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The title vicar is derived from the Latin vicarius "governor, deputy". He denotes different offices in different denominations .

Orthodox churches

In the Orthodox Church , the vicar is a clergyman with the rank of bishop who supports the local bishop . However, he does not have a diocese of his own and is therefore comparable to an auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.

Roman Catholic Church

In the Roman Catholic Church , the term vicar denotes the holder of a representative office who has been given certain powers. The office of vicar can be permanent or temporary. Vicariats were often donated by private individuals in the Middle Ages and could refer to a single altar in a town church, at which the vicar financed in this way had to hold spiritual masses for the founder or his family "forever".

In the church hierarchy one differentiates between the following vicars:

  • Apostolic Vicar: Head of an Apostolic Vicariate , a diocese-like regional body established for mission areas. The Vicars Apostolic exercise jurisdiction in the areas assigned to them in place of the Pope, who, as the universal shepherd, has the actual power.
  • Cardinal Vicar : The Cardinal Vicar is the Pope's representative in the governance of the Diocese of Rome. The Pope sees himself as Vicarius Christi (Latin for "representative of Christ").
  • Capitular Vicar or Chapter Vicar: According to old canon law, temporary head of a diocese when the episcopal see is carried out. The office today corresponds roughly to that of the diocesan administrator .
  • Episcopal Vicar : The Episcopal Vicar is the representative of the diocesan bishop for a specific area of ​​pastoral care or territorial area of ​​the diocese.
  • Vicar General : The Vicar General is the bishop's representative in the administration of the diocese, but with limited official powers. He is freely appointed by the bishop and automatically loses his office when the episcopal see takes place.
  • Judicial vicar : He is called the official in Germany and is the representative of the bishop as head of the diocesan court.
  • Cathedral vicar: Cathedral vicars support the cathedral chapter at a cathedral in its tasks, especially in spiritual activities such as choral service . They do not belong to the chapter itself, but usually together with it form the cathedral monastery .
  • Parish vicar or vicarius paroecialis : A parish vicar is either a priest who is subordinate to a pastor and has no sole responsibility for a parish ( chaplain or cooperator ), or a clergyman who is permanently in charge of a quasi- parish (parish vicarie, parish rectorate, parish curate).

In the case of house communities of orders , the vicar is the deputy of the house superior, for example the vicar of the Guardian in the Franciscan orders . A provincial vicar is the deputy provincial superior of a religious community.

Protestant churches

In the Evangelical Church in Germany , the term vicar usually refers to theologians in practical training after the first theological exam. This practical training ends with the second theological exam and is a prerequisite for ordination into the pastoral service. As a training phase, the Protestant Vicariate corresponds to the legal clerkship for lawyers and teachers .

In vacancy of the Bishop's office can also be a in the Lutheran Church Bishop Vicar are used, the election of a bishop to the head of the Landeskirche / a bishop.

In the Evangelical Churches AB and HB in Austria, the term refers to the first two years of practical training for pastoral service. To complete the Vicariate, an academic degree is required.

Anglican churches

In the member churches of the Anglican Fellowship , vicar is the title of parish pastor, but the term is not used consistently.

Church of England

The Church of England originally made a distinction between three types of clergy based on the type of remuneration: rectors, vicars and perpetual curates . The church was based on charges that they - usually in the amount of tithes ( tithes rose to agricultural products of the Community -). A distinction was made between greater tithes and lesser tithes . The former were raised on wheat, hay, and wood, the latter on everything else. In contrast to a rector, a vicar was only entitled to the latter, because a monastery usually filled the position of the rector and the monks maintained the vicar so that he would represent them in the community work.

A perpetual curate was usually responsible for a new congregation created by a division of a larger congregation under the direction of a vicar. In principle, he received no share of the tithe, but was supported by the diocese . The attribute “permanent” should emphasize that such a cleric enjoyed the same security of permanent employment as his wealthy colleagues. However, it mainly served the perpetual curates to differentiate themselves from mere vicarious clergy with their own pastoral care district ( curates ) who, unlike the members of the three other groups in their respective parishes, were not representatives of the authority of the church and therefore were not allowed to call themselves pastors.

A law passed by the British Parliament in 1868 allowed perpetual curates to use the title Vicar in future. Linking this innovation with almost simultaneous further church reforms aimed to reduce inequalities in the income of the clergy. As a result, the differences in rank became more and more blurred. Colloquially today, every cleric is often referred to as a vicar. Thus, the term is used today as it was before the reform of the term Parson (pastor), which has largely disappeared from linguistic usage .

Most parishes in England and Wales have retained their traditional names for their parish priest. The term vicar predominates in urban areas, which is due to the fact that many new congregations were founded in the Victorian era , whose clergy assumed this title after 1868.

Other Anglican churches

In the Episcopal Church of the United States , the vicar is a clergyman who presides over a diocesan-funded mission congregation, while a self-supporting congregation is presided over by a rector.

Old Catholic churches

In the old Catholic Church in Germany the vicar (or vicar) is a parish priest who has already been ordained a priest. After passing the parish exam, he holds the title of parish vicar. A parish vicar can apply for any vacant pastor's position.

In the Old Catholic Church in Austria , a priest receives the title of vicar after his ordination if he is approved by the bishop for certain spiritual official acts, or if he is entrusted with a pastoral commission and / or if he is supported by a pastor in charge.


Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. Old Catholic Church: Church regulations and statutes. Synodal and community ordinance §76 para. 2
  2. ibid. §76 para. 3
  3. ^ Old Catholic Church Austria: Theological Training and Examination Regulations, Section 2.1.1.