Chorepiscopus

Traditionally a bishop of the countryside. The Arabic version of the Nicene canons sets them “in the place of a bishop over villages, monasteries and village- priests.” The chorepiscopus exercised limited episcopal functions in the East before 314. Fifteen Asian and Syrian chorepiscopi signed the Nicene decrees (325). The Dedication Council of Antioch (341) confined their responsibilities to issuing letters dimissory; superintending the church in their areas; appointing readers, subdeacons, and exorcists; and ordaining, only by permission of the city-bishop, deacons and presbyters. The Synodal Letter of Antioch refers to “bishops of the adjacent countryside and cities.” The mid-fourth-century Canons of Laodicea forbade further appointment of bishops “in villages and country districts,” but chorepiscopi appeared in Caesarea about 375, at the Council of Ephesus in 431, at Rome in 449, and at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Second Nicea (787) allowed them to appoint readers, but with the permission of the bishop. By the late twelfth century they were extinct.

Western chorepiscopi, first mentioned at Riez (439), met opposition in the ninth century. Nicholas I (858-67) confirmed their episcopal acts, but ninth-century councils canceled them and forbade further appointments. By 1048 they were thought to be equivalent to archdeacons.