What is a Nuncio (Legate)? What are His Duties?

His Excellency The Archbishop Nuncio Dr. Anthony J. Scuderi, DD, PsyD, DMin.


A Primatial nunciature (Nuncio) is a top-level diplomatic mission of The Ecumenical Primate (Holy See). In addition, the nuncio serves as the liaison between the Ecumenical Primate (The Holy See) and the Church in that particular nation. The nuncio has an important role in the selection of bishops.

The Primatial Nuncio appointment is the same as that in the Roman Codex (cf. Canons 361-365 of the Code of Canon Law) with the exception that this appointment is made by the Ecumenical Primate.  A Primatial Nuncio is the personal representative of the Ecumenical Primate in a particular part of the Worldwide Catholic Church, a particular country, or a broader interpretation of countries as defined by the Ecumenical Primate. Thus, the Nuncio has two main functions: one relating within the Church, the other relating with States and Continents and Countries.

The duties of the Primatial Nuncio are those found in the Roman Code of Canon Law encompassing Canons 362 through 367 inclusive. Where there is written the words, “Roman Pontiff” shall be inserted, “Ecumenical Primate” and where it is written “Primatial See”, it shall be written as, “Primatial See of the ECCC” or “Primatial See”, or “Holy See or Holy See of the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ-Worldwide” or “Holy See of the ECCC.”  Any, and all references to the Roman Pontiff shall be assigned to the Ecumenical Primate of the ECCC and any, and all references to Primatial See, are assigned to the Seat of the Ecumenical Primate.

The duties of the Primatial Nuncio (The Primatial Nunciature, The Primatial Legate)

The Ecumenical Primate, by virtue of his office and by his independent right of said office will nominate, send, transfer, and recall his own Nuncio to particular churches in various nations or regions, to states and to public authorities; the norms of international law are to be observed concerning the sending and the recalling of the Nuncio appointed to states (See Roman Can. 362.)

To Nuncio of the Ecumenical Primate is entrusted the responsibility of representing the Primate in a stable manner to particular churches and also to states and public authorities to which they are sent (See Roman Can 363)

The Nuncio represents the Primatial See who is appointed to a Primatial mission as delegates or observers as International Councils or at conferences and meetings (Ref. Roman Canon 363§2).

AN-103: The principal duty of the Ecumenical Primatial Nuncio is to work so that day by day bonds of unity that exist between the Primatial See and the particular churches become stronger and more efficacious. Therefore, it belongs to the Nuncio for his area:

  • 1. Send information to the Ecumenical Primate on the condition of the particular churches and all that touches the life of the Church and the believing people of God for the good of their souls.

  • 2. To assist the bishops by action and counsel, while leaving intact the exercise of the bishops’ legitimate power.

  • 3. To foster close relationships with the conference of bishops by offering it assistance in every way

  • 4. To transmit or propose the names of candidates to the Ecumenical Primate in reference to the naming of bishops and to instruct the informative process concerning those to be promoted in accord with the norms given by the Ecumenical Primate.

  • 5. To strive for the promotion of matters which concern peace, progress, and the cooperative efforts of the People of God.

  • 6. To cooperate with the bishops in fostering suitable relationships between the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ-Worldwide (ECCC) and other churches or ecclesial communities and non-Christian religions.

  • 7. In concerted actions with the bishops to protect what pertains to the mission of the Church and the Primatial See in relations with the leaders of the State.

  • 8. To exercise the faculties and fulfill the other mandates committed to the Nuncio by the Ecumenical Primate.

                   (Above 1 through 8 is in direct reference to °1 through °8 of Roman Canon 364).

The special responsibility of the Nuncio who also exercises a legation to states in accord with the norms of international law (Ref. Roman Canon 365);

  • 1. To promote and foster relations between the Ecumenical Primate and the authorities of the state

  • 2. To deal with questions concerning the relations between the Church and the state, and in a special manner to deal with the drafting and implementation of concordats and other agreements of this type (Ref. Roman Can 365 1°-2°).

In conducting the negotiations mentioned in AN-104§1, as circumstances suggest, the Primatial Nuncio is to seek out the opinion and counsel of the bishops of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction and also inform them on the progress of these negotiations and report all details to the Ecumenical Primate (See in part Roman Can 365§2).

In view of the special character of the Nuncio’s role:

  • 1. The headquarters of the Primatial Nuncio is exempt from the power of governance of the local ordinary unless it is a question of celebrating marriages or any other ecclesiastical ministry as needed or instructed to do so by the Ecumenical Primate                               (See in part Roman Can. 366 1°).

  • 2. After he has previously advised the local ordinaries insofar as this is possible, a Primatial Nuncio is allowed to perform liturgical celebrations, even in pontifical, in all the churches within his legation (Nunciature).

The function of the Primatial Nuncio does not cease when the Holy See becomes vacant unless the contrary is determined in the Primatial letters; it does cease, however, when the Nuncio’s mandate has been fulfilled, informed of his recall or dismissal, including censure and more serious issues that may arise with cause, or when the Nuncio resigns and that resignation has been accepted by the Ecumenical Primate (See in part Roman Can. 367).

Relations within the Church

The ecclesial role of a Primatial Nuncio is to make firm and effective the bonds of unity that exist between the Ecumenical Primate and the Church throughout the world (Referenced from Codex, Can. 362-367. Cpt. 5. The Legates of the Roman Pontiff).  

  • 1. To inform the Ecumenical Primate about the conditions in which the particular Churches find themselves and matters which affect the life of the Church and the good of souls.

  • 2. To assist the Bishops within that particular country, continent, state or other body as directed by the Ecumenical Primate (Holy See) by action and advice, leaving intact the exercise of their lawful power.

  • 3. To foster close relations with the Bishops Conference, offering it every assistance. In connection with the appointment of Bishops, to send or propose names of candidates to the Holy See, as well as to prepare the informative process about those who may be promoted, in accordance with the norms issued by the Holy See.

  • 4. To promote whatever may contribute to peace, progress, and the united efforts of peoples.

  • 5. To work with the Bishops to foster appropriate exchanges between the Catholic Church and other Churches or ecclesial communities, and indeed with non-Christian religions.

  • 6. To work with the Bishops to safeguard, so far as the rules of the state are concerned, those things which relate to the mission of the Church and of the Holy See.

Relations with States

The diplomatic role of a Primatial Nuncio is to establish and maintain a relationship of mutual understanding between Church and State, for the peace and progress of each nation, and peace between different peoples.

  • 1. To promote and foster relationships between the Holy See and State authorities.

  • 2. To address questions concerning relations between Church and State, drawing up concordats and other similar agreements, and giving effect to them.

Non-Clerical Status of a Nuncio

Normally, a Nuncio is elevated to the Office of Archbishop and presented with the Pallium of Office only by the Ecumenical Primate and designated to an assignment.  In the case where the Ecumenical Primate, for the sake of ecumenism chooses not to delegate a cleric, a layperson may enjoy the same functions as the clerical nuncio but may not enjoy any clerical office or title or accouterments thereof.