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An archbishop or metropolitan, in the present sense of the term, is a bishop who governs a diocese strictly his own, while he presides at the same time over the bishops of a well-defined district composed of simple dioceses but not of provinces. Hence none of these subordinate bishops rule over others. These bishops are called the suffragans or comprovincials. The archbishop's own diocese is the archdiocese. The several dioceses of the district form the archiepiscopal, or metropolitan, province.
Some writers wrongly point to Sts. Timothy and Titus, the disciples of St. Paul, as to the first archbishops in the Church. Probably they were metropolitans in the wider sense of the term, one for Asia Minor, the other for the island of Crete. But it remains impossible to assign the exact date when archbishops, as we now use the term, were first appointed. It is true that metropolitans are mentioned as a well-known institution in the Church by the Council of Nicæa (325) in its fourth, fifth and sixth canons, and by the Council of Antioch (341) whose seventh canon is a classical passage in this matter. It reads: "The bishops of every province must be aware that the bishop presiding in the metropolis has charge of the whole province; because all who have business come together from all quarters to the metropolis. For this reason it is decided that he should, according to the ancient and recognized canon of our fathers, do nothing beyond what concerns their respective dioceses and the districts belonging thereto", etc. But it cannot be denied that even at, this period the term "metropolitan" was used indiscriminately for all higher ranks above the simple episcopate. It was thus applied also to patriarchs and primates. The same must be said of the term "archbishop" which does not occur in the present meaning before the sixth century, although the office of archbishop or metropolitan in the stricter sense, indicating a hierarchical rank above the ordinary bishops but below the primate and patriarch, was already substantially the same in the fifth century as it is today. A peculiar condition obtained in Africa, where the archiepiscopal office was not attached to a certain see, the metropolis, but where it always devolved upon the senior bishop of the province, whatever see he might occupy. He was called "the first or chief bishop", or also "the bishop of the first or chief see".
The jurisdiction of the archbishop is twofold, episcopal and archiepiscopal. The first extends to his own diocese exclusively and comprises the rights and powers of the fullest government of the diocese, clergy and laity, spiritual and temporal, except as restricted by Church law. Unless such restriction be clearly stated in law, the presumption is in favour of the episcopal authority. The contrary holds in regard to the archiepiscopal authority. It extends to the province and the suffragan bishops only in as far as it is explicitly stated in the law. Where the law is silent, the presumption is against the archbishop. Be it remembered, however, that rightfully established and approved custom obtains the force of law. Archiepiscopal jurisdiction, being permanently attached to the office as such, is ordinary jurisdiction, not merely delegated or vicarious. It reaches immediately the suffragan bishops, and mediately the faithful of their dioceses. However, it has not always been the same either in regard to time or place. While the metropolitan office was everywhere the same in character, the extent and measure of its right and power would be greatly modified by local conditions, particular laws and customs, and sometimes by papal privileges. Although many of these rights are mentioned in different places of the Corpus Juris Canonici, yet there never was a uniform law to define them all in detail. In former times the archbishop's jurisdiction was far more ample than it is at present. The metropolitan could confirm, consecrate, and transfer the bishops of his province, accept from them the oath of allegiance and fidelity, summon them singly or collectively to his metropolis (even outside of a council) at his pleasure, cite the suffragans into his court in civil and criminal trials, give them leave of absence from their dioceses and letters commendatory in their travels, allow them to dispose of church property, regulate the Church calendar of the province by fixing and announcing the date of Easter, administer the suffragan dioceses in case of vacancy, and, finally, receive appeals lodged with him from any part of his province. But this extensive power of archbishops was later on greatly restricted, specially in the Latin Church, by several of the popes, and lastly by the Council of Trent. The charge made by the Jansenists that the popes curtailed the rights of archbishops in order to increase and strengthen their own claim of universal primacy, is best refuted by the fact that the metropolitan authority in it struggles against encroaching primates and patriarchs or rival metropolitans, found no stronger support than that given by the Holy See. On the other hand, Rome had also to defend the native or acquired rights and privileges of suffragan bishops against usurping claims of their metropolitans. That the Holy See did not exceed its powers is further proved by the fact the Council of Trent restricted rights of metropolitans even more than the popes had done. In the Catholic Churches of Asia and Africa the former metropolitan office is today merged in the patriarchal office. The archbishops under those patriarchs have no province nor archiepiscopal jurisdiction, but only hold the rank or archiepiscopal dignity. But in Austria, Hungary, Roumania, Servia, and Herzegovina the Catholics of the different Oriental rites, Ruthenians, Greeks, and Armenians, still have archbishops in the proper sense, who retain a large portion of their former jurisdiction, more than those of the Latin Rite. Since the Council of Trent the rights of an archbishop in the Latin Church may be described as follows:
(1) In regard to his suffragan bishops the metropolitan may compel them to assemble in provincial council every three years, and to attend faithfully to their episcopal duties, in particular those of residing regularly within their own diocese, of holding diocesan synods, and of maintaining diocesan seminaries (where clerical candidates cannot otherwise receive an ecclesiastical training). In the provincial council the archbishop is invested with all the rights of the presiding officer, but his voice counts no more than any of his suffragans. Modern practice has it also that when the archbishop's warning is not heeded by the delinquent suffragan, he will not himself use compulsory measures, e.g. censures, but report the case to Rome. Only civil, not criminal, cases of suffragans come within the competency of the archbishop.
