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In Christianity, an archbishop is an elevated bishop heading a diocese of particular importance due to either its size, history, or both, called an archdiocese. An archbishop is equivalent to a bishop in sacred matters but simply has a higher precedence or degree of prestige. Thus, when someone who is already a bishop becomes an archbishop, that person does not receive Holy Orders again or any other sacrament; however, when a person who is not a bishop at all becomes an archbishop, they will need to be ordained a bishop.

Roman Catholic archbishop's coat of arms (version with pallium)
Roman Catholic archbishop's coat of arms (version with pallium)

Archbishops do not necessarily have more power than bishops, but they are in charge of more prestigious dioceses. However, many archbishops are also the metropolitans of the ecclesiastical province in which their archdiocese is located. In Western churches (Catholic and Anglican), this is almost always the case. However, there are exceptions in Latin rite Roman Catholicism, which has three types of non-metropolitan archbishops. The first (and most common) type are titular bishops of titular sees that were once archdioceses but now do not exist. The second type are leaders of archdioceses that are not metropolitical. Two examples are the Archbishop of Strasbourg, whose archdiocese is not in any ecclesiastical province and is immediately subject to the Holy See, and the Archbishop of Avignon, who is suffragan to the Archbishop of Marseille [1]. The third kind of non-metropolitan archbishop are archbishops ad personam: honorary archbishops whose dioceses do not become archdioceses when they receive the title. None of these archbishops are entitled to wear the pallium, as they are not metropolitan bishops.

In the Eastern churches (Catholic and Orthodox) archbishops and metropolitans are distinct, although a metropolitan may be referred to as metropolitan archbishop. In the Greek Orthodox Church, archbishops outrank metropolitans, and have the same rights as Eastern Orthodox metropolitans. The Oriental Orthodox generally follow the pattern of the Slavic Orthodox with respect to the archbishop/metropolitan distinction.

Etymology: From Greek archepiskopos: arche, first, and epi-skopos, over-seer or supervisor.

See also

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