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Catholic Dictionary




A dignitary having jurisdiction in external forum by right of his office. There have been prelates "nullius" who presided over the clergy and people of a certain territory not belonging to an established diocese. Thus abbots, although not bishops, have had the jurisdiction of a prelate. Such prelacies have been drastically reduced since the Second Vatican Council. In exempt religious orders, clerical superiors, such as provincials, guardians, and priors, share in the jurisdictional rank of prelate. The name and rank of prelate may also be given to priests as a mark of papal recognition of their service to the Church. (Etym. Latin praelatus, prelate, superior.)