Presented by Mary Lou Burke
October 14, 2002
HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURES #3
We Catholics experience church at different levels. Our own parish is base community. Church in our city or county are part of a diocese, headed by a bishop. In canon law, the term "particular church" refers to the diocesan church.
"Diocese" comes from Greek, dioikesis, administrative jurisdictions, local church headed by a bishop. The cannons define a diocese as a portion of the People of God. People are entrusted to a bishop for their pastoral care. Three forces gather the people, their bishop, and priests into a church.
Gathered in this manner they are the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Christ. A diocese had clear territorial boundaries.
In church order the Roman Catholic Church is an episcopal church. The bishops is the chief pastoral leader and
key authority figure in the church.
Bishop comes from Greek, episkopos, which means overseer or superintendent. Bishops are successor of the apostles by divine institution. A candidate for office of bishop should be
Bishops are called "diocesan" when a diocese has been entrusted to them. All other bishops ei. Auxiliaries, retired etc, are called "titular" that is, they have been given a nominal see, one which no longer exists as a symbol of their relationship to a "portion of the People of God". (376)
John Carroll, the first bishop in the US was elected by his follow presbyters in 1789. In some parts of the world bishops are still elected.
When a diocesan bishop dies or retires. The papal legate gathers suggestions from neighboring bishops and of the head of the bishop's conference for a likely successor. Three names are submitted to the Holy See. This procedure is secret. If a bishop of a diocese desires an auxiliary (assistant) bishop he sends a list of three suitable names to the Holy See. (c 377.4)
Bishops, as agents of communion of the churches, participate in activities of the state, regional, national conference levels and in universal College of Bishops.
There are three categories of titular bishops
LEGATES of the ROMAN PONTIFF
The pope as the highest authority of the church has the right to send permanent representatives to the particular churches in various nations and to governments of those nations as well (c362 & 363). They are recognized in international law as the official representative of the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Today the Holy See has diplomatic relations with about 120 countries. The Holy See sends delegates to such organizations as the UN, European Common Market and OAS.
If papal legate has official relations with both church and government of a country he is called a "nuncio" (nuntius, messenger). One who relates only to the church is called a delegate.
A priest once named a diocesan bishop, must be ordained a bishop and then publicly "takes possession" of the diocese by presenting his letter of appointment from the Holy See to the college of consultors ( a group of priests responsible for diocese between bishops).
A diocesan bishop has all the authority he needs to get the job done. The bishop exercises his authority in his own name, not as the vicar of the pope.
The canons delineate the facets of the bishop's office by listing those whom he must have pastoral care and is major responsibilities as teacher sanctifier and ruler.
Three additional duties are he must be present to his diocese. He must reside within the diocese for at least 11 months of the year and be actively involved. (c 395)
Neighboring dioceses are gathered into groupings called ecclesiastical provinces to promote common pastoral activity.. There are usually 3-10 dioceses in a province. They are grouped around a larger or older city where the diocese is called an archdiocese..(Gr. "arch" chief, principal) and the archbishop is called the metropolitan (miter, mother and poles, city)of the province.(c 435). The other dioceses are called suffragans from Latin
Suffragium, a vote because bishops used to be electors of the metropolitan. He has very little authority over the other churches or their bishops.
CONFERENCES OF BISHOPS
These are assemblies of bishops of individual countries. They exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the faithful of the nation.
Bishops' conferences are new since Second Vatican Council. The juridical rule-making of conferences is quite limited. They can make regulations binding on the churches of the nation only in specifically designated matters by a vote of 2/3 of the members and those decisions must be reviewed by the Holy See. The most important activity is the exercise of the teaching office.