AskDefine | Define prelacy

Dictionary Definition



1 prelates collectively [syn: prelature]
2 the office or station of a prelate [syn: prelature]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. the office of a prelate
  2. the prelature - prelates considered as a group
  3. a church government or organisation administered by prelates

Extensive Definition

A prelate is a high-ranking member of the clergy who either is an ordinary or ranks in precedence with ordinaries. The word derives from Latin prælatus, the past participle of præferre, literally, "carry before," or "to be set above, or over," or "to prefer," hence a prelate is one set over others.

Related terminology

A prelature is the office of a prelate or the entire juridical entity which the prelate governs.
Prelacy is the body of prelates as a whole, or a system of government, administration, or ministry by prelates.
The archetypal prelate is a bishop, whose prelature is his particular church. All other prelates, including the regular prelates such as abbots and major superiors, are based upon this original model of prelacy.
Sometimes the clergy of a state church with a formal hierarchy are called prelates without having ordinary jurisdiction, which etymologically suggests that the prelate enjoys legal privileges and power as a result of clerical status.

Territorial prelatures

A territorial prelature is a quasi-diocesean jurisdiction over a defined area. Territorial prelates have some or most of the authority of a bishop, and are subject only to the authority of the Holy See. As of 2006, there are 49 territorial prelatures, all in the Latin Church.
A territorial prelate is, in Catholic usage, a prelate whose geographic jurisdiction, called territorial prelature, does not belong to any diocese. A territorial prelate is sometimes called a prelate nullius, from the Latin nullius diœceseos, prelate "of no diocese," meaning the territory falls directly under the jurisdiction of the pope and is not a diocese under a residing bishop.
The term is also used in a generic sense, and may then equally refer to an apostolic prefecture, and apostolic vicariate or a territorial abbacy (see there).

Personal prelatures

In the Roman Catholic Church, the personal prelature was conceived during the sessions of the Second Vatican Council in no. 10 of the decree Presbyterorum ordinis and was later enacted into law by Paul VI in his motu proprio Ecclesiae sanctae. The institution was later reaffirmed in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Such a prelature is an institution having clergy and (possibly) lay members which would carry out specific pastoral activities. The adjective personal refers to the fact that, in contrast with previous canonical use for ecclesiastical institutions, the jurisdiction of the prelate is not linked to a territory but over persons wherever they be. The establishment of personal prelatures is an exercise of the theologically inherent power of self-organization which the Church has to pursue its mission, though a personal prelature is not a particular church as dioceses and military ordinariates are.
Personal prelatures are fundamentally secular organizations operating in the world (members take no vows and live normal, everyday lives), whereas religious orders are religious organizations operating out of the world (members take vows and lead lives in accordance with their specific organization).
The first (and as of 2007, only) personal prelature is Opus Dei, which was elevated to a personal prelature by Pope John Paul II in 1982 through the Apostolic constitution Ut sit. In the case of Opus Dei, the prelate is elected by members of the prelature and confirmed by the Pope, the laity and clergy of the prelature are still under the governance of the particular church where they live, and the laity associated with the prelature (both men and women) are organically united under the jurisdiction of the prelate.


prelacy in Czech: Prelát
prelacy in German: Prälat
prelacy in Spanish: Prelatura
prelacy in French: Prélature
prelacy in Italian: Prelato
prelacy in Lithuanian: Prelatas
prelacy in Hungarian: Prelatura
prelacy in Dutch: Prelaat
prelacy in Norwegian: Prelat
prelacy in Polish: Prałat
prelacy in Portuguese: Prelado
prelacy in Russian: Прелат
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