What Is a Papal Edict?

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the Papal enclave in Rome.

Papal edicts are official decrees or orders issued from the Pope. Papal edicts have been issued for centuries, many yielding significant historical events involving famous historical figures.

1 The Pope

The Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The term is derived from the Greek word “pappas” meaning “father.”

2 The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church traces its history back to Simon Peter, one of the original twelve Apostles of Christ. According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Peter was commissioned by Christ to lead the church after his ascension making Peter the first father of the church.

3 Office of the Pope

The Pope is elected by majority vote by the existing cardinals. Any Roman Catholic male in good standing may be elected, but the candidate is usually drawn from amongst the cardinals.

4 Edicts or Bulls

Papal edicts have also been referred to as Papal Bulls. The term is derived from the “bulla” or seal of the Pope used on official documents.

5 Edicts in History

One of the most famous Papal edicts was the ex-communication of Martin Luther in 1520. Luther’s defiance of certain key points of Catholic doctrine led to a revolutionary split from the Catholic church and paved the way for Protestant Christianity.

Jullie Chung writes regularly for various websites. She is a nationally certified fitness trainer and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and trains regularly in yoga, flatwater kayaking, boxing and mixed martial arts. An avid outdoor fan, she regularly hikes, climbs and trail runs.