One hundred and fifty years have not yet passed since Pius IX thought of “collecting and publishing the laws of the Church, as he reflected on the fact that new attention should be given to Eastern affairs, rites should be enhanced, customs corrected and discipline restored. Nor did it escape that most wise Pontiff that one must begin with the earliest Greek sources, from which so much later came to the East and ultimately to the North” (Pitra, Iuris …, pref.). At the request of the Supreme Pontiff, John Baptist Pitra, OSB, later a cardinal, went in search of the scattered sources of Eastern law. With the assistance of the pope, Pitra collected the results of his investigation, and with the pope\’s support, he published what he had collected in two volumes under the title Iuris ecclesiastici graecorum historia et monumenta.
This Roman Pontiff, after he had examined everything, so that “the deposit of faith may be preserved whole and entire in the East, so that ecclesiastical discipline may proceed in a prosperous manner, and so that the sacred liturgy may shine in all holiness and splendor” (Acta Pii IX III, 402 – 403), constituted a special committee of cardinals, called the “Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith for Affairs of the Eastern Rite,” with the apostolic constitution Romani Pontifices (6 January 1862). He delineated the scope of business it was to administer, and also wished that this congregation should have a Cardinal ponens in a stable manner and by pontifical appointment “to undertake the task of directing carefully those studies necessary for collecting the canons of the Eastern Church and for examining, where necessary, all Eastern books of whatever sort, whether they concern versions of the Bible, catechesis, or discipline” (ibid., 410).
While studies concerning Eastern canonical matters were beginning, some bishops of the Eastern Churches, who had been asked to propose questions for the First Vatican Council, thought that the revision of Eastern canon law should be dealt with by that council. The primary spokesman for these views was Gregory Yussuf, Patriarch of the Melkite Church, who seriously lamented the poverty of canon law suited to his own and each other Eastern rite (Mansi 49, 200), as well as Joseph Papp-Szilagyi, Eastern rite bishop of Oradea Mare, who desired the restoration of many headings of ecclesiastical discipline, describing almost a complete Code (ibid. 49, 198).
The First Vatican Council\’s preparatory “Commission on Missions and Churches of the Eastern rite,” in its sixth session, recognized that the Eastern Churches very much needed a Code of canon law, which would constitute their discipline: that is, a Code of great authority, complete, common to all nations, and suited to the circumstances of the times (ibid. 49, 1012).
But since that Commission abandoned this opinion as their work progressed, invoking instead a disciplinary unity in the whole Church (ibid. 50: 31*, 34*, 45*-46*, 74*-75*), it happened that strong voices were raised in the council hall in favor of safeguarding the discipline of the Easterners.
Among those who spoke in this sense, the Patriarch Joseph Audu, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, distinguished himself. In the sixteenth General Congregation of the Council, he actively defended a variety “in those things other than matters of faith,” inasmuch as they “are certainly a proof of divine power and omnipotence in the unity of the catholic Church.” On behalf of his patriarchal church, he asked in the first place that “when the favor is granted, a place and time be assigned” for “a new canon law” to be compiled, corresponding to the ancient canons as well as the wishes of the Council, and that it be submitted for the approval of the Council Fathers (ibid. 50, 515 and 516).
After the First Vatican Council was adjourned before it had completed its work because of the pressure of events, Leo XIII, fully informed about all Eastern matters in many “conferences with the Eastern patriarchs,” was pleased to extol with great praises “the variety of Eastern liturgy and discipline, approved by law,” which admirably illustrated the mark of catholicity in the Church of God (apostolic letter Orientalium dignitas, 30 November 1894, pref.).
Under the wise governance of that pontiff, and since the revision of the canonical discipline of the Eastern Churches was everywhere desired, while at the same time nothing seemed more preferable than that this matter should be undertaken by each individual Church and then submitted to the Apostolic See for approval, many particular synods were assembled. Prominent among these were the Syrian Synod of Sharfet assembled in 1888, the Ruthenian Synod of L\’viv held in 1891, the two Romanian Synods of Alba-Julienses which met in 1882 and 1900, and the Synod of Alexandria celebrated by the Copts in 1898. The last of these synods, in which the principal divisions of canonical discipline for each one of the Churches were almost completely revised, was the Synod of the Armenians which St. Pius X ordered to be held at Rome in 1911, so that it might consider “the rights of the patriarchs and bishops, the correct administration of the faithful, the discipline of the clergy, institutes of monks, the needs of missions, the beauty of divine worship, the Sacred Liturgy” (letter Vobis plane, 30 August 1911).
