Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches

The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (Latin: Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium,[1] abbreviated CCEO) is the title of the 1990 codification of the common portions of the Canon Law for the 23 Eastern Catholic churches in the Catholic Church. It is divided into 30 titles and has a total of 1546 canons.[2] The western Latin Church is governed by its own particular code of canons, the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici.

History of codificationEdit

The 23 sui iuris Churches which collectively make up the Eastern Catholic Churches have been invited by the Catholic Church to codify their own particular laws and submit them to the pope so that there may be a full, complete Code of all religious law within Catholicism. Pope John Paul II promulgated Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches on October 18, 1990, by the document Sacri Canones.[3] The Code came into force of law on October 1, 1991.[4]


The official language of the canon law common to all the Eastern Catholic Churches (called "common law"[a]) is Latin.[5] Although Latin is the language of the Latin Church and not of the Eastern Churches, Latin was chosen as the language of the common law because there is no common language in use among all the Eastern Catholic Churches.[5] The members of these churches use a diversity of languages, including Greek, Arabic, Romanian, Malayalam, English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, but no single one of these languages could be used as the language of the common law.[5] Latin was chosen because it has a long history of legal and juridical tradition and was suitable for serving as the common text from which translations could be made.[5]


Ad Tuendam FidemEdit

In 1998, Pope John Paul II issued the motu proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem,[6] which amended two canons (750 and 1371) of the 1983 Code of Canon Law and two canons (598 and 1436) of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, so as to add "new norms which expressly impose the obligation of upholding truths proposed in a definitive way by the Magisterium of the Church, and which also establish related canonical sanctions."

Mitis et Misericors IesusEdit

On 15 August 2015, Pope Francis issued the motu proprio Mitis et Misericors Iesus which amended canons 1357-1377 of the CCEO.[7] It reformed the procedures for matrimonial nullity trials and instituted a briefer process.[8]


The text of the CCEO is divided into 31 sections, 30 titles and a section of preliminary canons.

Preliminary CanonsEdit

The 6 preliminary canons deal with scope and continuity, what is affected by the CCEO and how prior legislation and customs shall be handled.

Can. 1 The CCEO regards solely the Eastern Catholic Churches unless otherwise mentioned.

Can. 2 The CCEO is to be assessed according to the Ancient Laws of the Eastern Churches.

Can. 3 The CCEO does not "for the most part legislate on liturgical matters"[9] and therefore the Liturgical Books are to be observed unless contrary to the Canons of the CCEO.

Can. 4. The CCEO neither degrades or abrogates treaties/pacts entered into by the Holy See with nations/political societies. Therefore, they still have their force, notwithstanding any prescriptions of the CCEO to the contrary.

The Rights and Obligations of All the Christian FaithfulEdit

This section defines the Christian faithful and catechumens.

It expresses that the People of God have the obligation to: maintain the faith and openly profess the Faith, maintain communion, promote the growth of the Church, listen to pastors, let pastors know their opinions on matters of the good of the Church, call private associations 'Catholic' only when approved by the bishop, preserve the good reputation and privacy of all people, help with the needs of the Church and promote social justice including providing aid to the poor from their own resources.

It also expresses various rights of the faithful.

The canons in this section are numbered 7-26.

Churches Sui Iuris and RitesEdit

A church sui iuris is "a community of the Christian faithful, which is joined together by a hierarchy according to the norm of law and which is expressly or tacitly recognized as sui iuris by the supreme authority of the Church" (CCEO.27) . The term sui iuris is an innovation of CCEO (Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium - Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches) and denotes the relative autonomy of the Oriental Catholic Churches. This canonical term, pregnant with many juridical nuances, indicates the God-given mission of the Oriental Catholic Churches to preserve their patrimonial autonomous nature. The autonomy of these churches is relative in the sense that they are under the authority of the Bishop of Rome.[10][b]

According to the CCEO the Oriental Catholic Churches sui iuris are of 4 categories:

1. Patriarchal Churches:

The patriarchal church is the full-grown form of an Oriental Catholic Church. It is a community of the Christian faithful joined together by a patriarchal hierarchy. The patriarch together with the synod of bishops has the legislative, judicial and administrative powers within the ecclesiastical territory, without prejudice to those powers reserved, in the common law to the pope (CCEO 55-150). Among the Catholic Oriental churches the following hold patriarchal status: Maronite, Chaldean, Coptic, Syriac, Melkite, Armenian.[12]

2. Major Archiepiscopal Churches:

Major archiepiscopal churches are those oriental churches which are governed by major archbishops, assisted by a respective synod of bishops. These churches have almost the same rights and obligations of patriarchal churches. A major archbishop is the metropolitan of a see; he is chosen by the pope or recognized by him, and presides over an entire Eastern Church sui iuris. What is stated in common law concerning patriarchal churches or patriarchs is understood to be applicable to major archiepiscopal churches or major archbishops, unless the common law expressly provides otherwise or the matter is obvious. (CCEO.151, 152). The 4 major archiepiscopal churches are the Syro-Malabar, the Ukrainian Byzantine, the Syro-Malankara Catholic and Romanian Byzantine.[12]

3. Metropolitan Churches:

This is a church which is governed by a metropolitan "sui iuris." Such a church is presided over by the metropolitan of a determined see who has been canonically elected and confirmed by the pope. He is assisted by a council of hierarchs according to the norms of law (CCEO. 155§1). The Catholic metropolitan churches are the Ethiopian Catholic, Eritrean Catholic, Hungarian Byzantine, Slovak Byzantine and the Ruthenian Catholic Church.[12]

