Order of precedence in the Catholic Church

Precedence signifies the right to enjoy a prerogative of honor before other persons; for example, to have the most distinguished place in a procession, a ceremony, or an assembly, to have the right to express an opinion, cast a vote, or append a signature before others, to perform the most honorable offices.[1]

The order of precedence in the Catholic Church is organized by rank within the hierarchy according first to order, then jurisdiction, and finally to titular or ad personam honors granted to individuals despite a lack of jurisdiction. Emeritus ecclesiastics are counted among the latter.

Precedence may also apply to feasts or actions, as for example in the order of precedence of liturgical days.


At this time, a current table of precedence in its entirety is not published by the Holy See. However, the principles of precedence present in the Codes of Canon Law, and the customs of precedence longstanding, inform any formulation of an order of precedence. Some contemporary authors[2] have compiled reference texts complete with a table of precedence based on such principles, and these, though helpful, remain unofficial in nature.

Though the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia[3] offered a brief order of precedence based on these principles, it was updated and replaced by the New Catholic Encyclopedia in 1967, which was further updated with a Revised Edition in 2002.[4] The current Catholic Encyclopedia does not include an entry on "precedence". Since the publication of the first edition, in 1911, several changes have rendered its order of precedence substantially out of date, including the publication of three codes of canon law (1917, 1983, 1990), an ecumenical council (1962-65), and multiple apostolic constitutions that affect the topic.

Principles and customs

As noted above, the first consideration for precedence is always the hierarchy of order: first bishops, then presbyters, next deacons. At earlier times in the Church's history, deacons were ranked above presbyters, or the two orders considered equal, but the bishop always came first. Laity (including lay ecclesial ministers, religious, seminarians, et al.) are not part of the hierarchy of order.

The next principle is the hierarchy of jurisdiction: one who has authority over other persons has the right of precedence over them.[5] This considers a person's office, and therefore can include laity, particularly lay ecclesial ministers and religious.

Relatedly, those with jurisdiction take precedence over those with titular, ad personam, or emeritus titles, so someone serving in a specific office (e.g., diocesan bishop) has precedence over someone with a titular claim to the same rank (e.g., titular bishop) or someone who used to serve in an equivalent office (e.g., a retired bishop).

Generally speaking, function, or the exercise of office, has precedence over purely honorary titles. De facto precedence should be applied where, a non-ordained religious or lay ecclesial minister serves in an office equivalent listed below (e.g., a diocesan director of Catholic Education is an equal office to an episcopal vicar, a pastoral life director an equal office to pastor, though with respect to the principle of the hierarchy of order noted above).

Among honorary titles, geographic extent is considered (e.g., the national primate has precedence over a titular patriarch, as the former has an honorary title extending over an entire country, but the latter only over a single diocese).

If two persons hold the same office, precedence is given to the one of a higher order (e.g., of two episcopal vicars, one being a presbyter and the other an auxiliary bishop, the bishop takes precedence).[6]

If two persons are of the same order and office, the one who was promoted earlier takes precedence (e.g., of two metropolitan archbishops, whoever was promoted to a metropolitan see first has precedence).[7]

If two persons of the same order and office were promoted at the same time, precedence goes to the one who was ordained first (to that order) (e.g., of two priests appointed as pastors at the same time, whoever was ordained presbyter first has precedence).[8]

In the case of cardinals of the same rank created at the same consistory, precedence is given according to the order in which their names were published.[9]

In their own dioceses, bishops have precedence before other bishops and archbishops, but not before their own metropolitan.[1] A metropolitan archbishop has precedence before all other bishops and archbishops (except the Pope, his Patriarch, or his Primate) within his own province, and a patriarch has precedence over other patriarchs within his own jurisdiction.

Similarly, in their own parishes, pastors have precedence before other presbyters and deacons, even monsignors, but not before their own dean or archdeacon.

Diplomatic precedence in the Holy See's diplomatic corps incorporates the Congress of Vienna (1815) and the updated Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961). The office of nuncio (papal ambassador) is primarily a diplomatic rank and not of an ecclesiastical nature. Most nuncios are ordained as titular archbishops, and would be ranked accordingly. If, however, the nuncio is present in a diocese or at an event acting as the personal representative of the pope, as for example at the ordination of a bishop, he is granted precedence accordingly, taking precedence over even cardinals present.

