Parish (Catholic Church)

A parish or parish ( parochia, paroecia, παροικία of Greek, Paroikía "neighborhood, living in a foreign country ", of which church Latin par ( r) ochia " Diocese " ) is in the outline of the Roman Catholic Church a legally defined community of believers headed by a priest. The community of believers called parish, also the associated pastoral area, as District also parish or parish, the office district, the official residence of the pastor and the official dignity is also called parish or parish office, the office and residential building itself is also called the rectory ( parsonage ).

  • 2.1 Overview
  • 2.2 Types of parishes
  • 2.3 Special forms of parochial organization
  • 2.4 municipality of structural reforms in the German bishoprics

Historical development


Early Christianity was a religion city. In each city with a Christian church, the bishop, assisted by his clerics headed the ministry. The Episcopal Church also underlined the importance at the same time the center of Christian life dar. From the 2nd century Christianity spread extended but more and more also to rural areas, or extended it to areas from which had scarcely cities. In the east, the pastoral was there initially taken over by so-called choir bishops. Presently, however, came from the bishop of the nearest town appointed clerics in their place. In the West, pastoral areas have been set up with the increasing Christianization, which was passed through delegated by the bishop cleric. These clerics had initially only delegated powers, for example, for baptism and Eucharist

Subsequent refinement

From the 6th century, this Seelsorgsbezirke were called " parochia " or " paroecia " means (see also mother parish ). The parish structure was crucial for the organization of pastoral care and thus for the lives of believers. The development of the parish structure in turn was determined by the proprietary church system, pen system and monasteries. Finally, a nationwide system of parishes, which was developed more and more dense. For the establishment of new parishes, two conditions developed: First, the maintenance of the priest had to be ensured. This was done by benefices ( benefices ), the proceeds benefited the pastor. The second condition was the equipment of the parish itself with sufficient financial resources, especially for the preservation of the parish church. For this purpose, one church Foundation ( " fabricae ecclesiae " ) was established. By the Parish forced the faithful were required to receive the sacraments in their own parish.

After a decree of Pope Alexander III. (1159-1181) could be set up for believers in remote areas affiliated churches or Vicariate.

Development after the Council of Trent

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) decreed that there should be no loose parish church people more. Every believer must be assigned to a parish. The territorial parish, so the summary of living together in a field believers even became the norm. Addition, however, still exist today also staff parishes, but in much smaller numbers. In addition, the Council, the responsibilities, rights and duties of the pastor regulated new, particularly in the sermon, marriage assistance and the application duty on Sundays and holy days of obligation were concerned. In addition, the pastors were expressly obliged to reside in their parish and for the guidance of church records ( baptismal, marriage books).

Recent Developments

The parish is today the central space for the Christian and communal life of God's people dar. In the newer Canon Law (see below) but there is no more compulsory parish, so that believers can choose free over the place of baptism, marriage and burial today. The higher mobility also allows the targeted prospecting special offers from other parishes.

Due to the shortage of priests parishes will be merged intensified in recent years in some European countries. In addition, the merger of parishes has received an increased importance to the parish associations.

Church Legal Status


According to the current ecclesiastical law, the parish " a particular community of believers that is built in a particular church on time and whose pastoral care is entrusted under the authority of the diocesan bishop, a pastor as its own shepherd" (can 515 § 1 CIC). Each diocese should be divided into parishes (can 374 § 1 CIC). Your establishment, abolition and alteration is solely for the diocesan bishop, who, however, has to listen to the Priests' (can 515 § 2 CIC). The parish has as of right legal personality (can 515 § 3 CIC).

The pastor as shepherd of the church must have been ordained priest (can 521 § 1 CIC). The possibility of a parish one of canons to incorporate (such as a cathedral chapter ) or of a religious community, is according to the Canon Law of 1983 no more (can 520 § 1 CIC). If one of canons or of a religious community to the pastoral was transferred or to be transferred, so one of the members must be appointed as a full pastor.

Types of parishes

Over time, several types of parishes have pronounced. The common form is the territorial parish. In the territorial parish living on a defined area of ​​the faithful of the parish are assigned. Each territorial parish may be assigned one or more branch communities. Rare is the personal parish that summarizes some not site -dependent circle of believers. It represents the extent of an opening resulting from can 374 § 1 CIC territoriality dar. personal parishes are especially built to meet the pastoral needs of certain groups. A case of the personal parish communities are the Catholics of other native language. After Summorum Pontificum Motu proprio bishops are expressly authorized to establish personal parishes for the faithful who wish to receive the sacraments according to the liturgical books of 1962 ( Tridentine rite ).

To be distinguished from the ordinary parish are the Pfarrvikarien, lokalien, kuratien - and - rectors. It is quasi- parishes that do not have the same status as a canonical parish, but this is largely assimilated.

Special forms of parochial organization

Because of the shortage of priests a pastor can be transmitted the pastoral care of several parishes (can 526 § 1, 2 HS, 534 § 2). This is in fact is the foundation of a parish Association and is a special form of parochial Seelsorgsorganisation. Other special forms are the solidary community of priests with a moderator (can 517 § 1 CIC), in which the pastoral care of a community of priests is transmitted and is responsible to the bishop as a moderator, the parish as Seelsorgsstelle (can 517 § 2 CIC), in which specific pastoral tasks are delegated to a deacon or lay under the supervision of a neighboring parish priest and the parish entrusted, in the pastoral care is entrusted to a clerical religious institute.

Community structural reforms in the German bishoprics

As part of the municipality of structural reforms in many German and Austrian dioceses have been in recent years merged parishes or former parishes grouped into larger units (such as associations or parish " pastoral care spaces" ) or merged into large parishes. For example, there is in the Diocese of Essen and Cologne only a few large parishes, which in turn in " communities " - are divided - understandable as parishes. The previous parish churches, now " community churches " or - if they are assigned no Jewish community - called " other churches " are legally usually done as a branch churches of the parent parish or parish churches of the Great parish. Since the details of the reforms in the various German dioceses are handled and implemented very differently, there is no uniform set of rules here.

Definition to the term parish

By the Parish of the Church (s) is to be distinguished community. The concept of church is not found in the Catholic Church law. In Germany, the Prussian General Land Law of evangelical terminology went out and looked at the church because of their role in the asset management as a legal entity. This continued through the ecclesiastical law, so the state to consider the totality of the members of a parish as a parish, although this had no legal personality in the internal church law until 1983; Legal entity of the parish was at that time the church foundation. Therefore, the church is now in Germany a decisive role in the state church law to where it is to be distinguished from the parish. So can consist of two parishes quite a parish, which then also each have a wealth Board ( Board, Church Board ).

In Switzerland there are in cantons with country church model is also a dualism between state and church structure, it is still much more important, because the cantons concerned has made the recognition of the Church as a religious community of certain conditions, such as a democratic election of the pastor, dependent. The so existing as a parallel structure to diocese and parish churches and country parishes were given the right to tax such as the Canton borrowed sovereignty.