Responding to the designation of Archbishop Jose Gomez as the next head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the archdiocese’s paper has explained the role of the bishop in the Catholic Church.
It explains that the local church, called a diocese, is a “community of faithful” with and under the authority of their bishop. This bishop in turn is in union with the Pope and other Catholic bishops throughout the world. This global union of bishops is known as the College of Bishops, The Tidings says.
This is in contrast to other Christian groups which see individual church communities as autonomous and independent, joined in a voluntary association of similar communities. It likewise differs from presbyterial churches governed by a regional council of ordained ministers, or episcopal churches joined in union with a national body of bishops.
The local bishop heading a diocese is known as an “ordinary” and is the successor of the Apostles in his own diocese.
“Although the Ordinary is selected and appointed by the Pope, he is neither the representative nor delegate of the Pope in the governing of his diocese,” The Tidings says. “Rather, through bonds of charity with the Holy Father and with all other Catholic bishops worldwide, he autonomously governs his own diocese in union with theirs and so contributes to the universality of the worldwide Catholic Church.”
The three parts of a bishop’s ministry is to sanctify, teach and govern the people of God in his local church. This parallels Christ’s threefold ministry as priest, prophet and king.
These episcopal duties are mirrored in three points: the altar at which he celebrates the principal liturgies of the diocese; the chair, or cathedra, from which the bishop exercises his office of teaching Catholics; and the crozier, which he carries as shepherd and ruler over the local church.
The Tidings also notes the organization of the Church into dioceses and archdioceses. The United States, for example, is divided into 33 geographic areas called provinces, each of which contains two or more dioceses.
The diocese associated with the principal city or metropolis of the province is termed the archdiocese, while the others are known as suffragan dioceses.
The bishop of an archdiocese is called an archbishop, but the title does not give him real authority over the other dioceses of the province.
According to The Tidings, the Metropolitan Province of Los Angeles is made up by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the dioceses of Fresno, Monterey, Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego.
Los Angeles’ current and two previous archbishops have been made cardinals, a “significant distinction and honor” with additional responsibilities.
Keeping in mind that the principal title and responsibility of the bishop of Los Angeles is “Archbishop,” The Tidings says, “we prepare to welcome the appointment of the next Archbishop of Los Angeles.”