A diocese, also called diocese, is generally territorially demarcated church administrative district. The name derives from the diocese breakdown of the Roman Empire in dioceses ago. The term diocese (of Bischoftum ), however, refers to the area jurisdiction of a bishop. Old names for this are parish or parishes (s) sprengel.

Roman Empire

The term diocese (Greek διοίκησις dioikesis Administration " ) originally referred to the State Tax Administration in ancient Rome and was built by Emperor Diocletian ( 284-305 ) taken when he newly subdivided the empire.

The regional classification of Diocletian was taken in the 4th century of the old church. While the Orthodox churches today use the term " eparchy " came in the West from the 13th century, the term " diocese " for the parent Episcopal parish in common use in the German-speaking area, the term " diocese ". This form of church building is still used today except in the Catholic Church in various other churches, such as in the Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church, the Old Catholic Church and parts of Lutheranism.

Roman Catholic Church

In the Roman Catholic Church a diocese is a generally territorially bounded entity. Constitutive of a diocese under the Decree Christus Dominus, the Second Vatican Council, the bishop, presbytery and God's people. In addition, a diocese is usually tied to a rite.

In addition to territorial there may be personal circumscribed dioceses. These include the particular Churches for the faithful of a different rite in the field of one or more Latin particular Church or the Military Ordinariate.

Currently, there are in the Roman Catholic Church 2,945 dioceses. Each diocese is also considered Partikularkirche the Roman Catholic Church. For the erection of new dioceses, the Pope is responsible. A diocese should be divided into parishes, which can be grouped into deaneries.


The establishment, rewriting and termination of dioceses is usually reserved to the Apostolic See ( can. 373 CIC). The only exception makes the Canon Law of the Eastern Churches ( CCEO ), which assigns to the patriarchs and the respective synod certain rights in the establishment, Neuumschreibung and cancellation of dioceses. In this case, the Apostolic See, however, to consult at least.

During the construction, description or cancellation of the Bishops' Conference dioceses concerned shall be heard ( can. 372 § 2 CIC). It can also, as in Germany, may be necessary due under contracts, to conclude agreements with the States concerned for the establishment or description of dioceses.


Each diocese is to be divided into parishes ( can. 374 CIC). This also applies to the staff dioceses. In Military Ordinariate a corresponding structure takes place, which may be different from case to case. Members of the Military Ordinariate are not legally fully independent from their diocese as are not also members of the currently existing personal prelature, Opus Dei.


Head of a diocese is the bishop. This has full jurisdiction and is therefore, to distinguish it from the Titular Bishop ( Bishop ), Diocesan Bishop called. He is the residence in his diocese committed ( can. 395 CIC).

Representatives of the bishop is the Vicar General who shall be the executive power, which holds the Bishop. Do not share the other hand, he has the legislative authority of the diocesan bishop. In addition, he shall not participate in the judiciary. The appointment of a vicar-general by the diocesan bishop is mandatory ( can. 475 § 1 CIC).

In addition to the Vicar General Episcopal vicars can be ordered, which may benefit from the expertise of the Vicar General for a particular task area by the diocesan bishop.

The representative of the bishop in the ecclesiastical jurisdiction is prosecuted ex officio and in the priestly formation of rain. Some bishops is to assist in the consecration of a suffragan bishop violence added, however, although in the consecration fully bishop, in particular by the diocesan bishop is dependent. In exceptional cases, be ordered by the Apostolic See a visitation by an apostolic visitor.

Association of dioceses

A diocese is usually merged with other dioceses to an ecclesiastical province. The head of an ecclesiastical province is entitled Metropolitan. This is your own diocesan bishop of a diocese of the Ecclesiastical Province, which is known as the archdiocese. However, there are dioceses that do not belong to the ecclesiastical province and directly to the Holy See ( Pope ) are subject to, such as the dioceses in Switzerland, the Archdiocese of Vaduz and the Archbishopric of Strasbourg. They are called exemte or immediate dioceses.

