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Episcopal conference

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An episcopal conference, often also called a bishops’ conference or conference of bishops, is an official assembly of the bishops of the Catholic Church in a given territory. Episcopal conferences have long existed as informal entities. The first assembly of bishops to meet regularly, with its own legal structure and ecclesial leadership function, is the Swiss Bishops' Conference, which was founded in 1863.[1] More than forty episcopal conferences existed before the Second Vatican Council.[2] Their status was confirmed by the Second Vatican Council[3] and further defined by Pope Paul VI's 1966 motu proprio, Ecclesiae sanctae.[4][5]

Episcopal conferences are generally defined by geographic borders, often national ones, with all the bishops in a given country belonging to the same conference, although they may also include neighboring countries. Certain authority and tasks are assigned to episcopal conferences, particularly with regard to setting the liturgical norms for the Mass. Episcopal conferences receive their authority under universal law or particular mandates. In certain circumstances, as defined by canon law, the decisions of an episcopal conference are subject to ratification from the Holy See. Individual bishops do not relinquish their immediate authority for the governance of their respective dioceses to the conference.[6]

Theological and juridical status


The operation, authority, and responsibilities of episcopal conferences are currently governed by the 1983 Code of Canon Law (see especially canons 447–459)[7][8] In addition, there are assemblies of bishops which include the bishops of different rites in a nation, both Eastern Catholic and Latin Catholic; these are described in canon 322 §2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

The nature of episcopal conferences, and their magisterial authority in particular, was subsequently clarified by Pope John Paul II in his 1998 motu proprio, Apostolos suos, which stated that the declarations of such conferences "constitute authentic magisterium" when approved unanimously by the conference; otherwise the conference must achieve a two-thirds majority and seek the recognitio, that is, recognition of approval, of the Holy See, which they will not receive if the majority "is not substantial".[9]

In the 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis expressed his concern that the intent of the Second Vatican Council, which would give episcopal conferences "genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated."[10] On September 9, 2017, Pope Francis modified canon law, granting episcopal conferences specific authority "to faithfully prepare … approve and publish the liturgical books for the regions for which they are responsible after the confirmation of the Apostolic See." The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which formerly had primary responsibility for translations, was ordered to "help the Episcopal Conferences to fulfil their task."[11][12] On October 22, 2017, the Holy See released a letter that Pope Francis had sent to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Robert Sarah, clarifying that the Holy See and its departments would have only limited authority to confirm liturgical translations recognized by a local episcopal conference.[13] In late February, 2018, the Council of Cardinals and Pope Francis undertook a consideration of the theological status of episcopal conferences, re-reading Pope John Paul II's Apostolos Suos in the light of Pope Francis's Evangelii Gaudium.[14]

List of episcopal conferences




  1. Episcopal Conference of Angola and São Tomé
  2. Episcopal Conference of Benin
  3. Conference of Bishops of Burkina Faso and of Niger
  4. Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi
  5. National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon
  6. Central African Episcopal Conference
  7. Episcopal Conference of Chad
  8. Episcopal Conference of the Congo
  9. Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  10. Episcopal Conference of the Côte d'Ivoire
  11. Episcopal Conference of Equatorial Guinea
  12. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Ethiopia and Eritrea
  13. Episcopal Conference of Gabon
  14. Inter-territorial Catholic Bishops' Conference of The Gambia and Sierra Leone
  15. Ghana Bishops' Conference
  16. Episcopal Conference of Guinea
  17. Episcopal Conference of the Indian Ocean[a]
  18. Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops
  19. Lesotho Catholic Bishops' Conference
  20. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Liberia
  21. Episcopal Conference of Madagascar
  22. Episcopal Conference of Malawi
  23. Episcopal Conference of Mali
  24. Episcopal Conference of Mozambique
  25. Namibian Catholic Bishops' Conference
  26. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria
  27. Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa[b]
  28. Conference of Catholic Bishops of Rwanda
  29. Conference of Bishops of Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde, and Guinea Bissau
  30. Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC)[c]
  31. Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference[d]
  32. Tanzania Episcopal Conference
  33. Episcopal Conference of Togo
  34. Uganda Episcopal Conference
  35. Zambia Episcopal Conference
  36. Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference


