Bishop (Catholic Church)

Bishop (Catholic Church)

In the Catholic Church, a Bishop is an ordained minister who holds the fullness of the priesthood. Diocesan bishops, known as "Eparchs" in the Eastern Catholic Churches, are assigned to govern local regions within the Church known as dioceses in the West and eparchies in the East. Bishops are collectively known as the College of Bishops, and can hold such additional titles as Archbishop, Cardinal, Patriarch, or Pope. There are currently approximately 4,800 bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. [ [ CNS STORY: The numbers game: Stats give picture of Pope John Paul's pontificate ] ]

Diocesan Bishops or Eparchs

The traditional role of a bishop is to act as head of a diocese or eparchy and so to serve as an Ordinary or "diocesan bishop," known as "eparch" in many Eastern Catholic Churches. Dioceses vary considerably in their size of area and population. Some dioceses around the Mediterranean Sea which were Christianized early are rather compact; whereas dioceses in areas more recently evangelized, as in some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and the Far East, are much larger and more populous.


Duties of a diocesan bishop are to "teach, sanctify and govern": that is, to oversee preaching of the Gospel and Catholic education in all its forms; to oversee and provide for the administration of the sacraments; and to legislate, administer and act as judge for Canon Law within his diocese. He serves as the spiritual leader of the diocese and has responsibility for the pastoral care of all Catholics living within his ecclesiastical and ritual jurisdiction. He is obliged to celebrate Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation with the intention of praying for those in his care ("pro populo"), assign clergy to their posts in various institutions and oversee finances. Latin Catholic bishops also must make regular "ad limina" visits to the Holy See every five years.

Only a bishop normally possesses the power to confer the sacrament of Holy Orders, but some exceptions exist. For example, in the Byzantine rite, a monastic Archimandrite may tonsure and ordain his subjects to minor orders. The sacrament of Confirmation is normally administered by a bishop in the Latin Rite, but any priest has the sacramental power to do so and may under various circumstances, and in the Eastern Catholic Churches, Confirmation (called Chrismation) is normally administered by priests. Moreover, it is only within the power of the bishop or eparch to consecrate churches and bless altars.

Latin Catholic bishops, on Holy Thursday, preside over the Mass of the Chrism. Though Oil of the Sick for the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, which is blessed at this Mass, may also be blessed by any priest, only a bishop may consecrate Chrism. Chrism, in the Eastern Catholic Churches, is consecrated only by heads of Churches 'sui juris', and ordinary bishops may not consecrate Chrism.

Only a bishop or other ordinary may grant "Imprimaturs" for theological books, certifying that they are free from doctrinal or moral error, as part of his teaching authority.

In former times, it was also the duty of the bishop to consecrate the paten and chalice that would be used during the Mass. Today, a simple blessing is used which may be given by any priest.

Canonical authority

In both Western and Eastern Catholic Churches, any priest can celebrate the Mass. In order to offer Mass publicly, however, a priest is required to have permission from the local Ordinary - authority for this permission may be given to pastors of parishes for a limited period, but for long-term permission recourse to the diocesan bishop is usually required. A celebret [canon 903, CIC 1983] may be issued to traveling priests so that they can demonstrate to pastors and bishops outside of their own diocese that they are in good standing. In the East an antimension signed by the bishop is kept on the altar partly as a reminder of whose altar it is and under whose omophorion the priest at a local parish is serving.

For priests to administer the sacrament of Reconciliation they must have faculties, or permission and authority, from the local bishop (when the penitent is in danger of death, however, Canon Law gives any priest the right and obligation to hear any confession). To administer matrimony, they must have jurisdiction, either from general Canon Law or local diocesan law, or delegation from a competent authority. The other sacraments may be administered with at least the presumed permission of the local pastor or bishop.

Deacons and priests must also have permission, also part of their "faculties," to publicly preach.

The cathedral of a diocese contains a special chair, called a "cathedra", in the form of a throne set aside in the sanctuary for the exclusive use of its Ordinary symbolizing his spiritual and ecclesiastical authority.

