Apostolic Signatura

The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is the administrative appellate tribunal of the Holy See and, consequently, the highest judicial authority of the Catholic Church besides the Pope himself.

Appeals in standard judicial process, if appealed to the Holy See, normally do not reach the Signatura. Those go to the Sacra Rota Romana. However, a few special processes are adjudicated before the Signatura:
* Conflicts of jurisdiction between two or more tribunals or dicasteries,
* Administrative acts of ordinaries and dicasteries (including penal cases decided without using a court),
* Petitions for a retrial of a Rotal decision due to the decision being null, and
* Matters involving advocates and inter-diocesan first instance and appellate tribunals.

Whereas a Rotal decision could, if not "res judicata", be appealed to another "turnus" of the Rota, there is no right of appeal from the decision of the Signatura (can. 1629 §1 CIC).


In former times, there was only one Signatura, i.e. there were a few assistants who were commissioned by the sovereign pontiff to investigate the petitions addressed to the Holy See, and to report concerning them. These functionaries were called "Referendarii apostolici". Vitale, in his "Commentar. de iure signaturae justitiae", says that there is record of the referendaries as such in 1243. Innocent IV mentions them. As time went on, recourse to the Holy See becoming more and more frequent, whether to obtain graces or to submit cases to the decision of the pope, the number of the referendaries increased considerably. Alexander VI deemed it expedient to define their office better, which he did by creating a double Signatura -- the Signatura of Grace, and the "Signatura of Justice" -- to which the referendaries were severally assigned. As the office of referendary was a very honourable one, it came to be conferred frequently as a merely honorary title, so that the number of the referendaries was unduly increased; and Pope Sixtus V was constrained, in 1586, to limit the referendaries of the Signatura of Justice to 100, and those of the Signatura of Grace to 70. Pope Alexander VII combined the referendaries of both Signaturas into a college, with a dean. These were called "voting referendaries", and actually exercised their office. The others remained as "supernumerary referendaries" (extra numerum).Who|date=October 2007 In 1834 Gregory XVI gave a new organization to the Signatura of Justice. On the other hand, the Signatura of Grace gradually disappeared: no mention is made of it after 1847 in the catalogues of the tribunals and officials of the Curia.

The "Signatura of Grace", also called "Signatura of the Holy Father" (in Latin "Signatura Sanctissimi", literally, Signature of the Most Holy [Lord the Pope] ), was held in the presence of the sovereign pontiff, and there were present at it some cardinals and many prelates, chief among the latter being the voters of this Signatura. At the invitation of the Holy Father, the voters voted upon the matters under consideration, but that vote was merely consultative. The Holy Father reserved to himself the decision in each case, announcing it then and there, or later, if he chose, through his "domestic auditor", as De Luca calls him, or "auditor of the Holy Father" ("auditor sanctissimi"), as he was called later. The Signatura of Justice was a genuine tribunal, presided over in the name of the pope by a cardinal prefect. The voters of this Signatura were present at it, and their vote was not consultative, but definitive. As a rule, the cardinal prefect voted only when his vote was necessary for a decision. Who|date=October 2007

Pius X, in the Apostolic Constitution by which he reorganized the Roman Curia, abolished the two ancient Signaturas, and created a new one that has nothing in common with the former two. The Signatura since consisted of six cardinals, appointed by the pope, one of whom is its prefect, complemented by a secretary, a notary, who must be a priest, some consultors, and a few subordinate officers. The Signatura became a genuine tribunal with jurisdiction in four kinds of cases, namely:
*accusations of suspicions against an auditor of the Rota;
*accusations of violation of secrecy by an auditor of the Rota;
*appeals against a sentence of the Rota;
*petitions for the nullification of a decision of the Rota that has already become res judicata

As a temporary commission, the pope gave to the Signatura the mandate and the power to review the sentences passed by the Roman Congregations before the Constitution "Sapienti Consilio". This commission was given to the Signatura through an answer by the Consistorial Congregation on the subject of a doubt relating to a case of this kind. Of course the Holy Father may on special occasions give other commissions of this nature to the Apostolic Signatura.

Current Membership

The following are the present members of the Apostolic Signatura:
* Most Rev. Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect.
* Cardinal Agostino Vallini
* Cardinal Józef Glemp
* Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela
* Cardinal Edward Egan
* Cardinal Péter Erdő
* Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan
* Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani
* Cardinal Walter Kasper
* Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran
* Cardinal Julian Herranz
* Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski
* Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach
* Most Rev. Joseph Mercieca
* Most Rev. Emilio Eid
* Most Rev. Eduardo Davino
* Most Rev. Heinrich Mussinghoff
* Most Rev. Francesco Coccopalmerio
* Most Rev. Thomas Doran
* Most Rev. Javier Echevarria Rodriguez

Prefects of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura since 1908

*Vicenzo Cardinal Vannutelli (20 Oct 1908 - 9 Jul 1930)
*Michele Cardinal Lega (15 Dec 1914 - 20 Mar 1920)
*Augusto Cardinal Silj (20 Mar 1920 - 26 Feb 1926)
*Francesco Cardinal Ragonesi (9 Mar 1926 - 14 Sep 1931)
*Bonaventura Cardinal Cerretti (12 Oct 1931 - 8 May 1933)
*Enrico Cardinal Gasparri (18 May 1933 - 20 May 1946)
*Massimo Cardinal Massimi (29 May 1946 - 6 Mar 1954)
*Giuseppe Cardinal Bruno (20 Mar 1954 - 10 Nov 1954)
*Gaetano Cardinal Cicognani (18 Nov 1954 - 5 Feb 1962)
*Francesco Cardinal Roberti (14 Nov 1959 - 24 Mar 1969)
*Dino Cardinal Staffa (7 Apr 1967 - 7 Aug 1977)
*Pericle Cardinal Felici (13 Sep 1977 - 22 Mar 1982 )
*Aurelio Cardinal Sabattani (17 May 1982 - 1 Jul 1988)
*Achille Cardinal Silvestrini (1 Jul 1988 - 24 May 1991)
*Gilberto Cardinal Agustoni (2 Apr 1992 - 5 Oct 1998 )
*Mario Cardinal Pompedda (29 Nov 1997 - 27 May 2004 )
*Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski (5 Oct 1998 - 15 Nov 1999)
*Agostino Cardinal Vallini (27 May 2004 - 27 June 2008)
*Raymond Leo Burke (27 June 2008 - )

ources and external links

* [http://www.gcatholic.com/dioceses/romancuria/d13.htm Giga-Catholic Information]
*Catholic [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13147a.htm Roman Curia]

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