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Code of Canon Law
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CHAPTER VI : PARISHES, PARISH PRIESTS AND ASSISTANT PRIESTS
Can. 515 §1 A parish is a certain community of Christ's faithful stably established within a particular Church, whose pastoral care, under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, is entrusted to a parish priest as its proper pastor.
§2 The diocesan Bishop alone can establish, suppress or alter parishes. He is not to establish, suppress or notably alter them unless he has consulted the council of priests.
§3 A lawfully established parish has juridical personality by virtue of the law itself.
Can. 516 §1 Unless the law provides otherwise, a quasi-parish is equivalent to a parish. A quasi-parish is a certain community of Christ's faithful within a particular Church, entrusted to a priest as its proper pastor, but because of special circumstances not yet established as a parish.
§2 Where some communities cannot be established as parishes or quasi-parishes, the diocesan Bishop is to provide for their spiritual care in some other way.
Can. 517 §1 Where circumstances so require, the pastoral care of a parish, or of a number of parishes together, can be entrusted to several priests jointly, but with the stipulation that one of the priests is to be the moderator of the pastoral care to be exercised. This moderator is to direct the joint action and to be responsible for it to the Bishop.
§2 If, because of a shortage of priests, the diocesan Bishop has judged that a deacon, or some other person who is not a priest, or a community of persons, should be entrusted with a share in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish, he is to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a parish priest, will direct the pastoral care.
Can. 518 As a general rule, a parish is to be territorial, that is, it is to embrace all Christ's faithful of a given territory. Where it is useful however, personal parishes are to be established, determined by reason of the rite, language or nationality of the faithful of a certain territory, or on some other basis.
Can. 519 The parish priest is the proper pastor of the parish entrusted to him. He exercises the pastoral care of the community entrusted to him under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, whose ministry of Christ he is called to share, so that for this community he may carry out the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling with the cooperation of other priests or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of Christ's faithful, in accordance with the law.
Can. 520 §1 A juridical person may not be a parish priest. However, the diocesan Bishop, but not the diocesan Administrator, can, with the consent of the competent Superior, entrust a parish to a clerical religious institute or to a clerical society of apostolic life, even by establishing it in the church of the institute or society, subject however to the rule that one priest be the parish priest or, if the pastoral care is entrusted to several priests jointly, that there be a moderator as mentioned in can. 517 §1.
§2 The entrustment of a parish, as in §1, may be either in perpetuity or for a specified time. In either case this is to be done by means of a written agreement made between the diocesan Bishop and the competent Superior of the institute or society. This agreement must expressly and accurately define, among other things, the work to be done, the persons to be assigned to it and the financial arrangements.
§2 He is also to be outstanding in sound doctrine and uprightness of character, endowed with zeal for souls and other virtues, and possessed of those qualities which by universal or particular law are required for the care of the parish in question.
§3 In order that one be appointed to the office of parish priest, his suitability must be clearly established, in a manner determined by the diocesan Bishop, even by examination.
Can. 522 It is necessary that a parish priest have the benefit of stability, and therefore he is to be appointed for an indeterminate period of time. The diocesan Bishop may appoint him for a specified period of time only if the Episcopal Conference has by decree allowed this.
Can. 523 Without prejudice to can. 682, appointment to the office of parish priest belongs to the diocesan Bishop, who is free to confer it on whomsoever he wishes, unless someone else has a right of presentation or election.
Can. 524 The diocesan Bishop is to confer a vacant parish on the one whom, after consideration of all the circumstances, he judges suitable for the parochial care of that parish, without any preference of persons. In order to assess suitability, he is to consult the vicar forane, conduct suitable enquiries and, if it is appropriate, seek the view of some priests and lay members of Christ's faithful.
1° to institute priests lawfully presented for a parish or to confirm those lawfully elected to one;
2° to appoint parish priests if the see has been vacant or impeded for a year.
Can. 526 §1 A parish priest is to have the parochial care of one parish only. However, because of a shortage of priests or other circumstances, the care of a number of neighbouring parishes can be entrusted to the one parish priest.
