Roman Catholic Church
Western Church, a Primate is an
Archbishop—or rarely a
bishop—of a specific (mostly Metropolitan)
episcopal see (called a primatial see) who has precedence over the bishoprics of one or more
ecclesiastical provinces of a particular historical, political or cultural area. Historically, Primates of particular sees were granted privileges including the authority to call and preside at national
synods, jurisdiction to hear appeals from
metropolitan tribunals, the right to crown the sovereign of the nation, and presiding at the
investiture (installation) of archbishops in their sees.
Catholic Primate (non-cardinal) coat of arms
The office is generally found only in older Catholic countries, and is now purely honorific, enjoying no effective powers under
canon law —except for the
Archbishop of Esztergom (Gran) in Hungary.
 Thus, e.g., the
Primate of Poland holds no jurisdictional authority over other Polish bishops or their dioceses, but is durante munere a member of the standing committee of the episcopal conference and has honorary precedence among Polish bishops (e.g., in liturgical ceremonies). The Holy See has also granted Polish primates the privilege of wearing cardinal's crimson attire, except for the skullcap and
biretta, even if they have not been made
Where the title of primate exists, it may be vested in one of the oldest archdioceses in a country, often based in a city other than the present capital, but which was the capital when the country was first Christianized. The city may no longer have the prominence it had when the title was granted. The political area over which primacy was originally granted may no longer exist: for example, the
Archbishop of Toledo was designated "Primate of the
Visigothic Kingdom", and the
Archbishop of Lyon is the "Primate of the
Some of the leadership functions once exercised by Primates, specifically presiding at meetings of the bishops of a nation or region, are now exercised by the president of the
conference of bishops: "The president of the Conference or, when he is lawfully impeded, the vice-president, presides not only over the general meetings of the Conference but also over the permanent committee."
 The president is generally elected by the conference, but by exception the President of the
Italian Episcopal Conference is appointed by the Pope, and the
Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference has the
Primate of All Ireland as President and the
Primate of Ireland as Vice-President. Other former functions of primates, such as hearing appeals from
metropolitan tribunals, were reserved to the
Holy See by the early 20th century.
 Soon after, by the norm of the Code of Canon Law of 1917, confirmed in the 1983 Code, the tribunal of second instance for appeals from a metropolitan tribunal is "the tribunal which the metropolitan has designated in a stable manner with the approval of the Apostolic See".
The closest equivalent position in the Eastern Churches in 1911 was an
The Holy See has continued in modern times to grant the title of Primate. With the
papal decree Sollicitae Romanis Pontificibus of 24 January 1956 it granted the title of Primate of Canada to the Archbishop of
 As stated above, this is merely an honorary title involving no additional power.
A right of precedence over other bishops and similar privileges can be granted even to a bishop who is not a Primate. Thus, in 1858, the Holy See granted the
Archbishop of Baltimore precedence in meetings of the United States bishops.
Archbishop of Westminster has not been granted the title of Primate of England and Wales, which is sometimes applied to him, but his position has been described as that of "Chief Metropolitan" and as "similar to" that of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The title of Primate is sometimes applied loosely to the Archbishop of a country's capital, as in the case of the Archbishops of
Seoul in South Korea and of
Edinburgh in Scotland. Functions can sometimes be exercised in practice (
de facto), as by a de facto government, without having been granted by law; but since "Primate" is today a title, not a function, there is no such thing as a "de facto" primate.
The pre-reformation Metropolitan
Archbishop of Nidaros was sometimes referred to as Primate of Norway,
 even though it is unlikely that this title ever was officially granted to him by the Holy See.
Catholic Primatial sees
The heads of certain
sees have at times been referred to, at least by themselves,
 as primates:
Catholic Archbishops who figured as primates until the Protestant Reformation
Catholic Archbishops who figured as primates at the First Vatican Council
Regular clergy equivalent
In the modern confederation of the
Benedictine Order, all the Black Monks of St. Benedict were united under the presidency of an Abbot Primate (Leo XIII, Summum semper, 12 July 1893); but the unification, fraternal in its nature, brought no modification to the abbatial dignity, and the various congregations preserved their autonomy intact. The loose structure of the Benedictine Confederation is claimed to have made
Pope Leo XIII exclaim that the Benedictines were ordo sine ordine ("an order without order"). The powers of the
Abbot Primate are specified, and his position defined, in a decree of the
Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars dated 16 September 1893. The primacy is attached to the global
Benedictine Confederation whose Primate resides at
Rome. He takes precedence of all other abbots, is empowered to pronounce on all doubtful matters of discipline, to settle difficulties arising between monasteries, to hold a canonical visitation, if necessary, in any congregation of the order, and to exercise a general supervision for the regular observance of monastic discipline. The Primatial powers are only vested in the Abbot Primate to act by virtue of the proper law of its autonomous Benedictine congregation, which at the present is minimal to none. However, certain branches of the Benedictine Order seem to have lost their original autonomy to some extent.
In a similar way the Confederation of
Canons Regular of St. Augustine, elects an Abbot Primate as figurehead of the Confederation and indeed the whole Canonical Order. The Abbots and Superiors General of the nine congregations of confederated congregations of
Canons Regular elect a new Abbot Primate for a term of office lasting six years. The Current Abbot General is Rt. Rev. Fr Maurice Bitz, Abbot of St. Pierre, and Abbot General of the Canons Regular of St. Victor.