained that the interpretation of laws, though a “very important task,” is neither “the sole nor the most frequent function the dicastery must complete.”

He said that its activities are in reality threefold: The dicastery “helps the supreme legislator, that is, the Pope, to constantly maintain the Church’s legislation as complete and up-to-date as possible.” It further helps him “to oversee the correct application of current law.” And, finally, he continued, “it helps the Pope in the difficult task of interpreting the norms.”

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