The acts and decrees of the above-mentioned synods, if they are compared together with those others published in previous times such as the acts and decrees of the Maronite Synod of Mount Lebanon, held in 1736 and approved in forma specifica by Benedict XIV (brief Singularis Romanorum, 1 September 1741), as well as the Greek-Melkite Synod of Aïn-Traz celebrated in 1835, almost produce the impression that, at that time, the disciplinary patrimony of all the Eastern Churches, confirmed by the sacred canons of the primitive Church, was being in some fashion obscured, and that as many canonical orderings approved by the supreme authority of the Church would be required as there were Eastern “rites” in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, on the other hand, the “Code of Canon Law” for the Latin Church, begun with such spirit and wise counsel by St. Pius X with the apostolic letter Arduum sane munus on 19 March 1904, was being drafted in rapid stages.
In 1917, Benedict XV not only promulgated the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church, “fulfilling the expectation of the whole catholic world” (motu proprio Cum iuris canonici, 15 September 1917), but also reflected with great interest on the Eastern Churches, which, as he wrote, “offer in the ancient memory of their times such a bright light of sanctity and teaching, so that even now, after such a great passage of time, they illumine with their luster the rest of the Christian world” (motu proprio Dei providentis, 1 May 1917). He instituted the “Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church” on 1 May 1917, and, as provided in the Code of Canon Law promulgated on Pentecost of that year, he provided it “with all of the faculties which the other Congregations have for the Churches of the Latin rite” (can. 257 §2), only with certain exceptions. This was done in order to provide appropriately for the achievement of those objects which could hardly be realized by the individual Eastern Churches, on account of the difficult nature of juridical affairs. Furthermore, in October of that year, he founded in Rome “a special center for higher studies concerning Eastern matters,” namely the Pontifical Institute for Eastern Studies, “for the purpose of awakening the Christian East to the hope of its ancient prosperity.” He ordered “the canon law of all the Eastern Christian peoples” to be studied and taught in this institute, in addition to other disciplines (motu proprio Orientis catholici, 15 October 1917).
Indeed, in the first years of its work, the Sacred Congregation “for the Eastern Church” gave several responses to the Churches in which the canon laws had been sufficiently neglected or which contained many things which were fallen into disuse, obsolete or incomplete, or concerning areas in which, in the light of the recently promulgated Code of Canon Law, those Churches felt that they could make progress, while almost laying aside their own tradition. The congregation did this so that new laws might be produced in the synods of the individual Churches, in the manner of former times, and be submitted for the review of the Apostolic See.
The opinion gradually prevailed, however, in all the Churches, that there could be nothing better than the collection into one organic “body of laws” of those laws that were common to all the Eastern Churches or which were considered should be so, compiled under the care of the Apostolic See and promulgated by the Sovereign Pontiff.
Therefore, Pius XI, in an audience granted on 3 August 1927 to the cardinal secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church, Luigi Sincero, after considering the requests of the cardinal members of that Congregation who had assembled a few days earlier in a plenary meeting, thought that a codification of Eastern canon law was not only necessary, but should be counted among the most urgent affairs, and he decreed that he himself would preside over it.
Nevertheless, the codification of the canonical discipline of the Eastern Churches actually has its beginning in 1929.
At the beginning of that year, on 5 January, the Supreme Pontiff ordered a consultation with the heads of the Eastern Churches, especially the patriarchs, “so that they might freely indicate, after gathering their opinions, what they think about this important task, and at the same time express their mind about how, and in what way, the work should be undertaken, especially with regard to the discipline, traditions, necessities and privileges of each rite, so that the codification would be truly useful to the clergy and people of those Churches.” Furthermore, on 20 July he ordered the patriarchs and archbishops who preside over each rite to choose a suitable priest, each for his own rite, to assist diligently in this work (AAS 21  669).
