26 June 2007


Piepkorn pointed this out in several of his works. Curious indeed:

Among the other heroes of Christian philosophy we also knew Abbot Daniel, who was not only the equal of those who dwelt in the desert of Scete in every sort of virtue, but was specially marked by the grace of humility. This man on account of his purity and gentleness, though in age the junior of most, was preferred to the office of the diaconate by the blessed Paphnutius, presbyter in the same desert: for the blessed Paphnutius was so delighted with his excellent qualities, that, as he knew that he was his equal in virtue and grace of life, he was anxious also to make him his equal in the order of the priesthood. And since he could not bear that he should remain any longer in an inferior office, and was also anxious to provide a worthy successor to himself in his lifetime, he promoted him to the dignity of the priesthood. He however relinquished nothing of his former customary humility, and when the other was present, never took upon himself anything from his advance to a higher order, but when Abbot Paphnutius was offering spiritual sacrifices, ever continued to act as a deacon in the office of his former ministry. However, the blessed Paphnutius though so great a saint as to possess the grace of foreknowledge in many matters, yet in this case was disappointed of his hope of the succession and the choice he had made, for he himself passed to God no long time after him whom he had prepared as his successor. -- Blessed John Cassian (360-435), *Conferences* 4:1


Christopher said...

'204. Nothing further appears to be known of Daniel than what is here told us by Cassian. There has been some discussion as to the action of Paphnutius in having him raised to the priesthood, as Cassian here narrates. Was Paphnutius really a bishop, or is it a case of presbyterian orders, or do Cassian's expressions merely mean that Paphnutius procured his ordination first to the Diaconate and then to the Priesthood? Probably the latter, for (1) all the evidence goes to show that presbyters had not the power of ordination; and (2) there are many instances, in which it is said even of the laity that they "ordained" men to the ministry when all that can possibly be meant is that they "procured their ordination;" further (3) it will be noticed that it is not even said that Paphnutius ordained Daniel, but merely that he "promoted" him to the priesthood; an expression which might equally well be used of nomination as of actual ordination. See the subject discussed in Bingham's Antiquities, Book II. c. iii. § 7, and C. Gore's "Church and the Ministry," p. 374.'

- Edgar C.S. Gibson in "A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church", Second Series, Volume 11 (New York, 1894), ed. Schaff.

Christopher said...

"The ordinary minister of the sacrament is the bishop, who alone has this power in virtue of his ordination. Holy Scripture attributed the power to the Apostles and their successors (Acts 6:6; 16:22; 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6; Titus 1:5), and the Fathers and councils ascribe the power to the bishop exclusively. Con. Nic. I, can. 4, Apost. Const. VIII, 28 "A bishop lays on hands, ordains. . .a presbyter lays on hands, but does not ordain." A council held at Alexandria (340) declared the orders conferred by Caluthus, a presbyter, null and void (Athanas., "Apol. contra Arianos", ii). For the custom said to have existed in the Church of Alexandria see EGYPT [See below]. Nor can objection be raised from the fact that chorepiscopi are known to have ordained priests, as there can be no doubt that some chorepiscopi were in bishops' orders (Gillman, "Das Institut der Chorbischöfe im Orient," Munich, 1903; Hefele-Leclercq, "Conciles", II, 1197-1237)."

- "Holy Orders" in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1917)

