| Year 2002 Canonical Studies pp. 15-55
THE OFFICE OF VICAR GENERAL AND EPISCOPAL VICAR
(Rev. Fr. A. Rayappan)
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Introduction

Though laws made by the supreme authority of the Church make most of the offices in the diocesan Curia obligatory, some of these remain vacant for too long in some diocese. But the office of Vicar General is rarely vacant and this speaks volumes for the importance and attention it receives from bishops, priests and other members of the people of God. If the 1983 Code can be called “an Episcopal code” because of a number of references to the bishop, their immediate collaborators i.e. the Vicars General and Episcopal Vicars have also received their due in the same Code. They are mentioned at least 337 times in the CIC in some form or other.1 By this paper, I am making an attempt to unravel the significance of the office from a historical, juridical and pastoral perspective. I shall try to examine the descriptions of the office as found in CIC 1983 and CCEO and focus on some of the changes that have been effected in them in comparison to their predecessors CIC 1917 and Motu Proprio, Cleri Sanctitati. The paper begins with a brief historical note on both Vicar General and Episcopal Vicar and then proceeds to explain their appointment, required qualifications, extent of their power and their cessation from office and ends with a few concluding reflections.

A brief Historical

The archdeacons who were freely designated by the bishops for the administration of temporal goods from 6th century began to usurp a real jurisdiction, especially in the rural areas in both contentious and administrative cases. Such a jurisdiction was ordinary and they even formed a real tribunal of I instance in the 11th century. To check the abuse, bishops appointed officials who were dependent in them in the 12th century though such practices can’t be considered universal. There was “Officialis principalis” in the city and many vicars or Officiales foranei” in the rural areas. The Officialis principalis became a superintendent assuming the name “Vicarius Generali” (used frequently), whose role was highlighted in the council of Trent and the office of archdeacon was reduced to merely an honorary office.

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1. Vicarius Generalis 40; Vicarius episcopalism 34; Ordinarius 86; Local Ordinarius 127; Licentia Ordinarii 24; ludicium Ordinarii 12; Coran Ordinario 5; Auctoritas Ordinarii 5; Ordinarius competens 4; Cf. Xaverius Ochoa, Index Verborum ac locutionem Codicis luris Canonici, Libreria Editrice Lateranense, Citta del Vaticano, 1984, p. 322ff.

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