Help support New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download or CD-ROM. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
The title of certain papal officials. The Low Latin word camera (chamber) means the treasure of the prince, monastery, etc.; also in general the royal treasury (fiscus), the temporal administration of a monastery. The term camerarius was, therefore, very frequently equivalent to civil treasurer, and in the case of monasteries meant the monk charged with the administration of the monastic property. This is also the sense of the Italian term camerlengo, still borne at Rome by three ecclesiastics, (1) The Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, (2) the Camerlengo of the Sacred College (of Cardinals), and (3) the Camerlengo of the Roman Clergy. The Roman confraternities have also an officer similarly entitled.
The Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church is the administrator of the property and the revenues of the Holy See, and as such is successor both of the Archdeacon of Rome and of the Vicedominus, the former of whom administered the property of the entire Roman Church, i.e. the Diocese of Rome, while the latter was especially charged with the administration of the mensa of the pope and the entire personnel of the patriarchium Lateranense (St. John Lateran).
This latter official was the same as the syncellus at Constantinople. The office of Archdeacon of Rome was suppressed by Gregory VII, himself its last incumbent under Alexander II; owing to its numerous ancient privileges and rights it had come to be a frequent hindrance to independent papal action. When these were lopped off, the (Roman) office of arch-deacon shrank to its original proportions. Thereafter the cardinal to whom was committed the supervision of the Camera Apostolica (a term even then customary for the administration of the temporalities of the Holy See) was known as Camerarius or, in popular language, Camerlengo. The subordinates of this official are known as clerks (chierici) of the Camera; chief among them are the treasurer and the auditor di Camera. Their body is known as Reverenda Camera Apostolica (see APOSTOLIC CAMERA). When the cardinal-camerlengo happened to be absent on some pontifical business, a vice-camerlengo was chosen in his place. The office of camerlengo included not only the supervision of the immediate properties of the Holy See, but also the fiscal administration of the Pontifical States, the Patrimonium Petri.
The following were its chief attributions:
The Camerlengo of the Sacred College (of Cardinals) does not antedate Leo X (1513-21). He administers all fees and revenues belonging to the College of Cardinals, pontificates at the requiem Mass for a deceased cardinal, and is charged with the registry of the "Acta Consistoralia" (see PAPAL CONSISTORY).
The Camerlengo of the Roman Clergy is elected by the canons and parish priests of Rome; he has an honorary place in the great processions, presides over the ecclesiastical conferences of the parochial clergy, acts as arbiter in all questions of precedence, and administers the "oath of free estate" (juramentum de statu libero), obligatory on persons desirous of marrying.
BOUIX, De Curia romana (Pari, 1880); BANGEN, Die römische Curie (Münster, 1854); HUMPHREY, Urbs et Orbis (London, 1899), 359-60.
APA citation. (1908). Camerlengo. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03217a.htm
MLA citation. "Camerlengo." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03217a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Wm Stuart French, Jr. Dedicated to Howard Dawson Taylor, Jr.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at newadvent.org. Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.