Who are Co-consecrators and what it means.


Co-consecrators are the bishops who assist the presiding bishop in the act of consecrating a new bishop.

It is a very strict rule of the Church that there should be two such assistant bishops, or three bishops in all-though an exception is made for missionary countries where it is practically impossible to bring so many bishops together, there allowing two priests to act as assistants to the consecrator. The part assigned by the Roman Pontifical in its present form to the assistant bishops is, after helping to place the book of the Gospels on the shoulders of the elect, to join the consecrator in laying hands on his head, and in saying over him the words Accipe Spiritum Sanctum. 

But it is the consecrator alone who, with extended hands, says the Eucharistic prayer, which constitutes the "essential form" of the rite. 

History of the usage.

The earliest times the ides was to Assemble as many bishops as possible for the election and consecration of a new bishop, and it became the rule that the comprovincials at least should participate under the presidency of the metropolitan or primate. But this was found impracticable in a matter of such frequency; so in the Council of Nicæa we find it enacted that "a bishop ought to be chosen by all the bishops of his province, but if that is impossible because of some urgent necessity, or because of the length of the journey, let three bishops at least assemble and proceed to the consecration, having the written permission of the absent" (can. iv). 

There was, indeed, one exception, which is referred to in the letter of Pope Siricius to the African bishops (386), "That a single bishop, unless he be the Bishop of Rome, must not ordain a bishop". This exception has long since been discontinued, but it bears witness to the reason for which the intervention of several bishops was ordinarily required, a reason expressly stated by St. Isidore (about 601) in his "De Eccles. Off." (Bk. II, ch. v, no. 11 in P.L., LXXXIII, 785): "[The custom] that a bishop should not be ordained by one bishop, but by all the comprovincial bishops, is known to have been instituted on account of heresies, and in order that the tyrannical authority of one person should not attempt anything contrary to the faith of the Church." Such a consideration was not applicable to the case of the Bishop of Rome. In these provisions of the earlier councils the conditions of the time were presupposed. Gradually other conditions supervened, and the right of appointing to the episcopate was reserved to the metropolitans in the case of simple bishops, and to the Holy See in the case of metropolitans, and finally in all cases to the Holy See. But the practice of requiring at least three bishops for the consecration ceremony, though no longer needed for its ancient purpose, has always been retained as befitting the solemnity of the occasion.
 The mode of their co-operation The question has been raised, Do the co-consecrators equally with the consecrator impart the sacramental gift to the candidate? That they do has been contended on the ground of a well-known passage in Mart ne's "De Antiquis Ecclesi Ritibus" (II, viii, art. 10), in which he says that "beyond the possibility of a doubt they are not witnesses only but co-operators." But Mart ne's reference to Ferrandus's "Brevatio Canonum" (P.L., LXVII, 948), and through Ferrandus to the decree of Nic n and the words of St. Isidore already quoted, shows that his meaning is that they are not mere witnesses to the fact that the consecration has taken place, but, by taking part in it, make themselves responsible for its taking place. Moreover, though Gasparri (De Sacr. Ordinatione, II, 265) thinks otherwise, it is not easy to see how the assistant bishops can be said to comply with the essentials of a sacramental administration. They certainly do not in the use of the Oriental rites, nor did they in the use of the ancient Western rite, for they pronounced no words which partook of the nature of an essential form. And, though in the modern rite they say the words Accipe Spiritum Sanctum, which approximate to the requirements of such a form, it is not conceivable that the Church by receiving these words into her rite wished to transfer the office of essential form from the still-persisting Eucharistic Preface, which had held it previously and was perfectly definite, to new words which by themselves are altogether indefinite.   

Consecration in general.

Consecration, in general, is an act by which a thing is separated from a common and profane to a sacred use, or by which a person or thing is dedicated to the service and worship of God by prayers, rites, and ceremonies. 

