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Frequently Asked Questions
regarding
THE SELECTION OF A BISHOP.

Q. 1. How does the catholic Church determines what priest should be a Bishop?

A. 1. The Catholic Church has a guideline within its Canon Law that provides the qualifications that are necessary of a new Bishop. Those are:

Can. 378 1. In regard to the suitability of a candidate for the episcopacy, it is required that he is:

1/ outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues, and endowed with other qualities which make him suitable to fulfill the office in question;

2/ of good reputation;

3/ at least thirty-Five years old;

4/ ordained to the presbyterate for at least Five years;

5/ in possession of a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred scripture, theology, or canon law from an institute of higher studies approved by the Apostolic See, or at least truly expert in the same disciplines.

2. The definitive judgment concerning the suitability of the one to be promoted pertains to the Apostolic See.


Now that we know what the Vatican is looking for in a candidate, let us look at who makes the appointment. On that matter, the Canon Law states:

Can. 377 1. "The Supreme Pontiff freely appoints bishops or confirms those legitimately elected."

Because the Pope lives thousands of miles away in most cases, in accordance with Canon Law, he expects the bishops of each province/region to compile a secret list of priests who they believe would make good bishops. That list is forwarded to the vatican.

Can. 377 2. "At least every three years, bishops of an ecclesiastical province or, where circumstances suggest it, of a conference of bishops, are in common counsel and in secret to compose a list of presbyters, even including members of institutes of consecrated life, who are more suitable for the episcopate. They are to send it to the Apostolic See, without prejudice to the right of each bishop individually to make known to the Apostolic See the names of presbyters whom he considers worthy of and suited to the episcopal function."

While the aforementioned list of candidates is generic in nature, providing a pool of names to choose from, when the time comes to appoint a new Bishop, the Bishops of the Province are required to provide their suggestions to the papal legate (representative).

Can. 377 3. "Unless it is legitimately established otherwise, whenever a diocesan or coadjutor bishop must be appointed, as regards what is called the ternus to be proposed to the Apostolic See, the pontifical legate is to seek individually and to communicate to the Apostolic See together with his own opinion the suggestions of the metropolitan and suffragans of the province to which the diocese to be provided for belongs or with which it is joined in some grouping, and the suggestions of the president of the conference of bishops. The pontifical legate, moreover, is to hear some members of the college of consultors and cathedral chapter and, if he judges it expedient, is also to seek individually and in secret the opinion of others from both the secular and non-secular clergy and from laity outstanding in wisdom."

Once a list of candidates has been compiled by the papal legate (representative of the pope), it is presented to the Pope for the appointment of a new Bishop. It is believed that the list normally contains at least three names, one from the Archbishop and each Bishop of the Province.

As can be appreciated, the process is quite lengthy. First there is the seeking of a clergy member who has certain qualifications. Then there is a general submission of candidates from the Province, such being followed by a more specific recommendation of each Bishop. That list goes to the papal legate who then presents it to the Pope who will make the final decision on the matter. After praying over the list of candidates and seeking guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Pope chooses a member of the clergy who will become the new Bishop of the territory involved.




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