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Church rank (Catholic)
In the Roman Catholic Church, order of rank proceeds from highest to lowest as follows:
- 1. Pope
- 2. Cardinal
- 3. Archbishop
- 4. Bishop
- 5. Pastor
- 6. Priest
- 7. Various deacons, members of fraternal or sororal orders (e.g., monks and nuns), etc.
The Pope is the singular leader of the Church and capable of making infallible statements on doctrine when in conjuncture with the Magisterium, or college of Bishops (including Archbishops). The Pope is elected by the Sacred College of Cardinals for life and theoretically cannot be deposed, although this has been called into question historically. He is also the Bishop of Rome.
The Cardinals are the principal officials of the Church above more localized levels. Their number is not set but in recent times has usually remained between 70 (seventy) and 200 (two-hundred). Their main duty is to elect the Pope. Others include aiding the international coordination of the Church and acting as authorities on doctrine. Technically a Cardinal does not have to have a diocese under him and actually holds the title of Cardinal in addition to any other title; however, it is customary for Cardinals to be appointed from the ranks of Bishops and Archbishops and to be given the title of Bishop in his own right if he had not already held it.
The diocese is the basic administrative unit of the Church. Although the vary in size, the often center around a metropolitan area or political unit. A bishop is the head of a diocese and is appointed by the Pope nearly always from the local clergy. The seat of a bishop is most often at a cathedral, and in any case an edifice is not officially called a Cathedral unless it is the seat of a bishop. Bishops are responsible for anointing priests, establishing parishes and consecrating church buildings, and performing many exclusive sacramental duties. He is locally the head of the Church and can exercise near supreme authority within his diocese within the bounds of official doctrine and Papal interference. He can also, of course, perform all the duties of a basic priest. Above bishops are archbishops. In many places the bishop of a certain diocese is granted seniority above other bishops. They have jurisdiction over neighboring diocese as well as their own, although they are not considered superior to the bishops under them: rather, they may be said to function more closely to a "first among equals." The complete area under an arhcbishop's jurisdiction is known as an archdiocese.
Pastors are the leaders of individual parishes and are appointed by a bishop. They are usually not considered to be much higher than priests and are regarded more as a "head priest." They are responsible for the acitivies of the parish, spiritual and beauroctratic.
Deacons are arranged in different groups but are all generally responsible for assisting the priests in administering sacraments and handling specific bureaucratic tasks. Monks do not fit into the rest of the Church organization but are usually are not regarded as laypeople. A monk may or may not be a deacon, priest, etc.
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