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For the 4th century text, see Apostolic Constitutions.
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This article is part of the series:
Legislation and Legal System of the Catholic Church
Canon Law Task Force

An apostolic constitution (Latin constitutio apostolica) is the highest level of decree issued by the Pope. The use of the term constitution comes from Latin constitutio, which referred to any important law issued by the Roman emperor, and is retained in church documents because of the inheritance that the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church received from Roman law.

By their nature, apostolic constitutions are addressed to the public. Generic constitutions use the title apostolic constitution, and treat on solemn matters of the church, such as the promulgation of laws or definitive teachings. The forms dogmatic constitution and pastoral constitution are titles sometimes used to be more descriptive as to the document's purpose.

Apostolic constitutions are issued as papal bulls because of their solemn, public form. The next highest category, after an apostolic constitution, is an encyclical letter.


Generic constitutions contain the following introduction:

[Pope name], Bishop
Servant of the Servants of God
For an everlasting memorial/eternal memory/etc.

Examples of apostolic constitutions[edit]

16th Century

19th Century

20th Century

21st Century


  • Huels, John M. "A theory of juridical documents based on canons 29-34", Studia Canonica, 1998, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 337–370.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_constitution — Please support Wikipedia.
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7 news items

The Pilot

The Pilot
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 14:22:30 -0700

It was against this background that many Anglicans, who already believed they shared a common faith, approached the Holy See petitioning to be received into full communion which led to the publication of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus ...

The Pilot

The Pilot
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 09:41:15 -0700

The offices share the mission of helping the pope carrying out his ministry "for the good and service of the whole church and of the particular churches," according to St. John Paul II's 1988 apostolic constitution "Pastor Bonus" ("The Good Shepherd").

The Cardinal Newman Society

The Cardinal Newman Society
Thu, 14 Aug 2014 08:22:30 -0700

Pope John Paul II released Ex corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution for Catholic higher education, in 1990; the program was founded less than three years later. Briel attributes much of the success of the program to the integrated approach ...
Patheos (blog)
Mon, 11 Aug 2014 08:22:30 -0700

Issued in 1950, Pope Pius XII's Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus declared as “a divinely revealed dogma” that “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul ...

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 12:41:15 -0700

... on checks and balances, a heightened leadership role for the laity -- that these changes exemplify the spirit of the broader reforms that you're working on now as a member of the Council (of Cardinals), which will take the form of a new apostolic ...
National Catholic Register
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 10:26:40 -0700

Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope St. John Paul II's apostolic constitution for Catholic higher education, was released in 1990. The Department of Catholic Studies developed in 1996 into the Center for Catholic Studies, and, today, it offers an undergraduate ...


Fri, 15 Aug 2014 09:20:37 -0700

... Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." This doctrine was dogmatically and infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950, in his Apostolic Constitution ...

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