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An apostolic constitution (Latin: constitutio apostolica) is the most solemn form of legislation issued by the Pope.[1][2] 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 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.[3]

Apostolic constitutions are issued as papal bulls because of their solemn, public form. Among types of papal legislation, apostolic letters issued motu proprio are next in solemnity.[1]


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

16th century

19th century

20th century

21st century



  1. ^ a b New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, pg. 57, footnote 36.
  2. ^ "Mann, Stephanie A., "What Is a Papal Bull?", Our Sunday Visitor, September 1, 2016". Archived from the original on January 12, 2020. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  3. ^ Smith, Randall (July 19, 2014). "A Pastoral and Dogmatic Council". The Catholic Thing. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  4. ^ Patrick Madrid, Peter Vere, More Catholic than the Pope (Our Sunday Visitor 2004 ISBN 978-1-93170926-2), p. 125
  5. ^ "Quo Primum". Papal Encyclicals. Retrieved June 27, 2023.
  6. ^ Pentin, Edward (22 July 2016). "Pope Francis Issues New Apostolic Constitution on Women's Contemplative Life". National Catholic Register. EWTN News, Inc. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  7. ^ "Costituzione Apostolica "Episcopalis communio" di Papa Francesco sul Sinodo dei Vescovi" (in Italian). 18 September 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  8. ^ Pantin, Edward. "18 September 2018". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  9. ^ "Sistema penale. Giro di vite sui reati nella Chiesa. La giustizia "abbraccia" la carità". (in Italian). 2021-12-09. Retrieved 2021-12-21.
  11. ^ "PRAEDICATE EVANGELIUM- On the Roman Curia and its service to the Church in the world (19/03/2022)". 31 December 2022.