Getting new bishops

Why does it take so long to get a new Bishop; what is the process?

Since I am not personally involved in the process, I will edit together from various sources available on the internet.

The entire process is done under strict confidentiality so as to avoid lobbying, undue pressure on those involved or those being considered, and unnecessary jealousies that could only do harm to the people of the dioceses being considered.  Canon Law also spells out the required qualifications for becoming a bishop in canon 378 §1. The person is to be outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, possess a zeal for souls, and other such qualities, including a good reputation. He is to be at least 35 years old and must have been a priest for at least 5 years. He is to possess a doctorate, or a pontifical licentiate degree, in Sacred Scripture, Theology, or Canon Law. If not, he must be at least truly expert in one of these fields.

Stage 1: Every bishop may submit to the archbishop of his province the names of priests he thinks would make good bishops. Following a discussion among the bishops at the province meeting, a vote is taken on which names to recommend, which is then forwarded to the apostolic nuncio in Washington.

Stage 2: The Apostolic Nuncio gathers facts and information about potential candidates, but also interprets that information for the Congregation. After receiving the list of candidates forwarded the apostolic nuncio conducts his own investigation into the suitability of the candidates.  A report is requested from the current bishop or the administrator of a diocese on the conditions and needs of the diocese. Broad consultation within the diocese is encouraged with regard to the needs of the diocese, but not the names of candidates.
1. The report is to include the names of individuals in the diocese with whom the Nuncio might consult and how to contact them.  2. Previous bishops of the diocese are consulted.  3. Bishops of the province are consulted the president and vice president of the USCCB are consulted. 4. At this point, the nuncio narrows his list and a questionnaire is sent to 20 or 30 people who know each of the candidates for their input.  5. All material is collected and reviewed by the nuncio, and a report (approximately 20 pages) is prepared. Three candidates are listed alphabetically – the terna – with the nuncio’s preference noted. All materials are then forwarded to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome.

Stage 3: Once all the documentation from the nuncio is complete and in order, and the prefect approves, the process moves forward. If the appointment involves a bishop who is being promoted or transferred, the matter may be handled by the prefect and the staff. If, however, the appointment is of a priest to the episcopacy, the full congregation is ordinarily involved, which generally meets twice a month on Thursdays. The congregation discusses the appointment and then votes. The Congregation may follow the recommendation of the nuncio, choose another of the candidates on the terna, or even ask that another terna be prepared.

Stage 4: At a private audience with the pope, usually on a Saturday, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops presents the recommendations of the Congregation to the Holy Father. A few days later, the pope informs the Congregation of his decision. The Congregation then notifies the nuncio, who in turn contacts the candidate and asks if he will accept. If the answer is “yes,” the Vatican is notified, and a date is set for the announcement.

Source: ( and

Author: yuengerwv

Retired Catholic Priest

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