List of religious office and function titles

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The list of religious office and function names compiles the most important religious office and function names.

Many religions are structured hierarchically. In the Roman Catholic Church and in some branches of Buddhism the hierarchical order is particularly pronounced. Usually, with increasing power, the number of people who bear this title decreases. Hierarchically structured religions therefore have a supreme leader and numerous lower officials in the communities.

In the following, important religious titles and official designations are arranged hierarchically . In brackets after it - if known - the number of people who hold the respective title in the corresponding religion.



In Christianity, a clergyman is a person who holds a spiritual office in the church. In a narrower sense it is the name for a spiritual leader, such as B. priest or pastor . Since the 15th century it has been the name for members of the ( Catholic ) clergy .

“Spiritual princes” were high clergymen of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation who were both holders of a spiritual office (mostly bishop or abbot ) and secular rulers of a spiritual territory and thus fiefs of the empire.

Roman Catholic Church

The following applies to the Roman Catholic Church:

The title cardinal does not designate a level of ordination , but a conferred dignity (hence the distinction between official and dignitary). It includes participation in the leadership of the universal Church either in a diocese or in the curia in Rome. In addition, cardinals who have not yet reached the age of 80 when a pope dies are entitled to participate in the conclave , the election of the pope. With a few exceptions, all cardinals are bishops, even if the internal title of the college of cardinals with its division into cardinal bishops, priests and deacons suggests otherwise.
  • Patriarch : title of head of some Eastern Catholic Churches and traditional honorary title for some metropolitans of the Latin Church . The Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church is addressed with Your Holiness, some of the other Patriarchs with Your Beatitude.
  • Grand Archbishop : Title awarded to the respective head of the following churches united with Rome: Ukrainian Catholic , Syro-Malabar , Romanian Catholic and Syro-Malankan Church .
  • Archbishop , some of whom still have the honorary title of primate or are metropolitan of an ecclesiastical province; Salutation: Your (Most Revered) Excellency , (Most Revered) Lord (Arch) Bishop, in full title His Excellency the Most Revered Lord (Arch) Bishop (see also: Titular Archbishop )
  • Bishop : Salutation: s. Archbishop (see also: titular bishop )
    • Auxiliary bishop (also: auxiliary bishop ): supports a diocesan bishop in the exercise of the office; he is consecrated to the title of a lost diocese; Salutation: Your (Most Revered) Excellency, (Most Revered) Mr. Bishop. In order to distinguish the titular bishop acting as auxiliary bishop in a diocese from the diocesan bishop, it is also said: NN Bishop of (name of the titular bishopric), bishop in (name of the diocese in which he is appointed auxiliary bishop).
  • Apostolic Vicar : Head of an Apostolic Vicariate, which is a probationary diocese according to canon law. The vicar apostolic is usually titular bishop and has the same duties in his vicariate as a diocesan bishop. The address is similar to that of the bishops.
The bearers of these titles are all consecrated bishops. Since this rank precedes the rank of priest , they naturally precede the bearers of the following papal and episcopal honorary titles .
Most Revered Lord is a salutation for all prelates, that is, from the chaplain of His Holiness to the cardinal. Monsignore is the Italian title for the prelates. In Germany it is usually used for the chaplain of His Holiness. It should be noted that you do not use mr and monsignor together (that would be a duplication).
Other honorary titles are:
  • Dome of Honor Honorary member of a cathedral chapter
  • Spiritual Council (Rev. Spiritual Council)
    • Dean (Rev. Mr. Dean, Mr. Dean). Regionally, the holder of this office is also referred to as a dean . The dean is the head of a dean's office. A distinction is made between the city dean (or district dean, sometimes also general dean). Several deans of a large city or a district are grouped together to form a city or district dean's office. The city or district dean has more administrative and organizational tasks.
      • Pastor and pastor (Reverend, Pastor)
        • Parish Vicar , Chaplain , Cooperator , Church Rector Subsidiar (Reverend, Pastor, Rector). The parish vicar is the legal representative of a pastor, the cooperator is the clergyman assigned to a parish without authority. Chaplains were originally (and are canonically also today, c. 564-572 CIC) clergy at places of worship with special services (e.g. universities, hospitals, prisons, military chaplain), the title is often used today in Germany for vicarious clergymen of a pastor used. The church rector is the head of a church that is not a parish church.
Below the ordination of the priests there is the deacon (Reverend, Mr. Deacon).

