Stained glass window of the cathedral of Honolulu depicting Pope Pius XI (left) blessing Bishop Stephen Alencastre as fifth Apostolic Vicar of the Hawaiian Islands

The word diocese (z/)[a] is derived from the Greek term dioikesis (διοίκησις) meaning "administration". Today, when used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers to the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop.[2] Sometimes it is also called bishopric.


Dioceses of the Roman Empire, 400 AD

In the later organization of the Roman Empire, the increasingly subdivided provinces were administratively associated in a larger unit, the diocese (Latin dioecesis, from the Greek term διοίκησις, meaning "administration").

After Christianity was given legal status in 313, the Churches began to organize themselves into dioceses based on provinces, not on the larger regional imperial districts. The dioceses were often smaller than the provinces since there were more bishops than governors. Christianity was declared the Empire's official religion by Theodosius I in 380. Constantine I in 318 gave litigants the right to have court cases transferred from the civil courts to the bishops. This situation must have hardly survived Julian, 361-363. Episcopal courts are not heard of again in the East until 398 and in the West in 408. The quality of these courts were low, and not above suspicion as the bishop of Alexandria Troas found out that clergy were making a corrupt profit. Nonetheless, these courts were popular as people could get quick justice without being charged fees.[3] Bishops had no part in the civil administration until the town councils, in decline, lost much authority to a group of 'notables' made up of the richest councilors, powerful and rich persons legally exempted from serving on the councils, retired military, and bishops post-450 A.D. As the Western Empire collapsed in the 5th century, bishops in Western Europe assumed a larger part of the role of the former Roman governors. A similar, though less pronounced, development occurred in the East, where the Roman administrative apparatus was largely retained by the Byzantine Empire. In modern times, many dioceses, though later subdivided, have preserved the boundaries of a long-vanished Roman administrative division. For Gaul, Bruce Eagles has observed that "it has long been an academic commonplace in France that the medieval dioceses, and their constituent pagi, were the direct territorial successors of the Roman civitates."[4]

Modern usage of 'diocese' tends to refer to the sphere of a bishop's jurisdiction. This became commonplace during the self-conscious "classicizing" structural evolution of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century, but this usage had itself been evolving from the much earlier parochia ("parish"), dating from the increasingly formalized Christian authority structure in the 4th century.[5]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Diözese
العربية: أبرشية
aragonés: Diocesi
asturianu: Diócesis
беларуская: Дыяцэзія
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Дыяцэзія
brezhoneg: Eskopti
català: Diòcesi
čeština: Diecéze
Cymraeg: Esgobaeth
dansk: Stift
Deutsch: Diözese
español: Diócesis
Esperanto: Episkopujo
euskara: Elizbarruti
français: Diocèse
Frysk: Bisdom
galego: Diocese
hrvatski: Dijeceza
Ido: Diocezo
Bahasa Indonesia: Keuskupan
íslenska: Biskupsdæmi
italiano: Diocesi
עברית: דיוקסיה
Kiswahili: Dayosisi
Kreyòl ayisyen: Dyosèz
Lëtzebuergesch: Diözes
lietuvių: Vyskupija
Limburgs: Busdóm
lingála: Dyosɛ́zi
lumbaart: Diocesi
magyar: Egyházmegye
മലയാളം: രൂപത
Nederlands: Bisdom
日本語: 教区
norsk nynorsk: Bispedømme
occitan: Diocèsi
Picard: Diochèse
Plattdüütsch: Bisdom
polski: Diecezja
português: Diocese
română: Dieceză
Scots: Diocese
shqip: Dioqeza
Simple English: Diocese
slovenščina: Škofija
српски / srpski: Бискупија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Dijeceza
Türkçe: Piskoposluk
українська: Дієцезія
Tiếng Việt: Giáo phận
Winaray: Diosesis
粵語: 教區
中文: 教區