The Roman Pontiff has the innate and independent
right to appoint, send, transfer, and recall his own legates either
to particular churches in various nations or regions or to states
and public authorities. (Can. 362)
Regarding relationships with states, the Holy See, while maintaining
its spiritual nature, obeys the norms of international law.
These legates represent the Roman Pontiff in the individual churches
and states or governments to which they are sent. (Can 362)
Since ancient times, at councils and other significant events
the Roman Pontiff was represented by plenipotentiary legates.
From the 11th century, this became especially significant when
this post was deputed to cardinals who were called "sent from
beside the Pope" (Legatus a latere). Since the 16th century, nunciatures
are permanent offices lead by a nuncio whose authority is equal
to the authority of legates "a latere."
Today there exist the following categories of Papal Legates:
1. The Apostolic Nuncio
When the Papal Ambassador at the same time fulfills the function
of permanent representative with the head of state and also in
relationship with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, he receives the
name of Apostolic Nuncio. He has the diplomatic rank of Ambassador
and, mainly in Catholic countries, is de iure the dean of the
diplomatic corps accredited in the country. The main tasks of
an Apostolic Nuncio are listed in canon 365.
Until recent times, the title Pro-Nuncio was used for a Legate
who fulfilled all the obligations of the Nuncio but was not first
in the diplomatic corps accredited in the country. However, though
a distinction was maintained between the two categories, the decision
was made to use only the title Apostolic Nuncio.
2. Apostolic Delegate
In cases when a state has not established diplomatic relations
with the Holy See, the Roman Hierarch sends his ambassadors who
represent him only in the Church and are called Apostolic Delegates.
They are not accredited by the state government, but their obligation
is "daily to make stronger and more effective the bonds of unity
which exist between the Apostolic See and particular churches…
for his own jurisdiction." Their responsibilities are listed in
3. Permanent Representatives, Permanent Observers, Those Specially
For representation at international organizations (the UN, UNESCO,
the FAO, the Council of Europe, and so on) or at Conferences and
Congresses, the Holy See sends its delegates, religious or laity.
For separate special missions, the Pope appoints his Legates "a
latere" who represent him as his other "I" (tamquam alter ego).
When the Pope chooses a Cardinal from the Roman Curia, he is called
Cardinal-Legate. There are other categories of Legates (Missus
specialis, Ablegatus Apostolicus, and so on).
In addition to the right to send his own ambassadors to different
countries, the Holy See also has the right to receive representatives
from foreign countries with permanent or temporary missions. Since
the end of the 15th century, a permanent diplomatic corps has
existed at the Holy See the. The majority of representatives have
the title Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador, others
- Ambassador, and Ambassador-Councilor, and so on.
CANONS FROM THE CODE OF CANON LAW REGARDING PAPAL LEGATES
The Roman Pontiff has the innate and independent right to appoint,
send, transfer, and recall his own legates either to particular
churches in various nations or regions or to states and public
authorities. The norms of international law are to be observed
in what pertains to the mission and recall of legates appointed
§1. To the legates of the Roman Pontiff is entrusted the office
of representing the Roman Pontiff in a stable manner to particular
churches or also to the states and public authorities to which
they are sent.
§2. Those who are designated as delegates or observers in a pontifical
mission at international councils or at conferences and meetings
also represent the Apostolic See.
The principal function of a pontifical legate is daily to make
stronger and more effective the bonds of unity which exist between
the Apostolic See and particular churches. Therefore, it pertains
to the pontifical legate for his own jurisdiction:
1/ to send information to the Apostolic See concerning the conditions
of particular churches and everything that touches the life of
the Church and the good of souls;
2/ to assist bishops by action and counsel while leaving intact
the exercise of their legitimate power;
3/ to foster close relations with the conference of bishops by
offering it assistance in every way;
4/ regarding the nomination of bishops, to transmit or propose
to the Apostolic See the names of candidates and to instruct the
informational process concerning those to be promoted, according
to the norms given by the Apostolic See;
5/ to strive to promote matters which pertain to the peace, progress,
and cooperative effort of peoples;
6/ to collaborate with bishops so that suitable relations are
fostered between the Catholic Church and other Churches or ecclesial
communities, and even non-Christian religions;
7/ in associated action with bishops, to protect those things
which pertain to the mission of the Church and the Apostolic See
before the leaders of the state;
8/ in addition, to exercise the faculties and to fulfill other
mandates which the Apostolic See entrusts to him.
§1. It is also the special function of a pontifical legate who
at the same time acts as a legate to states according to the norms
of international law:
1/ to promote and foster relations between the Apostolic See and
the authorities of the state;
2/ to deal with questions which pertain to relations between Church
and state and in a special way to deal with the drafting and implementation
of concordats and other agreements of this type.
§2. In conducting the affairs mentioned in §1, a pontifical legate,
as circumstances suggest, is not to neglect to seek the opinion
and counsel of the bishops of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction
and is to inform them of the course of affairs.
In view of the particular character of the function of a legate:
1/ the seat of a pontifical legation is exempt from the power
of governance of the local ordinary unless it is a question of
2/ after he has notified in advance the local ordinaries insofar
as possible, a pontifical legate is permitted to perform liturgical
celebrations in all churches of his legation, even in pontificals.
The function of a pontifical legate does not cease when the Apostolic
See becomes vacant unless the pontifical letter establishes otherwise;
it does cease, however, when the mandate has been fulfilled, when
the legate has been notified of recall, or when the Roman Pontiff
accepts the legate's resignation.
THE FLAG, COAT OF ARMS AND SEAL OF THE VATICAN CITY-STATE