Additional titles and roles

Bishops may fill additional roles in the Catholic Church including the following:;Pope: The Pope is a man who possesses the sacrament of Holy Orders as a bishop and who has been chosen to be Bishop of Rome. Because the Catholic Church holds that the "College of Bishops" as a group is the successor of the "College of Apostles" as a group, the bishops of the Church in general council have the authority to govern the Church. However, the Church also holds that uniquely among the apostles Peter was given a role of leadership and authority, giving him the right to speak for the Church and making his leadership necessary for the completion of the College. Hence, Catholics hold that the Bishop of Rome, as successor of Peter (Peter having been first bishop there and having been martyred there) today possesses this role: the Pope, uniquely among bishops, may speak for the whole Church, and a council of bishops is incomplete without the approval of the pope.;Patriarch: Patriarchs are the bishops who head certain important archdioceses. There are two types of patriarchs, those that lead certain "sui juris" particular Churches, and those whose epsicopal see has been granted the ceremonial title of patriarch. All Eastern Catholic patriarchs fall into the former type, while all Latin Catholic patriarchs, except for the Pope, have only honorary titles.;Catholicos: Catholicos is an Eastern title roughly similar to a Patriarch (see above). In the Catholic Church it is only used by one bishop, who is legally a major archbishop (see below).;Major archbishop:Major archbishops are the heads of some of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Their authority within their "sui juris" church is equal to that of a patriarch, but they receive fewer ceremonial honors.;Cardinal:A cardinal is a member of the clergy appointed by the Pope to serve in the College of Cardinals, the body empowered to elect the Pope; however, on turning 80 a cardinal loses this right of election. Cardinals also serve as advisors to the Pope and hold positions of authority with the structure of the Catholic Church. Under modern canon law, a man who is appointed a cardinal must accept ordination as a bishop, unless he already is one, or seek special permission from the Pope to decline such ordination. Most cardinals are already bishops at the time of their appointment, the majority being archbishops of important archdioceses or patriarchs, and a substantial portion of the rest already titular archbishops serving in the Vatican. Recent popes have appointed a few priests, most of them influential theologians, to the College of Cardinals and a few have been permitted to decline ordination as bishops.;Primate: A primate is usually the bishop of the oldest diocese of a nation. Sometimes this carries jurisdiction over metropolitan bishops, but usually it is purely honorific. ;Metropolitan bishop: A metropolitan bishop is an archbishop with limited jurisdiction over an ecclesiastical province, or group of dioceses. In addition to having immediate jurisdiction over his own archdiocese, also exercises some oversight over the other dioceses within that province. Sometimes a metropolitan may also be the head of an autocephalous, "sui juris", or autonomous church when the number of adherents of that tradition are small. In the Latin Rite, metropolitans are always archbishops; in many Eastern churches, the title is "metropolitan," with some of these churches using "archbishop" as a separate office.;Archbishop: An archbishop is the bishop of an archdiocese. This is usually a prestigious diocese with an important place in local church history. In the Latin Church, the title is purely honorific and carries no extra jurisdiction, though most archbishops are also metropolitan bishops, as above.;Suffragan bishop: A suffragan bishop is a bishop subordinate to a metropolitan. This term is usually only applied to the diocesan ordinaries of suffragan dioceses. ;Titular bishop: A titular bishop is a bishop assigned to a titular see, which is usually a city that used to be the seat of a diocese, but, for some reason or other, is no longer. Titular bishops often serve as auxiliary bishops, as officials in the Roman Curia or the Patriarchal Curias of Eastern Churches, or as apostolic nuncios or apostolic delegates.;Auxiliary bishop: An auxiliary bishop is a full-time assistant to a diocesan bishop. Auxiliaries are titular bishops, and are often appointed as the vicar general or at least as episcopal vicar of the diocese in which they serve. [ Source] .;Coadjutor bishop: A coadjutor bishop is an auxiliary bishop who is given almost equal authority in a diocese with the diocesan bishop, and the automatic right to succeed the incumbent diocesan bishop. The appointment of coadjutors is often seen as a means of providing for continuity of church leadership.;Bishop Emeritus: Bishops emeriti are retired bishops.

