Suffragan Diocese?

What is a “Suffragan Diocese” and what is the official relationship in terms of authority between the Bishop in a suffragan diocese and that of the Archbishop?

A suffragan diocese is a diocese that is overseen not only by its own Ordinary but also by a metropolitan archbishop. The metropolitan is always an archbishop who governs a diocese strictly his own, while he presides at the same time over the bishops of a well-defined ecclesiastical province composed of his suffragan dioceses.

For instance in the Ecclesiastical Province of New York we have Archbishop Timothy Dolan as Archbishop of NY and there are 7 suffragan dioceses in the area: Brooklyn, Rochester, Rockville Centre, Ogsdenburg, Syracuse et cetera. Archbishop Dolan is the first among equals in relation to the suffragan bishops.

*]" … while he presides at the same time over the bishops of a well-defined ecclesiastical province composed of his suffragan dioceses … "

*]" … Archbishop Dolan is the first among equals in relation to the suffragan bishops … "
What does that mean? :confused:

It might help you to read Canons 431-59 of the Code of Canon Law, especially Canon 436:
Can. 436 §1. In the suffragan dioceses, a metropolitan is competent:

 1/ to exercise vigilance so that the faith and ecclesiastical discipline are observed carefully and to inform the Roman Pontiff of abuses, if there are any;

 2/ to conduct a canonical visitation for a cause previously approved by the Apostolic See if a suffragan has neglected it;

 3/ to designate a diocesan administrator according to the norm of cann. 421, §2, and 425, §3.

§2. Where circumstances demand it, the Apostolic See can endow a metropolitan with special functions and power to be determined in particular law.

§3. The metropolitan has no other power of governance in the suffragan dioceses. He can perform sacred functions, however, as if he were a bishop in his own diocese in all churches, but he is first to inform the diocesan bishop if the church is the cathedral.

Wikipedia has a good article to explain just what Ecclesiastical provinces are. and what the provinces in the United States are.

“First among equals” is a phrase that is used by Orthodox Christians to describe the Patriarch of Constantinople and is being used here as something of an analogy. The metropolitan archbishop of a province has no real authority over any diocese except his own (which would be the archdiocese of the province.) But he acts as leader when the bishops of the archdiocese and the other suffragan dioceses meet and/or act as a unit. And by virtue of this leadership, the other bishops are likely to follow his lead although they don’t have to do so.

An example of the workings of provinces, archdioceses and suffragan dioceses: There are two ecclesiastical provinces in the states of California, Nevada, and Utah. (Technically Hawaii is included too but Hawaii is kind of a special case.) The archbishops of the provinces of Los Angles and San Francisco decided that each year they would dispense with the obligation to attend Mass on Feast of Mary, Mother of God (January 1st). The suffragan dioceses have pretty much all agreed to follow the policies of their respective archdioceses. But a few bishops of the suffragan dioceses have chosen not to dispense with the obligation to attend Mass.

(Disclaimer: I don’t want to take this thread off topic. Anyone who wants to discuss my example on its own merits ought to start a new thread or revisit one of the existing threads on the subject. I just thought it was a good example.)

Sorry if I am being slow but how can the Archbishop be AMONG EQUAL but still preside OVER them but have NO power of governance over them. :confused:

How does a city council chairman preside over the council without having “governance” over it?

Bishops share equally in the Apostolic succession. The Metropolitan is therefore no more a bishop than his suffragans. However, the senior dignity of his see gives him a role in overseeing neighboring sees, as set forth in the canons I posted a link to.

That is not entirely accurate. Some provinces have two or more archdioceses. All metropolitans are archbishops but not all archbishops are metropolitans. So the Metropolitan’s archdiocese isn’t necessarily the “archdiocese of the province.”

For example, Rome has a suffragan that is an archdiocese.

Posting from my phone so I hope it comes through ok.

One other distinction is that the Metropolitan is the location of the tribunal appeals court. For annulments granted in a suffragan diocese, the church automatically appeals the decision to the next court which I believe is located at the metropolitan tribunal.


It means that his place of “being first” is an honorary one. He can provide guidance and advice and set a good example, but he has no direct authority when it comes to actual governance in the other dioceses. The exceptions have already been noted.

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