Patriarchs of autonomous (sui iuris) churches have precedence above all other bishops of any rank, including cardinals. This has been defined in law since 1990.[10] From 1965-1990, they were ranked as equal to Cardinal-bishops.[11] It remains the case that, if a patriarch is also made a cardinal in the Latin Church, he is created at the rank of cardinal-bishop, without a named see, but retains his place of precedence. From the 1917 Code of Canon Law until the motu proprio of Paul VI in 1965, cardinals of all ranks took precedence over patriarchs. The current practice reflects a more Catholic, and less Latinized, ecclesiology.[12]

Order of precedence

Order of precedence in general

  1. Patriarchs[13]
    1. The Pope, Bishop and Patriarch of Rome, and also Pope Emeritus (when used)
    2. The Patriarch of Constantinople [when in communion]
    3. The Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria
    4. Patriarchs of Antioch, in order of who was promoted to the Patriarchal dignity earliest, currently:
      1. The Syriac Patriarch of Antioch
      2. The Maronite Patriarch of Antioch
      3. The Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, of Alexandria and Jerusalem
    5. The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylonia
    6. The Armenian Patriarch of Cilicia
  2. Cardinals
    1. Cardinal-bishops
      1. Dean of the Sacred College
      2. Vice-Dean of the Sacred College
      3. Other Cardinal-bishops of Suburbicarian Sees (by date of elevation)
    2. Cardinal-presbyters
      1. Cardinal Protopresbyter
      2. Other Cardinal-presbyters (by date of elevation)
    3. Cardinal-deacons
      1. Cardinal Protodeacon
      2. Other Cardinal-deacons (by date of elevation)
  3. Major Archbishops[14][15]
    1. The Major Archbishop of Kiev–Galicia (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church)
    2. The Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly (Syro-Malabar Church)
    3. The Major Archbishop of Trivandrum (Syro-Malankara Catholic Church)
    4. The Major Archbishop of Făgăraş and Alba Julia (Romanian Greek Catholic Church)
  4. Primates or Episcopal Conference Presidents
  5. Titular Patriarchs
    1. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
    2. The Latin Patriarch of Venice
    3. The Latin Patriarch of the West Indies (vacant since 1963)
    4. The Latin Patriarch of Lisbon
    5. The Latin Patriarch of the East Indies
  6. Archbishops
    1. Metropolitan Archbishops
    2. Diocesan Archbishops (non-Metropolitan)
    3. Coadjutor Archbishops
    4. Archbishops ad personam
    5. Titular Archbishops
  7. Bishops
    1. Diocesan Bishops
    2. Coadjutor Bishops
    3. Titular Bishops (e.g., auxiliaries) or Chorbishops
  8. Ordinaries of territorial jurisdictions other than dioceses
    1. Territorial Prelate (formerly, prelate nullius)[16]
    2. Territorial Abbot (formerly, abbot nullius)
    3. Vicar apostolic
    4. Exarch apostolic
    5. Prefect apostolic
    6. Apostolic administrator
  9. Ordinaries of personal (non-territorial) jurisdictions
    1. Supreme Moderators of Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life ("Superiors General")
    2. Prelate of Personal prelature
    3. Ordinary of Personal ordinariate or Military ordinariate
    4. Presidents of international associations of the faithful
  10. Ordinaries (vicarious)
    1. Diocesan administrators (formerly, vicar capitular)
    2. Archdeacons
    3. Vicars general or protosyncellus
    4. Vicars episcopal
    5. Provincial Superiors
  11. Protonotary apostolic (Monsignor)
    1. De Numero
    2. Supernumerary
  12. Members of the Order of Pope Pius IX
    1. Knight/Dame Grand Cross with Collar
    2. Knight/Dame Grand Cross
    3. Knight/Dame Grand Officer
    4. Knight/Dame Commander
    5. Knight/Dame
  13. Canons of
    1. Metropolitan chapters
    2. Cathedral chapters
    3. Collegiate Chapters
  14. Diocesan Consultors
  15. Honorary Prelates of His Holiness (Monsignor)
  16. Members of the Order of St. Gregory the Great
    1. Knight/Dame Grand Cross
    2. Knight/Dame Commander with Star
    3. Knight/Dame Commander
    4. Knight/Dame
  17. Chaplains of His Holiness (Monsignor), Archpriests, and Archimandrites
  18. Members of the Order of St. Sylvester
    1. Knight/Dame Grand Cross
    2. Knight/Dame Commander with Star
    3. Knight/Dame Commander
    4. Knight/Dame
  19. Recipients of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal
  20. Vicars forane & Deans
  21. Recipients of the Benemerenti Medal
  22. Pastors or Pastoral Life Coordinators[17]
  23. Parochial vicars or Pastoral Associates
  24. Deacons