Monasteries and forms of consecrated life

There is no uniform hierarchy for all Catholic religious orders , secular institutes and forms of consecrated life . Rather, it arises from the respective order rule or the constitutions .

Regulated Canons
  • Abbot Primate to the Augustinian Canons, Abbot General to the Premonstratensian (Your Grace, Highest Abbot General) - representative of the Order in Rome, not the highest Abbot
    • Abbot General of the Augustinian Canons, leader of a religious congregation
      • Abbot / Provost (Your Grace, Most Honorable Prelate, Abbot, Provost)
        • Prior / Dechant ([very venerable] Mr. Prior / Dechant) - deputy of an abbot or head of a non-independent monastery (priory), in the case of OPraem also the head of an independent monastery (prior de regimine; salutation: Most revered prelate.)
          • Lord, Father or Dominus (Revered Lord, Father, Reverendus Dominus) Canon with solemn profession who has received an ordination
          • Friar (venerable brother , venerable lord)

In the salutation one usually only says: Mr. Abbot General, Mr. Prelate, Mr. Prior, Mr. N., Father N., Frater N. (N .: Order name; Premonstratensian Canons)

Religious of monastic orders
  • Abbot Primate to the Benedictines - representative of the Order in Rome
    • Abbot praeses with the Cistercians of the general observance and partly with the Benedictines - head of a religious congregation
      • (Arch) abbot - head of an independent abbey (archabbot: head of an abbey (mother house) that has established further establishments (filiations))
        • Prior - deputy head of a monastery or head of a non-independent monastery (priory)
          • Subprior - Representative of the prior or monk with specific duties in the management of a monastery
            • Father - member of the Order (with solemn profession ) who has been ordained a priest, Reverend or Venerable Lord
            • Brother or Frater - member of the order without ordination, reverence or venerable lord
Mendicant orders and regular clerics
Religious sisters
  • Abbess ([Reverend] abbess, mother)
    • Prioress (head of a priory dependent on an abbey or head of a convent whose order traditionally has no abbesses, e.g. the Teresian Carmel ) (Venerable Mother Prioress, Venerable Ms. Prioress, Venerable Mother)
      • Sister ([venerable] sister, sister, in some convents woman in connection with the religious name)
Religious Sisters of non-monastic communities and congregations
  • Superior General (Head of an Order) or Vicar General (Deputy Superior General) (Venerable Mother)
    • Superior Provincial (Head of a Province) (Venerable Mother), Vicar Provincial (Deputy Superior Provincial)
      • Superior (head of a house) ([Venerable] Sister Superior)
        • Sister (venerable sister, sister)

Old Catholic Church

  • Bishop (head of a diocese in the Union of Utrecht )
  • Priestess
  • Deacon

Anglican Church

  • Archbishop of Canterbury or Primate (The Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England) traditionally has priority of honor ( primus inter pares ). He represents the Anglican Church Fellowship externally. The archbishop, who is also the primate of the ecclesiastical province, represents it externally (Most Reverend) . Since he is always a member of the Privy Council , he also receives the title (Right Honorable) .
  • (Arch-) bishop of another ecclesiastical province than metropolitan of his (arch-) diocese ( Most Reverend as Metropolitan, otherwise Right Reverend )
  • Suffragan Bishop (Right Reverend)
  • Archdiacon (does not exist in every diocese) (Venerable)
  • Provost ( Dompropst ) (Very Reverend) , Vice-Provost (mostly Reverend Canon because of membership in the cathedral chapter)
  • Canon ( canon , canon, canon , canon , canon , member of the cathedral chapter and the extended management of the diocese) now also occupied by women (Reverend Canon)
  • Priest (priest) (reverend)
  • Deacon (Deacon) (Reverend)

The title Reverend is abbreviated as Rev. or Rev'd in the address and in the running text .