'3. Nature of Early Episcopate

There is much discussion as to the nature of the early episcopate in Egypt. Tradition seems to point to a collective episcopate consisting of twelve presbyters with a bishop at their head. St. Jerome, in a letter to Evangelus (P.L., XXII, 1194), insisting on the dignity of the priesthood, says, "At Alexandria, from the time of St. Mark the Evangelist to that of the Bishops Heraclas and Dionysius [middle of the third century] the presbyters of Alexandria used to call bishop one they elected from among themselves and raised to a higher standing, just as the army makes an emperor, or the deacons call archdeacon, one from their own body whom they know to be of active habits". This is confirmed by: (1) a passage of a letter of Severus of Antioch, written from Egypt between 518 and 538. Speaking of a certain Isaias who adduced an ancient canon to prove the validity of his episcopal ordination although performed by a single bishop, Severus says: "It was also customary for the bishop of the city famous for the orthodoxy of its faith, the city of Alexandria, to be appointed by priests. Later, however, in agreement with a canon which obtained everywhere, the sacramental institution of their bishop took place by the hands of the bishops." (2) A passage of the annals of Eutychius, Melchite Patriarch of Alexandria who flourished in the early decades of the tenth century: "St. Mark along with Ananias [Anianus] made twelve priests to be with the patriarch; so that when this should be wanting they might elect one out of the twelve priests and the remaining eleven should lay their hands upon his head and bless him and appoint him patriarch; and should after this choose a man of note and make him priest with them in the place of the one who had been made patriarch from among the twelve priests, in such sort that they should always be twelve. This custom, that the priests of Alexandria should appoint the patriarch from the twelve priests, did not come to an end till the time of Alexander patriarch of Alexandria, one of the three hundred and eighteen [the fathers of Nicæa] who forbade the presbyters [in the future] to appoint the patriarch, but decreed that on the death of the patriarch the bishops should convene and appoint the patriarch, and he furthermore decreed that on the death of the patriarch they should elect a man of note from whichsoever place, from among those twelve priests or not . . . and appoint him" (tr. from the Arabic text ed. Cheikho in "Corpus. Script. Christ. Orientalium; Scriptores Arabici", Ser. IIIa. tom. VI, 95, 96). Finally, we read in the apophthegms on theEgyptian monk Poemen (Butler, "Lausiac History of Palladius") that certain heretics came to Poemen and began to scoff at the Archbishop of Alexandria as having ordination (cheirotonian) from priests. The old man did not answer, but he said to the brothers: "Prepare the table, make them eat, and dismiss them in peace." It is generally supposed that the heretics in question were Arians and really intended to make Poemen believe that the then Archbishop of Alexandria had been ordained by priests, and St. Athanasius is supposed to have been that archbishop. Now, as it is a well-known fact that St. Athanasius was consecrated by bishops, that accusation is considered one of the many calumnies the Arians used to spread against him. If this interpretation be true, the Lausiac text proves nothing for the nature of the early Alexandrian episcopate. But it seems highly improbable that the Arians should have dared to assert what everyone in Egypt in the least familiar with contemporary events, must have known to be false. In fact, the Lausiac text is susceptible of a more plausible interpretation, to wit, that the episcopal character of the Archbishop of Alexandria was to be traced to simple presbyters, while in other churches the Apostolic succession had been transmitted from the very beginning through an uninterrupted line of bishops. In this case the Lausiac would have been the oldest case of the tradition transmitted by Jerome, Severus, and Eutychius, for Poemen flourished in the first half of the fifth century (Dict. Christ. Biogr. s. v.), or even as early as the latter half of the fourth century, if Charles Gore is right in his argument thatRufinus visited that holy hermit in 375 (Journal of Theological Studies, III, 280). Moreover, that the bishops of Alexandria originally were not only elected but also appointed by presbyters is, indirectly at least, confirmed by another tradition for which Eutychius is the authority, to wit, that, till Demetrius, there was no other bishop in Egypt than the Bishop of Alexandria. This was denied by Solerius (Hist. Chron. Patr. Alex., 8* = 10*) and others, but we shall see in the following section that their reasons are not conclusive (cf. Harnack, "Miss u. Ausbreitung", 2d. ed. II, 133, n. 3). The tradition that the early bishops of Alexandria were elected and appointed by a college of presbyters is therefore, if not certain, at least highly probable. On the other hand, it seems almost certain that that custom came to an end much earlier than Eutychius, or even Jerome, would have it. Significant is the fact that they disagree on the terminus ad quem; still more significant that Severus of Antioch is silent on that point. Besides, several passages of the works of Origen and Clement of Alexandria can hardly be understood without supposing that the mode of episcopal election and ordination was then the same throughout the rest of the Christian world (see Cabrol in his "Dict. d'archéologie chrét", s. v. Alexandrie: Election du Patriarche).

We may not dismiss the question without recalling the use which Presbyterians, since Selden, have made of that tradition to uphold their views on the early organization of the Church. It suffices to say that their theory rests, after all, on the gratuitous assumption (to put it as mildly as possible) that the presbyters who used to elect the Bishop of Alexandria, were priests as understood in the now current meaning of this word. Such is not the tradition; according to Eutychius himself, Selden's chief authority, the privilege of patriarchal election was vested not in the priests in general, but in a college of twelve priests on whom that power had been conferred by St. Mark. They were in that sense an episcopal college. Later on, when it became necessary to establish resident bishops in the provinces, the appointees may have been selected from the college of presbyters, while still retaining their former quality of members of the episcopal college. So that, little by little, the power of patriarchal election passed into the hands of regular bishops. The transfer would have been gradual and natural; which would explain the incertitude of the witnesses of the tradition as to the time when the old order of things disappeared. Eutychius may have been influenced in his statement by the fourth Nicene canon. As for St. Jerome, he may have meant Demetrius and Heraclas, instead of Heraclas and Dionysius, for he may have been aware of the other tradition handed down by Eutychius, to the effect that those two patriarchs were the first to ordain bishops since St. Mark"

See also "4. The Episcopate in the Provinces.-- Delegated Bishops or Itinerant Bishops"

- "Egypt" in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1917)

William Weedon said...


