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An apostolic vicariate is a territorial jurisdiction of the 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 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) diocese.
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.
Inactive apostolic vicariates (and/or former names, often promoted to diocese) are in italics. Eastern Catholic (mostly Byzantine Rite) apostolic vicariates are in bold.
A titular see in various churches is an episcopal see of a former diocese that no longer functions, sometimes called a "dead diocese". The ordinary or hierarch of such a see may be styled a "titular metropolitan", "titular archbishop" or "titular bishop", which normally goes by the status conferred on the titular see.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The Catholic Church in Ecuador comprises only a Latin hierarchy, united in a national episcopal conference, which comprises:
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baguio is a Latin Rite suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia on Luzon island in the Philippines.
The Apostolic Vicariate of Iquitos is a Roman Catholic apostolic vicariate in Amazonian northern Peru.
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.
The Apostolic Vicariate of Ucayali was a Roman Catholic apostolic vicariate located in the north-east of Peru. It was exempt, i.e. directly subject to the Holy See, not part of any ecclesiastical province.
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.
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.
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.
The Apostolic Vicariate of Aleppo is an apostolic vicariate and is immediately subject to the Holy See and its missionary Roman Congregation for the Oriental Churches
The Apostolic Vicariate of Hosanna is a Catholic pre-diocesan missionary jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church in Ethiopia.
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