§2 In any one parish there is to be only one parish priest, or one moderator in accordance with can. 517 §1; any contrary custom is reprobated and any contrary privilege revoked.
§2 The local Ordinary or a priest delegated by him puts the parish priest into possession, in accordance with the procedure approved by particular law or by lawful custom. For a just reason, however, the same Ordinary can dispense from this procedure, in which case the communication of the dispensation to the parish replaces the taking of possession.
§3 The local Ordinary is to determine the time within which the parish priest must take possession of the parish. If, in the absence of a lawful impediment, he has not taken possession within this time, the local Ordinary can declare the parish vacant.
Can. 528 §1 The parish priest has the obligation of ensuring that the word of God is proclaimed in its entirety to those living in the parish. He is therefore to see to it that the lay members of Christ's faithful are instructed in the truths of faith, especially by means of the homily on Sundays and holydays of obligation and by catechetical formation. He is to foster works which promote the spirit of the Gospel, including its relevance to social justice. He is to have a special care for the catholic education of children and young people. With the collaboration of the faithful, he is to make every effort to bring the gospel message to those also who have given up religious practice or who do not profess the true faith.
§2 The parish priest is to take care that the blessed Eucharist is the centre of the parish assembly of the faithful. He is to strive to ensure that the faithful are nourished by the devout celebration of the sacraments, and in particular that they frequently approach the sacraments of the blessed Eucharist and penance. He is to strive to lead them to prayer, including prayer in their families, and to take a live and active part in the sacred liturgy. Under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, the parish priest must direct this liturgy in his own parish, and he is bound to be on guard against abuses.
Can. 529 §1 So that he may fulfil his office of pastor diligently, the parish priest is to strive to know the faithful entrusted to his care. He is therefore to visit their families, sharing in their cares and anxieties and, in a special way, their sorrows, comforting them in the Lord. If in certain matters they are found wanting, he is prudently to correct them. He is to help the sick and especially the dying in great charity, solicitiously restoring them with the sacraments and commending their souls to God. He is to be especially diligent in seeking out the poor, the suffering, the lonely, those who are exiled from their homeland, and those burdened with special difficulties. He is to strive also to ensure that spouses and parents are sustained in the fulfilment of their proper duties, and to foster the growth of christian life in the family.
§2 The parish priest is to recognise and promote the specific role which the lay members of Christ's faithful have in the mission of the Church, fostering their associations which have religious purposes. He is to cooperate with his proper Bishop and with the presbyterium of the diocese. Moreover, he is to endeavour to ensure that the faithful are concerned for the community of the parish, that they feel themselves to be members both of the diocese and of the universal Church, and that they take part in and sustain works which promote this community.
1° the administration of baptism;
2° the administration of the sacrament of confirmation to those in danger of death, in accordance with can. 883, n. 3;
3° the administration of Viaticum and of the anointing of the sick, without prejudice to can. 1003 §§2 and 3, and the imparting of the apostolic blessing;
4° the assistance at marriages and the nuptial blessing;
5° the conducting of funerals;
6° the blessing of the baptismal font at paschal time, the conduct of processions outside the church, and the giving of solemn blessings outside the church;
7° the more solemn celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays and holydays of obligation.
Can. 531 Even though another person has performed some parochial function, he is to give the offering he receives from the faithful on that occasion to the parish fund unless, in respect of voluntary offerings, there is a clear contrary intention on the donor's part; it is for the diocesan Bishop, after consulting the council of priests, to prescribe regulations concerning the destination of these offerings and to provide for the remuneration of clerics who fulfil such a parochial function.
Can. 532 In all juridical matters, the parish priest acts in the person of the parish, in accordance with the law. He is to ensure that the parish goods are administered in accordance with cann. 1281 - 1288.
Can. 533 §1 The parish priest is obliged to reside in the parochial house, near the church. In particular cases, however, where there is a just reason, the local Ordinary may permit him to reside elsewhere, especially in a house common to several priests, provided the carrying out of the parochial duties is properly and suitably catered for.
§2 Unless there is a grave reason to the contrary, the parish priest may each year be absent on holiday from his parish for a period not exceeding one month, continuous or otherwise. The days which the parish priest spends on the annual spiritual retreat are not reckoned in this period of vacation. For an absence from the parish of more than a week, however, the parish priest is bound to advise the local Ordinary.
