Are pastor and priest the same

What the titles mean in the Catholic Church

What is the difference between a subsidiar and a subregens? What is a rector ecclesiae, what is a canon? Even if Pope Francis warns against title addiction: There are plenty of special names for clergy. “” explains briefly the 54 most important ones.


Abbot / Abbess

The head of an abbey in the Benedictine tradition and in the Premonstratensian order.


Apostolic Administrator

If a bishop's seat is vacant, the Pope can appoint an apostolic administrator - usually in a difficult situation - until a new bishop has been appointed. That happened in the diocese of Limburg in 2014.


Apostolic protonotary

Highest honorific title that the Pope can usually bestow on the proposal of a bishop for certain services or offices. Francis restricted this outside of the Vatican to clergymen over 65 years of age.



On the purple skullcap (pileolus) and the pectoral cross is a bishop to recognize - here Bishop Felix Genn. There are also staff, ring and miter as symbols. | Photo: Michael Bönte

The highest consecration office in the Church. It relates directly to the apostles, is conferred by the Pope, and consecration must always be donated by at least three bishops. The office is always connected with the management of a diocese (hence also local or diocesan bishop), titular and auxiliary bishops are therefore assigned to a submerged diocese.


Episcopal Council

Member of the bishop's advisory body of the same name. In the diocese of Münster this includes Auxiliary bishops as well as the heads of the main departments and some departments of the Vicariate General.


Brother, sister

Religious sisters can usually be recognized by a religious costume, which can also include a veil. | Photo: Michael Bönte

This is how religious men who are not priests and women religious are addressed. Ultimately, a title of honor for all baptized.



Head of the level (“deanery”) above the parishes, who usually coordinates pastoral work. Usually he also introduces the pastors appointed by the bishop into office.



Deputy of the dean.



The cross stole marks one deacon. | Photo: Michael Bönte

The first of the three stages of ordination, before priestly and episcopal ordination. Deacons should primarily take care of the charitable services of a community. They also lead baptisms, weddings and funerals, but not mass ceremonies. “Permanent deacons” do not become priests and can be married.


Diocesan administrator

Temporary head of a diocese until a new bishop has been appointed. The diocesan administrator is different from the Apostolic Administrator elected by the cathedral chapter. He doesn't have to be a bishop.


Cathedral dean

Deputy of the Provost.


Cathedral Chapter

See at first sight Cathedral capitals resembling bishops in their purple robes. But they have uniform crosses - and neither a ring nor a miter nor a staff. | Photo: Michael Bönte

They are present in the cathedral on every Sunday and public holiday, but their most important task in Münster is to advise and elect the bishop, but also the Diocesan administratoras soon as the bishop's chair is empty ("vacant"). The cathedral chapter includes bishops and priests. It is responsible for the cathedral and acts as the host of the cathedral. The cathedral chapter in Münster consists of ten cathedral capitulars living in Münster (“resident”) and six outside (“non-resident”). The appointment is made by the bishop - “alternately after hearing and with the approval of the cathedral chapter”, as stated in the statutes. In addition, there are “canons of honor”, ​​for example bishops from other dioceses who come from the diocese of Münster, but who are not members of the cathedral chapter.


Cathedral priest

Head of the parish belonging to the cathedral.



Head of the Board of Cathedral capitals at a bishop's church.


Cathedral Vicar

Priest assigned by the bishop to special pastoral or liturgical tasks at the cathedral of a diocese. However, he does not belong to the cathedral chapter.



The head ("Metropolitan") of an archbishopric and thus a church province ("Metropolie") made up of several "Suffragan dioceses". The diocese of Münster is part of the ecclesiastical province of Cologne with the dioceses of Aachen, Essen, Limburg and Trier. There are six other church provinces in Germany: Bamberg, Berlin, Freiburg, Hamburg, Munich-Freising and Paderborn. The archbishop, for example, appoints a diocesan bishop in the ecclesiastical province. The title “Archbishop” can also be given by the Pope as an honorary title - for example to one nuncio or head of a Vatican authority. The outer sign of a metropolitan is the pallium, a kind of white woolen scarf embroidered with six black crosses.