On 27 April, in an audience granted to the cardinal secretary of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church, the Supreme Pontiff constituted for himself a special “Presidential Council” for Eastern codification, which he had doubtless been intending to do since 1927. Its members were Cardinals Pietro Gasparri, Luigi Sincero and Bonaventura Cerretti; a small commission of consultors, consisting of three legal experts, was added to this council.
In that same year, after the responses of the heads of the Eastern Churches concerning the opportuneness of the Eastern codification to be undertaken by the care of the Apostolic See and the manner of proceeding in such an important task had been duly collected and carefully considered, the Presidential Council met in plenary session on 4 July. The Council not only discovered a nearly unanimous sentiment among the easterners in complete favor of such a project, but also referred to the Supreme Pontiff numerous suggestions regarding this enterprise.
After carefully evaluating these things, the Supreme Pontiff determined the following, in an “Announcement” on 17 July 1935:
1) that historical-canonical studies, which are called preparatory, are to be undertaken concerning the laws and customs of each of the Churches by priests whom the bishops are to send to Rome;
2) that drafts of canons, redacted by the above-mentioned delegated priests, are to be sent to the ordinaries for their observations;
3) that the juridical sources of each of the Churches, particularly the canonical ones, are to be researched and published under the direction of experts in the history and science of canon law” (AAS 27  306-307).
Pius XI, in an audience on 23 November 1929, proposed the “Cardinalatial Commission for Studies Preparatory to the Eastern Codification” for these above-mentioned studies; the announcement of this commission was given in the official commentary Acta Apostolicae Sedis on 2 December 1929 (p. 669). The president of this Commission was Cardinal Pietro Gasparri; its members were Cardinals Luigi Sincero, Bonaventura Cerretti and Franz Ehrle. An assessor of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church, Father Amleto Cicognani, later a cardinal, was named the Commission\’s secretary.
Two groups of experts were added to the commission of cardinals, according to the criteria set forth by the Supreme Pontiff in an audience of 13 July of that year: namely, a college of Eastern delegates to undertake the preparatory work of drafting the Code of Eastern Canon Law as an aid to the members of the commission of cardinal fathers, and a college of consultors “to collect sources for the eastern canonical codification.”
Fourteen priests were included in the first college, at the express wish of the Supreme Pontiff chosen “synodally” by the bishops of each of the Eastern Churches, to “represent” truly those bishops and so that the voice of the East might thus fully resound in an Eastern Code from its very beginning. Four religious, very learned in canon law and living in Rome, were added to these priests.
In the other college were included twelve priests who were experts in their knowledge of the sources, well known for their learning. Their task, according to the wishes of the Supreme Pontiff, was so to collect the sources of eastern canonical discipline that it might not only be of benefit to scholarship, but might also and primarily assist greatly in carrying out the codification of the eastern canons.
At the request of the Supreme Pontiff in an audience on 7 March 1930, the names of these priests, who worked with great distinction in the preparation of the eastern codification, were announced publicly in the newspaper L\’Osservatore Romano on the following 2 April.
Six years of untiring study and intense work by the commission brought the preparatory work on the Eastern codification to an end. Indeed, all of the headings of canonical discipline, in the manner requested unanimously by the delegates of the Eastern Churches, were discussed time and again in 183 meetings, and then appropriately arranged in several “schemata,” which were sent to the bishops of the East, so that they might make their opinions known. The ancient and more recent sources of canonical discipline were selected most diligently by the members of the commission and published in thirteen large volumes by the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Church; in 1934, they were made available not only to the commission, but also to institutes of higher studies. All this bears witness to the continual care of Pius IX for the eastern canonical codification; he wished to be fully informed of the work of the commission in twenty four “audiences,” and after the preparatory studies were completed, he spared no effort to proceed as quickly as possible to drafting the “Code of Eastern Canon Law,” as he wished to refer to the Code being prepared “until a better title may be found” (in an audience of 5 July 1935).
