Should a Minister Provincial be unable to fulfil his office, the Vicar Provincial shall take his place, while retaining the title of Vicar until the Ordinary Chapter (Const. 218).
The question arises: who then shall hold the office of Vicar Provincial, when the current Vicar Provincial becomes the Provincial Superior and Vicar Regent?
Regarding other vacant offices, the Constitutions establish that: When an office is vacant outside Chapter, the Vicar succeeds thereto, by virtue of the law itself, until new elections are held. Appointment is made to all other offices by the respective Minister with his Definitory. (Const. 190 §1)
To settle this question, as ordered by the Minister General, the Procurator’s Office considered it appropriate to request an authoritative interpretation from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, concerning the faculty to appoint a “Pro-Vicar” in these cases.
The Secretary Archbishop responded with a letter dated August 27, 2019. In it, he confirmed that the office of “Pro-Vicar” complies with the provisions of proper and universal law and added that this designation is to be provided by the Minister General with his Definitory. (Prot. 44 938/2018)
Consequently, any Province which no longer has a Minister Provincial, but is being led by a Vicar Provincial, can, through its Provincial Superiors, present one or more Definitors who are fit to hold the office of “Pro-Vicar”, so that the Minister General with his Definitory may proceed to his designation by election.
The same procedure can be followed for the Custodies, whose Custodial Superiors shall turn to their own Minister Provincial, who, together with his Definitory, shall elect the Custodial “Pro-Vicar”.
Needless to say, the elected “Pro Vicar” shall enjoy ordinary executive power, being in all respects the Vicar of the Major Superior (CIC can. 134 §1).
Friar Maurizio DI PAOLO