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For other uses, see Archbishop (disambiguation).
St. John Chrysostom
Archbishop of Constantinople (398—404)

In many denominations of the Christian religion, an archbishop (/ˌɑrˈbɪʃəp/, via Latin archiepiscopus, from Greek ἀρχιεπίσκοπος, from ἀρχι-, "chief", and ἐπίσκοπος, "bishop")[1][2][3] is a bishop of higher rank. Like popes, patriarchs, metropolitans, cardinal bishops, diocesan bishops, suffragan bishops, etc., archbishops belong to the category of bishops, the highest of the three traditional orders of bishops, priests (presbyters), and deacons. One becomes an archbishop by being granted the title or by ordination as chief pastor of a metropolitan see or of another episcopal see to which the title of archbishop is attached.

Western Christianity[edit]

Metropolitan archbishops[edit]

Main article: Metropolitan bishop
See also: Diocesan bishop

Episcopal sees are generally arranged in groups in which the bishop who is the ordinary of one of them has certain powers and duties of oversight over the other sees. He is known as the metropolitan archbishop of that see. In the Roman Catholic Church, canon 436 of the Code of Canon Law indicates what these powers and duties are for a Latin Rite metropolitan archbishop, while those of the head of an autonomous (sui iuris) Eastern Catholic Church are indicated in canon 157 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

Non-metropolitan archiepiscopal sees[edit]

As well as the much more numerous metropolitan sees, there are 77 Roman Catholic sees that have archiepiscopal rank.[4] In some cases, such a see is the only one in a country, such as Luxembourg[5] or Monaco,[6] too small to be divided into several dioceses so as to form an ecclesiastical province. In others, the title of archdiocese is for historical reasons attributed to a see that was once of greater importance.

Some of these archdioceses are suffragans of a metropolitan archdiocese. An example is the Archdiocese of Avignon, which is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Marseille,[7] Others are immediately subject to the Holy See and not to any metropolitan archdiocese. These are usually "aggregated" to an ecclesiastical province. An example is the Archdiocese of Hobart in Australia, associated with the Metropolitan ecclesiastical province of Melbourne, but not part of it.[8]

The ordinary of such an archdiocese is an archbishop, however, especially in the Anglican Communion, not all archbishops' dioceses are called archdioceses.

Coadjutor archbishops[edit]

Main article: Coadjutor bishop

Until 1970, a coadjutor archbishop, one who has special faculties and the right to succeed to the leadership of a see on the death or resignation of the incumbent,[9] was assigned also to a titular see, which he held until the moment of succession. Since then, the title of Coadjutor Archbishop of the see is considered sufficient and more appropriate.

Archbishops ad personam[edit]

The rank of archbishop is conferred on some bishops who are not ordinaries of an archdiocese. They hold the rank not because of the see that they head but because it has been granted to them personally ("ad personam"). Such a grant can be given when someone who already holds the rank of archbishop is transferred to a see that, though its present-day importance may be greater than the person's former see, is not archiepiscopal. The bishop transferred is then known as the Archbishop-Bishop of his new see. An example is Gianfranco Gardin, appointed Archbishop-Bishop of Treviso on 21 December 2009.[10] The title borne by the successor of such an archbishop-bishop is merely that of Bishop of the see, unless he also is granted the personal title of Archbishop.

Titular archiepiscopal sees[edit]

The distinction between metropolitan sees and non-metropolitan archiepiscopal sees exists for titular sees as well as for residential ones. The Annuario Pontificio marks titular sees of the former class with the abbreviation Metr. and the others with Arciv.[11]

Many of the titular sees to which nuncios and heads of departments of the Roman Curia who are not cardinals are assigned are not of archiepiscopal rank. In that case the person who is appointed to such a position is given the personal title of archbishop (ad personam). They are usually referred to as Archbishop of the see, not as its Archbishop-Bishop.

Archbishops emeriti[edit]

If an archbishop resigns his see without being transferred to another, as in the case of retirement or assignment to head a department of the Roman Curia, the word "emeritus" is added to his former title, and he is called Archbishop Emeritus of his former see. Until 1970, such archbishops were transferred to a titular see.

There can be several Archbishops Emeriti of the same see: the 2008 Annuario Pontificio listed three living Archbishops Emeriti of Taipei.[12]

There is no Archbishop Emeritus of a titular see: an archbishop who holds a titular see keeps it until death or until transferred to another see.

In the Anglican Communion, retired archbishops vary their use of the title archbishop. Some, such as Michael Ramsey of Canterbury and Desmond Tutu of Cape Town, South Africa, continue to use the title in retirement, while others do not keep the title of archbishop and simply revert to bishop.

Privileges of archbishops[edit]

Roman Catholic archbishop's coat of arms (version with pallium as for metropolitan archbishops)
Roman Catholic archbishop's coat of arms (non-metropolitan)

While there is no difference between the official dress of archbishops, as such, and that of other bishops, Roman Catholic metropolitan archbishops are distinguished by the use in liturgical ceremonies of the pallium, but only within the province over which they have oversight.[13]

In Roman Catholic heraldry, an archbishop has an ecclesiastical hat with ten tassels on each side of his coat of arms, while a bishop has only six. The archiepiscopal cross behind the shield has two bars instead of one. Such a cross may be borne before him in liturgical processions.

In processions and other occasions for strict protocol, archbishops precede simple bishops.

In the Anglican Communion, archbishops are styled "The Most Reverend" and addressed as "Your Grace", while bishops are styled "The Right Reverend" and addressed as "My Lord" or "Your Lordship". In some countries, this usage is followed also by the Roman Catholic Church, but in others no distinction is made and "The Most Reverend" and "Your Excellency" are used for archbishops and bishops alike.

Eastern Christianity[edit]

Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece (1998–2008)

In the Eastern Orthodox Church of Greek tradition, the title of Archbishop usually indicates some form of leadership of the other bishops of the local church (who may be metropolitans), as in the Church of Greece and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In the Russian Orthodox tradition, metropolitans outrank archbishops.

The Oriental Orthodox custom generally agrees with the Slavic rather than the Greek with respect to the archbishop/metropolitan distinction.

Instead of the term "archbishop", Eastern Catholic Churches sometimes use the word "archeparch" by analogy with "eparch", the term used for a diocesan (or eparchial) bishop. However, the word "archeparch" is not found in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.[14]

See also[edit]

Portal icon Christianity portal


  1. ^ ἀρχιεπίσκοπος, ἐπίσκοπος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ archiepiscopus. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  3. ^ "archbishop". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  4. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2012 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008 ISBN 978-88-209-8722-0), p. 1142
  5. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2012, 423
  6. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2012, p. 474
  7. ^ Catholic-hierarchy.org
  8. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2012, p. 296
  9. ^ Canon 403 §3 of the Code of Canon Law
  10. ^ Naming of the Archbishop-Bishop of Treviso, Italy – Friars Minor Conventual
  11. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2012, p. 819
  12. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2008, p. 733
  13. ^ Canon 437 of the Code of Canon Law
  14. ^ Index of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches

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