The custom of consecrating persons to the Divine service and things to serve in the worship of God may be traced to the remotest times. We find rites of consecration mentioned in the early cult of the Egyptians and other pagan nations. Among the Semitic tribes it consisted in the threefold act of separating, sanctifying, or purifying, and devoting or offering to the Deity. In the Hebrew Law we find it applied to the entire people whom Moses, by a solemn act of consecration, designates as the People of God. As described in the Book of Exodus (24), the rite used on this occasion consisted of the erection of an altar and twelve memorial stones (to represent the twelve tribes); of the selection of twelve youths to perform the burnt-offering of the holocaust;   Moses read the covenant, and the people made their profession of obedience;   Moses sprinkled upon the people the blood reserved from the holocaust. Later on we read of the consecration of the priests — Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29) — who had been previously elected (Exodus 28). Here we have the act of consecration consisting of purifying, investing, and anointing (Leviticus 8) as a preparation for their offering public sacrifice. The placing of the meat in their hands (Exodus 29) was considered an essential part of the ceremony of consecration, whence the expression filling the hand has been considered identical with consecrating. As to the oil used in this consecration, we find the particulars in Exodus (30:23-24; 37:29).   Distinct from the priestly consecration is that of the Levites (Numbers 3:6) who represent the first-born of all the tribes. The rite of their consecration is described in Numbers 8. Another kind of personal consecration among the Hebrews was that of the Nazarites (Numbers 6). It implied the voluntary separation from certain things, dedication to God, and a vow of special sanctity. Similarly, the rites of consecration of objects — such as temples, altars, firstfruits, spoils of war, etc. — are minutely described in the Old Testament. Among the Romans whatever was devoted to the worship of their gods (fields, animals, etc.) was said to be consecrated, and the objects which pertained intimately to their worship (temples, altars, etc.) were said to be dedicated. These words were, however, often used indiscriminately, and in both cases it was understood that the object once consecrated or dedicated remained sacred in perpetuum.   The Church distinguishes consecration from blessing, both in regard to persons and to things. Hence the Roman Pontifical treats of the consecration of a bishop and of the blessing of an abbot, of the blessing of a corner-stone and the consecration of a church or altar. In both, the persons or things pass from a common, or profane, order to a new state, and become the subjects or the instruments of Divine protection. At a consecration the ceremonies are more solemn and elaborate than at a blessing. The ordinary minister of a consecration is a bishop, whilst the ordinary minister of a blessing is a priest. At every consecration the holy oils are used; at a blessing customarily only holy water. The new state to which consecration elevates persons or things is permanent, and the rite can never be repeated, which is not the case at a blessing; the graces attached to consecration are more numerous and efficacious than those attached to a blessing; the profanation of a consecrated person or thing carries with it a new species of sin, namely sacrilege, which the profanation of a blessed person or thing does not always do.   Of consecration proper the Roman Pontifical contains one of persons, that is of a bishop, and four of things, that is, of a fixed altar, of an altar-stone, of a church, and of a chalice and paten. 

The consecration of a church is also called its dedication (q.v.) in accordance with the distinction between consecration and dedication among the ancient Romans pointed out above. 

To these might be probably added confirmation and Holy orders, for which, however, the Roman Pontifical, because they are distinct sacraments, has retained their proper names. If we except the consecration of a bishop, which is a sacrament — although there is a question among theologians, whether the sacrament and the character imprinted by it are distinct from the sacrament and character of the priesthood, or only a certain extension of the sacerdotal sacrament and character — all the other consecrations are sacramentals. These are inanimate things which are not susceptible of Divine grace, but are a medium of its communication, since by their consecration they acquire a certain spiritual power by which they are rendered in perpetuum fit and suitable for Divine worship. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theol., III:83:3, ad 3 and 4.)   In the Eastern Churches the prayers at the consecration of altars and sacred vessels are of the same import as those used in the Latin Church, and they are accompanied by the sign of the cross and the anointing with holy oils (Renaudot, "Liturgiarum Orient. Collectio", I, Ad benedictiones). At the consecration of a bishop, the Orientals hold, with the Latins, that the essence consists in the laying-on of hands, and they entirely omit the anointing with holy oils (Morinus, De sacris Ecclesiæ ordinationibus, Pars III, Appendis).   When we speak of consecration without any special qualification, we ordinarily understand it as the act by which, in the celebration of Holy Mass, the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ. It is called transubstantiation, for in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of bread and wine do not remain, but the entire substance of bread is changed into the body of Christ, and the entire substance of wine is changed into His blood, the species or outward semblance of bread and wine alone remaining. This change is produced in virtue of the words: This is my body and This is my blood, or This is the chalice of my blood, pronounced by the priest assuming the person of Christ and using the same ceremonies that Christ used at the Last Supper. That this is the essential form has been the constant belief and teaching of both the Eastern and Western Churches (Renaudot, "Liturgiarum Orientalium Collection", I, i).   

Consecration of a bishop.