Latin term for friars. In some communities this is the name given to those brothers who become priests and thus priests.


Spiritual advice

A title of honor given by the bishop, often for retired priests.


Vicar General

The deputy of the diocesan bishop, provided for by canon law, who has the executive power throughout the diocese that the diocesan bishop has by law. The vicar general is the head of the diocese administration, the vicariate general or ordinariate and is appointed by the bishop. If a bishop's seat becomes vacant, the office of vicar general also expires.



Head of a Franciscan monastery.



Currently the only one Canon in the diocese of Münster: Oliver Rothe from St. Remigius in Borken. | Photo: Markus Nolte

Originally, canons were members of a spiritual community at an episcopal church (Cathedral capitals), Basilica or religious order church. They were also called canons or canons. There is also an official canon in the diocese of Münster - namely the chaplain at the provost and parish church of St. Remigius in Borken. The title goes back to the collegiate monastery of St. Remigius, which has existed since the 15th century.



After ordination, a priest usually takes on his first posts as a chaplain before taking on more responsibility for the entire community, such as a pastor.


Chaplain to His Holiness

A papal honorary title. See also Monsignor.



Purple-red is one’s clothing Cardinals, here Reinhard Marx. | Photo: Michael Bönte

Originally, cardinals were the priests of the main churches in and around Rome. Therefore, to this day, every cardinal receives a so-called titular church in Rome. Cardinals are appointed by the Pope and are considered his “Senate”. Your most important task is the election of the Pope in the conclave - if you are younger than 80 years.

For the most part it will be Bishops appointed cardinals - for special merits or because the Pope would like to strengthen them in politically difficult areas; In the past, particularly important bishopric seats, for example in capitals, were associated with the cardinal dignity. This is no longer a matter of course under Pope Francis; Heiner Koch, for example, has been Archbishop of Berlin since 2015, but not a cardinal.
Cardinals hold important leadership positions in the Vatican. The Pope occasionally appoints non-bishops as cardinals. However, you must be a priest and receive episcopal ordination promptly.


Cardinal Dean

He is the chairman of the college of cardinals. Although he is considered the highest ranking cardinal, but remains “first among equals” alongside everyone else. He has special tasks when a pope dies: he announces his death and usually presides over the requiem, calls all cardinals to the conclave and presides over the election of the pope. He also asks the elected person whether he will accept the election and what name he will use Pope want to give.


Cardinal Secretary of State

In the Vatican he is considered the "number two" after the Pope. He is appointed by the Pope, heads the State Secretariat of the Holy See and is responsible for the political and diplomatic activities of the Vatican.


District dean

In the diocese of Münster, the district dean is the bishop's representative in one of the eight city and district deans into which the North Rhine-Westphalian part of the diocese is divided. He is regarded as a conversation partner for politics, society and churches.


Curial Cardinal

One calls one a curia cardinal cardinalwho works in or lives in the administration of the Vatican. Usually the important congregations, to a certain extent the ministries, are occupied by cardinals.



Please refer archbishop.



This is also the name of a "Chaplain to His Holiness". The title is usually bestowed on the proposal of a local bishop by the Pope for merited priests or in connection with a leadership function. The next higher level is the "prelate of his holiness", before the Apostolic Protonotary.



The ambassador of the Holy See to another state. As an official diplomat, he represents the interests of the Vatican State and is mostly archbishop.



The official is head of the ecclesiastical court of a diocese and speaks law on behalf of the bishop. In the diocese of Münster the administrator of the bishop appointed for the Oldenburg part of the diocese of Münster is also called this.



Francis wears white - the color of Pope. | Photo: Christof Haverkamp

The head of the world catholic church, representative of Jesus Christ on earth, successor of the apostle Peter, sovereign of the Vatican City state, bishop of the diocese of Rome and "Pontifex Maximus - supreme bridge builder". It is voted in secret ("conclave") by everyone under 80 years of age Cardinals chosen by the world. In theory, any male Catholic can be elected Pope; Francis is the 266th Pope.


Pastor with the title Pastor

This title is given, for example, to priests who have been pastors and thus leaders of a parish until the parish structures were reformed.



