Personal prelature

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A personal prelature ( Latin praelatura personalis ) is an institutional legal form of the Roman Catholic Church, suggested by the Second Vatican Council and introduced in the post-Council period (Motu Proprio “Ecclesiae Sanctae” I.4) . According to can. 294 CIC (Catholic Church Law) are intended to promote personal prelatures "an appropriate distribution of priests" or enable "special pastoral or missionary works for different areas or different social associations". They are "clerical associations" made up of " clerics "; " Lay people can also belong to them".

The legal form of the personal prelature must be distinguished from the relatively new legal structure of the personal ordinariate.

Introduction and character

The legal form of the personal prelature was still alien to the Corpus Iuris Canonici of 1917. The possibility of establishing personal prelatures was first created by the Second Vatican Council (Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis of December 7, 1965 (No. 10)). The by Pope John XXIII. The revision of the ecclesiastical code initiated in 1983 led to the aforementioned Codex Iuris Canonici (CIC). This contains in Part I “The Believers” to Title IV “Personal Prelatures” in Canons 294–297 a framework law for personal prelatures.

In principle, a personal prelature is subordinate to the Congregation of Bishops. The personal prelature is presided over by a prelate appointed by the Pope . This can be consecrated as a bishop . Personal prelatures may only be established after hearing the particular churches and only be active in a diocese with the consent of the respective local bishop . The statutes of a personal prelature are issued by the Holy See .

According to Canon 294 in the applicable church law, the establishment of a personal prelature pursues the two purposes of ensuring an appropriate distribution of priests or of fulfilling special pastoral or missionary tasks. The ( "incardinated" ) priests (" clerics ") employed by a personal prelature are intended to supplement the general pastoral care of the dioceses. In terms of the legal system, personal prelatures are not assigned to the institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life (Part III, cann. 573–746 CIC ). Personal prelatures are not, however, dioceses , nor are they legally equal or conceptually comparable to all other manifestations of the particular churches . Corresponding references were instead deliberately deleted in the course of the Codex revision. Unlike the military ordinariats , they do not serve to make pastoral care more flexible through the application of a personal principle, as the military ordinariats turn away from the traditional territorial principle, but aim from their development to provide the particular churches with specially trained and / or a special goal committed world clerics (i.e. priests and deacons) put.


The seal of the Society of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei , so far the only personal prelature of the Catholic Church

On November 28, 1982, the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei was elevated to the position of the first and so far only personal prelature of the Catholic Church.

In 2017 Opus Dei consisted of 92,892 lay people (men and women), 2,121 priests, 31 new priests and 366 candidates for the priesthood. Lay people belonging to a personal prelature are ordinary believers in the dioceses in which they live. The rights of the diocesan bishop towards lay people in a personal prelature are no different from those towards other lay people in his diocese.

However, Opus Dei is the only personal prelature to have been established to date, as evidenced by its statutes (Codex Iuris Particularis Operis Dei) . This may explain why the classification of the personal prelature in the constitutional structure of the church is controversially discussed in specialist science. While the authors Amadeo de Fuenmayor, Valentín Gómez-Iglesias and José Luis Illanes, who belong to Opus Dei itself, or authors associated with him, see the personal prelature as part of the hierarchical constitution of the Church as a whole, which at the same time would mean that the originally consociative Opus Dei (secular institute from 1950 to 1982), in contrast to all orders, congregations, secular institutes or other ecclesiastical associations, has been transformed into a part of the church constitution, it is viewed by many other authors merely as an incardination possibility or incardination association for clerics, which the further elaboration by the to be enacted Statutes required.

Pope John Paul II declared in a speech on March 17, 2001 that the personal prelature Opus Dei belongs to the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church. He had appointed the first two prelates of the Opus Dei personal prelature, Alvaro del Portillo y Diez de Sollano and Javier Echevarría Rodríguez , as titular bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in 1990 and 1994.


  • Amadeo de Fuenmayor, Valentín Gómez-Iglesias, José Luis Illanes: The Prelature Opus Dei. On the legal history of a charism. Presentation, documents, statutes ; Munster Commentary on Codex iuris canonici, Supplement 11; Ludgerus Verlag, 1994. ISBN 3-87497-0198-8 .
  • Ronald Klein: The personal prelature in the constitution of the church ; Research on Canon Law, 21; Echter Verlag, Würzburg 1995; ISBN 3-429-01680-0 . At the same time dissertation at the University of Bonn, 1992

Individual evidence

  1. Heribert Schmitz: The personal prelatures, in: Handbook of Catholic Church Law . Ed .: Joseph Listl, Hubert Müller, Heribert Schmitz. Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 1983, ISBN 3-7917-0860-0 , p. 526 f.
  2. Annuario Pontificio 2017, p. 1032
  3. See Osservatore Romano, German, April 6, 2001, p. 11

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