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In Catholicism, an archbishop is an elevated bishop. In many Catholic Churches, this means that they lead a diocese of particular importance called an archdiocese. An archbishop is equivalent to a bishop in sacred matters but simply has a higher precedence or degree of prestige. Thus, when someone who is already a bishop becomes an archbishop, that person does not receive Holy Orders again or any other sacrament; however, in the rarer case when a person who is not a bishop at all becomes an archbishop, they will need to be ordained, or consecrated, as a bishop before being created an archbishop and installed. The word comes from the Greek αρχι, which means "first" or "chief", and επισκοπος, which means "overseer" or "supervisor".
In Western Catholicism, an archbishop is entitled to a few extra privileges that a simple bishop does not receive. Roman Catholic archbishops are allowed ten tassles a side on their coat of arms, while a bishop only receives six. In addition, an archbishop can also place an archiepiscopal cross (two bars instead of one) behind his shield. In the Church this cross used to be carried immediately before archbishops in liturgical processions, but this is now not always done. In the Anglican Communion an archiepiscopal or primatial cross is carried before an archbishop in procession. Also in liturgical protocol, archbishops precede simple bishops.
Otherwise, archbishops dress and are styled the same as a normal bishop. Exceptions to style occur in the Anglican Communion and in countries where the Anglican Communion is prevalent. In those places, an archbishop is styled The Most Reverend while a simple bishop is styled The Right Reverend.
Most of the following applies equally to the Latin rite Roman Catholic Church and the churches of the Anglican Communion, though in the latter, the only archbishops are the provincial metropolitans and the church primates.
Archbishops of archdioceses
Most archbishops are called so because they are in charge of an archdiocese, a diocese of particular importance. Most of the time, this importance is because the archdiocese is the metropolitan see of the ecclesiastical province in which the see is located. These metropolitan archbishops, in addition to the usual ceremonial privileges of archbishops, hold the responsibilities of a metropolitan bishop over the suffragan bishops of the province and are thus the only archbishops who wear the pallium by right. In the Roman Catholic Church, if the archdiocese is particularly significant, the archbishop may become a cardinal. The Pope also reserves the right to honor non-metropolitan archbishops and other bishops (those in the curia, those with a personal title, or in other sees) because of their contribution to the Church, as he does when he honors priests who are prominent theologians. These latter individuals who are elevated are usually, but not always, past the voting age of 80 in a papal conclave.
Sometimes, a diocese is an archdiocese because of its history or size and not because of its jurisdictional importance. Their archbishops, while retaining the ceremonial privileges of archbishops, are really normal residential bishops and usually are suffragan to some metropolitan bishop. Most of these non-metropolitan archdioceses are located in Europe, and a few examples are the Archdiocese of Strasbourg, which is not in any ecclesiastical province, the Archdiocese of Avignon, which is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Marseille, and the Archdiocese of Gaeta, which is a suffragan of the Diocese of Rome.
An example of a non-metropolitan archdiocese outside of Europe is the Archdiocese of Hobart in Australia, which is suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Melbourne
Another example of a non-metropolitan archdiocese is the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, which is a military ordinariate.
Some titular sees are/were archiepiscopal, so their incumbents are also archbishops. These titular archbishops retain the privileges of archbishops but have the jurisdiction of neither a metropolitan nor a residential bishop.
A residential archbishop who resigns his see and does not take up another one retains the title Archbishop Emeritus of the last see he occupied before the resignation. This occurs when an archbishop retires or is transferred to some other non-diocesan office, such as the Roman Curia. In the past the Pope would normally bestow a titular see on every retired bishop and every bishop who transferred to the Curia, so this recent canonical innovation was instituted to conserve titular sees for active auxiliary bishops and members of the Roman Curia who have not had a diocesan appointment yet.
If archdiocese X has a coadjutor bishop, his official title is Coadjutor Archbishop of X. However, until he succeeds to the archiepiscopal see, the coadjutor archbishop is treated as an important bishop and diocesan official and is considered an auxiliary bishop with the privilege of succession, and not as a regular archbishop.
In the Catholic Church, the rank of titular archbishop is ordinarily conferred on apostolic nuncios and superiors of more minor dicasteries, like commissions or councils, in the Roman Curia who are important prelates but who do not head the curial congregations and so will not become cardinals. In some cases, an ordinary diocesan bishop or auxiliary bishop (who isn't a metropolitan archbishop) is honored by the Pope with the personal title (ad personam; see below) of archbishop. Formerly, when he retired, he was given a titular see and became a titular archbishop. Now, he becomes bishop emeritus of his former see. In other cases, a titular archbishop is named diocesan bishop of a diocese that is not a metropolitan archdiocese, in which case he retains the personal title of "archbishop" ad personam (see below).
Archbishop ad personam
Some archbishops hold their privileges ad personam. This means that the archiepiscopal dignity is conferred on them individually and not on their diocese. The primates of the Anglican Communion (Canterbury and York) and the other archbishops of the Communion are this kind of archbishop, since they usually only hold archiepiscopal rights for the duration of their time as head of their archdiocese- although some (like Archbishop Desmond Tutu) are allowed to retain the title for life (in Anglicanism the archdiocese is not as dominant over the neighboring dioceses as it is in Catholicism). In the Latin-rite Roman Catholic Church, the Pope grants ad personam archiepiscopal privileges, which usually endure perpetually.
In the Eastern churches (Catholic and Orthodox) archbishops and metropolitans are distinct, although a metropolitan may be referred to as metropolitan archbishop. In the Greek Orthodox Church, archbishops outrank metropolitans, and have the same rights as Russian Orthodox metropolitans. In the Russian tradition metropolitans outrank archbishops. The Oriental Orthodox generally follow the pattern of the Slavic tradition with respect to the archbishop/metropolitan distinction. In denominations (such as Ukrainian Greek Catholic) where the bishop is called an eparch, the archbishop is normally called an archeparch.
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- For an example, see Archbishop Thomas Joseph Toolen, bishop of Mobile (Alabama, USA) and archbishop ad personam.
- For an example, see Archbishop Celestine Damiano, bishop of Camden (New Jersey, USA) and archbishop ad personam.