views updated May 29 2018


From the Latin, praeferre, to put before, is a general term for an ecclesiastical dignitary who has jurisdiction in the external forum, whether he is a secular or religious cleric (1917 Codex iuris canonici c.110). True prelates are those who, either in their own right or as a member of a college, are vested with some power to assist the pope in the governing of the Church. These include the following: (1) prelates a flocculis (i.e., those with specific offices, and who wear distinctive garb); (2) assessors and secretaries of the Roman Congregations; (3) the Maestro di Camera, the secretary of the Apostolic Signatura, the dean of the Roman Rota, and the substitute secretary of state; (4) four colleges of prelatesprelate auditors of the Roman Rota, clerics of the Apostolic Camera, prelates of the Apostolic Signatura, prelates referendarii of the Apostolic Signatura; (5) metropolitans; (6) bishops and all those listed as ordinaries in 1917 CIC c.198; (7) vicars-general; (8) superiors and provincial superiors of the institutes of exempt clerical religious.

Patriarchs, primates, metropolitans, archbishops, and bishops are classified as major prelates. Minor or subordinate prelates are those who have quasi-episcopal jurisdiction. The Code of Canon Law, when treating of minor prelates, speaks only of abbots nullius and prelates nullius. However, superiors in clerical exempt institutes as well as certain members of the household of the pope also are classified as minor prelates.

The title prelate is also granted by the Holy See to some clerics as an honorary distinction without jurisdiction. They do not enjoy any special office because of the prelacy but are entitled to the honorific rights of prelates.

Bibliography: j. abbo and j. hannan, The Sacred Canons (St. Louis 1960). j. nabuco, Ius pontificalium: Introductio in caeremoniale episcoporum (Tournai 1956).

[r. j. murphy]


views updated May 21 2018

prel·ate / ˈprelət/ • n. formal or hist. a bishop or other high ecclesiastical dignitary.DERIVATIVES: pre·lat·ic / priˈlatik/ adj.pre·lat·i·cal / priˈlatikəl/ adj.


views updated Jun 08 2018

Prelate. A church official of high rank. In the Church of England the term is used only of bishops. In the Roman Catholic Church it is also applied to a variety of officers attached to the Roman curia. The evident delight of such dignitaries in hierarchy, authority, and self-adornment led to the adjective ‘prelatical’, a style which many bishops now try to avoid, not all with equal success.


views updated May 18 2018

prelate XIII. — (O)F. prélat — L. prælātus, (eccl.) sb. use of pp. corr. to præferre PREFER; see -ATE1.
So prelacy † office of a prelate; government by prelates. XIV. — AN. prelacie — medL. prælātia. Hence prelatic(al) XVII.


views updated Jun 11 2018

prelate a bishop or other high ecclesiastical dignitary. Recorded from Middle English, the word comes, via Old French, from medieval Latin praelatus ‘civil dignitary’, and ultimately from Latin praeferre ‘carry before’, also ‘place before in esteem’.