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College of Bishops, also known as the Ordo of Bishops, is a term used in the Catholic Church to denote the collection of those bishops who are in communion with the Pope. Under Canon Law, a college is a collection (Latin collegium) of persons united together for a common object so as to form one body. The Bishop of Rome (the Pope) is the head of the college.
In Roman Catholic teaching, the college of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles.While the individual members of the college of bishops are each directly responsible for pastoral care and governance in their own particular Church, the college as a whole has full supreme power over the entire Church:
The college of bishop head is the Supreme Pontiff [the Bishop of Rome] and whose members are bishops by virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and never without this head, is [also] the subject of supreme and full power over the universal church.
The college exercises this supreme and full power in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council, but also through united action even when not gathered together in one place.
By present-day canon law it is for the Pope to select and promote the ways in which the bishops are to act collegially, such as in an ecumenical council, and it is for him to convoke, preside over (personally or by his delegates), transfer, suspend, or dissolve such a council, and approve its decrees.The Catholic Church teaches that the college of bishops, gathered in council or represented by the Pope, may teach some revealed truth as requiring to be held absolutely and definitively (infallibly).
The Second Vatican Council enunciated the doctrine of the collegiality of bishops as follows:
Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, Saint Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together. Indeed, the very ancient practice whereby bishops duly established in all parts of the world were in communion with one another and with the Bishop of Rome in a bond of unity, charity and peace, and also the councils assembled together, in which more profound issues were settled in common, the opinion of the many having been prudently considered, both of these factors are already an indication of the collegiate character and aspect of the Episcopal order; and the ecumenical councils held in the course of centuries are also manifest proof of that same character. And it is intimated also in the practice, introduced in ancient times, of summoning several bishops to take part in the elevation of the newly elected to the ministry of the high priesthood. Hence, one is constituted a member of the Episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the body. But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church, and made him shepherd of the whole flock; it is evident, however, that the power of binding and loosing, which was given to Peter, was granted also to the college of apostles, joined with their head. This college, insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one head, it expresses the unity of the flock of Christ. In it, the bishops, faithfully recognizing the primacy and pre-eminence of their head, exercise their own authority for the good of their own faithful, and indeed of the whole Church, the Holy Spirit supporting its organic structure and harmony with moderation. The supreme power in the universal Church, which this college enjoys, is exercised in a solemn way in an ecumenical council. A council is never ecumenical unless it is confirmed or at least accepted as such by the successor of Peter; and it is prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to convoke these councils, to preside over them and to confirm them. This same collegiate power can be exercised together with the pope by the bishops living in all parts of the world, provided that the head of the college calls them to collegiate action, or at least approves of or freely accepts the united action of the scattered bishops, so that it is thereby made a collegiate act.
The relationship between the college of bishops and the individual bishops and in particular the Bishop of Rome has no secular counterpart, and its practical consequences cannot be deduced from secular models such as the various forms of governance of a state or of a corporation.
The doctrine of the collegiality of the bishops as a body was enunciated by the Second Vatican Council which "desired to integrate all the elements which make up the Church, both the mystical and the institutional, the primacy and the episcopate, the people of God and the hierarchy, striking new notes and establishing new balances which would have to be worked out and theologized upon in the lived experience of the Church."
An ecumenical council is a conference of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice in which those entitled to vote are convoked from the whole world (oikoumene) and which secures the approbation of the whole Church.
An episcopal polity is a hierarchical form of church governance in which the chief local authorities are called bishops. It is the structure used by many of the major Christian Churches and denominations, such as the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Anglican, and Lutheran churches or denominations, and other churches founded independently from these lineages.
The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff or the Roman pontiff, is the bishop of Rome, head of the worldwide Catholic Church and head of state or sovereign of the Vatican City State. The primacy of the bishop of Rome is largely derived from his role as the apostolic successor to Saint Peter, to whom primacy was conferred by Jesus, giving him the Keys of Heaven and the powers of "binding and loosing", naming him as the "rock" upon which the church would be built. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013.
Ultramontanism is a clerical political conception within the Catholic Church that places strong emphasis on the prerogatives and powers of the Pope.
Lumen gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, is one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council. This dogmatic constitution was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 21 November 1964, following approval by the assembled bishops by a vote of 2,151 to 5. As is customary with significant Roman Catholic Church documents, it is known by its incipit, "Lumen gentium", Latin for "Light of the Nations".