Protestant churches

The churches grouped under the umbrella term Evangelical Churches do not have any uniform structures. They can be episcopal (e.g. Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria ), synodal (e.g. Evangelical Reformed Churches in Switzerland ), presbyterial (e.g. Church of Scotland ) or congregationalist (e.g. Baptists, the most Pentecostal churches). There are also numerous mixed forms.

  • Evangelical churches organized episcopally

State level:

Church leadership: Archbishop , Bishop , Bishop , Church President , Church President , Superintendent
Synod : Synodal under the direction of the Synod President or President

Regional levels:

Church district / church district leadership: regional bishop , superintendent , prelate , state superintendent
Dean's Office: Dean , Superintendent

Municipal level:

Pastor , synonymous with pastor
Churchwardens, parish church council member, etc. (s. Parish line )
  • Evangelical churches organized in a synodal manner

In a synodally organized evangelical church there are synods at community, regional and state level. At the state level there are synods under the leadership of the President .

Regional level: superintendent

Municipal level:

Pastors or pastors
Presbyter, elder, churchwardens, parish church council member, etc. (see parish line )
  • Presbyterial Protestant churches

In a presbyterial evangelical church there are the spiritual offices of elder and pastor, whereby a pastor is usually a theologian and an elder is not a theologian.

At a higher level there are conferences of elders or delegated elders, but no offices of higher rank. The outside representative of the church is usually the chairperson of the general conference, an office that can be exercised by pastors as well as elders and is generally exercised for only one year.

  • Congregational Protestant Churches

In a congregational church there are only parish elders and pastors / preachers and no hierarchy of clergy of any kind.

Evangelical Church in Germany

The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) is a community of 23 independent Lutheran , Reformed and United regional churches , some of which have an episcopal structure. The democratically constituted and elected governing bodies of the EKD are synod , council and church conference. The regional churches are divided into church districts, deaneries and the parishes. All offices of the regional churches are exercised by men and women.

  • The bishop , regional bishop , church president , president , regional superintendent is elected by the regional synod. He is the spiritual director of a (regional) church and is the chairman of the church's governing body. In some regional churches it is a separate organ and, together with other bodies, takes over the management of the regional church.
  • Regional bishop , in some regional churches also prelate , senior church councilor , regional church councilor or regional superintendent: he is responsible for the spiritual direction at regional level and he is a member of church governing bodies.
    • Oberkirchenrat (Council of Churches) is also the official title of theologians or lawyers within the Protestant church who, as church officials, head a department / department or unit in a church office, a church chancellery, a consistory . If they belong to the college of a church office, they are often called members, there are regular members of a (state) church office, these are church officials as heads of a department / unit, etc. E., As well as extraordinary members, these can be theologians / lawyers as civil servants in the church as well as clergy and theologians who do not work in church administration, but hold another leading office. Other names are Oberlandeskirchenrat (eg: Landeskirchenamt Hannover). Regional church councilor or senior consistorial councilor (e.g. in the consistory of the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg ).
  • President: The church offices of the VELKD and the UEK are headed by theologians, they are also vice-presidents of the church office of the EKD, some presidents of the church office of the EKD were theologians; Usually church offices are led by a lawyer as president.
  • Vice-President: Are head of the main departments in the EKD Church Office; In many regional churches there is the office of a clergyman or theological vice-president. The vice-presidents are leading clergymen of their church and members of church governing bodies. As a rule, they are the head of the clerical department in the church offices / consistory, in which the theological upper church councils / members of the offices are summarized. In some churches they are deputies of the leading clergyman (e.g. Evangelical Church of Westphalia, representative of the President). Accordingly, there is the office of the legally qualified / legal vice-president.
  • Head : Heads are often called the pastors who, usually together with a medical director, “head” and lead a diaconal hospital or large diaconal institution.
  • Rector : Pastors and theologians who head a Protestant school, a university or an institute (e.g. religious education institute) or the like usually have the official title of rector.
  • A dean is a leading clergyman who heads an association of congregations (dean's office). The terms superintendent or provost or a church district or provost office are also used in different regions .
  • Pastors who perform leading tasks in a church office or are active as heads of an institution of a regional church often bear the designation of a director , for example director of the Diakonisches Werk . The director of studies is also known as the head of the seminary of a regional church.
  • Pastor or pastor . He is ordained bearer of the spiritual office of his parish and has sacramental and liturgical tasks. Together with elected members of a parish, the pastor forms the parish council, the governing body of the parish.
  • State pastors or state pastors : These do not belong to any congregation. They are pastors of the regional churches and have supra-congregational tasks. Examples are the state youth pastor or state social pastor. Country pastors often have leadership roles (middle level) or are responsible for certain topics.
  • A vicar is a theologian (in the EKBO and EKM also a community teacher) who has passed the exam and who completes his training as a pastor in a church community.
  • A deacon is not limited to work in the church, but can also serve in other social professions. These include nursing, education and social economy. Depending on the area of ​​work, he is entrusted with preaching, worship and the sacraments (baptism, communion).

