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Glossary of Church Terms




is reserved to those who are in church-recognized leadership posi-

tions, generally certified to represent the church in their area of expertise after

appropriate human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation. In a 2005


Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord

, the U.S. bishops encour-

aged the growth of lay ecclesial ministry and set out general guidelines for the

formation and the recognition or certification of such ministers.


The general term for all the church’s official acts of worship. It includes

the Mass (also called the

eucharistic liturgy

), the celebration of the other sac-

raments, and the Liturgy of the Hours, which contains the official prayers

recited by priests and some others to sanctify parts of the day. See









The central act of worship in the Catholic Church. In most Eastern

Catholic churches the Mass is called the

Divine Liturgy

. The Mass is divided

into two main parts. The Liturgy of the Word includes Scripture readings and

a homily and ends with the general intercessions. The Liturgy of the Eucharist

begins with the offering of the gifts, followed by consecration of the bread and

wine and the reception of Communion. Catholics believe that in the consecra-

tion the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ.



metropolitan see

is an archdiocese that is the chief diocese of

an ecclesiastical province. The archbishop who heads that province is called



, but usually only in contexts referring to him in his capacity

as head of the province. See




A broad term in Catholic usage for any activity conducive to the sal-

vation of souls. It can include ordained ministry such as liturgical leadership

and administration of the sacraments, or lay ministry such as instructing chil-

dren in the faith, serving the poor, visiting the sick, or being an altar server,

reader or music leader at Mass. See

lay ecclesial ministry



An honorary ecclesiastical title granted by the pope to some dioc-

esan priests. Priests in religious orders or congregations never receive the title

of monsignor. In English the standard abbreviation as a title before the name



American publications vary in whether they use the abbreviation or

the full word before the name in news reporting. In covering the church inter-

nationally, however, it is also important to realize that the Catholic Church

and news agencies in many other nations use


. or


. as the religious