Council of Trent - 1545-1563 A.D.

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By Session

Bull of Indiction

The First Session

  • Decree touching the opening of the Council
  • Indiction of the next session

The Bull of Indiction announcing the Sacred Ecumenical and General Council of Trent under the Sovereign Pontiff Paul III continued

    We know that what may be looked for from our councils is a matter of uncertainty. But, seeing that it is written, commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it, we have resolved rather to trust in the clemency and mercy of God, than to distrust our own weakness. For, upon engaging in good works, it often happens, that what human councils fail in, the divine power accomplishes.

Wherefore, relying and resting on the authority of that Almighty God, Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, and on the authority of His blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, (an authority) which we also exercise on earth; with the advice also and assent of our venerable brethren, the cardinals of the holy Roman Church; after having removed and annulled, as by these presents we do remove and annul, the suspension aforenamed, we indict, announce, convoke, appoint, and decree a sacred, ecumenical and general council,--to be opened on the ensuing calends of November of the present year, MDXLII, from the Incarnation of the Lord,--in the city of Trent, a place commodious, free, and convenient for all nations; and to be there prosecuted, concluded, and completed, with God's help, to His glory and praise, and the welfare of the whole Christian people; requiring, exhorting, admonishing all, of every country, as well our venerable brethren the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and our beloved sons the abbots, as also all others soever, unto whom, by right or privilege, the power has been granted of sitting in general councils, and of delivering their sentiments therein; enjoining moreover, and strictly command ing them, by virtue of the oath which they have taken to us and to this holy See, and in virtue of holy obedience, and under the other pains, which, by law or custom, are usually passed and proposed in the celebration of councils, against those who do not attend, that they are, undoubtedly to repair to and to be present themselves in person at this sacred council--unless they shall happen to be hindered by some just impediment, of which, however, they shall be obliged to furnish proof--or at all events by their own lawful deputies and proctors.

And we also beseech the aforenamed emperor, and the most Christian king, as also the other kings, dukes, and princes, whose presence, now if ever, would be of especial advantage to the most holy faith of Christ, and of all Christians; conjuring them by the bowels of the mercy of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ,--the truth of whose faith, and whose religion are now so sorely assailed both from within and without,--that, if they would have the Christian commonweal safe, if they feel themselves bound and obliged, by the Lord's great benefits towards them, they abandon not His own cause and interests; and come themselves to the celebration of the sacred council, where their piety and virtue would be greatly conducive to the common good, to their own welfare, and that of others, both in time and eternity. But if, which we hope may not be the case, they shall be unable to come in person, let them at least send, with an authoritative commission, as their authoritative commission, as their ambassadors, men of weight, who may each in the council represent the person of his prince with prudence and dignity.

But above all, let this--which is a thing very easy on their parts--be their care, that, from their respective kingdoms and provinces, the bishops and prelates set forth without tergiversation and delay; a request which God Himself, and we, have a right to obtain from the prelates and princes of Germany in a special manner; for as it is principally on their account, and at their instance, that the council has been indicted and convoked, and in the very city which they desired, let them not think it burthensome to celebrate and adorn it with the presence of their whole body. That thus,- with God going before us in our deliberations, and holding before our minds the light of His own wisdom and truth, - we may, in the said sacred ecumenical council, in a better and more com-modious manner, treat of, and, with the charity of all conspiring to one end, deliberate and discuss, execute and bring to the desired issue, speedily and happily, whatsoever appertains to the integrity and truth of the Christian religion; the restoration of good and the correction of evil manners; the peace, unity, and concord both of Christian princes and peoples; and whatsoever is needful for repelling those assaults of barbarians and infidels, with which they seek the overthrow of all Christendom.

And that this our letter, and the contents thereof, may come to the knowledge of all whom it concerns, and that no one may plead as an excuse ignorance thereof, especially also as there may not perhaps be free access to all, unto whom our letter ought to be individually communicated; we will and ordain, that in the Vatican Basilica of the prince of the apostles, and in the Lateran Church, at the time when the multitude of the people is wont to assemble there to hear the divine service, it be publicly read in a loud voice by officers of our court, or by certain public notaries; and, after having been read, be affixed to the doors of the said churches, also to the gates of the apostolic Chancery, and to the usual place in the Campo di Fiore, where it shall for some time hang exposed to be read and seen by all; and, when removed thence, copies thereof shall still remain affixed in the same places.

For we will that, by being thus read, published, and affixed, the letter aforesaid shall oblige and bind, after the interval of two months from the day of being published and affixed, all and each of those whom it includes, even as if it had been communicated and read to them in person. And we ordain and decree, that an unhesitating and undoubting faith be given to copies thereof written, or subscribed, by the hand of a public notary, and guaranteed by the seal of some ecclesiastic constituted in authority. Wherefore, let no one infringe this our letter of indiction, announcement, convocation, statute, decree, mandate, precept, and prayer, or with rash daring go contrary thereunto.