Didn't mean to get you going! ;)

It is, of course, only one piece of the evidence that Piepkorn presents, and when taken as a whole, it is rather persuasive (at least in my read). I've spent some time today reading the Patristic references he cites. I don't know how to read them any other way than granting the synonymity of bishop and presbyter throughout all of the first and much of the second century. Have you ever read him on the subject?

Christopher said...

"A Presbyter must be ordained by a single Bishop, and so must a Deacon."

- Canon 2 of the "85 Canons of the Holy Apostles" (Syriac redaction from ~341-400 AD)

"12. By what means then did Ischyras become a Presbyter? who was it that ordained him? was it Colluthus? for this is the only supposition that remains. But it is well known and no one has any doubt about the matter that Colluthus died a Presbyter, and that every ordination of his was invalid, and that all that were ordained by him during the schism were reduced to the condition of laymen, and in that rank appear in the congregation."

- St. Athanasius the Great, "Apologia Contra Arianos", I, 12.

William Weedon said...

Yet canon 13 of Ancyra, which folks will go on about that it cannot mean what it says. What is striking is that St. Leo IV (847-855) cites the canon in is Latin form that "city presbyters may not ordain presbyters or deacons outside their own parochia, unless the bishop has given them permission to do so" - and he APPROVES it. What? A bishop of Rome in the time of the undivided Church approving that presbyters can be extraordinary ministers of ordination? Saints above! ;) Read the Piepkorn stuff - it gives much to chew on.

Christopher said...

Even if (if!) there are real examples of ordinations by presbyters in the early Church that were accepted as valid, there are many things that were allowed in the early Church that are simply out of bounds now, e.g., the Quartodeciman dating of Pascha. At one time it was "orthodox" to deny that the Holy Spirit was homousios with the Father and the Son, at one time it was acceptable to refer to the one nature of Christ - but no longer.

We cannot simply skip over the living witness of the Body of Christ as it grew as if we know better - through our imperfect understanding and random surviving texts - than the Fathers of Nicea, etc. This is simply a more pious version of The Jesus Seminar: what was the teaching of 'the historical, real Church'?

This is also an argument from the exception, which only proves the rule. It is similar to enshrining a single Father's passing comment about what a certain group of Egyptians thought about certain books of the Bible as "the early Church's division of the Bible into homologoumena and antilogoumena" - which was simply not a normal division made by the Church. this is using a rare exception to what is the mainstream norm with far better attestation as 'proof'.

But, we're all entitled to weigh the proof according as we see fit - that's free will for ya. I'll take a look at the article you sent me offline.

Christopher said...

Well, chorepiscopi are not simply presbyters. They are 'country bishops' very similar to auxiliary or assistant bishops in the EO and RC churches. The first note also makes note of that. Piepkorn seems to add "nor city presbyters" where this is not found in the Schaff (Protestant) edition of the canons of Ancyra. Piepkorn also admits in the note that Mansi's collection of this 18-member episcopal council in Rome under Leo has come down in 'various forms'. This caveat together with his stretch (projection) on Paphnutius and Daniel is enough to through his interpretation of the facts into doubt. Most likely the text they saw either said only chorepiscopi or they understood that this was either a typo or a past practice no longer allowed.

Again, we can't find exceptions and build a case off of it. In the West, Rome also allowed a single bishop to ordain another bishop (see Bede's 'History') if he had a pall of the Pope's to authorize this extraordinary, missionary situation where 3 bishops could not easily come together for an an episcopal ordination - but this was and is not the norm.

Christopher said...

As to the presbyters of Alexandria and Lyons "instituting" the bishop - a curious term - the same could be said (imprecisely) of the Orthodox Church today. Often, the local diocese (priests and laity!) will elect a nominee or nominees for bishop, but this requires the approval of the Holy Synod and the ordination by 3 bishops. So, imprecisely, the clergy and laity of the OCA Diocese of the West 'instituted' Auxiliary Bishop Benjamin as their diocesan bishop - by sending only his nomination (unanimous) to the Synod, which was accepted and enacted by the Synod.

