Metropolitan bishop

Macarius II, Metropolitan of Moscow. In the Russian Orthodox Church a white klobuk is distinctive of a metropolitan.

In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis (then more precisely called metropolitan archbishop); that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.

Before the establishment of patriarchs (beginning in AD 325), metropolitan was the highest episcopal rank in the Eastern rites of the Church. They presided over synods of bishops, and were granted special privileges by canon law and sacred tradition.

The Early Church structure generally followed the Roman imperial practice, with one bishop ruling each city and its territory.[1] The bishop of the provincial capital, the metropolitan, enjoyed certain rights over other bishops in the province, later called suffragans.[1]

Roman Catholic

See also: Catholic Church hierarchy and Diocesan bishop
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is the Metropolitan Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. In the Catholic Church, the pallium is unique to a metropolitan bishop.
Coat of arms of a Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop

In the Roman Catholic Church, ecclesiastical provinces, composed of several neighbouring dioceses,[2] are each headed by a metropolitan, the archbishop of the diocese designated by the Pope.[3] The other bishops are known as suffragan bishops.

The metropolitan's powers over dioceses other than his own are normally limited to

  1. supervising observance of faith and ecclesiastical discipline and notifying the Supreme Pontiff of any abuses;
  2. carrying out, for reasons approved beforehand by the Holy See, a canonical inspection that the suffragan bishop has neglected to perform;
  3. appointing a diocesan administrator if the college of consultors fails to elect an at least 35-year-old priest within eight days after the vacancy of the see becomes known;[4] and
  4. serving as the default ecclesiastical court for appeals from decisions of the tribunals of the suffragan bishops.[5]

The metropolitan also has the liturgical privilege of celebrating sacred functions throughout the province, as if he were a bishop in his own diocese, provided only that, if he celebrates in a cathedral church, the diocesan bishop has been informed beforehand.[6]

The metropolitan is obliged to request the pallium, a symbol of the power that, in communion with the Church of Rome, he possesses over his ecclesiastical province.[7] This holds even if he had the pallium in another metropolitan see.

It is the responsibility of the metropolitan, with the consent of the majority of the suffragan bishops to call a provincial council, decide where to convene it, and determine the agenda. It is his prerogative to preside over the provincial council.[8] No provincial council can be called if the metropolitan see is vacant.[9]

All Latin Rite metropolitans are archbishops; however, some archbishops are not metropolitans, as there are a few instances where an archdiocese has no suffragans or is itself suffragan to another archdiocese. Titular archbishops (i.e. ordained bishops who are given an honorary title to a now-defunct archdiocese; e.g. many Vatican officials and papal nuncios and apostolic delegates are titular archbishops) are never metropolitans.

As of April 2006, 508 archdioceses were headed by metropolitan archbishops, 27 archbishops were not metropolitans, and there were 89 titular archbishops. See also Catholic Church hierarchy for the distinctions.

Eastern Catholic

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the metropolitan is the head of those autonomous particular churches that, though they consist of several eparchies, are not large enough to be placed under the authority of a patriarch or a major archbishop. They are therefore somewhat more subject than patriarchal or major archiepiscopal Churches to oversight by the pope and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Eastern Orthodox

Metropolitan Vladimir of Saint Petersburg wearing the light blue mandyas of a Russian Orthodox metropolitan.

In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the title of metropolitan is used variously, in terms of rank and jurisdiction.

In terms of rank, in some Eastern Orthodox Churches metropolitans are ranked above archbishops in precedence, while in others that order is reversed. Primates of autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches below patriarchal rank are generally designated as archbishops. In the Greek Orthodox Churches, archbishops are ranked above metropolitans in precedence. The reverse is true for some Slavic Orthodox Churches (Russian Orthodox, Bulgarian Orthodox) and also for Romanian Orthodox Church, where metropolitans rank above archbishops and the title can be used for important regional or historical sees.

In terms of jurisdiction, there are two basic types of metropolitans in Eastern Orthodox Church: real metropolitans, with actual jurisdiction over their ecclesiastical provinces, and honorary metropolitans who are in fact just diocesan bishops with honorary title of metropolitan and no jurisdiction outside their own diocese.

Some Eastern Orthodox Churches have functioning metropolitans on the middle (regional) level of church administration. In Romanian Orthodox Church there are six regional metropolitans who are the chairmen of their respective synods of bishops, and have special duties and privileges. For example, Metropolitan of Oltenia has regional jurisdiction over four dioceses.

On the other hand, in some Eastern Orthodox Churches title of metropolitan is only honorary, with no special or additional jurisdiction. In Serbian Orthodox Church, honorary title of metropolitan is given to diocesan bishops of some important historical sees (Article 14 of the Constitution of Serbian Orthodox Church).[10] For example, diocesan bishop of the Eparchy of Montenegro and the Littoral is given the honorary title of metropolitan, but without any jurisdiction over other diocesan bishops in Montenegro. Diocesan bishop of the Eparchy of Dabar-Bosnia is also given the honorary title of metropolitan, but without any jurisdiction over other diocesan bishops in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Non-canonical Eastern Orthodox Churches generally use metropolitan title according to local traditions of usage in Churches from which they were split (see: Macedonian Orthodox Church).[11]

Oriental Orthodox

Malankara Churches

Metropolitan is a titlle used by all oriental orthodox churches in Malankara. Malankara Metropolitan was a legal title given to the head of the Malankara Syrian Church aka Puthencoor (New Traditionalists) Syrian Christians by the Government of Travancore and Cochin in South India. This title was awarded by a proclamation from the King of Travancore & the King of Cochin (Kingdom of Cochin to the legal head of Malankara Syrian Church . The Supreme Court of India had authenticated the usage of this title by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in its verdict in Malankara Church case.

Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II was enthroned as Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan on 1 November 2010 at Parumala, Kerala. Under his see, the dioceses are further headed by Diocesan Metropolitans.

In the Mar Thoma Syrian Church which is based in India, the Metropolitan also known as the Mar Thoma is the primate and supreme head of the church who is entitled to special privileges and remains the ultimate authority over the synod.


In the Anglican Communion, a metropolitan is generally the head of an ecclesiastical province (or cluster of dioceses). In the few Anglican churches with multiple provinces headed by metropolitans (namely the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Australia, and the Church of Nigeria), a metropolitan ranks immediately under the primate or senior metropolitan of the national church.[12] (While the U.S.-based Episcopal Church is divided into nine provinces, its sole metropolitan is the Presiding Bishop). Most metropolitans, but not all, are styled archbishop. In England, Ireland, and Australia, each province has a "metropolitical see" whose diocesan bishop is ex officio metropolitan (such as the Archbishops of Canterbury and Sydney), while in Canada metropolitans are elected by the provincial houses of bishops from among the sitting diocesans. Prior to 1970, however, the metropolitan of the Province of Rupert's Land was always the bishop of the eponymous diocese, centred on Winnipeg. (Since then, only one Bishop of Rupert's Land, Walter Jones, has been elected metropolitan).

See also


  1. 1 2 Cross, F. L.; Livingstone, E. A., eds. (2005). "Metropolitan". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-192-80290-3.
  2. Code of Canon Law, canon 431
  3. Code of Canon Law, canon 435
  4. Code of Canon Law, canon 436 §1–2
  5. Canon 1438 no. 1.
  6. Code of Canon Law, canon 436 §3
  7. Code of Canon Law, canon 437
  8. Code of Canon Law, canon 442
  9. Code of Canon Law, canon 440 §2
  10. "Constitution of the Serbian Orthodox Church". Serbian Orthodox Church.
  11. "MOC today". Macedonian Orthodox Church.

External links

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