Apostolic vicariate

Last updated

An apostolic vicariate is a territorial jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church under a titular bishop centered in missionary regions and countries where dioceses or parishes have not yet been established. It is essentially provisional, though it may last for a century or more. The hope is that the region will generate sufficient numbers of Catholics for the Church to create a diocese. In turn, the status of apostolic vicariate is often a promotion for a former apostolic prefecture, while either may have started out as a mission sui iuris.


It is exempt, directly subject to the missionary Roman Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, not part of an ecclesiastical province, like the stage of apostolic prefecture which often precedes it, and meant to mature until it can be promoted to (usually suffragan) bishopric.

The Eastern Catholic counterpart is an (apostolic, patriarchal, or archiepiscopal) exarchate.


An apostolic vicariate is led by a vicar apostolic who is usually a titular bishop. While such a territory can be classed as a particular church, according to canon 371.1 of the Latin Code of Canon Law, a vicar apostolic's jurisdiction is an exercise of the jurisdiction of the Pope the territory thus comes directly under the pope as "universal bishop", and the pope exercises this authority through a "vicar". This is unlike the jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop, whose jurisdiction derives directly from his office.

Like any ecclesiastical jurisdiction, an apostolic vicariate may be administered by the bishop of a neighbouring diocese, or by a priest appointed transitionally as an apostolic administrator. As in a regular diocese, the vicar apostolic may appoint priests as vicars exercising limited jurisdiction over the apostolic vicariate. Normally, however, an apostolic vicariate is administered by a titular bishop of its own. When someone who does not qualify or has not been ordained as bishop is appointed ad interim, he may be styled Pro-apostolic vicar.

An apostolic vicariate is to be distinguished from an apostolic prefecture, a similar type of territory whose chief distinction from an apostolic vicariate is that its prefect is not a titular bishop, but a mere priest. The latter is not organised enough to be elevated to apostolic vicariate. The less developed instance is the mission sui iuris, which other than the ones mentioned before is not a particular church, although it shares some similarities to one; at its head, an ecclesiastical superior is named. The usual sequence of development is mission, apostolic prefecture, apostolic vicariate and finally diocese (or even archdiocese). See also apostolic exarch for an Eastern Catholic counterpart.

The apostolic vicariate is distinguished from a territorial abbacy (or "abbey nullius") an area not a diocese but under the direction of the abbot of a monastery.

Starting in 2019, new Vicars Apostolic, although they are (or become) bishops, are no longer assigned titular sees.


Current apostolic vicariates


The Americas



Historical apostolic vicariates


Inactive apostolic vicariates (and/or former names, often promoted to diocese) are in italics. Eastern Catholic (mostly Byzantine Rite) apostolic vicariates are in bold.


The Americas




See also

Related Research Articles

Apostolic prefecture missionary area not yet developed enough to become a diocese

An apostolic prefect or prefect apostolic is a priest who heads what is known as an apostolic prefecture, a 'pre-diocesan' missionary jurisdiction where the Catholic Church is not yet sufficiently developed to have it made a diocese. Although it usually has an (embryonal) see, it is often not called after such city but rather after a natural or administrative geographical area.

Territorial prelate Catholic church position

A territorial prelate is, in Catholic usage, a prelate whose geographic jurisdiction, called territorial prelature, does not belong to any diocese and is considered a particular church.

Catholic Church in Laos

The Catholic Church in Laos is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the pope in Rome. The Catholic Church is officially recognized by the Lao Front for National Construction.

Mission <i>sui iuris</i>

A mission sui iuris, or in Latin missio sui iuris ; also spelled mission(s) sui juris), also known as an independent mission, is a rare type of Roman Catholic missionary pseudo-diocesan jurisdiction, ranking below an apostolic prefecture and an apostolic vicariate, in an area with very few Catholics, often desolate or remote.

The Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Germany was known for most of its existence as the Vicariate Apostolic of the NorthernMissions, established on 28 April 1667. It was a Roman Catholic missionary jurisdiction of a Vicar Apostolic in predominantly Protestant Northern Europe. On 7 August 1868, on the occasion of completing separate jurisdictions for all of Scandinavia, the vicariate only continued to comprise small areas in Northern Germany and was thus renamed. With the integration of these areas into other Roman Catholic dioceses the vicariate ceased to exist on 13 August 1930.

Ethiopian Catholic Archeparchy of Addis Abeba archeparchy

The Ethiopian Catholic Archeparchy of Addis Abeba, officially the Metropolitan sui iuris Archeparchy of Addis Abeba is the metropolitan see of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, a sui iuris metropolitan Eastern Catholic Church.

Apostolic Vicariate of Vientiane apostolic vicariate

The Apostolic Vicariate of Vientiane is a territorial jurisdiction of the Catholic Church located in northern Laos.

Catholic Church in Ecuador Wikimedia list article

The Catholic Church in Ecuador comprises only a Latin hierarchy, united in a national episcopal conference, which comprises :

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lanzhou is a Latin Metropolitan Archdiocese of the Catholic church with an Ecclesiastical province, yet depends on the missionary Roman Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar

The Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar is a Roman Catholic Latin apostolic prefecture located in (Outer) Mongolia, with its territory consisting of the entire country.

Apostolic Vicariate of Iquitos apostolic vicariate

The Apostolic Vicariate of Iquitos is a Roman Catholic apostolic vicariate in Amazonian northern Peru.

Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa apostolic vicariate of the Catholic Church in the Philippines

The Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa is an Apostolic Vicariate in the Philippines. Within the Catholic Church hierarchy, it operates like a diocese and is headed by a titular bishop. Its episcopal see is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral-Parish in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. It is not a part of an ecclesiastical province as it is directly subject to the Holy See, yet for the purpose of apostolic cooperation usually grouped with the Archdiocese of Manila, along with the Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay. The Catholic Church in the Philippines is organized into 72 dioceses in 16 Ecclesiastical Provinces, as well as 7 Apostolic Vicariates and a Military Ordinariate.

Apostolic Vicariate of Mitú apostolic vicariate

The Vicariate Apostolic of Mitú is a Latin pre-diocesan jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Colombia.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Vicente del Caguán, or in short Diocese of San Vicente, is a Roman Catholic diocese, located in the Ecclesiastical province of Florencia in Colombia.

Apostolic Vicariate of Galápagos apostolic vicariate

The Apostolic Vicariate of Galápagos is a missionary pre-diocesan jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church, located on the Galápagos Islands off the Pacific coast of Ecuador, coinciding with the homonymous insular province.

Apostolic Vicariate of Napo apostolic vicariate

The Apostolic Vicariate of Napo is a missionary circonscription (quasi-diocese) of the Roman Catholic Church. Its cathedral see, Catedral San José, is located in the city of Tena, capital of Napo Province in Ecuador's Amazon Rainforest.


  1. Cheney, David M. "Archdiocese of Seoul". catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 20 August 2015.[ self-published source ]