Vatican decree details powers of Pope's Legion delegate

Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Velasio De Paolis.
Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Velasio De Paolis.


The Legionaries of Christ has made public the decree that describes the powers given to Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, Pope Benedict XVI’s delegate to the religious congregation. The delegate, whose primary task will be to conduct the revision of the order's constitutions, will have full authority over Legion superiors and will coordinate the apostolic visitation of the Regnum Christi Movement.

Pope Benedict’s June 16 letter appointing Archbishop De Paolis notes the “need and urgency of a path of in-depth revision of the Institute’s charism.” He gave the archbishop the responsibility of governing the Legion “for as long as it takes to complete its path of renewal” and to lead it to an extraordinary general chapter to revise its constitutions.

A decree explaining the further details of the delegate’s duties was issued on July 9 by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, with Pope Benedict’s approval. According to the Regnum Christi website, the general council of the Legionaries of Christ received the decree on July 21. The Legion released an unofficial English translation on Friday.

The decree says the “paramount task” of the delegate was the completion of the revision of the institute’s constitutions, an effort which requires a “profound knowledge” of the congregation.

When the members of the Apostolic Visitation completed their review of the order last May, they indicated in a statement that the head of the commission to revise the order's constitutions could be separate from the papal delegate, but the decree published today announces that Archbishop De Paolis will be president of the commission.

The decree states that “All members of the Institute must collaborate in the revision of the Constitutions, both as individuals and communities.”

Further, the decree notes that the authority of the papal delegate “covers the entire institute” and extends “over all the superiors at the various levels … all communities, and the individual religious.” The superiors of the Legion of Christ are to “act in communion” with the delegate, who is to be informed about both the life of the institute and the “most important matters.”

Only the delegate can approve the decisions of the congregation’s general government, including decisions about admission to seminary or the priesthood and transfer of personnel; apostolic and formation choices concerning seminaries and academic institutions; and decisions concerning both “extraordinary” administrative matters or the disposal of assets.

“Everyone has open access to the Delegate and all can deal personally with him,” the decree states. “The Delegate, in turn, has the power to intervene wherever he sees fit, including in the internal government of the Institute, on all levels.”

The delegate will have four personal advisors to assist his work in identifying, discussing and clarifying the principal issues. When necessary, he may appoint study committees using either internal Legion personnel or “competent external persons.”

Local and regional superiors of the Legionaries of Christ remain in office for as long as the Holy See sees fit, the decree says. Appeals against acts of the superiors of the Legion are to be directed to the papal delegate himself. In turn, acts of the delegate can be appealed to Pope Benedict.

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