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Bishops and Ordinaries

Bishops and Diocese

  • Archbishop — Title given to bishops who govern archdioceses. It is also given to certain other high-ranking church officials, notably Vatican ambassadors (apostolic nuncios), the secretaries of Vatican congregations and the presidents of pontifical councils.
  • Auxiliary bishop — A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist its residential bishop. Whether in a diocese or archdiocese, his title is bishop.
  • Bishop — The highest order of ordained ministry in Catholic teaching. Most bishops are diocesan bishops, the chief priests in their respective dioceses. But some (auxiliary bishops) are the top assistants to their diocesan bishops, and some priests are made bishops because of special posts they hold in the church, such as certain Vatican jobs.
  • Bishops' conference — A national body of bishops that meets to collaborate on matters of common concern in their country or region, such as moral, doctrinal, pastoral and liturgical questions; relations with other religious groups; and public policy issues.
  • Metropolitan — A metropolitan see is an archdiocese that is the chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province and the archbishop who is head of a province is also called a metropolitan.
  • Chancellor — The chief archivist, and administrator of a diocese's official records. Also serves as a notary and secretary of the diocesan curia.
  • Coadjutor — A bishop appointed as an assistant to the active Diocesan bishop. Similar to an auxiliary bishop, except he has the right of succession, when the diocesan bishop retires or dies. A Coadjutor would also serve as the Vicar General of the diocese.
  • Diocesan Curia — The personnel and offices through which a bishop administers the affairs of a diocese. The principal officials of a diocesan curia are the vicar general, the chancellor, officials of the diocesan tribunal or court, examiners, consultors, auditors and notaries.
  • Diocese — A territorial division of the church headed by a bishop. The chief diocese among a group of dioceses is called an archdiocese.
  • See — Another name for a diocese or archdiocese. It appears in such phrases as Holy See, titular see, metropolitan see, suffragan see, etc. Sees are named after the city in which they are based.
  • Suffragan — The word describes the relationship of a bishop to his archbishop. As suffragan, a bishop yields precedence of honor to his archbishop, but in the government of his diocese he remains independent. In provincial counsels, suffragan bishops and archbishops have equal votes.
  • Episcopal — Refers to a bishop or groups of bishops, or to the form of church governance in which ordained bishops have authority.
  • Episcopal vicar — A priest or auxiliary bishop who assists the diocesan bishop in a specific part or division of the diocese. These divisions can be either regional, or specific to certain tasks or groups of faithful across the diocese.
  • Vicar general — A priest or auxiliary bishop who assists the diocesan bishop in the governance of the diocese and is second in command to the bishop.
  • Diocesan priest — (Secular Priests) Diocesan priests are under the direction of their local bishop. Most serve in the parishes of the diocese, but they may also be assigned to other ministries or be released for service outside the diocese.
  • Province — Either a of grouping of an archdiocese, called the metropolitan see, and the dioceses under it, called suffragan sees. The Code of Canon Law spells out certain limited obligations and authority that the metropolitan archbishop has with respect to the dioceses within his province. (2) A grouping of communities of a religious order under the jurisdiction of a provincial superior.
  • Ad Limina — (Ad Limina Apostolorum) A visit to Rome required of every bishop every three to ten years. The visit must include a pilgrimage to the tombs of Peter and Paul, and a meeting with the Pope or Vatican official to discuss the condition and concerns of his diocese.
  • Deanery — Subdivision of a diocese that includes several parishes, presided over by a dean who oversees the parishes and tends to the needs of the clergy and laity. More common diocese with a large number of parishes, or in diocese spanning large regions.
  • Incardination — Canonical attachment of a cleric to a particular diocese. Pre-Vatican II this took place at the time of tonsure, but with the elimination, incardination now takes place with the reception of the diaconate.
  • Prelate — High ranking member of the clergy. Usually a Bishop, Abbott, Cardinal, or religious superior. Similar to an Ordinary.

Ordinaries and Church Law

  • Ordinary — A diocesan bishop, his vicar general, or a major superior of a clerical religious order. The term refers to someone with ordinary authority in church law over a group of clergy in a specific geographical area or over the members of a religious order.
  • Canon — Greek for rule, norm, standard or measure, it is used in several ways in church language. (1) The canon of Sacred Scripture is the list of books recognized by the church as inspired by the Holy Spirit. (2) Before the Second Vatican Council, the Eucharistic Prayer used universally in the Latin Mass was called the Roman Canon. (3) Canon is another name for a law in the Code of Canon Law.
  • Canon Law — A code of ecclesiastical laws governing the Catholic Church. In the Latin or Western Church, the governing code is the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a revision of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. A separate but parallel Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, issued in 1990, governs the Eastern Catholic churches.
  • Tribunal — A tribunal (court) is the name given to the person or persons who exercise the church's judicial powers. Each diocese has a diocesan tribunal, used mainly to hear marriage cases. Each archdiocese has an archdiocesan tribunal—a court of first trial—and a metropolitan tribunal, an appeals court that reviews decisions of diocesan courts in that ecclesiastical province when necessary.
  • Faculty — Church authorization, given by the law itself or by a church superior, to perform certain official church acts. In some rare cases a member of the clergy will be denied certain faculties, such as hearing confessions or preaching during the liturgy, because of public positions taken that are not in accord with church teaching.
  • Jurisdiction — The authority granted to a bishop, abbot, or other ordinary to administer canon law within their diocese or field of responsibility.
  • Prefect Apostolic — A priest with jurisdiction in a territory where the episcopal hierarchy has not yet been established. Subject directly to the Holy See, such a priest enjoys many rights similar to those of a resident bishop, but he cannot confer major orders.
  • Imprimatur — Latin for "let it be printed," signifying the approval by a bishop for publication of a book relating to religious or doctrinal matters. Authors may obtain the imprimatur from the bishop where they reside, or from where the book is published.
  • Censor — Clerics who, according to ecclesiastical law, are appointed by the bishop of a diocese to examine before publication those writings or other media of communication that are subject to the Church's supervision.