Cursores Apostolici is the Latin title of the ecclesiastical heralds or pursuivants pertaining to the papal court. Their origin is placed in the twelfth century, and they fulfilled for the pontifical government the duties entrusted to heralds by civil states. From the sixteenth century onward they formed part of the Roman Curia in its broader sense, and are at present reckoned members of the pontifical family. Their number is fixed at nineteen, and they are subject to the major-domo. The principal duties of the cursores are to invite those who are to take part in consistories and functions in the papal chapel ; to act as servitors in the pontifical palace and as doorkeepers of the conclave ; to affix papal rescripts to the doors of the greater Roman basilicas ; to issue the summons for attendance at canonizations, the funerals of cardinals, etc. As the cursores are representatives of the pope, they must be received with the respect becoming the personage in whose name they speak, and their invitation has the force of a judicial summons. In the early ages of the Church, an institution somewhat similar to that of the cursores is found in messengers, chosen from among the clergy, to carry important tidings from one bishop to another or from the bishop to his flock. They were much used in times of persecution and they are frequently referred to in the writings of the Fathers as prœcones , internuntii , etc. As guardians of the assemblies of the faithful, they were called vigiliœ . Despite these resemblances to the modern cursores, however, it seems evident that the latter took their rise from the employment of heralds by civil states, rather than from the prœcones of the early Church. Episcopal courts have likewise cursores or apparitors among their officials.
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