An archdiocese is not legally different from the diocese. The name is a historical significance to, or the seat of a metropolitan. The archdiocese is in the latter case together with other dioceses ( suffragan dioceses ) the ecclesiastical province. In rare cases, may also be suffragan to another archdiocese of an archdiocese. So below is for example the Archdiocese of Aix Metropolitan in Marseille.


Usually, the diocesan boundaries of the Roman Catholic Church adhere to political boundaries. According to the bishops of a country form a Bishops' Conference. Only in a few cases, such as in the Caribbean, a diocese extends over several countries. In Germany there was at the time the division of Germany some dioceses, which included both West and East German regions.

The size of the dioceses is different from country to country, in general, the dioceses in the early Christian areas of the Mediterranean countries both from the surface and from the Population forth much smaller than in later Christianized areas such as Germany.

Replacement of the Diocese

In fact, the rank of a diocese are also the jurisdiction of districts in mission areas such as mission sui juris, Prefecture Apostolic, apostolic vicariate and Apostolic Administration. The same applies to the territorial abbeys and Territorialprälaturen. The head of this particular Churches are equal to the diocesan bishops in law.

Dioceses in German speaking countries


In the Roman Catholic Church in Germany there are 27 dioceses (7 archdioceses and dioceses 20 ).


In Austria there are two Archdioceses, representing the ecclesiastical provinces, and seven territorial dioceses ( suffragan dioceses ), furthermore a military diocese and a Territorial Abbey ( Immediate, directly subordinate to the Holy See ). The boundaries of the dioceses largely correspond to those of the Austrian Länder, the Archdiocese of Vienna includes but besides the city itself is also a part of Lower Austria, and the East North Tyrol part of the Archdiocese of Salzburg.

  • Archdiocese of Salzburg (built in 798 ), with the suffragan dioceses: Diocese of Feldkirch
  • Diocese of Graz -Seckau
  • Diocese of Gurk
  • Diocese of Innsbruck
  • Diocese of Eisenstadt
  • Diocese of Linz
  • Diocese of St. Pölten

See also: Austrian Bishops' Conference


In Switzerland, there is no archdioceses with an ecclesiastical province, their task is performed directly the Roman Curia. This is in the Roman Catholic Church a special feature which was already several times in the discussion.

There are six dioceses (usually referred to as dioceses ):

  • Bishopric of Basel with a bishopric in Solothurn
  • Diocese of Chur
  • Diocese of Lausanne- Geneva - Fribourg with a bishopric in Freiburg
  • Diocese of Lugano
  • Diocese of St. Gallen
  • Diocese of Sion

Next there are the two territorial abbeys Abbey of Saint -Maurice and Maria Einsiedeln Abbey.


The Principality of Liechtenstein, the Archdiocese of Vaduz, which reports directly to the Roman Curia.


Luxembourg is at the Archdiocese of Luxembourg.


The Catholic Church in Belgium consists of an ecclesiastical province with eight dioceses. The archbishop is also Primate.

  • Archdiocese of Mechelen -Brussels
  • Diocese of Antwerp
  • Diocese of Bruges
  • Diocese of Ghent
  • Diocese of Hasselt
  • Bishopric of Liège
  • Diocese of Namur
  • Diocese of Tournai

Dioceses in other countries

Overview of all Catholic dioceses around the world, see: List of the Catholic dioceses.

Evangelical Church

In the Protestant Church an administrative unit of several individual communities within a country church was to the 19th century sometimes called diocese (eg dioceses of the Ecclesiastical Province of East Prussia or General dioceses of the Hanoverian State Church ). The term is in the Protestant church no longer in use in Germany. The Protestant Church A. B. in Austria is divided into seven dioceses, with the diocese - is used as an alternative name to Diocese of - even in the church constitution. The Evangelical - Augsburg Church in Poland is divided into dioceses. In the Lutheran churches of Scandinavia called the parish of Bishops founder, after the Scandinavian name for diocese.

Anglican Church

The member churches of the Anglican Communion in turn, are also organized in dioceses.

See, for example, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Episcopal dioceses of the United States of America, as well as the individual items to the member churches ( link in the navigation bar to the article about the Anglican Communion ).