In 1935, during an audience on 7 June, the Supreme Pontiff decided to establish a new commission that would organize the work of preparing the Code, and that would draft the text of the canons after examining carefully the observations of the Eastern bishops on the previous “schemata.” This appeared as an “Notice” in the official commentary Acta Apostolicae Sedis on 17 June of that year (AAS 27  306 – 306), where, in addition to the name, the composition and competence of the commission was determined. This “Pontifical Commission for the Codification of the "Code of Eastern Canon Law,” as it was called, consisted of only four cardinal members at the beginning: Luigi Sincero, who was president, Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pius XII, Julio Serafini and Pietro Fumasoni-Biondi. For the next thirty seven years, the duration of the life of the Commission, many cardinals were numbered among the members of this Commission, some succeeding others who had died; when the Second Vatican Council had concluded, all the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches were included as well.
When Cardinal Luigi Sincero died on 7 February 1936, he was succeeded on the 17th of that month as president of the Commission by Cardinal Massimo Massimi, under whose wise leadership the difficult work of drafting the Code of Eastern Canon Law was nearly brought to completion. Three notable parts of the Code, promulgated by Pius XII before the death of this cardinal, are a testimony to this.
Cardinal Peter XV Agagianian succeeded as president; until the end of 1962, he had been head of the Armenian Catholic Church; he directed the Commission until his death on 6 May 1971.
Father Acacio Coussa, B.A., was named secretary of the Commission, and he fulfilled this office with great fidelity until he was created a cardinal. Then, after the work of drafting the Code of Eastern Canon Law was interrupted by the Second Vatican Council, Father Daniel Faltin, O.F.M.Conv., functioned as “Assistant” until the Commission went out of existence.
As an aid to the cardinal members of the Commission, thirteen experts were appointed as consultors, most of whom were selected from among the priests of the Eastern Churches; their names were announced in a “Notice” in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (27  308). The principal function of the college of consultors was to review the observations of the Eastern bishops on the previously drafted “schemata” and to add their own comments for the cardinal members of the Commission. These matters were admirably carried out in seventy-eight sessions, the last of which was held on 3 November 1939.
The Cardinal Fathers, meeting seventy-three times, diligently drafted the Code of Eastern Canon Law, constantly supported by the Supreme Pontiff, who never ceased to follow the whole work of redaction with assiduous care, and who examined by his personal study the individual articles of the canons. He wished that the complete body of the law should be divided into twenty-four titles, in the manner of many eastern collections of the genuine tradition.
In 1943 and 1944, this Corpus, already published in one volume, was submitted to a careful work of “coordination” by the well known experts Acacio Coussa, B.A., Aemilius Herman, S.J., and Arcadius Larraona, C.M.F. Later, when the text of the whole Code had been printed a second time, and it had been revised again and again by the Cardinal Fathers, meeting on nineteen occasions during 1945, it was presented in January, 1948, to the Supreme Pontiff.
With regard to the promulgation, it was felt to be best to proceed in stages. Therefore, at the beginning of 1949, the Supreme Pontiff ordered the printing for promulgation of the canons on the sacrament of matrimony, since they were considered the most urgent, and later, for the administration of justice, the canons on procedure. These comprised titles XIII and XXI in the schema of the future Code.
When this was done, the canons “On the sacrament of matrimony” were promulgated on 22 February 1949, the feast of Saint Peter\’s Chair at Antioch, with the apostolic letter motu proprio Crebrae allatae sunt (AAS 41  89 – 119); they were to come into force on the following 2 May.
The canons “On trials” were promulgated by the apostolic letter motu proprio Sollicitudinem nostram on the feast of the Epiphany, 6 January 1950 (AAS 42  5 – 120); they were to have a vacatio of a whole year, coming into force on 6 January of the following year.
