In the Catholic Church, there are three degrees of Holy Orders. That is, the episcopate, presbyterate, anddiaconate. Any of this degrees is assumed through the reception of the sacrament of Holy Orders. We usually hear them in such simple terms as, diaconate ordination, priestly ordination, and episcopal ordination.
The highest, if you want, of these three degrees is the episcopate – the bishop. The bishop is the one who ordains a man to become either a deacon or a priest; but it takes another bishop to ordain a bishop.
Catholics are familiar with their bishops. But who is a bishop? One thing most of us may not be aware of is that, the office of bishop originates from divine institution. By divine institution we mean that, the office of bishop is not a creature of society or a group of people. It is given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Can. 375 §1 states, “Bishops, who by divine institution succeed to the place of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, are constituted pastors in the Church, so that they are teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship, and ministers of governance.”
Let us take note of some salient points in this canon. The first is that the office of bishop is divinely instituted, and the bishops are the successors to the Apostles. This is what is commonly referred to as the Apostolic succession. That is the line of bishops stretching back to the Apostles.
Another thing to note is that bishops are pastors. That is why we sometimes hear people refer to them as “the Chief Shepherd” of a diocese. As pastors, their functions have been clearly spelt out in the Code of Canon Law. They are teachers of doctrine. They teach the Catholic faith just as any catechist would do. In fact, they are the senior catechists.
Apart from teaching the doctrines, they also function as priests of sacred worship. The bishop leads us toworship God. In truth, the bishop is the Chief Priest. That is why in every liturgical celebration, presidency and due honour is granted him. He doesn’t only teach us the doctrine, but leads us into putting it into practice through divine worship.
Click on link below to watch video on the two categories of Bishops
Finally, the third function of the bishop, apart from teaching us the doctrine and leading us in sacred worship, is he is a minister of governance. He governs his territory as a servant-leader, making sure that both the spiritual and temporal goods of the Church are safeguarded and dispensed wisely. In other words, they are stewards of God’s household.
These three functions of the bishop is what is termed as the three munera, or the three duties. And they are sanctifying (munus sanctificandi), teaching (munus docendi) and governing (munus regendi). These they receive through episcopal consecration, or ordination.
Now, what are the two categories of bishops? Canon 376 states, “Bishops to whom the care of some diocese is entrusted are called diocesan; others are called titular.” As simple as that. A bishop is either a diocesan bishop or a titular bishop.
A diocesan bishop is entrusted with the care of a diocese.That means, Archbishop John Bonaventure Kwofie of Accra is a diocesan bishop, Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast is a diocesan bishop, Bishop Alfred Agyenta of Navrongo-Bolgatanga diocese is a diocesan bishop, and so is Bishop Joseph Kwaku Afrifah-Agyekum of Koforidua diocese a diocesan bishop. I hope the picture is clear, isn’t it?
Canon 376 is saying that all other bishops who do not have dioceses entrusted to their care are called titular bishops. As if to say, “you are a bishop by title.” A titular see is a diocese which no longer has a diocesan bishop.We are not talking of vacant see here. We are talking of a diocese which once upon a time in history had a diocesan bishop, but due to historical reasons is no longer a diocese in reality. It is sometimes referred tobrutally as a “dead diocese.” There are many, many of them. Some are Ephesus, Carthage, Cyrene, Hippo Diarrhytus, etc.
In this piece, we have learnt that the office of bishop has a divine origin, and that the bishops are successors to the Apostles. We also looked at the three functions, or munera, of a bishop as sanctifying, teaching and governing. We concluded by looking at the two categories of bishops as either diocesan or titular.
Director: Pastoral Centre and Mission Office (Accra, Ghana)// AGNUS-DEI MEDIA