(2) Generally speaking, the metropolitan has no direct jurisdiction over the subjects of his suffragans. But he acquires such jurisdiction in three ways, namely: by appeal, by devolution, and by the canonical visitation. Today archbishops cannot visit a suffragan diocese, unless the matter has been discussed and approved by the provincial council. Matters of episcopal jurisdiction will devolve upon the archbishop in certain cases mentioned in the law, when the suffragan bishop neglects to do his duty, e.g. to fill in due time vacant benefices or parishes, or to absolve from excommunication when the necessary conditions have been complied with. This proceeds on the general principle that superiors ought to remedy the neglect of their inferiors lest too great harm be done to the Church and her faithful children. When a diocese becomes vacant the cathedral chapter is bound to elect a vicar-capitular who will act as administrator of the vacant diocese. If such election is not made in eight days the archbishop of the province will appoint the vicar-capitular. In the United States the archbishop appoints an administrator of the vacant diocese until Rome shall further provide. If the archdiocese becomes vacant, the senior suffragan appoints the administrator. An appeal or recourse, judicial or extrajudicial, lies directly, at least in the regular course of ecclesiastical procedure, from the bishop to his archbishop, as to the next higher instance. Whenever some disputed matter is thus brought, according to the law, from a suffragan diocese before the metropolitan for adjudication, he acquires direct jurisdiction over the case. Appeals and recourses by the archbishop's own subjects against his judicial sentences, or other ordinances given in the first instance, lie directly, when allowed by law, to the Holy See, at least in the absence of a proper primate or patriarch. But, to expedite and facilitate matters, other ways are usually granted by Rome, e.g. to appeal from the archbishop to his senior suffragan, as in England; or to the nearest other metropolitan, as in the United States and in Germany; or to a second and special metropolitic court in the same province called Metropoliticum as in France. Since the establishment of the Apostolic Delegation in the United States cases from the suffragan sees (except matrimonial cases) are usually brought directly before the delegate and no longer before the archbishop.
(3) Archbishops also have the right and duty of compelling, if necessary, the superiors of religious orders, even those who are otherwise exempt, in charge of parishes or congregations, to have the Gospel preached in such parishes according to the provisions of the Council of Trent. It may be observed, however that, although such are by law the rights of an archbishop, their exercise is now seldom called for, so that his more prominent position is rather one of honour and dignity than of actual jurisdiction. Still, with all this, it remains necessary to distinguish the incumbent of a metropolitan see from the bearer of a mere honorary title of archbishop (who never receives the pallium and is never called metropolitan), often granted by the Holy See to prelates without an actual see and sometimes to ordinary bishops. By the Mohammedan conquest nearly all of the early metropolitan sees in Asia and Africa became extinct. In more recent time some of these were restored by the popes, being made residential sees. But the titles of the others are conferred as a mere honorary distinction, mostly upon prelates of the Roman courts and coadjutor bishops of metropolitans. Besides the powers of jurisdiction, archbishops also enjoy certain rights of honour within their province. The foremost among these is the right of wearing the pallium. Before receiving the pallium from Rome the archbishop cannot exercise any metropolitic functions nor officiate in pontifical vestments within the province, unless by a special privilege from the Holy See. Other honorary rights are: to have the processional cross carried immediately before him, to wear the mozetta or short cape, to bless the people, to precede his suffragans, and to occupy the bishop's throne, all this anywhere in the province. In the archiepiscopal coat of arms the episcopal hat is flanked by ten tassels on each side. His address is "Your (His) Grace", "Most Reverend".
The vacancy of an archiepiscopal see is filled in the same manner as that of an ordinary bishopric, whether it be by an election properly so called, or by a presentation or nomination, or by direct papal appointment. If the new archbishop be a priest, he will receive episcopal consecration; if already a bishop, he will be solemnly installed in the new office. But it is neither the consecration nor the installation which makes the archbishop. It is his appointment to an archdiocese.
There are at present (1906) in the Catholic Church 164 archbishops with provinces, and 37 with only their diocese but no province, and, lastly, 89 purely titular archbishops. In the United States there are now 14 provinces, in British America 9, in Cuba 1, in the Philippine Islands 1. For a full description of the present metropolitan organization in the Catholic Church, East and West, see the article HIERARCHY.
Archbishops are as a rule only titular, without any suffragans, but with their own diocese, the same as most of the Catholic metropolitans in the East. But in the autocephalous, or independent, national churches of Austria, Hungary, Servia, Roumania, Bosnia, and Herzegovina the so-called archbishops or metropolitans exercise, in union with the autocephalous synod, the highest ecclesiastical authority over the Church of such country. Their office, therefore, resembles that of a patriarch.
The Anglican Church has two archbishops in England, one of Canterbury, the other of York, both of whom are invested with primatial dignity; and two archbishops in Ireland, one of Armagh, the other of Dublin. Their authority is similar to that of Catholic archbishops. In Scotland the Episcopalians have no archbishop; but one of the bishops is chosen by the rest to act as "Primus" without metropolitan jurisdiction (see BISHOP, DIOCESE, METROPOLITAN, HIERARCHY, PRIMATE).
APA citation. (1907). Archbishop. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01691a.htm
MLA citation. "Archbishop." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01691a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Wm Stuart French, Jr. Dedicated to Michael Davies.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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