On the feast of Saint Cyril of Alexandria, bishop and doctor, the canons “On Religious,” “On the Temporal Goods of the Church,” and “On the meaning of words” were promulgated by the apostolic letter motu proprio Postquam Apostolicis Litteris, 9 February 1952 (AAS 44  65 – 150), to come into effect on 21 November of that year, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The three sections which are contained in this apostolic letter constituted the following titles in the order of the schema of the future Code:
Tit. XIV On monks and other religious
Tit. XIX On the temporal goods of the Church
Tit. XXIV On the meaning of words
Finally, by the apostolic letter motu proprio Cleri sanctitati, issued on 2 June 1957 (AAS 49  433 – 600), Pius XII, as a sort of saint\’s day gift, promulgated the canons “On the Eastern Rites” and “On persons,” which were to begin to come into force on the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the following year. These canons belonged to the five titles which follow from the schema of the future Code:
Tit. II On the Eastern rites
Tit. III On physical and moral persons
Tit. IV On clerics in general
Tit. V On clerics in particular
Tit. XVII On the laity
Of the 2666 canons which the schema of the future Code of 1945 contained, three fifths were promulgated. The remaining 1095 canons remained in the archives of the Commission.
When the Second Vatican Council was called by John XXIII, since it was foreseen that the canonical discipline of the whole Church must be revised according to the conclusions and principles of the Council, the redaction of the Code of Eastern Canon Law was, properly speaking, interrupted; nevertheless, other functions of the Commission continued. Of these, the following are worthy of mention: the function of giving authentic interpretations of the parts of the Code which had already been promulgated, and the role of supervising the edition of the “Fontes” of Eastern canon law.
In the middle of 1972, the Supreme Pontiff, Paul VI, instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Eastern Canon Law, and determined that the former Commission, which had been erected in 1935 to “redact” the Code, should go out of existence. The announcement of this was published in the newspaper L\’Osservatore Romano on 16 June 1972.
The form of the new Commission safeguarded its Eastern character. The college of members of the Commission, originally twenty-four in number, but later expanded to thirty-eight, was composed of the patriarchs and the other heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, with the addition of those cardinals in charge of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia that have competence over Eastern Churches. A college of seventy consultors added to the Commission consisted for the most part of bishops and presbyters of the Eastern Churches, with the addition of some clerics of the Latin rite and lay persons knowledgeable in eastern canonical discipline.
Nor should it be forgotten that several well known men from those Eastern Churches which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church were also invited as observers to collaborate in the work of the revision of the Code.
The task of president of the Commission was entrusted to Cardinal Joseph Parecattil, Archbishop of Ernakulam of the Malabar Church. He fulfilled this office in an outstanding manner until the last day of his life (20 February 1987). With the death of the cardinal president, the office of president of the Commission remained vacant thereafter.
Ignatius Clemens Mansourati, titular bishop of Apamaea of the Syrians was appointed as Vice-President of the Commission; he remained in that position for five years. Miroslav Stephan Marusyn, titular bishop of Cadi of the Ukrainian Church, succeeded him on 15 June 1977, and served as Vice-President until the end of 1982. On 20 December of that year, Emile Eid, titular bishop of Sarepta of the Maronites, was named as Vice-President of the Commission.
Fr. Ivan Žužek, a member of the Society of Jesus, was named the Commission\’s secretary; he was originally appointed as Pro-Secretary, but became Secretary on 22 October 1977.
The mandate entrusted to the Commission by the Supreme Pontiff was to revise completely, primarily in the light of the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, the whole Code of Eastern canon law, both those parts which had already been published, as well as those sections that had not yet been promulgated, although a draft had been brought to completion by the former commission.
The Supreme Pontiff, Paul VI, at the solemn inauguration of the work of the Commission held in the Sistine Chapel on 18 March 1974, firmly established the “Magna Charta” of the whole revision process and illustrated it with eloquent words. The Supreme Pontiff required a twofold concern on the part of the Commission above all else, namely, that the canon law of the Eastern Catholic Churches be revised according to the intention of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council and according to the authentic eastern tradition.
Especially solicitous for the salvation of souls, which is the ultimate goal of every ecclesiastical norm, the Supreme Pontiff in that same speech particularly highlighted the salutary and new impulse to restore the Christian life that the Second Vatican Council had desired and promoted for the whole Church. He also ordered that the Code should respond to the needs of modern life and the true conditions of time and place, which are continually and quickly changing. The Code should preserve a coherence and agreement with sound tradition, and at the same time be in keeping with the special task which pertains to the Christian faithful of the Eastern Churches, “the task of promoting the unity of all Christians, particularly of Eastern Christians, according to the principles of the decree … On ecumenism” (OE 24).
