New France is the area consisting of French colonies in North America. The area extends from St. Lawrence River along the Great Lakes and down Mississippi River valley system. Before discussing about the Religious Hierarchy of New France, it is important to know the importance of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church plays a vital role in New France concerning both the religious and social aspects. From the religious aspect, the church is responsible for providing religious services to the colonies and to convert the natives to Christianity. From the social aspect, the church takes care of the sick and poor, and caters to the educational needs of the children.
Various levels of hierarchy from top to bottom are:
The pope is also called as Pontiff and is the head of the Catholic Church. There are three offices of Pope – Head of Bishops, Head of Diocese and Head of Parish. The pope plays a vital role in managing the social and political aspects of New France. Pope occupies the office of the Papacy. According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, if at any time, the opinion of the pope contradicts with the established religious beliefs; then he loses the office of the Papacyand becomes an Anti-pope. This position is at the top of the religious hierarchy and hence is quite significant, as Pope leads the hierarchy.
The bishops are the high ranking church officials, after the Pope. They are usually in charge of a district or diocese. A Cathedral is the name given to the local church which also acts as the residence for the Bishop. The Cathedral is called as the Bishop’s home church. Each of these cathedrals are assigned a specific geographic territory known as the diocese. Generally, one bishop is assigned per diocese.
A bishop and an archbishop are quite similar designations. An archbishop is a bishop, who is located in the capital city of the nation, state or province or any other location of political importance. The archbishops have control over a large section of the diocese, in comparison to the bishops. The bishops hold two separate offices namely Head of Diocese and Head of Parish.
The priests come in the third rank of the Religious Hierarchy of New France. They are also called as Pastor, Reverend or Father. There is one priest for each local church or Parish in the Catholic church. Each Parish has its own territorial boundaries. The Priest answers to the bishop and the Pope of the particular diocese to which s/he belongs. A bishop from a particulardiocese doesn’t have any control over the priests of a different diocese. The priests hold a single office namely Head of Parish.
Cardinals are below the priests in the religious hierarchy of New France. The cardinals are chosen by the Pope. The cardinals also act as advisors to the Pope and they elect a new Pope on the termination of the period of the existing Pope.