The judicial system
1. In the latin patriarchal diocese of Jerusalem, as it is for the universal catholic Church, the administration of the justice is secured by the ecclesiastical tribunals, which apply, in their processes, « The Code of Canon Law » (1983). The processes deal, especially, with the matrimonial cases, as: the nullity of marriage, the separation of the spouses, the dispensation from a ratified and non-consummated marriage, the presumed death of a spouse.
2. Except this, the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical tribunals of the latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, is extended also to the cases related to the Personal Statute whose jurisdiction, elsewhere, belongs to the civil tribunals. This jurisdiction is equal to the jurisdiction given to the other communities: christian, moslem and jewish. The law applied is « The law of Personal Statute in the latin patriarchal diocese of Jerusalem » (1954), and the subjects to be dealt with are: the legal successions, the testaments, the alimentary pensions, the guardianships, the adoptions of minors, the nominations of an administrator to the goods of persons considered absentees, the erection of a pious foundation (waqf)…
The origin of such a prerogative goes back to 16e century, when the country was a province of the Ottoman Empire. This had considered the minoritarian etnico-religious groups, as “millets” (tawaef), having a certain autonomy concerning what refers to the personal and familial right, under the authority of their religious leaders (patriarchs or bishops). At the time of the british mandate on Palestine, England (1917), confirmed this juridical statute by a law known as “Palestine Order in Council” (1922) ; afterwards, Israël continued to apply it, introducing in it modifications. Jordan adopted the same system by a law known as “Law of the councils of the religious non moslem communities (tawaef)», No 2, 1838 ; modified, twenty years later, and known as “Law of the councils of the religious non moslem communities (tawaef)», No 9, 1958 (to be applied to the West Bank), under israeli occupation since 1967. For its non moslem religious comunities, Palestine adopted the same jordanian law.
3. Regularly, the diocesan Bishop has the power to constitute one tribunal in his diocese. But concerning the latin patriarchal diocese of Jerusalem, which comprises many countries passing through grave political difficulties, it has been given to His Beatitude the power to constitute, as sections of the diocesan Tribunal of Jerusalem rebus sic stantibus (the things thus remaining), supplemental tribunals: two of first instance and one of appeal. Therefore, the ecclesiastical tribunals of the latin patriarchal diocese are distributed as follows:
• Tribunals of first instance
- Place in Jerusalem: for Jerusalem and the territories of the palestinian Authority.
- Place in Nazaret : for Israel.
- Place in Amman : for Jordan.
• Tribunals of appeal
- Place in Jerusalem : for Jerusalem, Israel and the territories of the palestinian Authority.
- Place in Amman : for Jordan.
4. The presidents of the tribunals and the other judges are nominated directly by His Beatitude the Patriarch, and then recognized by the civil authorities of the respective States. The sentences pass in execution by the concerned civil tribunals of the respective States.
Rev. Fr. Emil Salayta: Jerusalem and Nazareth
Rev. Fr. Jihad Sweihat: Amman