 The consecration of a bishop marks the plenitude of the priesthood, and it is probable that on this account the "Pontificale Romanum" places the ceremony of episcopal consecration immediately after that of the ordination of priests, Tit. XIII, "De consecratione electi in Episcopum". Episcopal jurisdiction is acquired by the act of election and confirmation or by definite appointment, whilst the fullness of the priestly power itself is obtained in consecration, as the completion of hierarchical orders. Formerly the consecration of a suffragan bishop was performed jure communi by the metropolitan of the province, who could delegate another bishop. An archbishop was consecrated by one of his suffragans, the senior being usually selected. If the bishop-elect was not a suffragan of any ecclesiastical province, the nearest bishop performed the ceremony. According to the present discipline of the Church the office of consecrator is reserved to the Roman pontiff, who performs the consecration in person or delegates it to another (Benedict XIV, Const. "In postremo", 10 October 1756, sect. 17). If the consecration takes place in Rome, and the bishop-elect receives the permission to choose the consecrator, he must select a cardinal who is a bishop, or one of the four titular Latin patriarchs residing in Rome. If they refuse to perform the ceremony, he may choose any archbishop or bishop. A suffragan, however, is obliged to select the metropolitan of his province, if the latter be in Rome (ibidem). In Rome the consecration takes place in a consecrated church or in the papal chapel (Cong. Sac. Rit., Decr. V of the lates idit., no date). If the consecration is to take place outside of Rome, and Apostolic commission is sent to the bishop-elect, in which the Roman pontiff grants him the faculty of choosing any bishop having communion with the Holy See to consecrate him and administer the oath, a pledge of obedience and respect to the Apostolic See. Besides the consecrator, the ancient canons and the general practice of the Church require two assistant bishops. This is not of Divine but of Apostolic institution (Santi, "Praelectiones Juris Canonici", Vol. I, Tit. vi, n. 49), and hence in cases of necessity, when it is impossible to procure three bishops, the places of the two assistant bishops may, by Apostolic favour, be filled by priests, who should be dignitaries (Cong. Sac. Rit., 16 July, 1605). These priests must observe the rubrics of the "Pontificale Romanum" with regard to the imposition of hands and the kiss of peace (Cong. Sac. Rit., 9 June, 1853). Benedict XIV (De Synod. Cioec., Lib. XIII, cap. xiii, n. 2sqq.) holds that the consecration of a bishop, when the consecrator is assisted by one priest, although the Apostolic Brief required two assistant priests, is valid although illicit. In missionary countries the consecrator may perform the ceremony without the assistance even of priests (Zitelli, "Apparatus Juris Ecclesiastici", Lib. I, Tit. i, sect. iv). The selection of the assistant bishops or priests is left to the consecrator, whose choice is, however, understood to be in harmony, with the wishes of the bishop-elect (Martinucci, Lib. VII, cap. iv, n. 5).   The day of consecration should be a Sunday or the feast of an Apostle, that is to say a dies natalitia, and not merely a day which commemorates some event of his life, e.g. the Conversion of St. Paul. Since in liturgy Evangelists are regarded as Apostles (Cong. Sac. Rit., 17 July, 1706) their feast days may be selected. The choice of any other day must be ratified by special indult of the Holy See. Outside of Rome the consecration ought to be performed, if it can be conveniently done, in the cathedral of the diocese, and within the province of the bishop-elect; the latter may, however, select any church or chapel for the ceremony. A bishop must be consecrated before the expiration of three months after his election or appointment. If it is delayed beyond this time without sufficient reason, the bishop is obliged to relinquish the revenues to which he is entitled; if it is delayed six months, he may be deprived of his episcopal see (Conc. Trid., Sess. XXIII, cap. ii, De Reform). Titular bishops forfeit their right of episcopal dignity unless they are consecrated within six months of their appointment (Benedict XIV, Const. "Quum a nobis", 4 Aug., 1747, sect. Hæc sane). According to the ancient canons, both the consecrator and the bishop-elect are expected to observe the day preceding the consecration as a fast day.   The ceremony of consecration of a bishop is one of the most splendid and impressive known to the Church. It may be divided into four parts: The preludes, the consecration proper, the presentation of the insignia, and the conclusion. It takes place during Mass celebrated by both the consecrator and the bishop-elect. For this purpose a separate altar is erected for the bishop-elect near the altar at which the consecrator celebrates Mass, either in a side chapel, or in the sanctuary, or just outside of it.   

Different positions / titles of Bishops.