The plenary session of the members of the Commission, which met from 18 – 23 March 1974, and in which through the generous will of the Supreme Pontiff all of the consultors of the Commission, as well as some observers from the Eastern non-Catholic churches participated without a deliberative vote, approved certain principles with a nearly unanimous vote, by which the consultors of the Commission should be guided in various “study groups” in composing the drafts of the canons.
Among these principles, which were published in full in three languages in the acts of the Commission (Nuntia 3), the main ones were: 1) keeping in mind the single patrimony of the ancient canons, what has been handed down concerning the single Code for all of the Eastern Churches should also be completely suited to the modern circumstances of life; 2) the character of the Code should be truly Eastern, that is, it should be in conformity with the postulates of the Second Vatican Council in preserving the proper disciplines of the Eastern Churches “for these are guaranteed by ancient tradition, and seem to be better suited to the customs of their faithful and to the good of their souls” (OE 5), and therefore the Code must reflect the discipline that is contained in the sacred canons and in the customs common to all of the Eastern Churches; 3) the Code should be completely consonant with the special task entrusted to the Eastern Catholic Churches by the Second Vatican Council of fostering the unity of all Christians, particularly of the East, according to the principles of the Council\’s decree “On ecumenism;” 4) the Code is to be juridical in nature, as is fitting: therefore, it is to define clearly and safeguard the rights and obligations of individual physical and juridic persons toward one another and toward ecclesiastical society; 5) in the very formulation of laws, the Code should take into account charity and humanity, temperance and moderation, in addition to justice, to foster most of all the salvation of souls with pastoral care, and therefore it should not impose norms to be kept in the strict sense unless this is required by the common good and the general ecclesiastical discipline; 6) the principle of “subsidiarity,” as it is called, should be preserved in the Code, so that it should contain only those laws that are considered to be common to all of the Eastern Catholic Churches, in the judgment of the Supreme Pontiff, leaving everything else to the particular law of the individual Churches.
With respect to the systematic ordering of the Code, it should be noted that the Code of Eastern Canon Law, entrusted for revision to the Commission after a renewed study carried out by the two previous Commissions beginning in 1929, was divided not into books, like the Code of the Latin Church, but into twenty-four titles, by the will of the Supreme Pontiffs Pius XI and Pius XII. For Pius XI expressly decreed on 8 February 1937 that the Code should be systematically organized into titles. But Pius XII, who was knowledgeable from his personal work done while part of the Commission before his election as Supreme Pontiff as well as by subsequently following the work of the Commission with careful and constant attention, in an audience on 26 December 1945 (cf. Nuntia 26, pp. 82 – 83) approved the organization of the Code into twenty-four titles in a form that had been unanimously approved and accepted by the cardinal members of the Commission in their plenary session on 20 November of that same year, although the pontiff moved some sections from one title to another.
There was no serious reason to call this systematic arrangement, approved by the popes, into question. Indeed, the study groups of the Commission\’s consultors, when addressing the issue, endorsed the same arrangement on the basis of several arguments, as well as because it was appropriate to the circumstances of modern life. Therefore, Bishop Miroslav Stephan Marusyn, Vice-President of the Commission, explained this to the 1980 Synod of Bishops. This arrangement was acceptable to the consultative bodies and there were hardly any contrary opinions. The members of the Commission, in a plenary meeting held in November 1988, approved this arrangement as a norm for “the order of proceeding.”
The first text of the Code revised by the consultors of the Commission was completed during a period of six years. The consultors, divided into ten study groups, assiduously performed their work, meeting nearly one hundred times in meetings that often lasted fifteen days.
This text, appropriately distributed in eight drafts, was submitted at various times to the Supreme Pontiff to receive his approval before being sent to the consultative bodies, that is, to the entire episcopate of the Eastern Catholic Churches, to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, to the institutes of higher learning in Rome and to the unions of superiors general of religious. These bodies were asked to express their observations and opinions within six months from the time in which the schemata were sent to them.
