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Decretals are letters of a pope that formulate decisions in ecclesiastical law of the Catholic Church.

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Decretals (epistolae decretales) are letters of a pope that formulate decisions in ecclesiastical law of the Catholic Church.

They are generally given in answer to consultations but are sometimes given due to the initiative of the pope himself. These furnish, with the canons of the councils, the chief source of the legislation of the Church, and formed the greater part of the Corpus Iuris Canonici before they were formally replaced by the Codex Iuris Canonici of 1917. However, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri led the papal commission for the revision of canon law and later on published a guide to the fontes (sources) used in the 1917 code. Many canons in this code can easily be retraced in their relationship to and dependency on medieval decretals as well as Roman law.

In themselves, the medieval decretals form a very special source which throws light on medieval conflicts and the approaches to their solution. They are sometimes concerned with very important issues touching on many aspects of medieval life, for example: marriage or legal procedure.

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