Patriarchs are the bishops who head certain ancient autocephalous or sui iuris churches, which are a collection of metropolitan sees or provinces. After the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, the church structure was patterned after the administrative divisions of the Roman Empire wherein a metropolitan or bishop of a metropolis came to be the ecclesiastical head of a civil capital of a province or a metropolis. Whereas, the bishop of the larger administrative district, diocese, came to be called an exarch. In a few cases, a bishop came to preside over a number of dioceses, i.e., Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria. 

At the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451, Constantinople was given jurisdiction over three dioceses for the reason that the city was "the residence of the emperor and senate". Additionally, Jerusalem was recognized at the Council of Chalcedon as one of the major sees. In 692, the Quinisext Council formally recognized and ranked the sees of the Pentarchy in order of pre-eminence, at that time Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. In the Catholic Church, Patriarchs sometimes call their leaders Catholicos; the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Egypt, is called Pope, meaning 'Father'. While most patriarchs in the Eastern Catholic Churches have jurisdiction over a "ritual church" (a group or diocese of a particular Eastern tradition), all Latin Rite patriarchs, except for the Pope, have only honorary titles. 

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave up the title of Patriarch of the West. The first recorded use of the title by a Roman Pope was by Theodore I in 620. However, early church documents, such as those of the First Council of Nicaea (325) had always listed the Pope of Rome first among the Ancient Patriarchs (first four, and later five: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem—collectively referred to as the Pentarchy). Later, the heads of various national churches became Patriarchs, but they are ranked below the Pentarchy. 


 A primate is usually the bishop of the oldest church of a nation. Sometimes this carries jurisdiction over metropolitan bishops, but usually it is purely honourific. The primate of the Scottish Episcopal Church is chosen from among the diocesan bishops, and, while retaining diocesan responsibility, is called Primus. 


 A metropolitan bishop is an archbishop in charge of an ecclesiastical province, or group of dioceses, and in addition to having immediate jurisdiction over his own archdiocese, also exercises some oversight over the other dioceses within that province. Sometimes a metropolitan may also be the head of an autocephalous, sui iuris, or autonomous church when the number of adherents of that tradition are small. In the Latin Rite, metropolitans are always archbishops; in many Eastern churches, the title is "metropolitan," with some of these churches using "archbishop" as a separate office. 


An archbishop is the bishop of an archdiocese. This is usually a prestigious diocese with an important place in local church history. In the Catholic Church, the title is purely honorific and carries no extra jurisdiction, though most archbishops are also metropolitan bishops, as above, and are always awarded a pallium.


 A suffragan bishop is a bishop subordinate to a Metropolitan. In the Catholic Church this term is applied to all non-metropolitan bishops (that is, diocesan bishops of dioceses within a metropolitan's province, and auxiliary bishops).   


A titular bishop is a bishop without a diocese. Rather, the bishop is head of a titular see, which is usually an ancient city that used to have a bishop, but, for some reason or other, does not have one now. Titular bishops often serve as auxiliary bishops. In the Ecumenical Patriarchate, bishops of modern dioceses are often given a titular see ). 


An auxiliary bishop is a full-time assistant to a diocesan bishop (the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox equivalent of an Anglican suffragan bishop). An auxiliary bishop is a titular bishop, and he is to be appointed as a vicar general or at least as an episcopal vicar of the diocese in which he serves. 


A coadjutor bishop is an auxiliary bishop who is given almost equal authority in a diocese with the diocesan bishop, and the automatic right to succeed the incumbent diocesan bishop. The appointment of coadjutors is often seen as a means of providing for continuity of church leadership.

CRDINAL In Catholicism

A cardinal, a title dating back to the 8th century, is a member of the clergy appointed by the pope to serve in the College of Cardinals. This body is empowered to elect a new pope in sede vacante, but cardinals over the age of 80 may not be electors. Cardinals serve as advisors to the pope and hold positions of authority within the structure of the Catholic Church. Under modern canon law, a man who is not a bishop who is appointed a cardinal must accept ordination as a bishop, or seek special permission from the pope to decline ordination. Most cardinals are already bishops at the time of their appointment, the majority being archbishops of important archdioceses or patriarchs, and a substantial portion of the rest already titular archbishops serving in the Vatican. 

Recent popes have appointed a few priests, most of them influential theologians, to the College of Cardinals without requiring them to be ordained as bishops; invariably, these men are near or over the age of 80, and consequently not eligible to take part in a conclave. 


Catholic doctrine holds that one bishop can validly episcopally consecrate another (priest) as a bishop. Though a minimum of three bishops participating is desirable (there are usually several more) in order to demonstrate collegiality, canonically only one bishop is necessary.