Parish in the Catholic Church

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In the Roman Catholic Church, a parish (Latin: parochia) is a stable community of the faithful within a particular church, whose pastoral care has been entrusted to a parish priest (Latin: parochus), under the authority of the diocesan bishop. It is the lowest ecclesiastical subdivision in the Catholic episcopal polity, and the primary constituent unit of a diocese. In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, parishes are constituted under cc. 515–552, entitled "Parishes, Pastors, and Parochial Vicars."

Types

Most parishes are territorial parishes, which comprise all the Christian faithful living within a defined geographic area.[citation needed] Some parishes may be joined with others in a deanery or vicariate forane and overseen by a vicar forane, also known as a dean or archpriest.

Per canon 518, a bishop may also erect non-territorial parishes, or personal parishes, within his see.[1] Personal parishes are created to better serve Catholics of a particular rite, language, nationality, or other commonality which make them a distinct community.[2] Such parishes include the following:

  • National parishes, established to serve the faithful of a certain ethnic group or national origin, offering services and activities in their native language.[3]
  • Parishes established to serve university students.[3]
  • Parishes established in accordance with the 7 July 2007 motu proprio Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum "for celebrations according to the older form of the Roman rite",[4] i.e., the form in use in 1962
  • Anglican Use parishes established by the Pastoral Provision or other dispensations for former members of the Episcopal Church in the United States. By nature, communities belonging to the personal ordinariates for Anglicans as established by Anglicanorum Coetibus of 4 November 2009 are also personal parishes.

All the Christian faithful who reside in a territorial parish are considered constitutive of that territorial parish, and all members of a community for which a personal parish has been erected are similarly members of that personal parish. Membership should not be confused with registration or worship, however. Catholics are not obliged to worship only at the parish church to which they belong, but may for convenience or taste attend services at any Catholic church.[5] The term church may refer to the parish – the community that meets together – or to the building.[6] In this article it is used to refer to the building.