Eastern Canon Law

Program Information

The Pontifical Oriental Institute houses the only Catholic Faculty of Eastern Canon Law in the world. A major focus of work in this Institute is the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which is the canonical code for all Eastern Catholic churches. Research is also conducted on the historical development of canons, the theology and practice of canon law, as well as the study of particular canons of specific churches. As in the other Faculties, students pursue licentiate (I.C.O.L.) and doctorate degrees (I.C.O.D.).


The Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana decrees, “For a person to join the Faculty for the attainment of academic degrees, he or she must have the qualification required for admission to the universities of one’s own nation or the region where the Faculty is located” (art. 32.1). Dated May 30, 1998, the Congregation for Catholic Education cancels any previous derogation and reiterates the faithful application of this provision.


Students must submit an academic transcript proving their eligibility of entrance according to the qualification mentioned above. They must also submit a copy of their diploma for the completion of a Bachelor’s of Theology OR a document proving that they have successfully completed their studies equivalent to the first cycle in a major seminary or in a similar academic institution.


It is up to the Dean to decide on a possible equivalence, taking into account the specific needs of each Faculty. To those requesting equivalence, please submit the following documents:


  • List of courses completed in philosophy and theology, indicating the number of hours for each course and names of the teachers;
  • A transcript showing grades and the completion of course exams.

Italian Language


Knowledge of the Italian language is essential for attending courses at the Institute (cf. Statutes, Art. 83; 96). Students without sufficient knowledge of Italian who are wanting to enroll in the Licentiate are expected to attend Italian courses offered by the Institute.

Clerics & Religious

Clerics and men and women religious must enclose with their application a letter of recommendation from their own bishop or religious superior. They are also required to declare their domicile at an ecclesiastical or religious house college.


As established in the Congregation for Catholic Education, all students belonging to the secular clergy (priests or seminarians) should dwell in colleges or institutes in Rome, since all those who reside there do not have to submit, by November 30, the special rescript of extra-collegiality issued by the Vicariate of Rome.


The laity must enclose with their application form a letter of recommendation from an ecclesiastical or academic authority. For any lay person from countries outside the Schengen Treaty, it is necessary that they present by the Ordinary of their diocese of origin some documentation about the payment of academic and non-academic expenses (food, housing, health care, etc.).


Laity are also required to submit the following documents:


  • A standard form of registration, which may be obtained from the Secretariat, completed in block letters;
  • An original passport (with a copy) or identity card bearing the personal information of the student;
  • Two photographs;
  • Students from countries who are not members of the European Union should provide a Student Visa, issued by the Italian Consulate in the country of origin (the Tourist Visa is not valid);
  • Payment of the registration fee.

Course Credits

Course credits are calculated in correspondence to an hour of weekly teaching throughout the semester. The duration of each course and seminar is normally 24 hours of instruction (2 credits), and 12 hours (1 credit).


Since the Holy See has joined the Bologna Process, the Congregation for Catholic Education has adopted the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) along with the traditional credit system. 1 ECTS credit equals 25 hours of student work: 8 hours dedicated to lessons, 15 hours dedicated to study, and 2 hours to exam preparation.


The Licentiate of Eastern Canon Law takes place over three years. Students will study the ordinary canon law of the Eastern Catholic Church and deepen their understanding, as far as possible, of the particular law of individual churches.


Students will successfully attend major and minor courses, which are compulsory, with an additional 10 credits (15 ECTS) of electives. To gain a broad education, students can choose courses in other faculties with the prior consent of the Dean.


A seminar is prescribed and offered by the faculty in the 2nd and 3rd year. In order to make the learning experience of each seminar more profitable, no more than ten students will be enrolled in each seminar.


To attain the required credits for electives, two 12 hour courses (1 credit / 1.5 ECTS) are equivalent to one normal course. It is also necessary to achieve 9 ECTS in form of participation in academic events (Symposia, Conferences, etc.), which are organized by the Institute (any absence of concurrent courses must be authorized by the course professor).


Each student is required to write a proposal for the chosen subject of their licentiate dissertation and submit it to the Secretariat before the end of 2nd year. The dissertation must be filed with the Secretariat in two bound copies before the start of the examination session in order to achieve the licentiate degree. The dissertation must be at least 30 pages (approximately 2,000 characters per page), not counting the bibliography.


Proper knowledge of the Italian language is required in order to attend courses. Latin is required for understanding the canonical texts. As for Eastern languages, the Institute requires an adequate knowledge of one ancient language for the interpretation of original sources. In order to be admitted to the comprehensive exam of the licentiate, students will be examined by a teacher designated by the Dean.


All courses end with an exam. Students must first obtain the signature of the professor certifying attendance in order to write the exam. At least two-thirds of lessons (cf. Statutes, Art. 46) must be attended. There are two ordinary sessions of exams at the end of the 1st semester and at the end of the 2nd semester. Outside of these times, no one can take an exam without the written permission of the Dean.

Licentiate Requirements

A written and oral exam must be taken after submitting the written thesis. The student will have four hours for the written exam. Ten themes are chosen by the teachers of the main disciplines about a month before the start of the exam. Three themes are chosen by the Dean, who will indicate the books to which access is authorized. The student then chooses one of the three themes indicated by the Dean.


The oral exam includes a 30-minute session in which every teacher questions for 15 minutes. The oral exam covers the entire Eastern Canon Law. Marks are determined out of “20” for the dissertation, “5” for the written exam, and “20” for the oral examination. The other 2nd cycle tests retain their grading equivalencies. The final grade of the Licentiate is the average of these marks.

Study Plan

Students who have obtained a Licentiate with the Eastern Institute must achieve 5 credits / 7.5 ECTS in electives, in addition to the courses required for the Doctorate cycle. These credits can be achieved even during the Licentiate, or through attending, with the approval of the Dean, the optional subjects offered in the cycle of the Licentiate. Students who have obtained a Licentiate in Eastern Canon Law at another academic institution, in addition to the courses required for the PhD cycle, must acquire 10 credits / 15 ECTS of optional courses.


At the end of the 1st half of the 1st year of the 3rd cycle, each student must present their project for doctoral dissertation, as required by the Faculty regulations. This project will be evaluated by a committee of at least three teachers appointed by the Dean. The project will be considered approved only after the favorable opinion of the Committee.


At the end of the first year of the 3rd cycle, students will be asked to give a 45 minute lecture on the subject of their dissertation (lectio coram) in front of a panel of at least three teachers appointed by the Dean. The commission, after due evaluation, will determine the continuation of the doctorate.

Modern Languages

For the sake of one’s research, it is required to speak at least two modern languages other than Italian, which will be determined by the area of specialization and above all in relation to the needs of the doctoral dissertation.

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