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An apostolic administrator in the Roman Catholic Church is a prelate appointed by the Pope to serve as the ordinary for an apostolic administration. An apostolic administration can either be an area that is not yet a diocese (a stable 'pre-diocesan', usually missionary apostolic administration) or for a diocese, eparchy or similar permanent ordinariate (such a territorial prelature or a territoriall abbacy) that either has no bishop (an apostolic administrator sede vacante, as after an episcopal death or resignation) or, in very rare cases, has an incapacitated bishop (apostolic administrator sede plena).
Apostolic administrators of stable administrations are equivalent in canon law with diocesan bishops, meaning they have essentially the same authority as a diocesan bishop. This type of apostolic administrator is usually the bishop of a titular see.
Administrators sede vacante or sede plena only serve in their role until a newly chosen diocesan bishop takes possession of the diocese. They are restricted by canon law in what they can do to the diocese they temporarily administer. For example, such an administrator may not sell real estate owned by the diocese. This type of administrator is commonly an auxiliary bishop of the diocese, a priest serving as the vicar general of the diocese, or the ordinary of a neighboring diocese.
Normally when a diocese falls vacant, either the previously appointed Coadjutor bishop takes possession of the see or (lacking such successor) a vicar capitular/diocesan administrator is chosen locally, but the Pope, having full governmental power, can preempt this choice and name an apostolic administrator instead. Sometimes a retiring, promoted or transferred (arch)bishop is designated to be apostolic administrator until his successor is designated and takes office, sometimes the Metropolitan or a fellow suffragan is appointed.
In May 2015, there were the following stable apostolic administrations, most administered by a (titular or external) bishop.
Most are of the Roman rite; most are in former or current communist countries.
- Apostolic Administration of Atyrau, in Kazakhstan, suffragan of the Metropolitan Archbishopric of Astana
- Apostolic Administration of the Caucasus, immediately subject to the Holy See, established in 1991 for two predominantly Orthodox former Soviet Republics: Georgia (the cathedral is in its capital Tbilisi) and Armenia
- Apostolic Administration of Estonia, one of the Baltic Countries; immediately subject to Rome, established in 1924, with its cathedral in the capital Tallinn
- Apostolic Administration of Kyrgyzstan, a mainly Islamic former Soviet Republic in Central Asia; immediately subject to Rome, founded in 1997 as a mission sui juris and promoted in 2006
- Apostolic Administration of Prizren, a former diocese (and later titular bishopric) in Kosovo (ex-Yugoslavian autonomous province in Serbia) (in 1969 absorbed by Skopje in the present Republic of Macedonia), restored in 2000, immediately subject to Rome
- Apostolic Administration of Uzbekistan, predominantly Islamic former Soviet Republic in Central Asia, immediately subject to Rome, founded in 1997 as a mission sui juris and promoted in 2005
- Apostolic Administration of Harbin in the People's Republic of China, immediately subject to Rome, established in 1935, with a cathedral, with two incumbents, a bishop without papal mandate since 2012 and a papal nominee since 2011.
The only exception, belonging to a Uniate, Eastern Catholic rite, is the following :
- Apostolic Administration of Southern Albania, with cathedral see at Vlorë (established in 1939; suffragan of the metropolitan of Tirana–Durrës), of the Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church, which as its own Albanian rite.
- Kinma (Kinmen and Matsu, under the control of the Republic of China (Taiwan)), established in 1968, led by the Archbishop of Taipei.
Diocese of Pyongyang
The Diocese of Pyongyang, North Korea: its last official bishop, Francis Hong Yong-ho, was imprisoned by the communist regime of Kim Il-sung in 1949 and later disappeared. The Archbishop of Seoul (South Korea) acts as the Apostolic Administrator in Pyongyang, as religion is suppressed in North Korea.
It has become not unusual that the Pope appoints an Apostolic Administrator to a diocese which is sede vacante, thus replacing the diocesan administrator. Usually, the emeritus bishop will be appointed in such a case. Recently (and in exception to the latter), the archdiocese St. Andrews and Edinburgh had Philip Tartaglia under this procedure.
Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney
In addition, the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney is a non-territorial jurisdiction, similar to a personal prelature, which is exempt, i.e. immediately subject to the Holy See, not part of any ecclesiastical province. It is a separate particular church for traditionalist Catholics within the Brazilian Diocese of Campos, a suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Niterói.
The personal apostolic administration was formed by Pope John Paul II to administer to a group of traditionalist Catholic priests, using the Tridentine Mass, who reconciled with Rome on January 18, 2002. The group had been formed by bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer and had been associated with the Society of St. Pius X of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.
Former Apostolic Administrations
- In Europe
- Apostolic Administration of Eastern Siberia (Russia)
- Apostolic Administration of European Russia
- Apostolic Administration of Görlitz
- Apostolic Administration of Lemkowszczyzna (Poland; Ukrainian Catholic, promoted Apostolic Exarchate, suppressed)
- Apostolic Administration of Moldova (now diocese of Chisinau)
- Apostolic Administration of Northern European Russia
- Apostolic Administration of Novosibirsk (Russia)
- Apostolic Administration of Southern European Russia
- Ruthenian Catholic Apostolic Administration of Targul-Siret (Romania, Byzantine Rite; suppressed)
- Apostolic Administration of Trnava (Slovakia; promoted Archdiocese, lost Metropolitan status when restored after merger into Bratislava)
- Apostolic Administration of Tütz
- Apostolic Administration of Upper Silesia (Poland; now Archdiocese of Katowice)
- Apostolic Administration of Western Siberia (Russia)
- In Asia
- Apostolic Administration of Latakia (Maronite, Syria; now an eparchy: Eastern Catholic diocese)
- Apostolic Administration of Okinawa and the Southern Islands, alias Ryukyus (Japan; now Diocese of Naha)
- In America
- Apostolic Administration of Copiapó (Chile; now a diocese)
- Apostolic Administration of El Petén (Guatemala; promoted Apostolic Vicariate)
- Apostolic Administration of Izabal (Guatemala; now a diocese)
- In Africa
- Apostolic Administration of the Comoros Archipelago (now Apostolic Vicariate of the Comoros Archipelago)
- Apostolic Administration of Mbuji-Mayi (now Diocese of Mbujimayi, in Congo)
- Apostolic Administration of Zanzibar and Pemba (now Diocese of Zanzibar, in Tanzania)
- Reorganization of occupied dioceses during World War II
- List of Catholic dioceses (alphabetical)
- List of Catholic dioceses (structured view)
- List of Roman Catholic archdioceses
- List of Catholic military ordinariates and - dioceses
- List of Catholic apostolic vicariates
- List of Eastern Catholic (Apostolic and other) exarchates
- List of Catholic apostolic prefectures
- List of Catholic territorial prelatures
- List of Catholic missions sui juris
- Apostolic Administrations GCatholic.org. Accessed 2014-07-11.
- Personal Apostolic Administrations GGatholic.com. Accessed 2008-04-10.
- Traditionalist schism in Brazil ends (January 18, 2002). Zenit News Agency. Accessed 2008-04-10.
- Apostolic Administration of São João Maria Vianney Catholic-Hierarchy.org. Accessed 2008-04-10.