A apostolic vicariate is a form of jurisdiction in the Catholic church established in the areas and countries which do not have yet a Diocèse. It is thus primarily provisional, even if it can last for more than one century, but it is established by hoping that the area can generate a sufficient number of catholics to allow the erection of a diocese whole share.
An apostolic vicariate is directed by an apostolic vicar, who is often a titular bishop. Although this territory can be classified like a local Église , according to article 371.1 of the canonical code of right, the jurisdiction of the apostolic vicar is a vicarial exercise of the jurisdiction of the Pape, i.e. the territory comes directly under the authority from the pope as “a universal bishop”, and he exerts his authority through a vicar or a delegate. This is different from the jurisdiction of a bishop diocesan, whose jurisdiction derives directly from its office.
Like any territorial jurisdiction connected with the church, an apostolic vicariate can be directly managed by the bishop of a close Diocèse and even by a priest temporarily named with the apostolic function of Administrateur. As in a well developed diocese, the apostolic vicar can name priests to exert a jurisdiction limited in apostolic vicariate.
Currently, apostolic vicariates all are located in Asia, Africa and America, except for the apostolic Vicariate of Thessalonique, in Greece. In addition, there is an apostolic vicariate in a territory managed by the France: the apostolic Vicariate of the Islands Saint-Pierre-and-Miquelon.
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