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Encyclopedia > Papal legate
A papal Legate, from the Decretals of Boniface VIII (1294 to 1303). British Museum, 23923.
A papal Legate, from the Decretals of Boniface VIII (1294 to 1303). British Museum, 23923.

A Papal Legate -from the Latin, authentic Roman title Legatus- is a personal representative of the Pope to the nations, or rather to some part of the universal church. He is empowered on the matters of unity of the catholic faith and for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters. Image File history File links Papal_Legate_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16531. ... Image File history File links Papal_Legate_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16531. ... Boniface VIII, né Benedetto Caetani (Anagni, c. ... A legatus (often anglicized as legate) was equivalent to a modern general officer in the Roman army. ... The current Pope is Benedict XVI (born Joseph Alois Ratzinger), who was elected at the age of 78 on 19 April 2005. ... It has been suggested that Catholic, One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church be merged into this article or section. ... This article should be transwikied to wiktionary Ecclesiastical means pertaining to the Church (especially Christianity) as an organized body of believers and clergy, with a stress on its juridical and institutional structure. ...

The legate is appointed directly by the Pope (the head of the universal Catholic church), hence a legate is usually sent to a government, a sovereign or to a large body of believers (such as a national church) or to take charge of a major religious effort, such as a crusade to the Holy Land, or even against a heresy such as the Cathars). The authority of the Pope to appoint and choose the legates has been contested several times in history. Cathars being expelled from Carcassone in 1209. ...

  • The term legation is applied both to a legate's mandate and to the territory concerned (such as a state, or an ecclesiastical province). The relevant adjective is legatine.

There are several ranks of papal legates, some existed in different times:


A Papal Nuncio (also known as an Apostolic Nuncio) is a permanent diplomatic representative (head of mission) of the Holy See to a state, having ambassadorial rank. ...


Legatus a Latere

This highest rank (literally 'from the (Pope's) side', i.e. 'intimately' trusted) - has to be awarded to a cardinal, a Prince of the Church -is exceptional and usually very brief. A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official in the Roman Catholic Church, ranking just below the Pope and appointed by him as a member of the College of Cardinals during a consistory. ...


Legatus Natus

Literally 'born legate', i.e. not nominated individually but ex officio, notably a bishop holding the rank as a privilege of his see.


Legatus Missus

Literally 'send Legate', refers by contrast to a specific task ('mission')


Gubernatorial legates

Some administrative (temporal) provinces of the Papal states in central Italy were governed by a papal legate. In four cases, including Bologna, this post was awarded to Cardinals; the Velletri post was created for Bartolommeo Cardinal Pacca. The Papal States (Gli Stati della Chiesa or Stati Pontificii, States of the Church) was one of the major historical states of Italy before the boot-shaped peninsula was unified under the Piedmontese crown of Savoy (later a republic). ... Bologna (pronounced , from Latin Bononia, Bulåggna in the local dialect) is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy, in the Pianura Padana, between the Po River and the Apennines, exactly, between Reno River and Sàvena River. ... Velletri (ancient Velitrae) is a commune in the province of Rome, on the Alban Hills, in Lazio (Latium) - Italy. ... Bartolommeo Pacca was a Roman Catholic cardinal, scholar and statesman as Cardinal Secretary of State. ...


See also

  • Nuncio - an envoy with a mostly diplomatic mission, in the regular circuit of relations between states etcetera - usually a titular archbishop.
  • Internuncio - a lower rank than Nuncio. Internuncios are also usually titular archbishops, but they are emissaries to less important countries
  • Vice-legate

Nuncio is an ecclesiastical diplomatic title, derived from the ancient Latin Nuntius, meaning any envoy. ... When first appointed auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Honolulu in Hawaii, Joseph Anthony Ferrario became a titular bishop of the ancient Egyptian city of Cusae. ... From the ancient Latin Nuntius, meaning any envoy. ... In Christianity, an archbishop is an elevated bishop. ...

Sources and references

Catholic Encyclopedia: Legate



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