4. Other Churches:

Apart from the above-mentioned forms of church there are other ecclesiastical communities which are entrusted to a hierarch who presides in accordance with the norms of canon law. (CCEO. 174). The following Oriental Catholic churches are of this status: Belorussian Greek, Bulgarian Greek, Macedonian Greek, Greek Byzantine, Italo-Albanian, Byzantine Church of the Eparchy of Križvci, Albanian Byzantine, Russian Byzantine. Altogether there are 22 oriental sui iuris churches in within the Catholic communion.[12]

The Patriarchal ChurchesEdit

  • Jerusalem Church founded by St. James, the Apostle, in the year 37
  • Antioch Church founded by St. Peter, The Apostle, in the year 39
  • Alexandria Church founded by St. Mark, the Apostle, in the year 37
  • Greek Church founded by St. John, the Apostle, in the year 42
  • Roman Church founded by St. Peter, The Apostle, in the year 44
  • Mar Thoma church of India founded by St. Thomas the Apostle, in the year 38
  • Celtic church founded by St. Andrew, the Apostle, in Scotland, in the year 55

Patriarchal Curia (Canons 114-125)Edit

PATRIARCHAL AND MAJOR ARCHIEPISCOPAL CURIA: The bishops of the curia (maximum three); Permanent Synod:Patriarch + 4 bishops (3+1)and 4 substitutes (Quasi - Permanent Synod Patriarch + 2 bishops); Chancellor, vice-chancellor, notaries, chancery; Patriarchal Finance Officer (administrator of the goods of Church); Other Aspects like archives, inventory, financial sources of curia; The commissions: For the Liturgy, Ecumenism, Catechism, Evangelization, Preparation of the Synod of Bishops, Preparation of the patriarchal Assembly, censor of Books and the other commissions under the Patriarchal Authority; The Ordinary Tribunal The president, the judges(9), the administrative officials (auditors, promoter of justice, defender of the bond, notaries, advocates, procurators, experts, interpreters, etc.); The organs connected to patriarchal curia: All organs of patriarchal church who collaborate in the administration of the Patriarchal church, including superior tribunal, moderator general of the administration of justice, a group of bishops for recourse, patriarchal procurator in Rome, Roman curial organs, curia of other patriarchal churches, etc. (As far as the curia is concerned, it is the same for the Patriarchal and Major Archiepiscopal Churches)[c]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ This usage should not be confused with the common law civil legal system or with the jus commune.
  2. ^ For a better understanding of the concept of church sui iuris see, Žužek, Understanding The Eastern Code, pp. 94–109. “Una Chiesa Orientale cattolica è una parte della Chiesa Universale che vive la fede in modo corrispondente ad una delle cinque grandi tradizioni orientali- Alessandrina, Antiochena, Costantinopolitina, Caldea, Armena- e che contiene o è almeno capace di contenere, come sue componenti minori, più comunità diocesane gerarchicamente riunite sotto la guida di un capo comune legittimamente eletto e in comunione con Roma, il quale con il proprio Sinodo costituisce la superiore istanza per tutti gli affari di carattere amministrativo, legislativo e giudiziario delle stesse Communità, nell'ambito del diritto comune a tutte le Chiese, determinato nei Canoni sanciti dai Concili Ecumenici o del Romano Pontefice, sempre preservando il diritto di quest'ultimo di intervenire nei singoli casi” pp. 103–104.[11][10] A rough translation of this may be rendered "An Eastern Catholic Church is on part of the Universal Church in which lives the faith in a corresponding manner to one of the five great Eastern Traditions - Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Chalcedon, Armenian - and which contains or is capable of containing, as its small marts, more community specific diocesan rule and the guide of a legitimately elected head of the community and in Communion with Rome, in which, with its own Synod, constitutes the highest law for all those affairs of an administrative character, legislative and guiding of its own community, in the aim of the direction common to all the Church, determined in the Holy Canons of the Ecumenical Councils or of the Roman Pontiff, always preserving the direction of the latter in individual cases."
  3. ^ Dr. Francis Eluvathingal, Patriarchal and Major Archiepiscopal Churches in the Eastern Catholic Legislations based on CCEO Canon 114-125.


  1. ^ "CCEO - Table of Contents - IntraText CT". Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  2. ^ Pete Vere & Michael Trueman, "Surprised by Canon Law, Vol. 2" (Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Books, 2007); p. 123
  3. ^ AAS82 (1990) pp. 1033-1063
  4. ^ Thomas Kuzhinapurath, Salvific Law: Salvific Character of CCEO, An Historical Overview, Malankara Seminary Publications, Trivandrum, 2008, p.79
  5. ^ a b c d John D. Faris, "Codifications of Eastern Canon Law", in A Practical Commentary to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, ed. John D. Faris & Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv., cxxvi.
  6. ^ "Ad Tuendam Fidem (18 May 1998) - John Paul II". Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  7. ^ Apostolic Letter Motu Prioprio of the Supreme Pontiff Francis Mitis et Misericors Iesus by which the Canons of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches Pertaining to Cases Regarding the Nullity of Marriage are Reformed
  8. ^ Vatican Radio, Pope Francis reforms Church law in marital nullity trials, accessed 6 May 2020.
  9. ^ Code of Canons of Oriental Churchs (I IntraText Edition CT ed.). Èulogos SpA. 1990. Can. 3.
  10. ^ a b "Malankara Catholic Church sui iuris: Juridical Status and Power of Governance - Eastern Christianity - Religious Organizations". Scribd. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Österreichisches Archiv für Kirchenrecht". Herder. 8 July 1994. Retrieved 8 July 2018 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ a b c d "The Unique Identity of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church".


  • Faris, John D., & Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv., eds. A Practical Commentary to the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, 2 vols. Montréal: Librairie Wilson & Lafleur, 2019.
  • Panteleimon Rodopoulos. An Overview of Orthodox Canon Law. Edited by George Dion Dragas. Orthodox Research Institute, 2007.

External linksEdit