But if any one shall presume to attempt this, let him know that he will incur the indignation of Almighty God, and of His blessed apostles Peter and Paul. Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, in the year MDXLII of the Lord's Incarnation, on the eleventh of the calends of June, in the eighth year of our pontificate.


December 13, 1545

Celebrated under the sovereign Pontiff, Paul III, on the thirteenth day of the month of December, in the year of the Lord, 1545.

Decree for the Opening of the Council

    Doth it please you,--unto the praise and glory of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost ; for the increase and exaltation of the Christian faith and religion; for the extirpation of heresies; for the peace and union of the Church; for the reformation of the Clergy and Christian people; for the depression and extinction of the enemies of the Christian name,--to decree and declare that the sacred and general council of Trent do begin, and hath begun?

They answered: It pleaseth us.

And whereas the solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is near, and other festivals of the closing and opening year follow thereupon, doth it please you, that the first ensuing session be held on the Thursday after the Epiphany, which will be the seventh of the month of January, in the year of the Lord MDXLVI?

They answered: It pleaseth us.

     End of First Session


Celebrated on the seventh day of the month of January,1546.


The sacred and holy Synod of Trent--lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding therein--recognising, with the blessed apostle James, that Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights, who, to those who ask of him wisdom, giveth to all abundantly, and upbraideth them not; and knowing withal that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, hath ordained and decreed, that all and each of the faithful of Christ, assembled in the city of Trent, be exhorted, as they are hereby exhorted, to amend themselves of their evils and sins heretofore committed, and to walk henceforth in the fear of the Lord; not to fulfil the lusts of the flesh; to be instant in prayer; to confess more frequently; to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist; to visit churches; to fulfil, in fine, as far as each one shall be able, the commandments of the Lord; and, furthermore, to pray daily in private for peace between Christian princes, and for the unity of the Church: and as regards the bishops, and all others soever constituted in the priestly order, who are celebrating together an ecumenical council in this city, that they give heed to apply themselves assiduously to the praises [Page 14] of God; to offer up victims, praises, and prayers; to celebrate the sacrifice of the mass on each Sunday at least, the day whereon God made the light, rose again from the dead, and poured forth the Holy Ghost upon the disciples; making, as the same Holy Ghost enjoins by the apostle, supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgiving, for our most holy lord the Pope, for the emperor, for kings, and others who are placed in high stations, and for all men, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, may enjoy peace, and see an increase of faith. Furthermore, it exhorts that they fast at least on every Friday, in memory of the passion of the Lord, and give alms to the poor: further, on every Thursday there shall be celebrated, in the cathedral church, the mass of the Holy Ghost, with the litanies and other prayers appointed for this end; and on the same day there shall be said, in the other churches, at least the litanies and prayers; and during the time that the sacred services are being performed, let there be no talking or conversing together, but with mouth and mind association with the celebrant. And forasmuch as It behoveth bishops to be blameless, sober, chaste, ruling well their own household, (the Council) exhorts also that, above all, each observe sobriety at table, and moderation in diet; further, that, whereas idle conversations are often wont to arise there, the reading of the divine Scriptures be introduced, even at the tables of bishops; and let each teach and charge his servants not to be quarrelsome, given to wine, immodest, covetous, proud, blasphemous, and lovers of pleasures; in fine, let them shun vice and follow after virtue, and in dress, demeanour, and in all their actions show forth modesty, as becomes the servants of the servants of God.

Moreover, whereas it is the chief care, solicitude, and intention of this sacred and holy council, that, the darkness of heresies, which during so many years has covered the earth, being dispelled, the light, brightness, and purity of Catholic truth may, by the assistance of Jesus Christ, who is the true light, shine forth; and that those things which need reformation may be reformed; the said Synod exhorts all Catholics here assembled, [Page 15] and to be assembled, and especially those skilled in sacred letters, that by sedulous meditation they ponder diligently within themselves, by what ways and means the intention of the Synod may be best carried out and obtain the desired effect; that, in the most prompt and prudent manner, the things to be condemned, may be condemned; and those to be approved of be approved; that so, throughout the whole world, all may, with one mouth, and with the same confession of faith, glorify God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And in delivering their sentiments, when the priests of the Lord are sitting together in the place of benediction, no one--agreeably to the statute of the council of Toledo--ought either to be boisterous by immoderate outcries, or to cause disturbance by tumult; none to be contentious with false, vain, or obstinate disputation; but let whatsoever is said be so tempered by the mildest utterance of the words spoken, that neither the hearers may be offended, nor the rectitude of a correct judgment be warped by the mind being troubled.

Furthermore, this sacred Synod has ordained and decreed, that if it should chance to happen that any do not sit in their due places, and (thus) deliver their sentiments, even under the word Placet, (It pleaseth us,) are present at the Congregations, and take part in any other act whatsoever during the council, none shall thereby be prejudiced, none acquire a new right.


After this, the next Session was indicted for Thursday, the fourth of the ensuing February.


