Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches

Codification of canon law for the Eastern Catholic 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 Code of Canon Law.

History of codification[edit]

The 23 sui iuris Churches which collectively make up the Eastern Catholic Churches had 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 Eastern Catholicism. Pope John Paul II promulgated the 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. 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. 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. 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 Fidem[edit]

In 1998, Pope John Paul II issued the motu proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem, 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”.[6]

Mitis et Misericors Iesus[edit]

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]

Competentias quasdam decernere[edit]

The motu proprio Competentias quasdam decernere issued 15 February 2022 changed some[which?] canons.[9]


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

Preliminary canons[edit]

The six 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”[10] 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 and political societies. Therefore, they still have their force, notwithstanding any prescriptions of the CCEO to the contrary.

Churches sui iuris and rites[edit]

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, can. 27). The term sui iuris is an innovation of the CCEO, and denotes the relative autonomy of the Eastern Catholic Churches. This canonical term, pregnant with many juridical nuances, indicates the God-given mission of the Eastern 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.[11][b]

See also[edit]

  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.[12][11] 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, Chaldean, 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.”


  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. ^ 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. ^ CNA. “Pope Francis changes 10 articles of the Code of Canon Law, which rules the Church”. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2022-02-22.
  10. ^ Code of Canons of Oriental Churchs (I IntraText Edition CT ed.). Èulogos SpA. 1990. Can. 3.
  11. ^ a b “Malankara Catholic Church sui iuris: Juridical Status and Power of Governance – Eastern Christianity – Religious Organizations”. Scribd. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  12. ^ “Österreichisches Archiv für Kirchenrecht”. Herder. 8 July 1994. Retrieved 8 July 2018 – via Google Books.


  • 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.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]