Religionis Zelus

The Bull Religionis Zelus

Introduction to the Amended Text

 Isidore Agudo, Archivist GeneraI O.F.M. Cap.

Through the good offices of Catherine Cibo, Duchess of Camerino, the Capuchin reform was approved by Pope CIement VII in a brief Exponi nobis given at Viterbo JuIy 3, 1528 and on the same day officially “sealed,” that is issued in the
form of a bull beginning with the words: Religionis Zelus.
While preserving the substance of the brief, the bull contains
 a number of changes. Along with the original document, which was given to Louis of Fossombrone, two authentic copies of the bull were made, one for Raphael, brother of Louis and the other for Catherine Cibo. None of these documents has survived.

It is said that the original was preserved in the town of Fossombrone. The chronicler Mario of Mercato Saracino arranged to have two true copies made at Ancona by Vincenzo Pavesio, notary apostolic, on July 10, 1579. From the copy kept in the general archives of the order (the other is preserved in the archives of the province of Ancona) Zachary Boverius (Annales I, 94-96) published the text of the bull, without, however, strictly adhering to the wording. Apart from some changes of little or no consequence, there are a number of omissions. Both Luke Wadding (Annales XVI, ad ano 1528 n XV) and the editor of the Bullarium Capuccinorum (1,3 ff) follow Bovarius’ text, with its omissions and introduce some variations of their own. The text found in the Bullarium Romanum (ed. Turin VI, 113-115) is certainly better. But it must be admitted that the Ancona version (even though the notary testified that it was “faithfully reproduced from the original and collated with it “word for word, “) is not free from copyist’s errors. Since scholars, especially Franciscan, who write about our history usually make use of the editions of Boverius or Wadding, or the Bullarium Cappuccinorum, we have published a corrected version of the authentic transcript which is purged of the more obvious errors. For the sake of clarity, we have kept the paragraph numbering used by Boverius and our Bullarium and which needed to be adopted.

Religionis Zelus

Clement, Bishop Servant of the Servants of God

To our beloved sons Louis and Raphael of Fossombrone, professed religious of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Greetings, and our apostolic blessing.

Your zeal for religion, uprightness of life and conduct and other praiseworthy qualities of sincerity and virtue of which we have been reliably informed lead us favourably to accede, as far as God permits, to your petition, particularly in those matters which concern the salvation of souls and the propagation of religion.[1]

1. Indeed, the petition you recently submitted recounts how, led by a fervent desire of serving the Most High[2], you entered the Order of Friars Minor Observant. Having made profession you remained in the order for some time and then, with permission of your superiors,[3] and in conformity with the apostolic brief concerning unity and harmony between the aforementioned friars and those known as Conventuals, you transferred to the community of the latter, being graciously received by the provincial of the province of the Marches and were associated with the Conventual friars of the said province. And when, for the good of your souls and the glory of God, you wished to lead an eremitical life and as far as human frailty would permit[4] to observe the rule of the blessed Francis, the aforesaid minister provincial granted you leave to approach the Roman Curia to ask and petition from us and the Apostolic See whatever would seem opportune for the salvation of your souls and the glory of God.

2. Our beloved son, Andrew, cardinal priest of the title of St. Prisca, protector of the above-mentioned order, also[5] gave permission for you to make a like petition, on condition, however, that one of your group acting on behalf of the others, would present himself each year to the minister provincial or the provincial chapter of the forementioned friars Conventual in whose territory you live as a token of submission. The minister, if it seems good to him, may visit you once a year, but not more often, and if he should find that you are not observing the rule, admonish you to observe it more faithfully and take appropriate means to secure obedience. Apart from this he may not transfer you from place to place, nor impose any new burdens on you or make demands on you, but rather is obliged to protect and defend you that you may better[6] serve the Most High in peace, as we understood to be contained in the letters patent from the same cardinal protector and minister provincial.

3. Wherefore we have been humbly petitioned on your behalf to grant you, out of our apostolic kindness permission to lead this eremitical life,[7] and whatever else may seem appropriate.

4. We, therefore, ever concerned for the salvation of souls, absolve you from any excommunication, suspension, interdict, and other ecclesiastical censures and penalties,[8] whether imposed by law or by individual, for whatever reason or occasion, if you should be bound by them in any way, insofar as they affect these presents. And we, by these presents, and by our apostolic authority, grant you permission to lead the eremitical life according to the rule, likewise.

5. To wear the habit with the pointed hood.

6. To receive all, diocesan clergy and priests as well as lay people, into your community.

7. To wear the beard.

8. To betake yourselves, with permission of the owners, to hermitages or other places to dwell there and lead an austere and eremitical life and to beg anywhere.

9. We further grant you full and free permission and faculties to enjoy each and every privilege, indult and concession made to the Order of Friars Minor and the Camaldolese hermits of Blessed Romuald, in general or in particular, which have been granted or will be granted[9] and which they in any way use and enjoy, so that you may use them and licitly enjoy them as they do.

10. And we command all archbishops, bishops and others of ecclesiastical dignity, as well as the canons of metropolitan and other cathedral churches,[10] by themselves or through others, to afford you efficacious protection[11] in all that concerns the above, and to see to it that you and your people peacefully possess and enjoy all the above and not allow you or any of your people to be disturbed, hindered or disquieted, contrary to the tenor of these presents. They are to restrain any who gainsay or reject them imposing as they may see fit, punishments and other legal measures,[12] invoking for this purpose, if need be, the secular arm.[13]

11. All this notwithstanding the decrees of our predecessor of happy memory, Boniface VIII, the one published by general council in two sessions, other constitutions and apostolic ordinances, as well as the statues of the above-mentioned order and its customs, even though confirmed by oath, apostolic letters issued by any of our predecessors in the apostolic see, or by ourselves, even those with the binding force of general law and of permanent application, by motu proprio and with knowledge and the fullness of apostolic authority, along with any clauses that have an annulling, voiding, revoking, confirming, restricting, restoring, corroborating, declarative, derogating effect,[14] or other clauses even though repeatedly granted, confirmed and renewed. Notwithstanding all the above, even though for their effective revocation a special, individual and literal mention must be made of them and their consequences as well as general expressions implying the same and even though it be expressly stated that they are by no means revocable. With full knowledge, we by these presents expressly revoke their effect as well as the forms to be observed in individual instances, for this particular at least, while all the rest remain in force. All other things to the contrary notwithstanding. Let no one, therefore, in any way tamper with this writing, concession, command and revocation, or temerariously dare to contradict it. If anyone should presume to attempt this[15] let him know that he shall incur the anger of Almighty God and of His blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

Given at Viterbo, on the feast of Our Lord’s Incarnation, on the third of July, in the fifth year of our pontificate.

  1. Vestris – nostris. Trans.

  2. Fervore serviendi – favore serviendo. Trans.
  3. Vestri – nostri. Trans.

  4. Quantum – quanta. Trans.
  5. Indulsit – omitted. Trans.

  6. Famulari – tumulari. Trans.

  7. Huiusmodi – omitted. Bov., Wadd., and Bull. Cap.

  8. Harum serie … consentes – omitted. Bov., Wadd., and Bull. Cap.
  9. Potiuntur – omitted. Bov., Wadd., and Bull. Cap.
  10. Discretioni vestrae – omitted. Wadd.

  11. Efficacis … praemissis – omitted. Wadd.

  12. Juris – in eis. Trans.
  13. Etiam – omitted. Bov., Wadd., and Bull. Cap.
  14. Mentis – mensis. Bov. and Bull. Cap
  15. Ei – ex. Trans.