Celebrated on the fourth day of the month of February, in the year 1546.


In the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost.

This sacred and holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of [Page 16] Trent,--lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding therein,--considering the magnitude of the matters to be treated of, especially of those comprised under the two heads, of the extirpating of heresies, and the reforming of manners, for the sake of which chiefly It is assembled, and recognizing with the apostles, that Its wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the spirits of wickedness in the high places, exhorts, with the same apostle, all and each above all things, to be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power, in all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith they may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one, and to take the helmet of salvation, with the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. Wherefore, that this its pious solicitude may begin and proceed by the grace of God, It ordains and decrees that, before all other things, a confession of faith is to be set forth; following herein the examples of the Fathers, who have been wont, in the most sacred coucils, at the beginning of the Actions thereof, to oppose this shield against heresies; and with this alone, at times, have they drawn the unbelieving to the faith, overthrown heretics, and confirmed the faithful. For which cause, this council has thought good, that the Symbol of faith which the holy Roman Church makes use of,--as being that principle wherein all who profess the faith of Christ necessarily agree, and that firm and alone foundation against which the gates of hell shall never prevail,--be expressed in the very same words in which it is read in all the churches. Which Symbol is as follows: I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages; God of God, light of light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made: who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from the heavens, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of [Page 17] the Virgin Mary, and was made man: crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, he suffered and was buried; and he rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures; and he ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of the Father ; and again he will come with glory to judge the living and the dead; of whose kingdom there shall be no end: and in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and the giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is adored and glorified; who spoke by the prophets and one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.


The same sacred and holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of Trent,--lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding therein, -- understanding that many prelates in divers places are girt for their journey, and that some also are on their way hither; and considering that all that may be decreed by the said sacred Synod may seem to be in so much the greater estimation and honour with all men, as it shall have been sanctioned and confirmed by a more numerous and fuller council and attendance of Fathers, has resolved and decreed, that the next Session after the present be celebrated on the Thursday after Laetare Sunday next; but that, in the interim, the discussion and examination of those things which it shall seem fit to the said Synod to discuss and examine be not deferred.


Celebrated on the eighth day of the month of April, in the year MDXLVI.


The sacred and holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of Trent,--lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the Same three legates of the Apostolic Sec presiding therein,--keeping this [Page 18] always in view, that, errors being removed, the purity itself of the Gospel be preserved in the Church; which (Gospel), before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand; (the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament--seeing that one God is the author of both --as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession. And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one's mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second. Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according [Page 19] to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle. But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church.


Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,--considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,--ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.

Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; [Page 20] or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established.

And wishing, as is just, to impose a restraint, in this matter, also on printers, who now without restraint,--thinking, that is, that whatsoever they please is allowed them,--print, without the license of ecclesiastical superiors, the said books of sacred Scripture, and the notes and comments upon them of all persons indifferently, with the press ofttimes unnamed, often even fictitious, and what is more grievous still, without the author's name; and also keep for indiscriminate sale books of this kind printed elsewhere; (this Synod) ordains and decrees, that, henceforth, the sacred Scripture, and especially the said old and vulgate edition, be printed in the most correct manner possible; and that it shall not be lawful for any one to print, or cause to be printed, any books whatever, on sacred matters, without the name of the author; nor to sell them in future, or even to keep them, unless they shall have been first examined, and approved of, by the Ordinary; under pain of the anathema and fine imposed in a canon of the last Council of Lateran: and, if they be Regulars, besides this examination and approval, they shall be bound to obtain a license also from their own superiors, who shall have examined the books according to the form of their own statutes. As to those who lend, or circulate them in manuscript, without their having been first examined, and approved of, they shall be subjected to the same penalties as printers: and they who shall have them in their possession or shall read them, shall, unless they discover the authors, be themselves regarded as the authors. And the said approbation of books of this kind shall be given in writing; and for this end it shall appear authentically at the beginning of the book, whether the book be written, or printed; and all this, that is, both the approbation and the examination, shall be done gratis, that so what ought to be approved, may be approved, and what ought to be condemned, may be condemned.

Besides the above, wishing to repress that temerity, by which the words and sentences of sacred Scripture are turned and [Page 21] twisted to all sorts of profane uses, to wit, to things scurrilous, fabulous, vain, to flatteries, detractions, superstitions, impious and diabolical incantations, sorceries, and defamatory libels; (the Synod) commands and enjoins, for the doing away with this kind of irreverence and contempt, and that no one may hence forth dare in any way to apply the words of sacred Scripture to these and such like purposes; that all men of this description, profaners and violators of the word of God, be by the bishops restrained by the penalties of law, and others of their own appointment.


Likewise, this sacred and holy Synod resolves and decrees, that the next ensuing Session be held and celebrated on the Thursday after the next most sacred festival of Pentecost.

For the rest of the Sessions, return to OVERVIEW OF THE SESSIONS OF TRENT

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