Headquarters of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines in Manila
  1. Conference of the Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions[e]
  2. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh
  3. Bishops' Conference of Central Asia [f]
  4. Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference
  5. Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI)
  6. Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI)
  7. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan
  8. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea
  9. Episcopal Conference of Laos and Cambodia
  10. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (CBCMSB)
  11. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Myanmar
  12. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan
  13. Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
  14. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand
  15. Episcopal Conference of Turkey
  16. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka
  17. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam


Headquarters of the Lithuanian Bishops' Conference in Vilnius
  1. Episcopal Conference of Albania
  2. Austrian Bishops' Conference
  3. Conference of Catholic Bishops of Belarus
  4. Episcopal Conference of Belgium
  5. Bishops' Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  6. Episcopal Conference of Bulgaria
  7. Croatian Bishops' Conference
  8. Czech Bishops' Conference
  9. Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales
  10. Bishops' Conference of France (CEF)
  11. German Bishops' Conference
  12. Holy Synod of Catholic Bishops of Greece
  13. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Hungary
  14. Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference[g]
  15. Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI)
  16. Latvian Bishops' Conference
  17. Lithuanian Bishops' Conference [1]
  18. Maltese Episcopal Conference
  19. Bishops' Conference of the Netherlands
  20. Polish Episcopal Conference
  21. Portuguese Episcopal Conference
  22. Romanian Episcopal Conference
  23. Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation
  24. International Bishops' Conference of Saints Cyril and Methodius[h]
  25. Scandinavian Bishops Conference[i]
  26. Bishops' Conference of Scotland
  27. Conference of Slovak Bishops
  28. Slovenian Bishops' Conference
  29. Spanish Episcopal Conference
  30. Swiss Bishops Conference
  31. Ukrainian Episcopal Conference


  1. Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
  2. New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference
  3. Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (C.E. PAC.)[j]
  4. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

North America

Headquarters of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC
  1. Antilles Episcopal Conference
  2. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)
  3. Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica
  4. Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba
  5. Conference of the Dominican Episcopate (CED)
  6. Episcopal Conference of El Salvador
  7. Episcopal Conference of Guatemala
  8. Episcopal Conference of Haiti
  9. Episcopal Conference of Honduras
  10. Conference of the Mexican Episcopate (CEM)
  11. Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua
  12. Episcopal Conference of Panama
  13. Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference (CEP)
  14. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)[k]

South America

  1. Argentine Episcopal Conference (CEA)
  2. Bolivian Episcopal Conference
  3. National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB)
  4. Episcopal Conference of Chile (CECh)
  5. Episcopal Conference of Colombia
  6. Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference
  7. Paraguayan Episcopal Conference
  8. Peruvian Episcopal Conference
  9. Episcopal Conference of Uruguay
  10. Venezuelan Episcopal Conference


  1. ^ The Episcopal Conference of the Indian Ocean includes the bishops of Comoros, Mauritius, Réunion, Mayotte and Seychelles.
  2. ^ The Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa includes the bishops of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.
  3. ^ The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference includes the bishops of South Africa, Botswana, and Eswatini.
  4. ^ The Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference includes the bishops of Sudan and South Sudan.
  5. ^ The Conference of the Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions includes the bishops in Arab states of the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and Cyprus.
  6. ^ The Bishops' Conference of Central Asia includes the bishops of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
  7. ^ The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference includes the bishops of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  8. ^ Formerly the Bishops' Conference of Yugoslavia (1918—1993) and the Bishops' Conference of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1997-2005[16][17][18]). Includes the bishops of Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia.
  9. ^ The Scandinavian Bishops Conference includes the bishops of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
  10. ^ The Episcopal Conference of the Pacific is made up of the bishops of American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. [19].
  11. ^ The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also includes the bishop of the US Virgin Islands, but does not include the bishops of Puerto Rico (who form a separate conference), nor of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and Guam who are part of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific.

