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In Christianity, an archbishop is an elevated bishop. In the Catholic Church and others, this means that they lead a diocese of particular importance called an archdiocese, or in the Anglican Communion an ecclestiastical province, but this is not always the case. 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, when a person who is not a bishop at all becomes an archbishop, they will need to be ordained a bishop. The word comes from the Greek αρχι, which means "first" or "chief", and επισκοπος, which means "over-seer" or "supervisor".

Western Christianity

In Western Christianity, an archbishop is entitled to a few extra privileges that a simple bishop does not receive. First, an archbishop's coat of arms looks different. 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 Roman Catholic 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 archiepsicopal 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.

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, and the Archdiocese of Avignon, whose archbishop is a suffragan of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Marseille [1].

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.

Roman Catholic archbishop's coat of arms (version with pallium)

Catholic Church

Main article: Bishop (Catholic Church)

In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, an archbishop is roughly equivalent to a metropolitan in the Eastern Catholic Churches. That is, an archbishop is head of an ecclesiastical province comprised of several dioceses. As head of an archdiocese he is responsible for various duties to his province according to canon law.

Other archbishops

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 ranks with auxiliary bishops and not with normal archbishops.

Finally some archbishops hold their privileges ad personam. This means that the archiepiscopal dignity is conferred on them alone and not their diocese. The primates of the Anglican Communion are this kind of archbishop, since they only hold archiepiscopal rights for the duration of their presidency. In the Latin-rite Roman Catholic Church, the Pope grants ad personam archiepiscopal privileges, which usually endure perpetually.

Eastern Christianity

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 Eastern Orthodox metropolitans. The Oriental Orthodox generally follow the pattern of the Slavic Orthodox with respect to the archbishop/metropolitan distinction.

See also