Those uninformed of the full context of such a practice could misconstrue the OCA as having bishops that are simply 'elected' by her clergy-laity council. Given the differences in culture, language and time between us and Leo and the ancient Churches of Alexandria and Lyons it is far more reliable to trust the context of the practices and communities surrounding these 'examples' than in reconstructing what we 'think' is most 'historical' and 'plausible' - an ecclesiological "Jesus Seminar".

William Weedon said...


I do want to make clear (though I suspect you already know this) that I believe that the canonical polity established by the fathers is the preferred polity for the Church, and that other polities have shown by experience that they falter significantly more than the episcopal (though it too is subject to grave abuse). I believe that whatever future Lutheranism has in this world will likely be vitally linked to those places where the old polity is intact. I think of the Archbishop of Latvia, for example, or Bishop Obare of Kenya, to name but two.

William Weedon said...

An interesting paper on the topic, by the way, is here:


Fr. Hank said...

Titusonenine blogged this piece on Godly Bishops by Leander Harding yesterday http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/article/3969/#more not exactly on topic but lends itself to ones hopes for the episcopate.

Christopher said...

I was thinking last night that the chorepiscopi are in fact very close with the view sometimes/often heard in Lutheran circles that the pastor of a congregation is, in fact, the bishop (episcopos) with all episcopal rights and responsibilities required of a bishops (this can be especially seen in the Lutheran form of ordination when done by 3 or more area pastors and approved by the District leader - in very much the same way as Orthodox and RC practice does with local bishops and the Metropolitan). With the rise of centralization, these suburban and country churches' chorepiscopi were replaced, when an actual bishop was not required, by priests under the bishop of the nearest city. Thus, this office went into disuse in the same way the 'ordained' offices of deaconess, exorcist, doorkeeper, etc. did.

But, chorepiscopi were still bishops and not simply presbyters.

William Weedon said...


Perceptive. A question: were the chorepiscopoi consecrated/ordained by three bishops? My impression - and it may be wrong - was that a bishop simply appointed a priest to serve in this office without the three bishops laying on hands. Have you come across any information on this?

Father Hollywood said...

There are some interesting articles in "Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue IV - Eucharist and Ministry" (1970).

The concensus reached by both sides is that Lutheran ordinations as they generally happen in the U.S. are irregular (owing to the exceptional historical circumstances of Germany during the Reformation), but they are valid nonetheless.

The Roman Catholic theologians recommended that the Roman Church acknowledge the validity of Lutheran orders and Masses.

Of course, the episcopal succession continued in Scandinavia (as well as in Russia and the Baltics), and from there, through Scandinavian missionaries, to Africa.

Of course, I agree that our ordinations (and sacraments) are valid, and I also agree that they are irregular. Though it would not add to the validity of our orders or priestly acts, I do believe (as do the Lutheran confessions) that the traditional polity would serve the church better and would also provide for more concordia and tranquility between the churches of the Augsburg Confession and other historic expressions of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

William Weedon said...

Father Beane,

Amen and amen. Valid, but irregular.

William Weedon said...

AND as Chris Brown is wont to ask: How long is this emergency supposed to last???

Christopher said...

It is worth noting that the Charter of the Eparchy of the Sacred Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America under the Ecumenical Patriarchate specifically define the chorepiscopoi as "Suffragan Bishops".

The following excerpt from "Canonical sources of the Epicospoi and Corepiscopoi" by Fr. George Thomas Kochuvilayil of the Syro-Malankara Church, which has maintained the office of Chorepiscopos gives the following background. It is interesting to note that in ancient times the Chorepiscopi seemed to be ordained as 'lesser' bishops by one or three others, while in the more modern canons that the Syro-Malankara church follows they are deemed to be presbyters blessed to act as bishops to some degree. (The same 'blessing' can be seen in Orthodoxy today when a layman is 'blessed' to serve as either a Psalti (chanter), Reader or Sub-Deacon without tonsure. This is especially seen with the office of Sub-Deacon in that, in the Russian tradition, one may not marry after the tonsure).

2. The Institution of Chorepiscopi

The Church of Antioch was an Urban Church at the beginning. Christianization of the rural area extended quite naturally the influence of the church of the city and its responsibility. The communities in the rural areas depended in everything on the church of the city. There were priests in the rural areas for preserving spiritual and sacramental life. They were considered to be secondary and they remain dependent on the bishop for all matters. That is why there arises the necessity to create further ministries, in addition to the three-graded ordo of priesthood: Bishop, presbyters, deacons. The ecumenical councils as well as some Local synods give us information on the chorepiscopoi.

