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In the Catholic Church, an apostolic visitor (or Apostolic Visitator) is a papal representative with a transient mission to perform a canonical visitation of relatively short duration. The visitor is deputed to investigate a special circumstance in a diocese or country, and to submit a report to the Holy See at the conclusion of the investigation.
Apostolic visitors are church officials whom canonists commonly class with papal legates. Visitors differ from other Apostolic delegates, principally in this, that their mission is only transient and of comparatively short duration.
In ancient times, the popes generally exercised their right of inspecting the dioceses of various countries through their nuncios or delegates (c. 1, Extravag. Comm. de Consuet. I, 1; c. 17, X, de Cens. III, 39), though they occasionally, even in the primitive ages, sent special visitors.
In the modern time, the mission of papal nuncios is rather of a diplomatic than of a visitatorial character. Visitors are, however, deputed by the pope for special emergencies and not at stated intervals. Their duty is to inspect the state of the Church in the country confided to them and then to draw up a report to the Holy See. At times, this visitation is made with the same attention to details as is an episcopal visitation.
Visitors Apostolic are also appointed to visit the various provinces of a religious order, whenever, in the judgment of the pope, this becomes useful or necessary. In all cases of Apostolic visitation, the pope, through delegates, is putting into effect the supreme and immediate jurisdiction which is his for any and every part of the Church. The exact powers of a visitor can be known only from his brief of delegation. His office ceases as soon as he has submitted his report to the Holy See through the Consistorial Congregation.
For the city of Rome itself there is a permanent Commission of the Apostolic Visitation. Established by Urban VIII as one of the Roman congregations under the presidency of the cardinal vicar, it was changed into a commission by Pope Pius X through the Constitution "Sapienti Consilio" (29 June 1908). These Apostolic visitors annually inspect the parishes and institutions of Rome and made report on their spiritual and financial condition. They pay special attention to the fulfilment of the obligations springing from pious foundations and legacies for Masses and chaplaincies.
In Eastern Catholic (non-Latin) churches, the office of apostolic visitor can however be indefinite and the closest thing to an ordinary for communities who have no proper diocesan jurisdiction.
- In the Maronite Catholic Church (Antiochian Rite):
- Maronite Eparchy of Notre-Dame du Liban de Paris, immediately subject to the Patriarch of Cilicia, is vested the office of Apostolic Visitor in Western and Northern Europe of the Maronites, who have nor ordinary there.
- in the exempt Maronite Apostolic Exarchate of Western and Central Africa is vested the office of Apostolic Visitor in Southern Africa of the Maronites, there also without ordinary
- In the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church ([Syro-Oriental = Chaldean Rite)
- the Eparch (bishop) of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, for the USA, is also Syro-Malabar Apostolic visitator in Canada
- the Eparch (bishop) of the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Saint Thomas the Apostle of Melbourne, for Australia, is also Syro-Malabar Apostolic visitator in New Zealand
- The whole Belarusian Catholic Church (Byzantine Rite) has no proper diocese presently, only an apostolic visitor for Belarus and another for abroad, neither vested in any see.
Sources and external links
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.