Frequently Asked Questions about Archbishops

Frequently Asked Questions about Archbishops FAQ


How is a new archbishop chosen?

Canon 401 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states that all bishops must submit their resignation to the Pope at the age of 75. The pope can accept their resignation at that time, or ask them to stay on until their successor is chosen. All aspects of the process of choosing a successor are supposed to be confidential, but there are some things that are known. The papal nuncio will present a list of candidates for investigation to (in the case of the U.S.) the Congregation of the Bishops in the Roman Curia. The congregation then reports to the pope, who makes the final decision.


Does the new archbishop have to be a bishop already?

Though it happens very rarely, a newly-named archbishop need not be a bishop first. In this case, however, the new archbishop would need to be ordained as a bishop before he could be installed as an archbishop.

What's the difference between an archbishop and a bishop?

An archbishop is the head of diocese that is considered to be particularly important for some reason (an archdiocese). In sacred matters, an archbishop is the equivalent of a bishop, but "archbishop" is considered to be a more prestigious title. As the residential bishop, an archbishop is also known as the local ordinary.

How does an archbishop relate to his ecclesiastical province?

An archdiocese, called the metropolitan see, and dioceses under it, called suffragan sees, are grouped into a province. The Code of Canon Law spells out certain limited obligations and authority that the metropolitan archbishop has with respect to the dioceses within his ecclesiastical province.

What's the difference between an archbishop and a cardinal?

Cardinals are senior ecclesial officials in the Catholic Church. A cardinal's duties include attending meetings of the College of Cardinals and being available—personally or collectively—to the pope for counsel. Most cardinals have additional duties within the Church, such as leading a diocese or heading a department in the Roman Curia. The College of Cardinals also is the body that elects a new pope.

Is a retired cardinal archbishop still a cardinal?

Yes. He will hold the title of Cardinal for the rest of his life. However, only cardinals under the age of 80 can sit in the Conclave that elects a new pope.


Page Updated: 6/6/23