Other episcopal bodies


In addition to the episcopal conferences as defined by the Holy See, there are a number of other regional groupings of bishops:[15]: 1101–06 

Synods of eastern rite churches


Synods of Bishops of the Patriarchal and Major Archiepiscopal Churches

  • Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church
  • Synod of the Chaldean Church
  • Synod of the Catholic Coptic Church
  • Synod of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church
  • Synod of the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church
  • Synod of the Romanian Church
  • Synod of the Syrian Catholic Church
  • Synod of the Syro-Malabarese Church
  • Synod of the Syro-Malankarese Church
  • Council of the Ethiopian Church
  • Council of the Ruthenian Church, U.S.A.
  • Council of the Slovakian Church

Assemblies of bishops


National assemblies of Hierarchs of Churches Sui Iuris (including eastern Catholic as well as Latin ordinaries)

  • Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt
  • Assembly of the Catholic Bishops of Iraq
  • Assembly of the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon
  • Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchs of Syria
  • Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land
  • Iranian Episcopal Conference
  • Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI)

International Meetings of Episcopal Conferences


See also



  1. ^ Histoire: Les origines de la CES: première expérience au monde d'une conférence épiscopale nationale (in French), Fribourg: Service de presse de la Conférence des évêques suisses, retrieved 6 March 2018
  2. ^ McAleese, Mary (2012), Quo Vadis?: Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law (Kindle ed.), Blackrock, Ireland: The Columba Press, locations 2463-2466, ISBN 978-1-85607-786-6
  3. ^ Christus Dominus: Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, 28 October 1965, §36–38, retrieved 7 March 2018
  4. ^ Ecclesiae sanctae, 6 August 1966, retrieved 7 March 2018
  5. ^ The Limits of the Papacy, p. 97, by Patrick Granfield, Crossroad, New York, 1987. ISBN 0-8245-0839-4
  6. ^ John Paul II (21 May 1998), Apostolos suos; On the Theological and Juridical Nature of Episcopal Conferences, Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, §19, retrieved 7 March 2018
  7. ^ Code of Canon Law, 1983, §447-459, retrieved 5 March 2018
  8. ^ John Paul II (21 May 1998), Apostolos suos; On the Theological and Juridical Nature of Episcopal Conferences, Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, §5, retrieved 5 March 2018
  9. ^ John Paul II (21 May 1998), Apostolos suos; On the Theological and Juridical Nature of Episcopal Conferences, Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, §22, retrieved 25 June 2015
  10. ^ Francis (2013), Evangelii Gaudium (PDF), Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, §32, retrieved 28 Feb 2018, The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position 'to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit'. Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated.
  11. ^ Francis (9 September 2017), Magnum Principium (Motu Proprio), Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, retrieved 13 March 2018
  12. ^ Horowitz, Jason (9 Sep 2017), "Pope Francis Shifts Power From Rome With 'Hugely Important' Liturgical Reform", New York Times
  13. ^ Wooden, Cindy (22 Oct 2017), In letter to Cardinal Sarah, pope clarifies new translation norms, Catholic News Service, archived from the original on October 22, 2017, retrieved 1 March 2018
  14. ^ Briefing by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, on the 23rd meeting of the Council of Cardinals with the Holy Father Francis, 28.02.2018, Vatican City: Holy See Press Office, 28 Feb 2018, retrieved 1 March 2018
  15. ^ a b Annuario Pontificio per l'anno 2010 [Annuario Pontificio of 2010]. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2010.
  16. ^ "UTEMELJENA BISKUPSKA KONFERENCIJA SR JUGOSLAVIJE" [Bishop's Conference of FR Yugoslavia Established]. Catholic Press Agency, Zagreb. 17 December 1997. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Priopćenje za javnost". International Bishops' Conference of Sts. Cyril and St. Methodius. 10 April 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  18. ^ "XIII. plenarno zasjedanje BK Srbije i Crne Gore" [13th Plenary Meeting of the Bishops' Conference of Serbia and Montenegro]. Catholic Press Agency, Zagreb. 21 January 2005. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  19. ^ Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici (C.E. PAC.). GCatholic website. Retrieved 2011-02-13

Further reading