§3 It is for the diocesan Bishop to establish norms by which, during the parish priest's absence, the care of the parish is provided for by a priest with the requisite faculties.
Can. 534 §1 When he has taken possession of his parish, the parish priest is bound on each Sunday and holyday of obligation in his diocese to apply the Mass for the people entrusted to him. If he is lawfully impeded from this celebration, he is to have someone else apply the Mass on these days or apply it himself on other days.
§2 A parish priest who has the care of several parishes is bound to apply only one Mass on the days mentioned in §1, for all the people entrusted to him.
§3 A parish priest who has not discharged the obligations mentioned in §§1 and 2, is as soon as possible to apply for the people as many Masses as he has omitted.
Can. 535 §1 In each parish there are to be parochial registers, that is, of baptisms, of marriages and of deaths, and any other registers prescribed by the Episcopal Conference or by the diocesan Bishop. The parish priest is to ensure that entries are accurately made and that the registers are carefully preserved.
§2 In the register of baptisms, a note is to be made of confirmation and of matters pertaining to the canonical status of the faithful by reason of marriage, without prejudice to the provision of can. 1133, and by reason of adoption, the reception of sacred order, the making of perpetual profession in a religious institute, or a change of rite. These annotations are always to be reproduced on a baptismal certificate.
§3 Each parish is to have its own seal. Certificates concerning the canonical status of the faithful, and all acts which can have juridical significance, are to be signed by the parish priest or his delegate and secured with the parochial seal.
§4 In each parish there is to be an archive, in which the parochial books are to be kept, together with episcopal letters and other documents which it may be necessary or useful to preserve. On the occasion of visitation or at some other opportune time, the diocesan Bishop or his delegate is to inspect all of these matters. The parish priest is to take care that they do not fall into unauthorised hands.
§5 Older parochial registers are also to be carefully safeguarded, in accordance with the provisions of particular law.
Can. 536 §1 If, after consulting the council of priests, the diocesan Bishop considers it opportune, a pastoral council is to be established in each parish. In this council, which is presided over by the parish priest, Christ's faithful, together with those who by virtue of their office are engaged in pastoral care in the parish, give their help in fostering pastoral action.
§2 The pastoral council has only a consultative vote, and it is regulated by the norms laid down by the diocesan Bishop.
Can. 537 In each parish there is to be a finance committee to help the parish priest in the administration of the goods of the parish, without prejudice to can. 532. It is ruled by the universal law and by the norms laid down by the diocesan Bishop, and it is comprised of members of the faithful selected according to these norms.
Can. 538 §1 A parish priest ceases to hold office by removal or transfer effected by the diocesan Bishop in accordance with the law; by his personal resignation, for a just reason, which for validity requires that it be accepted by the diocesan Bishop; and by the lapse of time if, in accordance with the particular law mentioned in can. 522, he was appointed for a specified period of time.
§2 A parish priest who is a member of a religious institute or is incardinated in a society of apostolic life, is removed in accordance with can. 682 §2.
§3 A parish priest who has completed his seventy fifth year of age is requested to offer his resignation from office to the diocesan Bishop who, after considering all the circumstances of person and place, is to decide whether to accept or defer it. Having taken account of the norms laid down by the Episcopal Conference, the diocesan Bishop must make provision for the appropriate maintenance and residence of the priest who has resigned.
Can. 539 When a parish is vacant, or when the parish priest is prevented from exercising his pastoral office in the parish by reason of imprisonment, exile or banishment, or by reason of incapacity or ill health or some other cause, the diocesan Bishop is as soon as possible to appoint a parochial administrator, that is, a priest who will take the place of the parish priest in accordance with can. 540.
§2 The parochial administrator may not do anything which could prejudice the rights of the parish priest or could do harm to parochial property.
§3 When he has discharged his office, the parochial administrator is to give an account to the parish priest.