Christus Dominus is the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops. It was approved by a vote of 2,319 to 2 of the assembled bishops and was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on 28 October 1965. The title in Latin means "Christ the Lord" and is from the first line of the decree, as is customary for Roman Catholic documents. Christus Dominus calls for strong episcopal conferences of bishops, to set the standard for the church in their region, while fully supporting the Vatican and the Pope.
Primus inter pares is a Latin phrase meaning first among equals. It is typically used as an honorary title for someone who is formally equal to other members of their group but is accorded unofficial respect, traditionally owing to their seniority in office.
The magisterium of the Catholic Church is the church's authority or office to give authentic interpretation of the Word of God, "whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition." According to the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, the task of interpretation is vested uniquely in the Pope and the bishops, though the concept has a complex history of development. Scripture and Tradition "make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church", and the magisterium is not independent of this, since "all that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is derived from this single deposit of faith."
The East–West Schism is the break of communion since the 11th century between the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. The schism was the culmination of theological and political differences which had developed during the preceding centuries between Eastern and Western Christianity.
In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its polity, its discipline, its eschatology, and its leadership.
Papal primacy, also known as the primacy of the bishop of Rome, is a Christian ecclesiological doctrine concerning the respect and authority that is due to the pope from other bishops and their episcopal sees.
The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of its bishops, priests, and deacons. In the ecclesiological sense of the term, "hierarchy" strictly means the "holy ordering" of the Church, the Body of Christ, so to respect the diversity of gifts and ministries necessary for genuine unity.
Papal supremacy is the doctrine of the Catholic Church that the Pope, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, the visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful, and as pastor of the entire Catholic Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered: that, in brief, "the Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls."
Pastor aeternus, was issued by the First Vatican Council, July 18, 1870. The document defines four doctrines of the Catholic faith: the apostolic primacy conferred on Peter, the perpetuity of the Petrine Primacy in the Roman pontiffs, the meaning and power of the papal primacy, and Papal infallibility – infallible teaching authority (magisterium) of the Pope.
The doctrines of Petrine primacy and papal primacy are perhaps the most contentiously disputed in the history of Christianity. Theologians regard the doctrine of papal primacy as having gradually developed in the West due to the convergence of a number of factors, e.g., the dignity of Rome as the only apostolic see in the West; the tradition that both Peter and Paul had been martyred there; Rome's long history as a capital of the Roman Empire; and its continuing position as the chief center of commerce and communication.
Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church which states that, in virtue of the promise of Jesus to Peter, the pope when appealing to his highest authority is preserved from the possibility of error on doctrine "initially given to the apostolic Church and handed down in Scripture and tradition". This doctrine was defined dogmatically at the First Vatican Council of 1869–1870 in the document Pastor aeternus, but had been defended before that, existing already in medieval theology and being the majority opinion at the time of the Counter-Reformation.
Catholic–Orthodox ecclesiastical differences are differences between the organizational structure and governance of the Eastern Orthodox Church and that of the Catholic Church. These are distinguished from theological differences which are differences in dogma and doctrine. A number of disagreements over matters of Ecclesiology developed slowly between the Western and Eastern wings of the State church of the Roman Empire centred upon the cities of Rome and New Rome/Constantinople respectively. The disputes were a major factor in the formal East-West Schism between Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael I in 1054 and are largely still unresolved between the churches today.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is opposed to the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy. While not denying that some form of primacy could exist for the Bishop of Rome, Orthodox Christians argue that the tradition of Rome's primacy in the early Church was not equivalent to the current doctrine of supremacy.
In the Catholic Church, the Synod of Bishops, considered as an advisory body for the pope, is one of the ways in which the bishops render cooperative assistance to him in exercising his office. It is described in the 1983 Code of Canon Law as "a group of bishops who have been chosen from different regions of the world and meet together at fixed times to foster closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel in the preservation and growth of faith and morals and in the observance and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline, and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world."
In the Roman Catholic Church, collegiality refers to "the Pope governing the Church in collaboration with the bishops of the local Churches, respecting their proper autonomy." In the early church the popes exercised moral authority rather than administrative power, and that authority was relatively limited; regional churches elected their own bishops, resolved disputes in local synods, and only felt the need to appeal to the Pope under special circumstances.