An apostolic administration in the Catholic Church is administrated by a prelate appointed by the pope to serve as the ordinary for a specific area. Either the area is not yet a diocese (a stable 'pre-diocesan', usually missionary apostolic administration), or is a diocese, archdiocese, eparchy or similar permanent ordinariate (such as a territorial prelature or a territorial abbacy) that either has no bishop or archbishop (an apostolic administrator sede vacante, as after an episcopal death, resignation or transfer to other (arch)diocese) or, in very rare cases, has an incapacitated (arch)bishop (apostolic administrator sede plena). The title also applies to an outgoing (arch)bishop while awaiting for the date of assuming his new position.


Apostolic administrators of stable administrations are equivalent in canon law with diocesan bishops and archbishops, meaning they have essentially the same authority as a diocesan bishop and archbishop. This type of apostolic administrator is usually the bishop or archbishop of a titular see.

Administrators sede vacante or sede plena only serve in their role until a newly chosen diocesan bishop or archbishop takes possession of the (arch)diocese. They are restricted by canon law in what they can do to the (arch)diocese they temporarily administer. For example, such an administrator may not sell real estate owned by the diocese or archdiocese. This type of administrator is commonly an auxiliary bishop and a priest serving as the vicar general of the (arch)diocese, or the ordinary of a neighboring (arch)diocese.

Normally when a diocese or archdiocese falls vacant, either the previously appointed coadjutor bishop takes possession of the see, or (a successor is not yet installed) a vicar capitular or (arch)diocesan administrator is chosen locally but the pope, being head of the Catholic Church, may decide to name an administrator himself instead of waiting for the college of consultors of a particular diocese or archdiocese to appoint a diocesan or archdiocesan administrator where it is then called an apostolic administrator. Sometimes a retiring, promoted or transferred (arch)bishop is designated to be apostolic administrator until his successor is installed; sometimes the metropolitan or a fellow suffragan is appointed.

Apostolic administrations

In March 2021, there were the following stable apostolic administrations, most administered by a (titular or external) bishop.[1]

Most are of the Roman rite; most are in former or current communist countries.

Some apostolic administrations have jurisdiction not only over Latin Rite Catholics, but also over Catholics of other rites, not having their own jurisdictions there:

Also some apostolic administrations have jurisdiction only over Catholics of the Byzantine Rite, that not having their own jurisdictions there:

Diocese of Pyongyang

The Diocese of Pyongyang, North Korea: its last official bishop, Francis Hong Yong-ho, was imprisoned by the communist regime of Kim Il Sung in 1949 and later disappeared. The Metropolitan Archbishop of Seoul (South Korea) acts as the apostolic administrator for Pyongyang, as religion is suppressed in North Korea.

Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney

In addition, the Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney is a non-territorial jurisdiction, similar to a personal prelature, which is exempt, i.e. immediately subject to the Holy See, not part of any ecclesiastical province. It is a separate particular church for traditionalist Catholics within the Brazilian Diocese of Campos, a suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Niterói.

The personal apostolic administration was formed by Pope John Paul II to administer to a group of traditionalist Catholic priests, using the Tridentine Mass, who reconciled with Rome on January 18, 2002. The group had been formed by Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer and had been associated with the Society of St. Pius X of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.[6][7][8]

Outgoing (arch)bishops

While awaiting for the date of assuming his new position, the outgoing (arch)bishop can still serve as bishop or archbishop of a diocese or an archdiocese and from the announcement to assuming his new position, he also acts as the apostolic administrator of a/an (arch)diocese he currently leads.

Temporary administration of vacant sees

It is fairly typical that the pope can decide to name an administrator himself to a diocese or archdiocese which lacks an ordinary (bishop or archbishop) called as apostolic administrator instead of waiting for the college of consultors of a particular (arch)diocese to appoint a diocesan or archdiocesan administrator. Usually, the emeritus (arch)bishop will be appointed in such a case. If the appointed apostolic administrator is a diocesan bishop or archbishop of a diocese or archdiocese, then he governs two (arch)dioceses which are his own and the vacant one, with the latter being temporarily while a successor of a vacant (arch)diocese is not yet installed or assumed office. Recently (and in exception to the latter), the archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh had Philip Tartaglia under this procedure.

For example, Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, was appointed as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on 8 December 2019 and ended his tenure as the archdiocese's archbishop when he took office in 9 February 2020. Broderick Soncuaco Pabillo, then-Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, was then appointed as apostolic administrator until Cardinal Jose Advincula became Tagle's successor as archbishop in 24 June 2021.

Ruperto Cruz Santos, fourth Bishop of Balanga in Bataan for 13 years, 3 months, and 21 days from 1 April 2010 as bishop-elect from 1 April to 8 July 2010 and as installed bishop of Balanga from 8 July 2010 to 22 July 2023 where he succeeded Socrates Villegas as the diocese's bishop, was appointed as fifth Bishop of Antipolo having jurisdiction over Marikina in Metro Manila and the province of Rizal on 24 May 2023 and ended his tenure as the diocese's bishop when he assumed the position on 22 July 2023. Florentino Galang Lavarias, Archbishop of San Fernando, Pampanga, was then appointed as the diocese's apostolic administrator while awaiting for the installation of Santos' successor as Bishop of Balanga. Also, the second bishop of Balanga from 8 April 1998 to 28 August 2003 and Bishop of Cubao in Quezon City since 28 August 2003 Honesto Ongtioco served as the apostolic administrator of Malolos covering the province of Bulacan and the city of Valenzuela from 11 May 2018 to 21 August 2019 due to the death of Jose Francisco Oliveros who served as the diocese's bishop for 14 years from 14 May 2004 to 11 May 2018.

Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, the Bishop of Hong Kong, died on 3 January 2019. Cardinal John Tong Hon, Bishop Emeritus, was appointed as apostolic administrator.

There is also the ability for the pope to appoint an apostolic administrator sede plena. Anthony Sablan Apuron, the Archbishop of Agaña, was under investigation for sexual abuse in June 2016; Pope Francis appointed Savio Hon Tai-fai as apostolic administrator sede plena, as temporary replacement. On 31 October 2016, Michael J. Byrnes, then Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit, was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Agaña with full administrative authority, and later succeeded as archbishop.

Former apostolic administrations

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (February 2020)

Latin in Europe

Eastern Catholic in Europe

Latin Overseas

In Asia
In America
In Africa

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Apostolic Administrations Accessed 2014-07-11.
  2. ^ "Rinunce e nomine". Archived from the original on 2015-05-21.
  3. ^ " - Translator".
  4. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 32 (1940), p. 139-140.
  5. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 97 (2005), p. 131-132.
  6. ^ Personal Apostolic Administrations Accessed 2008-04-10.
  7. ^ Traditionalist schism in Brazil ends Archived October 14, 2004, at the Wayback Machine (January 18, 2002). Zenit News Agency. Accessed 2008-04-10.
  8. ^ Apostolic Administration of São João Maria Vianney Accessed 2008-04-10.

Sources and external links