Can. 541 §1 When a parish is vacant, or when the parish priest is impeded from exercising his pastoral office, pending the appointment of a parochial administrator the interim governance of the parish is to be undertaken by the assistant priest; if there are a number of assistants, by the senior by appointment; if there are none, by the parish priest determined by particular law.
§2 The one who has undertaken the governance of the parish in accordance with §1, is at once to inform the local Ordinary of the parish vacancy.
Can. 542 The priests to whom, in accordance with can. 516 §1[1 ],is jointly entrusted the pastoral care of a parish or of a number of parishes together: 1° must possess the qualities mentioned in can. 521; 2° are to be appointed in accordance with cann. 522 and 524; 3° obtain the pastoral care only from the moment of taking possession: their moderator is put into possession in accordance with can. 527 §2; for the other priests, the profession of faith lawfully made replaces the taking of possession.
Can. 543 §1 Each of the priests to whom the care of a parish or of a number of parishes together is jointly entrusted, is bound to fulfil the duties and functions of a parish priest mentioned in cann. 528, 529 and 530. They are to do this according to a plan determined among themselves. The faculty to assist at marriages, and all the faculties to dispense which are given to a parish priest by virtue of the law itself, belong to all, but are to be exercised under the direction of the moderator.
§2 All the priests who belong to the group:
1° are bound by the obligation of residence;
2° are by common counsel to establish an arrangement by which one of them celebrates the Mass for the people, in accordance with can. 534.
3° [2 ]in juridical affairs, only the moderator acts in the person of the parish or parishes entrusted to the group.
Can. 544 When one of the priests, or the moderator, of the group mentioned in can. 517 §1 ceases to hold office, or when any member of it becomes incapable of exercising his pastoral office, the parish or parishes whose care is entrusted to the group do not become vacant. It is for the diocesan Bishop to appoint another moderator; until he is appointed by the Bishop, the priest of the group who is senior by appointment is to fulfil this office.
Can. 545 §1 Whenever it is necessary or opportune for the due pastoral care of the parish, one or more assistant priests can be joined with the parish priest. As cooperators with the parish priest and sharers in his concern, they are, by common counsel and effort with the parish priest and under his authority, to labour in the pastoral ministry.
§2 An assistant priest may be appointed either to help in exercising the entire pastoral ministry, whether in the whole parish or in a part of it or for a particular group of the faithful within it, or even to help in carrying out a specific ministry in a number of parishes at the same time.
Can. 547 The diocesan Bishop freely appoints an assistant priest; if he has judged it opportune, he will have consulted the parish priest or parish priests of the parishes to which the assistant is appointed, and the Vicar forane, without prejudice to can. 682 §1.
Can. 548 §1 The obligations and rights of assistant priests are defined not only by the canons of this chapter, but also by the diocesan statutes, and by the letter of the diocesan Bishop ; they are more specifically determined by the directions of the parish priest.
§2 Unless it is otherwise expressly provided in the letter of the diocesan Bishop, the assistant priest is by virtue of his office bound to help the parish priest in the entire parochial ministry, with the exception of the application of the Mass for the people. Likewise, if the matter should arise in accordance with the law, he is bound to take the place of the parish priest.
§3 The assistant priest is to report regularly to the parish priest on pastoral initiatives, both those planned and those already undertaken. In this way the parish priest and the assistant or assistants can by their joint efforts provide a pastoral care of the parish for which they are together answerable.
Can. 549 When the parish priest is absent, the norms of can. 541 §1 are to be observed, unless the diocesan Bishop has provided otherwise in accordance with can. 533 §3, or unless a parochial administrator has been appointed. If can. 541 §1 is applied, the assistant priest is bound by all the obligations of the parish priest, with the exception of the obligation to apply the Mass for the people.
Can. 550 §1 The assistant priest is bound to reside in the parish or, if he is appointed for a number of parishes at the same time, in one of them. For a just reason, however, the local Ordinary may permit him to reside elsewhere, especially in a house common to several priests, provided the carrying out of the pastoral duties does not in any way suffer thereby.
§2 The local Ordinary is to see to it that, where it is possible, some manner of common life in the parochial house be encouraged between the parish priest and the assistants.
§3 As far as holidays are concerned, the assistant priest has the same rights as the parish priest.
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