Parochial principle

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Parochialprinzip describes the organizational principle of all "classical" churches , to achieve a comprehensive supply of their members by dividing a geographical area, usually a state or federal state, into individual parishes (usually called parishes).

The basic idea of ​​the parochial principle is that there is no room that does not belong to the church, so that every church member is always part of a local congregation (parish), conversely, the pastor knows who he is responsible for.

Parishes can be very large in the diaspora . The Evangelical Church HB in Austria is organized in only 9 parishes, which together make up the entire national territory of Austria. A few years ago, the only parish of the Greek Orthodox Church in Austria was equal to the national territory of Austria.

In contrast to the parochial principle, there is the personal congregation to which a person belongs, regardless of any relocation, until he or she leaves this congregation or enters another congregation, whereby - unlike the parochial structure - multiple memberships are possible.

In the case of state-recognized denominations and religious communities, this organizational principle can also be expressed in state church law as " parochial law ".

Exceptions to the parochial principle

In the Roman Catholic Church, members of orders are excluded from the parochial principle, as they - although clergy - are not subordinate to the diocesan bishop but to their abbot (abbess) or general (mostly based in Rome).

In many parochially organized Protestant regional churches, a congregation member can, on application, have himself “rescheduled” to another parish of his choice, if the presbyteries or church councils involved agree.


  • Karl Heussi : Compendium of Church History , 15th edition, Tübingen 1979.
  • Collection of the church laws of the Evangelical Church AB in Austria, status 08/2008, ongoing, HRSG: Evangelischer Oberkirchenrat AB Vienna. (As type evidence, the same regulations can be found for the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox under other churches)