2.1 Terminological Implications

The name in syriacised form korepisqupo means the bishop of the countryside, i.e., a bishop charged with the supervision of the religious communities in the country, outside the Episcopal town.[19] The first reference to a chorepiscopos mentions Zotikos of Comana in Phrygia. The most ancient sources referring to chorepiscopoi, touch the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappodocia, Cilicia, Isauria and Bithynia.

There were probably, in the beginning, no differences in the rank between the bishops of the cities and those in the country (chorepiscopoi). This equality in rank could, however, not last very long. The prestige of the cities and of the Churches there must have rapidly caused the subordination of the rural communities and their bishops to the bishops of the cities. There is a common consensus that this development began in the middle of the third century.

Together with the presbyters, the deacons and the lectors (readers), the periodeutes are under the chorepiscopos. The latter has the obligation to instruct, exhort and eventually to punish them by a penalty corresponding to the gravity of their deed.[20]

2.2 The Witness of the Synods

The Synods speak on chorepiscopoi as an already fixed and known institution. They point to a development of church order which has already taken place. We may draw from them the degree of relation between the chorepi­sopos in the country and the bishop of the eparchy.

We see, for the first time, of a legal norm concerning the chorepiscopoi from the acts of the Ancyra synod (314). They are prohibited, by can.13 of this synod, to confer ordination to deacons and presbyters to serve in the churches under their own jurisdiction, without having obtained a special mandate of the bishop of the 'paroikia' (eparchy, diocese). From this formulated restriction of the power of ordination we may conclude that the chorepiscopoi while belonging to the order of bishops, have not been autonomous in the execution of their office.

The synod of Neocaesarea (314/319) presided over by Vitalis of Antioch, tries to define the role of the chorepiscopoi and to explain their office theologically. While the eparchial bishops are indisputably a continuation of the Twelve, the chorepiscopoi are compared rather with the seventy disciples of the Lord. They belong to the rural clergy, but they are, at the same time, in some way taken out from their ranks. According to can. 13, the latter are not allowed to celebrate the Eucharist in the city, i.e. in the presence of the eparchial bishop and his clergy, the episcopal presbyterium. The chorepiscopos is exempted from this rule. "Because of his zeal in taking care for the poor", he may celebrate the Eucharistic liturgy also in the city (can. 14).

The synod of Antioch(341), through the canon 10, charges the chorepiscopoi to observe the limits of their power and not to go beyond them. The synod of Sardia(343-344) prohibits the installation of bishops in small rural towns(can.6). There is a unanimous intention of the Fathers of this synod to establish bishops only in towns. Decision of the synod of Laodicea in Phrygia, which is dated between 341 and 381, also of this line. This synod has obviously the intention to make an end of the institution of chorepiscopoi. According to the will of this synod, there should not be ordained bishops for the rural areas and villages.

2.3 The Witness of other Canonical Sources

...Can.16 of the Canones de ordinabus says that the chorepiscopos remaining in the order of presbyters doesn’t receive an imposition of hands nor is a prayer spoken on him: this means that, at his installation there is no action which could be considerd as ‘Sacramental’ Episcopal ordination.[22] The same canon defines the chorepiscopos as a presbyter whom the bishop confers blessing and authority to visit the rural regions he esteems necessary. This direction corresponds to the statement we find in the so-called ‘Arabic Canons’ of Nicaea. There it is said that the chore­piscopos is an experienced monk living in the fear of God and dispo­sing of a good intellectual formation. For his service, he is elected by the bishop. At his installation the deacon assisting the bishop proclaims: “We have already elected N. that he be chorepiscopos within our jurisdiction. Each one should know that he has been established in this dignity.” After this proclamation, the usual prayers are said and the elected receives the blessing. The Syro-Oriental synod of Seleucia-Ctesiphon held in AD410 has tried to establish that there should be a single Chorepiseopos in each eparchy next to the bishop.

Both the Syro-Antiochean and Syro-Oriental keep to the order described by Pseudo-Dionysios for the heavenly and the ecclesiastical hierarchies and which is clearly rendered in the Liber Patrum of an anonymous Syro-Oriental author. According to this, the chorepiseopoi as well as the periodutes belong to the central order of the priests [though above each within that ranking in the same way all minor orders and the diaconate are in the order of laity in the Orthodox Church today]....

