| Year 2002 Canonical Studies pp. 172-187
(Rev. Fr. Jose Porunnedom)
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Canons 482 to 490 in the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and canons 252 to 261 in the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches (CCEO) deal with the office of the chancellor of the diocesan curia and his role in maintaining the diocesan archives. In the 1917 code canons 372 to 384 and in the Motu Proprio Cleri Sanctitati canons 439 to 451 dealt with the same topic. Literally the Latin term cancellarius means gate-keeper. Indeed, he is the gate-keeper of the diocesan archives or the entire documentation centre. In the ancient Roman world chancellor was “the door keeper at the grille of the Roman law court who eventually assumed the duties of secretary to the magistrate.”1 In the 12th century the bishop’s chancery was developed and in the course of time chancellor became the person responsible for signing and preserving the letters of the bishop. After the Council of Trent the chancellor was recognized as the principal notary in the diocesan curia in addition to his duty as the custodian of the curial documents. The figure of chancellor was incorporated into the legislation of the Church for the first time in the 1917 code. It was taken up by Cleri Sanctitati and lately by 1983 CIC and CCEO with adaptations.

Archive is a very important part of the diocesan curia because it is the place where all the documents concerning the diocesan and the related instructions are preserved. Documents are not only juridical instruments but also sources of information and a very important tool for writing history. Bishops, “in the mens of the Church, archives are places of memory of the Christian community and storehouses of culture for the new evangelization. Thus they themselves are a cultural good of primary importance whose special merit lies in recording the path followed by the Church through the centuries in the various contexts which constitute her very structure.”2 In this paper what I am trying to do is to expose the juridical figure of the chancellor as found in 1983 CIC and CCEO and the importance and maintenance of the curial archives and the role of the chancellor in this matter.

1. JA Corriden, TJ Green and DE Heintschel, The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary, Bangalore, 1986, p. 392.

2. “The Pastoral Function of Church Archives” Circular Letter of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, 2 February 1997, Para. 1.

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