Primate (religion)

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Primate (from the Latin primas, "principal") is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority (title of authority) or ceremonial precedence (title of honour).


Roman Catholic Church

Latin-Rite churches

In the Western Church, a Primate is an archbishop—or rarely a suffragan or exempt bishop—of a specific episcopal see (called a primatial see) which confers precedence over the bishops of one or more neighboring ecclesiastical provinces, such as a 'national' church in historical, political, and cultural terms. Historically, primates were granted privileges including the authority to call and preside at national synods, the jurisdiction to hear appeals from metropolitan tribunals, the right to crown the sovereign of the nation, and presiding at the investiture (installation) of archbishops in their sees.

The office is generally found in the older Catholic countries, and is now purely honorific, enjoying no effective powers under canon law, (exemption is Poland where the new status of episcopal conference states that the Primate of Poland is durante munere member of Perpetual Board of episcopal conference, he has honorary precedence among polish bishops (e.g. by carrying on liturgical ceremonies), Polish primates also actively wear cardinal's vestments, even if they were not nominated cardinals, a privilege granted by the Holy See. The title, where it exists, may be vested in one of the oldest archdioceses in a country. The see city may no longer have the prominence it had when the diocese was created, or its circumscription may no longer exist as a state, nation or country — for example, the Archbishop of Toledo originated as the "Primate of the Visigothic Kingdom", while the Archbishop of Lyon is the "Primate of the Gauls".

Some of the leadership functions once exercised by primates, specifically presiding at meetings of the bishops of a nation or region, are now vested in the president of the national conference of bishops. With the exception of the President of the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana, these presidents are elected by the other bishops of the conference for a fixed term in office. Other former functions of primates, such as hearing appeals from metropolitan tribunals, are now reserved to the Holy See.

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