Since the publication of the new Code of Canon Law in 1983 by Pope John Paul II, all members of the Catholic clergy are forbidden to hold public office without the express permission of the Holy See. [canon 258/3, CIC 1983]

Ordination of Bishops and Eparchs

The appointment and ordination of bishops in the Catholic Church is an involved, complicated process with many roles played by many different officials. In the Latin Church, the local synod, the apostolic nuncio, various dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and the Pope all take a part. In patriarchal and major archiepiscopal Eastern Churches, the permanent synod, the Holy Synod, and the patriarch or major archbishop also play a role in the selection of bishops.

Apostolic succession and other churches

The Catholic Church has always taught that bishops are descended from a continuous line of ordained bishops since the days of the apostles, which is known as apostolic succession. Since Pope Leo XIII issued the bull "Apostolicae Curae" in 1896, the Roman Catholic Church has not recognized Anglican orders as valid because of changes in the ordination rites that existed in the 16th century and divergence in understanding of the theology of episcopacy and Eucharist. However, this view has since been complicated because Old Catholic bishops, whose orders are fully recognised as valid by Rome, have acted as co-consecrators in Anglican episcopal consecrations. By 1969, all Anglican bishops had acquired Old Catholic lines of apostolic succession fully recognized by Rome. [Timothy Dufort, "The Tablet", May 29, 1982, pp. 536–538.]

The Roman Catholic Church does recognize as valid (though illicit) ordinations done by breakaway Catholic groups such as the Old Catholic Church of the Utrecht Union and the Polish National Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church also recognizes as valid the ordinations of the Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian Nestorian churches so long as those receiving the ordination are baptized males and an orthodox valid rite of episcopal consecration, expressing the proper functions and sacramental status of a bishop, is used. Regarding the Churches of the East the Second Vatican Council stated:

::’’"To remove, then, all shadow of doubt, this holy Council solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while remembering the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful, and more for the good of their souls."’’ ["Unitatis Redintegratio" 16]

However, Rome does not recognize as vaid the orders of any group whose teaching is at variance with core tenets of Christianity (e.g. The Liberal Catholic Church which has a strong theosophist tendency) even though they may use the proper ritual. The recent practice of Independent Catholic groups to ordain women has added a definite cloudiness to the recognition of the validity of orders by Rome as the act of ordaining women as priests or bishops is incompatible with Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The practice by some Independent clergy of receiving multiple ordinations also demonstrates an understanding of Holy Orders which is at variance with Catholicism and Orthodoxy, both of which hold that a person is either ordained or not.

Dress and Vestments

The everyday dress of most bishops generally consists of either a black cassock with amaranth trim and purple fascia or a black suit and clerical shirt along with the pectoral cross and episcopal ring.

A bishop's choir dress, which is worn when attending but not celebrating liturgical functions, consists of the purple cassock with amaranth trim, rochet, purple zuchetto (skull cap), purple biretta with a tuft, and pectoral cross. On solemn occasions, the cappa magna may also be worn, but its use is rare today except among those Catholics using the Tridentine Mass.

The mitre, zuchetto, and stole are generally worn by bishops when presiding over liturgical functions. For liturgical functions other than the Mass, the bishop typically wears the cope. Within his own diocese, the ordinary also uses the crosier. When celebrating Mass a bishop, like a priest, wears the chasuble. Before the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council, bishops also made use of the pontifical gloves, pontifical sandals, and the pontifical dalmatic, but these vestments, including the maniple, are rarely seen today except within the context of the Tridentine Mass.


External links

* [ 1 Timothy 3:1-7] ("NRSV")
* [ Titus 1:7-9] ("NRSV")

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