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Eastern Churches need permission to start congregations

Pope Francis announces change in Eastern canon laws in Apostolic Letter
Eastern Churches need permission to start congregations

Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry (center) preparing for Mass as he visited eastern Kolkata city in 2019. (Photo: 


Published: December 10, 2020 05:54 AM GMT
Updated: December 11, 2020 04:33 AM GMT

The Vatican has changed regulations making it mandatory for Eastern churches to seek its approval before establishing new institutions and societies of consecrated Religious life.

Pope Francis has modified the Code of Canons of the Eastern churches, empowering the Apostolic See to be the final authority on dioceses establishing religious congregations.

The amendments, which became effective on Dec. 8, make it mandatory for any diocesan bishop of the Eastern Church to have written permission from the Vatican before starting a religious congregation.

It comes after Pope Francis made similar changes in Latin Rite Church laws on Nov. 4 this year. It meant Latin Rite bishops have to seek the Vatican’s written permission before establishing new religious institutions.

Archbishop Giorgio Demetrio Gallaro, secretary for the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, said Pope Francis was putting in place a similar law for the whole Catholic Church.

The archbishop said there had been many new forms of consecrated life since the Second Vatican Council, which at times have led to duplications. The changes aim to curb these duplications, he told Vatican News.

Pope Francis announced the change to the Eastern canon laws with an Apostolic Letter issued as a motu proprio called "Ab initio."

The apostolic letter said the Church always supported various forms of consecrated life as a “manifestation of the richness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Consecrated life started first in the Eastern Church, and then in the West by the early Christians. It has helped the growth of the entire “Body of Christ” in multiple ways, hailing the religious orders, the Apostolic Letter said.

The Catholic Church has 23 Oriental or Eastern Catholic Churches that are autonomous but in full communion with the pope. Two of them are based in India — the Syro-Malabar Church and Syro-Malankara Church.

The five liturgical traditions of the Eastern Churches include the Alexandrian Rite, the Armenian Rite, the Byzantine Rite, the East Syriac Rite, and the West Syriac Rite.

These churches are headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops and are governed based on the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

However, each church also has its own regulations for the upkeep of its liturgy and traditions.

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