What does an Archbishop do?

In the Catholic Church there are three levels of ordination within the sacrament of Holy Orders: Deacon, Priest and Bishop. The Second Vatican Council spoke of the Bishop as having ‘the fullness of the sacrament of Orders’ and dedicated an entire Decree to the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church. So, as we prepare to welcome our new Archbishop, Patrick O’Regan, into the Archdiocese of Adelaide we might be wondering what a Bishop is, and how an Archbishop differs from a Bishop.

The primary role of any Bishop is to ensure that the work of Christ is carried out at the local level by caring for all the faithful entrusted to him in his particular diocese. Often the Bishop is referred to as the Chief Shepherd, since his ministry is modelled on that of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Immediately we can see that the role of the Bishop is not simply that of ‘governing’ a local Church, but of caring for it and nurturing it and enabling it to grow and flourish. The role of the Bishop is that of guardian, teacher and preacher.

How does an Archbishop differ from a Bishop?

It is because he heads a ‘team’ of Bishops in a particular geographical area or province. In our case, Adelaide, Port Pirie and Darwin form such a province. Because Adelaide is the chief diocese, the Bishop of this diocese is given the title ‘Metropolitan Archbishop’ and Bishops O’Kelly (Port Pirie Diocese) and Gauci (Darwin Diocese) are known as ‘suffragan bishops’ (while still retaining full authority in their respective dioceses).

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