Precedence of forms of community life

Within each category, precedence is determined by the date of founding of the institute, society, or association.

  1. Sacramental Marriage
  2. Institutes of Consecrated Life
    1. Religious institutes
      1. Monastic Orders (monks/nuns)
      2. Canons Regular
      3. Mendicant Orders
      4. Clerics Regular
      5. Clerical Religious Congregations
      6. Lay Religious Congregations
    2. Secular institutes
      1. Clerical Secular Institutes
      2. Lay Secular Institutes
  3. Societies of Apostolic Life
    1. Clerical Societies
    2. Lay Societies
  4. Personal prelatures
  5. Associations of the Christian Faithful or Lay Movements
    1. Public Associations
      1. Third Orders, Oblates, etc.
      2. Archconfraternities
      3. Confraternities
      4. Other Associations
    2. Private Associations
  6. Private consecrated individuals
    1. Hermits
    2. Consecrated virgins

Precedence within religious institutes

  1. Superiors General of religious institutes
  2. Assistants Superiors General
    1. Procurator-general
    2. Definitors-general
  3. Provincial superior, Provincial prior, Archimandrite
  4. Religious superior - Monastic superiors
    1. Abbot
    2. conventual prior
    3. Obedientiary prior
  5. Second
    1. Claustral prior or Deans
    2. Sub-prior
  6. Archimandrite, honorary
  7. Hieromonks (priests of religious institutes)
  8. Religious Brothers and Sisters[18]

Precedence within chapters

  1. Dean/Provost or other heads of chapters
  2. Other officers (treasurer, a secretary, and a sacristan, canon theologian, canon penitentiary)
  3. Capitulars or canons[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Precedence" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ Noonan, James Charles (2012). The Church Visible: Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Catholic Church (Revised ed.). New York: Sterling Ethos. p. 504. ISBN 9781402787300.
  3. ^ Noonan. Church Visible. p. 196.
  4. ^ New Catholic Encyclopedia (Revised ed.). Gale. 2002. pp. 15 vols. ISBN 978-0787640040.
  5. ^ Peters, Edward N. (2001). 1917 Code of Canon Law. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. p. 106.2.
  6. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law. p. 106.3.
  7. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law. p. 106.3.
  8. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law. p. 106.3.
  9. ^ Noonan. Church Visible. p. 194.
  10. ^ Code of Canons of Eastern Churches. Washington, DC: CLSA. 1990. p. 58-59. ISBN 978-0943616889.
  11. ^ Paul VI (1965). Ad Purpuratorum Patrum.
  12. ^ "Latinization". Orthodox Wiki.
  13. ^ Code of Canons of Eastern Churches. Washington, DC: CLSA. 1990. p. 58-59. ISBN 978-0943616889.
  14. ^ Major Archbishops are de facto considered equal in rank to cardinal-presbyters even if they have not been created as such
  15. ^ Code of Canons of Eastern Churches. 1990. p. 154.
  16. ^ Code of Canon Law. 1983. p. 370.
  17. ^ Code of Canon Law. 1983. p. 517.2.
  18. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Religious Life" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  19. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Chapter" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

A bishop (English derivation from the New Testament of the Christian Bible Greek επίσκοπος, epískopos, "overseer", "guardian") is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.

Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian, Anglican, Old Catholic and Independent Catholic churches and in the Assyrian Church of the East, bishops claim apostolic succession, a direct historical lineage dating back to the original Twelve Apostles. Within these churches, bishops are seen as those who possess the full priesthood and can ordain clergy – including another bishop. Some Protestant churches including the Lutheran and Methodist churches have bishops serving similar functions as well, though not always understood to be within apostolic succession in the same way. One who has been ordained deacon, priest, and then bishop is understood to hold the fullness of the (ministerial) priesthood, given responsibility by Christ to govern, teach and sanctify the Body of Christ, members of the Faithful. Priests, deacons and lay ministers cooperate and assist their bishops in shepherding a flock.

