Bishops Conference

In the Roman Catholic Church an Episcopal Conference, Conference of Bishops or National Conference of Bishops is a body of bishops generally defined by geographic borders. All the bishops in a given country belong to the same conference, which might also include neighboring countries.

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) is the national body for the Catholic bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand. The Conference has a Secretariat located in Wellington, and a number of agencies and offices to assist the bishops in carrying out national level functions.


A parish is a community of Catholics established within a diocese, whose pastoral care has been entrusted by the diocesan bishop to a parish priest. A parish usually has its own church.

In some circumstances the pastoral care of the parish may be carried out by a lay person, together with one or more priests who have canonical responsibility for the parish and who provide sacramental ministry.

A parish may only be established or suppressed (closed) by the diocesan bishop.

Pastoral Area

Two or more parishes (usually neighbours) working together in the provision of pastoral care for their parishioners are called a Pastoral Area. Priests and lay pastoral staff may have responsibilities across some or all of the parishes in the group. They generally work together as a team in the Pastoral Area, although their major responsibility may be for one particular parish in the group.


A diocese is a “portion of the people of God” which is entrusted to the pastoral care of a bishop. He carries out this pastoral care with the cooperation of the priests of the diocese. The smallest units of a diocese are parishes.

The bishop, priests and people of the diocese constitute a “particular church”, in which “the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ truly exists and functions”. As a rule, a diocese has a defined territory.


Neighbouring dioceses are grouped together as an “ecclesiastical province”, which is presided over by a bishop who is called the Metropolitan. The Metropolitan is an archbishop and his diocese is an archdiocese. The other dioceses in the province are called suffragan dioceses.

The Metropolitan receives a narrow band called the pallium from the Holy Father. It is made of white lamb’s wool and has six black crosses on it. The pallium is a symbol of the Metropolitan’s role and his connection with the Pope.

The six dioceses of New Zealand form an ecclesiastical province. The metropolitan diocese is the Archdiocese of Wellington, and the Metropolitan is Archbishop John Dew.


Eparchy is the word used for a diocese in the Eastern Catholic Churches which are in full communion with the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). Eparchies which cover New Zealand:

  • Eparchy of SS Peter and Paul (Melbourne) for Ukrainian Catholics of Australia and New Zealand
  • Eparchy of St Michael, Archangel (Sydney) which is the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand
  • Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle (Sydney) which is the Chaldean Eparchy of Oceania
  • Eparchy of St Maroun the Maronite Eparchy of Australia (Sydney).

Personal Prelature

A personal prelature is made up of clergy and lay people who carry out specific pastoral activities under the jurisdiction of a bishop. The bishop’s jurisdiction is not territorial but is over the people of the prelature wherever they may be. Only one personal prelature has been created, the Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, which was created by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

Military Ordinariate

A military ordinariate is a structure in the Catholic Church responsible for the pastoral care of Catholics serving in the armed forces of a country and their families. A military ordinariate is headed by a bishop who is appointed as Military Ordinary for the country by the Holy Father. The Military Ordinary for New Zealand is Archbishop John Dew.