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Coat of arms of a Roman Catholic archbishop
(recognizable by the green bishop's hat ( galero ) with twenty tassels of the same color ( fiochi ) hanging down on the sides and the archbishop's cross erected behind the coat of arms. The pallium indicates that this archbishop is also a metropolitan .)

The title archbishop ( arch- from ancient Greek αρχή arché 'beginning', 'leadership', in the derived meaning 'superior', and bishop from επίσκοπος epískopos 'overseer') is borne by bishops with a special position in office. Which bishop may bear the title is regulated differently from church to church. The following cases can be distinguished in the Roman Catholic Church:

According to German protocol, bishops and archbishops are addressed with the address " Your Excellency ".

Historical origin

In the third and fourth centuries, associations of dioceses gradually formed, the head of which was usually referred to as a metropolitan because he was usually the bishop of the capital ( metropolis ) of a Roman province (an exception to this form existed, for example, in the province of Africa ). The First Council of Nicaea mentions that these associations, too , were again grouped into corresponding jurisdictions , namely Alexandria , Antioch , Constantinople and Rome . Together with Jerusalem , these major churches were called patriarchates in the 5th century . The name Archbishop (ἀρχιεπίσκοπος) was first handed down for the Bishop of Alexandria in the 4th century . Archbishop is therefore a title, not an official title - that would be metropolitan . Over time, the title was borne by more and more bishops, while the episcopal heads of the aforementioned ecclesiastical areas were called patriarchs . In the churches with a Byzantine tradition there are still archbishops who are heads of autocephalous - that is, more independent, independent - churches.

The prerogative of the metropolitans or archbishops was always the right to convene provincial synods - that is, bishops' assemblies in his district - as well as the confirmation and sometimes also the appointment of his suffragan bishops . At no time did the metropolitans have the right to rule over the dioceses belonging to their association.

The understanding of the title and its legal form developed differently in the east and west. Since Carolingian times, particularly respected bishops who were not metropolitan were appointed archbishops in the West, partly because of the importance of their diocese, partly because they held a special office, such as that of legate or nuncio .

Archbishops who are metropolitans wear the pallium in the Roman Catholic Church as a sign of participation in the pastoral power of the Pope . In the Eastern Churches, the liturgical garment corresponding to the pallium ( omophorion ) is worn by all bishops.

Archbishops in the Catholic Church

Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio on a visit to Biberach / Riß on the Way of St. James

Bear the title of Archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church


The metropolitan as resident bishop of the metropolitan seat ( can. 435 CIC ).

Archbishop without a metropolitan seat

The resident bishop of an archdiocese that is not a metropolitan seat. For historical reasons, there can be ecclesiastical provinces with several archdioceses (e.g. the ecclesiastical province of Pesaro with the archdioceses of Pesaro and Urbino). The bishops residing there each bear the title of archbishop, but only one of them is also metropolitan. There are also archdioceses such as Luxembourg , Strasbourg or Vaduz , which do not belong to any ecclesiastical province but are directly subordinate to the Apostolic See ( immediate dioceses). Their bishops also have the title of archbishop, but they are not metropolitans.

Titular Archbishop

Titular bishops in a titular diocese with archbishopric rank. These include, above all, Curia officials such as the secretaries of the congregations and the nuncios .

Archbishop ad personam

Occasionally, bishops are given the personal ( Latin ad personam ) title archbishop , for example deserving retired diocesan bishops. Titular archbishops who become bishops of a normal diocese also retain the personal title of archbishop, the diocese continues to remain a bishopric without archbishopric dignity. Johannes Dyba, for example, was titular archbishop as papal diplomat and retained the personal title of archbishop after his appointment as Bishop of Fulda .

Titular bishops are not given a personal archbishop title, but are usually transferred to a titular archbishopric or, in exceptional cases, the titular bishopric is pro hac vice raised to an archbishopric.

Old Catholic Church

In the Old Catholic Church , the Archbishop of Utrecht is Metropolitan of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands and, at the same time, President of the International Bishops' Conference of the Union of Utrecht .

Archbishops in other churches

Archbishops have leadership roles in the Anglican Communion and in the Lutheran churches of Sweden , Estonia , Latvia , Finland and Russia .

In the Orthodox Church , the archbishop is basically below the rank of metropolitan. Only in the Greek Orthodox churches does the archbishop take precedence over the metropolitan.

Web links

Wiktionary: Archbishop  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Günter Stemberger : 2000 years of Christianity . Salzburg 1980. ISBN 3-85012-092-9