Dean of the College of Cardinals

The Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals (Latin: Decanus Sacri Collegii) is the dean (president) of the College of Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. The position was established in the early 12th century.

The Dean presides over the College of Cardinals, serving as primus inter pares in the college. He always holds the rank of cardinal bishop. The Dean of the College of Cardinals is assisted by the Vice-Dean; in those roles they act as the president and vice-president of the college respectively. Both are elected by and from the Cardinal Bishops who are not Eastern Catholic patriarchs and subject to papal confirmation. Except for presiding, the Dean and Vice-Dean have no power over the other cardinals. In the order of precedence in the Catholic Church as the senior Cardinal Bishops, the Dean and Vice-Dean are placed second and third, respectively, after the pope.

The Dean is often, but not necessarily, the longest-serving member of the whole College. It had been customary for centuries for the longest-serving of the six cardinal bishops of suburbicarian sees to be Dean. This was required by canon law from 1917 until 1965, when Pope Paul VI empowered the six to elect the Dean from among their number. This election was a formality until the time of Pope John Paul II.The Dean holds the position until death or resignation; there is no mandatory age of retirement.

Hierarchy of the Catholic Church

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of its bishops, priests, and deacons. In the ecclesiological sense of the term, "hierarchy" strictly means the "holy ordering" of the Church, the Body of Christ, so to respect the diversity of gifts and ministries necessary for genuine unity. (1 Cor 12)

In canonical and general usage, it refers to those who exercise authority within a Christian church. In the Catholic Church, authority rests chiefly with the bishops, while priests and deacons serve as their assistants, co-workers or helpers. Accordingly, "hierarchy of the Catholic Church" is also used to refer to the bishops alone.As of 30 December 2014, the Catholic Church consisted of 2,998 dioceses or equivalent jurisdictions, each overseen by a bishop. Dioceses are divided into individual communities called parishes, each staffed by one or more priests, deacons, or lay ecclesial ministers. Ordinarily, care of a parish is entrusted to a priest, though there are exceptions. Approximately 22% of all parishes do not have a resident pastor, and 3,485 parishes worldwide are entrusted to a deacon or lay ecclesial minister.All clergy, including deacons, priests, and bishops, may preach, teach, baptize, witness marriages, and conduct funeral liturgies. Only priests and bishops can celebrate the sacraments of the Eucharist (though others may be ministers of Holy Communion), Penance (Reconciliation, Confession), Confirmation (priests may administer this sacrament with prior ecclesiastical approval), and Anointing of the Sick. Only bishops can administer the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which men are ordained as bishops, priests or deacons.

Matthew Festing

Robert Matthew Festing (born 30 November 1949) served as Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 2008 until his resignation following a dispute with the Vatican on 28 January 2017.

Order of precedence

Order of precedence is a sequential hierarchy of nominal importance of persons. Most often it is used in the context of people by many organizations and governments, for very formal and state occasions, especially where diplomats are present. It can also be used in the context of decorations, medals and awards. Historically, the order of precedence had a more widespread use, especially in court and aristocratic life.

A person's position in an order of precedence is not necessarily an indication of functional importance, but rather an indication of ceremonial or historical relevance; for instance, it may dictate where dignitaries are seated at formal dinners. The term is occasionally used to mean the order of succession—to determine who replaces the head of state in the event he or she is removed from office or incapacitated—as they are often identical, at least near the top.

What follows are the general orders of precedence for different countries for state purposes, such as diplomatic dinners, and are made under the assumption that such functions are held in the capital. When they are held in another city or region, local officials such as governors would be much higher up the order. There may also be more specific and local orders of precedence, for particular occasions or within particular institutions. Universities and the professions often have their own rules of precedence applying locally, based (for example) on university or professional rank, each rank then being ordered within itself on the basis of seniority (i.e. date of attaining that rank). Within an institution the officials of that institution are likely to rank much higher in the order than in a general order of precedence—the chancellor or president of a university may well precede anyone except a head of state for example. The same might be true for a mayor in his or her own city.

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See also

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