Catholic Church hierarchy
The hierarchy within the body exercising authority in the Catholic church is stipulated in the Canon Law of the Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church is led by the pope, who oversees the entire welfare of the church with the help of other leaders of the Church. The members of the administration of Catholic Church are the pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and deacons. Every individual at each hierarchy level is assigned with overseeing specific functions of the church and has to coordinate with other leaders of the church to lead the Catholic believers they are representing.
The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church and he is based at the Vatican. The pope is responsible for the general leadership of the church. However as well as being the head of the Catholic Church,he is also the head of the Vatican; which is an independent state within the city of Rome, Italy. The pope also makes numerous appointments of persons who occupy various administrative and religious offices both in Vatican and representing the Church in different parts of the world.
The cardinals are appointed by the pope. They are situated in different parts of the world and they represent the pope and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole. The body encompassing all cardinals is the College of Cardinals, whose main responsibility involves advising the pope and electing a new pope in case the pope resigns or dies. When the position of the pope falls vacant, the cardinals assemble at the Vatican for the conclave elections which leads to electing a new pope. The successor of the outgoing pope comes from the cardinals. Cardinals are also referred to as the princes of the Church and not all cardinals are bishops.
An archbishop is simply a bishop of a main or metropolitan diocese or an archdiocese. A cardinal can also concurrently hold the title of an archbishop.
A bishop is ordained to his station, just like a priest. The bishop is the teacher of church doctrine, a priest of sacred worship and a minister of church government. A typical role of a bishop is to provide pastoral governance for a diocese and represent the Church. The pope himself is a bishop and that is why he uses the title “Venerable Brother” when addressing formally another bishop.
A priest is an ordained minister who is responsible for administering most of the sacraments, including the Eucharist, baptism and marriage. A priest can belong to a specific religious order or be committed to serving a certain congregation.
There are two types of deacons. A transitional deacon is a seminarian who is studying for the priesthood while a permanent deacon is a deacon who can get married and assists a priest by performing some of the sacraments.
The responsibility of every member of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is stated in the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church’s constitution.