The order in which the schemata were sent to the consultative bodies was as follows: in June 1980, the “Schema of canons on divine worship and particularly the sacraments;” in December 1980, the “Schema of canons on monks and other religious as well as on members of other institutes of consecrated life;” in June 1981, the “Schema of canons on the evangelization of the peoples, the teaching office of the Church and ecumenism;” in September 1981, the “Schema of canons on general norms and on the temporal goods of the Church;” in November 1981, the “Schema of canons on clerics and the laity;” in February 1982, the “Schema of canons on the protection of rights, or on procedures;” and in October 1984, the “Schema of canons on the hierarchical constitution of the Eastern Churches.”
Nothing shows the collegial nature of the revision of the Code more than the great mass, the weighty importance and gravity of the observations, supported by arguments, that came to the Commission. The whole episcopate of the Eastern Catholic Churches and the other consultative bodies made an extremely valuable and serious contribution to the work of revising the Code. It should also be observed in this matter that the drafts were published with the intention that everything which had been done by the Commission would be made public, and so that everyone, particularly experts in canon law, could express their opinions and thus contribute to the successful outcome of the Code.
All the observations, without exception, were arranged in an orderly fashion and sent again to special study groups to produce a further revision, taking into account the desires of the consultative bodies. In these groups, the consultors of the Commission and some other men who had particular expertise in the material being treated revised the text of the Code again. The text thus revised again is found published in the journal Nuntia in the reports of the acts of the Commission.
The corrected drafts, appropriately revised in a single text of thirty titles, was entrusted to a special study group called the “Coordinating Committee.” This group was to ensure the internal coherence and unity of the Code, to avoid ambiguities and discrepancies, to reduce juridical terms to a univocal meaning, insofar as this was possible, to remove elements that were repetitious or out of place, and to provide consistency in orthography and punctuation.
In October 1986, the “Schema of the Code of Eastern Canon Law” was printed and offered to the Supreme Pontiff, who ordered, on the seventeenth of that month, the feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, that it be sent to the members of the Commission for the examination and judgment.
The observations of the members of the Commission, appropriately arranged, were submitted for the examination of a special study group of consultors, called the “Committee for the examination of observations,” which met twice for fifteen days. After carefully considering the observations, this committee was to propose appropriate amendments to the text of the canons, or, in case the text of the canon was to be retained, to explain the reasons which counseled against accepting the observations on the formulated text. The observations, together with the opinions of the group, were collected into one volume and sent to the members of the Commission in April 1988; they were examined and considered by the members of the Commission in a plenary meeting of the Commission held several months later.
Meanwhile, the “Coordinating Committee,” which had never stopped working, proposed many emendations to be included in the text of the canons, for the most part of a stylistic nature; other changes, which affected the substance of the canons, the committee decided should be made ex officio, so that a complete agreement between the canons would be preserved, and so that, as far as possible, the lacunae of the law could be filled in by appropriate norms. All these things, collected together and sent to the members of the Commission in July 1988, were submitted to their examination and judgment.
The plenary assembly of the members of the Commission, convoked at the mandate of the Supreme Pontiff to determine by vote whether the whole text of the revised Code was ready to be sent immediately to the Supreme Pontiff for promulgation at a time and in a manner which seemed best to him, was celebrated in the Bologna Hall of the Apostolic Palace from 3 to 14 November 1988. At this meeting, discussion took place regarding questions that were proposed at the request of at least five members of the Commission. The definitive vote on the draft of the Code, that, at the request of the members of the Commission, took place on each title separately, had this outcome: all the titles were approved by the majority of the members, most of them passing almost unanimously.
The final draft was emended according to the wishes of the members of the Commission and given the title “Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.” Having been produced in ten copies by means called “informatica,” it was delivered to the Supreme Pontiff on 28 January 1989, with the request that it be promulgated.
The Supreme Pontiff himself, however, with the assistance of some experts and after consultation with the Vice-President and Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Eastern Canon Law, revised this final schema of the Code, ordered it to be published, and finally on 1 October 1990 decreed that the new Code should be promulgated on the 18th of that month.