Diocesan News

Ask the Register: diocese vs. archdiocese?

Q. What is the difference between a diocese and an archdiocese?

A. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, the communion of the baptized, established by Christ, and entrusted to the leadership of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, and the bishops of the Catholic Church, in communion with one another and with the Pope. 

The Second Vatican Council taught that the Church exists in and through particular Churches—through the Church throughout the world, entrusted to the leadership of the diocesan bishop, successor of the apostles. For more than 100 years, the dioceses of the Church have been organized into metropolitan provinces—groups of dioceses in a particular region, who share a special bond of unity and closeness with one another. In each province, one diocese is known as the “metropolitan see”—what we call an archdiocese. This is usually the largest city in a province, or a city of some historical or spiritual significance. 

The leader of the metropolitan see—the archdiocese—is called a “metropolitan,” or an archbishop.  The job of the archbishop is to foster coordination, collaboration, and communion among the bishops of the province—through informal support and friendship, and through formal means, like “provincial councils,” in which the bishops of a province gather together to make common decisions for the leadership of their dioceses. The metropolitan bishop—the archbishop—is not in authority over the provincial bishops, he is, instead, like an elder brother, called to assist the provincial bishops in their sacred responsibilities, to call them on, and to support them. He is also entrusted by the Holy Father with offering advice about the province, organizing certain reports among the dioceses, and other administrative responsibilities.

In the province, the metropolitan archbishop wears a special vestment called a pallium, which is a kind of woolen band, given to him by the Holy Father, to signify his responsibility to be a shepherd among the people of the province, and among his brother bishops. 

The Diocese of Lincoln belongs to the metropolitan province of Omaha, as does the Diocese of Grand Island, and the Archbishop of Omaha, Archbishop George Lucas, is the metropolitan archbishop.  We are blessed by his stable, faithful, and generous leadership.

Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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