The Church Hierarchical System for Beginners

By: NYU Florence Sophomore Haley Kim

Earlier this week, news of the Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation sent waves of disbelief across the globe. With the newly opened position, the Catholic Church faces the difficult task of electing a new leader. While it is common knowledge that the Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the nuances of the hierarchy of the Catholic Dioceses—which is what most distinguishes the Church from other Christian bodies—are less known. The following is a rough outline of the structure of the Church—a Catholic Hierarchy for Dummies, if you will:

This tiered system in the simplest form is divided up between: the parish, the diocese and the archdiocese—all of which come together to form the Catholic Church. Practicing Catholics, the Laity, belong to a parish that supports the local church. A weekly Mass is held and headed by a priest who resides over the parish. The priest then answers to the local bishop who runs a diocese—a collection of parishes. The next tier of power is comprised of the archdioceses. Multiple dioceses make up an archdiocese, each of which is run by their respective archbishops. Archbishops, consequently, answer to the Cardinals, whose job is to advise the Pope. Including those elevated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, there are 213 cardinals in the Catholic Church, of whom 125 are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in the upcoming Papal election. And of course, the Pope heads the Roman Catholic Church and its estimated 1.2 billion followers.

See LPD’s profile of Haley Kim here.

Check out what The Atlantic has to say about the last time the Pope resigned:

The Last Time a Pope Resigned, Mass Media Was Called…Mass

konstanzA pope hasn’t stepped down from office for 600 years. What was the “media frenzy” like in 1415?

Within minutes of the Pope’s Monday announcement of his resignation, The New York Times reports, #Pontifexit was trending on Twitter. Certainly by the time the sun shone on the Eastern shore of the United States, every major news site had His Holiness up on their homepages, with stories full of analysis and context beginning to roll in. Not quite instantaneous, but not all that far behind.

For the first time in six centuries, we all quickly learned and then knowingly repeated, the Pope was stepping down. This made me wonder about those Europeans six hundred years ago, on their farms or in their burgeoning cities:

How did they hear the news? How long did it take for word to reach them?

The answer is, roughly, it really depended. Today, mass media’s distribution is pretty even, at least relatively speaking. If you follow the news at all, you probably heard about the Pope’s resignation within the first few hours of the news breaking. As long as you had an Internet connection, a TV, or a radio, *where* you were was of little significance…”

Read the original article on The Atlantic 

See this recent article by Elisabetta Galeffi on the Pope’s resignation.


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