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. [CathEncy|wstitle=Prelate] 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.Personal Prelatures cann. 294–297, [http://va./archive/ENG1104/__P10.HTM] ] 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.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Prelate — • The holder of a prelature Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Prelate     Prelate     † Cat …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Prelate — Prel ate (?; 48), n. [F. pr[ e]lat, LL. praelatus, fr. L. praelatus, used as p. p. of praeferre to prefer, but from a different root. See {Elate}.] A clergyman of a superior order, as an archbishop or a bishop, having authority over the lower… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Prelate — Prel ate, v. i. To act as a prelate. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Right prelating is busy laboring, and not lording. Latimer. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • prélaté — prélaté, ée (entrée créée par le supplément) (pré la té, tée) adj. Qui est couvert ou garni de prélat ou prélart. En aval de Thermonde, sur le bas Escaut, il [le bateau] doit être couvert en bois ou prélaté, Extrait des conditions générales des… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • prelate — [prel′it] n. [ME prelat < OFr < LL(Ec) praelatus, prelate, orig., ruler < pp. of L praeferre, to place before, PREFER] a high ranking ecclesiastic, as a bishop prelateship n. prelatic [prē lat′ik, prilat′ik] adj …   English World dictionary

  • prelate — c.1200, from M.L. prelatus clergyman of high rank, from L. prelatus one preferred, from praelatus, serving as pp. of praeferre (see PREFER (Cf. prefer)), from prae before + latus borne, carried (see OBLATE (Cf. oblate …   Etymology dictionary

  • prelate — ► NOUN formal or historical ▪ a bishop or other high ecclesiastical dignitary. ORIGIN Latin praelatus civil dignitary …   English terms dictionary

  • prelate — UK [ˈprelət] / US noun [countable] Word forms prelate : singular prelate plural prelates an official of high rank in the Christian Church such as a bishop or a cardinal …   English dictionary

  • prelate — prelateship, n. prelatic /pri lat ik/, adj. /prel it/, n. an ecclesiastic of a high order, as an archbishop, bishop, etc.; a church dignitary. [1175 1225; ME prelat < ML praelatus a civil or ecclesiastical dignitary, n. use of L praelatus (ptp.… …   Universalium

  • prelate — noun /ˈprɛlət/ A clergyman of high rank and authority, having jurisdiction over an area or a group of people; normally a bishop. See Also: prelacy, prelatial, prelation, prelature, Personal Prelate, Opus Dei …   Wiktionary

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