Papal Decretals

The term decretal, epistola decretalis, littera decretalis is used to describe a papal ruling, especially on ruling on ecclesiastical discipline, or a rescript (rescriptum) in response to an appeal.  A decretal may be distinguished from a privilege. The first known papal decretal was issued by Pope Siricius in 385.


Latin Text of Siricius's Decretal

Decretals were collected into collections and placed on an equal footing with conciliar canons ca. 500.
The most important and most influential early collection was the Collectio Dionysiana ca. 500, compiled by Dionysius Exiguus.  Dionysius translated the Greek canons from Nicea, Constantinople, Sardica (Sofia), and Chalcedon into Latin.

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