A man who belongs to an order (here: a Benedictine) and is a priest is called Father. | Photo: Michaela Kiepe

A religious who has been ordained a priest.



The title goes back to early church times. Today there are ten patriarchs in the Roman Catholic Church: four in the Latin (Jerusalem, Lisbon, Venice, East India) and six in the Eastern Catholic Churches (Coptic, Maronite, Syrian, Melkite, Armenian and the Patriarch of Babylon). Benedict XVI has the title "Patriarch of the West" for the Pope. abolished.



The head of a parish is usually referred to as a pastor, so that in the diocese of Münster one also speaks of the "leading pastor". He is appointed by the bishop, solemnly introduced to his office and cannot be transferred without special reasons. Since the reform of the parish structures, there have also been pastors with the title of pastor in the diocese of Münster, but they are not leaders of a parish.


Parish administrator

A parish administrator (also known as a “parish administrator”) is a priest who leads a parish on a transitional basis - for example until a pastor is appointed.



See monsignor.



Spiritual leader or companion of a Catholic association. In the Protestant church also the leader of a regional church or the synod.



An honorary title that used to be associated with particularly important or old bishoprics. While Trier, Mainz and Magdeburg lost their primate status with the Peace of Westphalia or with the secularization, the Archbishop of Salzburg is still “Primate Germaniae” today. In addition, there is the Abbot Primate as the highest representative among the Benedictines and the Augustinian Canons.


Prior, Prioress

In order, this means the leader of a community. In Benedictine monasteries, which are presided over by an abbot, the prior and prioress are their deputies.



Usually the head of a central or historically significant parish; for example in the diocese of Münster in Beckum, Billerbeck, Borken, Kleve, Recklinghausen, Telgte, Vechta and Xanten.


Provincial, Provincial

Leader of several religious orders in a larger area.


Rector ecclesiae

Churches that are not parish or religious (like here the Clemenskirche in Münster) are one Rector ecclesiae entrusted. | Photo: Michael Bönte

This is the name of a priest who is entrusted with the care of a place of worship that is not a parish or religious order.



The head of a seminary where men prepare for ordination.


Regional bishop

This is usually understood to mean an auxiliary bishop who is responsible for a specific area in larger dioceses on behalf of the diocesan bishop. In the diocese of Münster there are so far four regions and the official district of Oldenburg; however, these five areas have recently been looked after by only four auxiliary bishops.



On the one hand, a spiritualist is responsible for the spiritual training and accompaniment of candidates for priesthood in a seminary. In addition, a priest is referred to as a spiritual who permanently accompanies a community of women religious pastoral and liturgical.



Representative of the rain.



A clergyman who supports pastoral care in a community. Subsidiaries usually have other main tasks - for example in administration, associations, educational institutions - or they are retired.


Vicarius cooperator

A very old title that is rarely used. A vicarius cooperator supports like that "Pastor with the title Pastor" pastoral care in a parish without being the leader of a parish. This title only exists once in the diocese of Münster - for a priest from India who still belongs to his home diocese.



Another term for chaplain. It has not been used in the diocese of Münster for a long time. In the neighboring Archdiocese of Paderborn, however, it is still common today; they don't know a “chaplain” there.


Auxiliary bishop

He is bishop like any diocesan or archbishop also. He can also ordain deacons, priests and bishops. However, auxiliary bishops do not have the authority of the diocesan bishops, who are the only ones to preside over their diocese. Auxiliary bishops are also referred to as “auxiliary bishops” who support the diocesan bishop primarily in ordinations such as confirmations and altar consecrations. Because it did happen in the Middle Ages that diocesan bishops led a diocese without having received episcopal ordination themselves, the - consecrated - auxiliary bishops were placed at their side in order to celebrate the necessary acts of consecration. Today they also carry out visitations in the congregations; this shows that they support the diocesan bishop in running the diocese. Nevertheless, like every bishop, an auxiliary bishop is assigned a diocese; in the case of auxiliary bishops, these are mostly dioceses that have disappeared in the course of history.



He is responsible for the preparation and discreet accompaniment of the processes in festive church services, especially in episcopal churches.