In the Catholic Church, a bishop is an ordained minister who holds the fullness of the sacrament of holy orders and is responsible for teaching doctrine, governing Catholics in his jurisdiction, sanctifying the world and representing the Church. Catholics trace the origins of the office of bishop to the apostles, who it is believed were endowed with a special charism by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Catholics believe this special charism has been transmitted through an unbroken succession of bishops by the laying on of hands in the sacrament of holy orders.
Diocesan bishops—known as eparchs in the Eastern Catholic Churches—are assigned to govern local regions within the Catholic Church known as dioceses in the Latin Church and eparchies in the Eastern Churches. Bishops are collectively known as the College of Bishops and can hold such additional titles as archbishop, cardinal, patriarch, or pope. As of 2020, there were approximately 5,600 living bishops total in the Latin and Eastern churches of the Catholic Church.
Bishops are always men. In addition, Canon 378 § 1 requires that a candidate for the Latin episcopacy should be:
- outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues, and endowed with other qualities which make him suitable to fulfill the office in question;
- of good reputation;
- at least thirty-five years old;
- ordained to the presbyterate for at least five years;
- in possession of a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred scripture, theology, or canon law from an institute of higher studies approved by the Apostolic See, or at least truly expert in the same disciplines.