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Catholic Dictionary




Authorized gatherings of bishops for the purpose of discussing ecclesiastical problems with a view to passing decrees on matters under discussion. In Roman Catholic terminology, if all the bishops are called to participate and actually represent the Christian world, the assembly is called ecumenical, which means universal; if only part of the hierarchy is invited, the council is particular. The latter may be plenary or provincial, depending on whether a single provincial area, e.g., the dioceses of Ohio, or a whole country sponsors the gathering. Church councils, even on a provincial basis, enjoy juridical authority in religious questions that is distinct from the legislative powers of individual bishops. In this respect also, councils differ from episcopal conferences, which are not, as such, legislative assemblies.