In addition, there are other offices that are taken over by non-ordained members of the Church: presbyter , predicant , deaconess , parish assistant, cantor , sexton and lecturer .

Methodist Church

In the international Methodist Church there are the following clergy of both sexes:

  • A bishop leads the central conference and the annual conferences of his area in the German-speaking area and assigns their service to the superintendents and elders. He or she can be elected for a few years (usually four) or for life. All bishops together form the bishops' council.
  • A superintendent is an elder and usually heads a district for four to ten years, but has no higher rank as a clergyman.
  • One elder is a theologian and ordained pastor (in Switzerland “pastor”).

Orthodox churches

The following is likely to apply to some or all of the Orthodox churches :

New Apostolic Church

The hierarchy in the New Apostolic Church comprises three ministry groups in descending order:


The term clergyman is alien to Islam because the Muslim does not need an intermediary between the believer and God. The Islamic offices are primarily determined by religious law (e.g. Mufti) or by functions in the mosque (e.g. Imam, Chatib). But see anyway: Category: Islamic clergyman

Functions that are referred to as “clergy” in the Western context include: a.


In the individual mosques


Since 1979 the Waliye Faghih ( Chomeini , Chamenei ) has held the highest office (at least in Iran ). This is called the leader (Rahbar). Compare also: Supreme Legal Scholar

In Iran the clergy talk to each other and also the people address the clergy with Hajagha (a man who has visited Mecca ). Religious titles are mostly used in announcements or book titles.



Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat


Time of the Jerusalem Temple

Since the second destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 AD) there has been no more generally binding hierarchy. Since then, regional structures have emerged that are not the same everywhere.

Since the temple was destroyed (70 AD)


  • The Hasidism known primarily the honorary title of tzaddik or Admor (meaning: the handicapped or master and teacher )


In Tibetan Buddhism, the lama title is not linked to the ordination as a monk or nun, but generally designates a recognized teacher (see e.g. Marpa ). Abbot of a monastery monk (bhikkhu) and nun (bhikkhuni)

The terms Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni (literally: beggar or someone who begs alms), which come from the Pali language, are also used in other Buddhist traditions for Buddhist monks and nuns and originate from Buddha Shakyamuni himself. However, they referred to Buddhas during his lifetime all ascetics , not just those belonging to the order.


Individual evidence

  2. Source:
  3. Source: Constitution of the Evangelical Methodist Church. Edition 2000, Articles 44–53