Sacra Romana Rota

Latin: rota, a wheel

One of the three tribunals of the Roman Curia. The origin of the name is uncertain. As a collegiate tribunal the Rota dates from the 13th century but, due to the rise of the Roman Congregations, by the 19th century it had become only a civil tribunal. It was reestablished by Pope Saint Pius X in 1908. The tribunal is made up of ten judges called auditors, chosen by the pope from various countries. The oldest by appointment is the dean. Besides notaries and other officers, there are the promoter of justice or prosecuting attorney and the defender of the bond for cases relating to marriage, sacred ordination, and religious profession. Cases are heard by three of the auditors in turn, and sometimes by the full court. Ordinarily the Rota is an appellate court. The only cases tried before it in the first instance are civil causes against residential bishops, and against ecclesiastical corporations which are immediately subject to the Holy See, as well as those which are referred to it by the pope.