A territorial abbey (or territorial abbacy) is a particular church of the Catholic Church comprising defined territory which is not part of a diocese but surrounds an abbey or monastery whose abbot or superior functions as ordinary for all Catholics and parishes in the territory. Such an abbot is called a territorial abbot or abbot nullius diœceseos (abbreviated abbot nullius and Latin for "abbot of no diocese"). A territorial abbot thus differs from an ordinary abbot, who exercises authority only within the monastery's walls or to monks or canons who have taken their vows there. A territorial abbot is equivalent to a diocesan bishop in Catholic canon law.
Though territorial (like other) abbots are elected by the monks of their abbey, a territorial abbot can only receive the abbatial blessing and be installed under mandate from the pope, just as a bishop cannot be ordained and installed as ordinary of a diocese without such a mandate.
After the Second Vatican Council, more emphasis has been placed on the unique nature of the episcopacy and on the traditional organization of the church into dioceses under bishops. As such, abbeys nullius have been phased out in favor of the erection of new dioceses or the absorption of the territory into an existing diocese. A few ancient abbeys nullius still exist in Europe, and one in Korea.
Present territorial abbeys
There are eleven remaining territorial abbeys, as listed by the Vatican in the Annuario Pontificio:
- Tŏkwon (덕원), North Korea
- Ecclesiastically united with South Korea, Tŏkwon (the only territorial abbey outside Europe) has been vacant for many years. The Abbot of Waegwan is the present apostolic administrator of the Tŏkwon abbacy. It has not been united with any diocese throughout Korea due to the effective vacancy of the ones in North Korea and the lack of effective jurisdiction applied by the Church in South Korea.
Other historical territorial abbacies
Historically there have been more, such as :
- in North America :
- Belmont Abbey – Mary, Help of Christians, which was the territorial abbey of half of North Carolina from 1910 until 1960, when it lost its last extra-abbatial territory. It was formally suppressed as a territorial abbey in 1977.
- St. Peter-Muenster, which from 1921 until 1998 served a remote area of Saskatchewan, Canada. The abbey still exists, but its territorial jurisdiction and duties were absorbed by the Diocese of Saskatoon.
- Johnston, William M. ed. (2000). Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 3. ISBN 1579580904.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- "Vatican announces reorganisation of Montecassino Abbey". Retrieved 2017-06-05.
- "Catholic Dioceses in the World (Territorial Abbacies)". www.gcatholic.org. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
- Cheney, David M. "Belmont-Mary Help of Christians (Territorial Abbey) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
- Cheney, David M. (2007), "Territorial Abbey of Saint Peter-Muenster", Catholic-Hierarchy.org, retrieved 2007-08-17
- Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. .
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Missing or empty
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