2.4 The witness of the Liturgy

Can, 10 of the synod of Antioch (341) prescribed that the eparchial bishops are competent for the ordination of the Chorepiscopoi. At that time, this was normally an Episcopal ordination; now a days the eparchial bishop is competent. From the rite of the installation and ordination it is clear that the Chorepiscopos does not receive a particular ordination of ‘sacramental’ character which would place him, in the sacramental order, above the rank of presbyter.

The Syrian catholic synod of Sharfeh(1888) instructs that the Chorepiscopoi are to be elected only from ranks of the presbyters and periodeutes. It is also said that a simple appointment is not enough; the ordination rite is to be observed. A Chorepiscopos canot be deprived of his dignity. Only because of a grave offence or of another reasonable ground, may he be denied the right of exercising his powers.

Christopher said...

(Greek Chorepiskopoi = rural bishops.)

A name originally given in the Eastern Church to bishops whose jurisdiction was confined to rural districts. The earliest chorepiscopus of whom we have any knowledge was Zoticus, whom Eusebius designates as bishop of the village Cumana in Phrygia in the latter half of the second century. In the beginning the chorepiscopi seem to have exercised all episcopal functions in their rural districts, but from the second half of the third century they were subject to the city bishops. The thirteenth canon of the Synod of Ancyra (314) and the tenth canon of the Synod of Antioch (341) forbade them to ordain deacons or priests without the written permission of the bishop; the sixth canon of the Synod of Sardica (343) decreed that no chorepiscopus should be consecrated where a priest would suffice; and the fifty-seventh canon of the Synod of Laodicea (380) prescribed that the chorepiscopi should be replaced by periodeutai, i.e., priests who have no fixed residence and act as organs of the city bishops. Thus the chorepiscopi in the Eastern Church gradually disappeared. The Second Council of Nicaea (787) is the last to make mention of them. Among the Nestorians they existed till the thirteenth century, and they still exist among the Maronites and Jacobites. In the Western Church they are of rare occurrence before the seventh century, and, as a rule, have no fixed territory or see, being mere assistants of the bishops. Their ever-increasing influence during the Carlovingian period led to repeated synodical legislations against them (Synods of Paris in 829, Aachen in 836, Meaux in 845), so that despite such able defenders of their cause as Rabanus Maurus ("De chorepiscopis", in P.L., CX., 1195-1206) they gradually disappeared in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and were replaced by the archdeacons."

- "Chorepiscopi" in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1917)

"A chorbishop is a rank of Christian clergy below bishop. The name chorepiscope or chorepiscopus (pl chorepiscopi) is taken from the Greek Χωρεπίσκοπος and means country bishop.


Chorepiscopi are first mentioned by Eusebius in the second century.[1] In the beginning the chorepiscopi seem to have exercised all episcopal functions in their rural districts, but from the second half of the third century they were subject to the city or metropolitan bishops. The Synod of Ancyra (314) specifically forbade them to ordain deacons or priests. The Synod of Sardica (343) decreed that no chorepiscopus should be consecrated where a priest would suffice, and so the chorepiscopi in the Byzantine Church gradually disappeared.[2] In the Western Church they were treated as an auxiliary bishop, as a rule having no fixed territory or see of their own. They gradually disappeared as an office and were replaced by archdeacons to administer subdivisions of a diocese.

Present practice

Both Catholic and Orthodox Eastern Churches still have chorbishops. In some Eastern Orthodox Churches, "chorbishop" is an alternate name for an auxiliary bishop. For the Melkite Greek Catholic Church[2] and other Eastern Catholic Churches, chorbishop is an honorific similar to monsignor.

The Churches of the Syriac tradition, namely the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Indian Orthodox Church, the Syro-Malabar Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church also preserve the office, calling it corepiscopa or coorepiscopa. In these churches, the corepiscopa vests almost identically to the bishop and often serves as his representative to various liturgical events to add solemnity.

In the Maronite Church, a chorbishop is similar to but not identical to an auxiliary bishop. Like a bishop, a chorbishop is ordained, and may wear a bishop's vestments including the mitre (hat) and crozier (staff).[3] A Maronite chorbishop has the power to confer minor orders (reader and the subdiaconate), but not the diaconate or priesthood.[4] The role of protosyncellus (vicar general) is often filled by a chorbishop."

- "Chorbishop" from Wikipedia (June 28, 2007)

It would seem that in some of the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches that this is primarily an honorific for a presbyter, but they also seem to then lack the authority to ordain, as well. Where the Chorepiscopoi seem to be allowed to ordain orders up to presbyter, they seem to be seen as 'auxiliary bishops' to a greater or lesser extent.