The Congregation for Bishops (Latin: Congregatio pro Episcopis) is the department of the Roman Curia that oversees the selection of most new bishops. Its proposals require papal approval to take effect, but are usually followed. The Congregation schedules the visits at five-year intervals ("ad limina") that bishops are required to make to Rome, when they meet with the pope and various departments of the Curia. It also manages the formation of new dioceses. It is one of the more influential Congregations, since it strongly influences the human resources policy of the church.
The Congregation for Bishops does not have jurisdiction over mission territories and areas managed by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches which has responsibility for Eastern Catholics everywhere and also for Latin Catholics in the Middle East and Greece. Where appointment of bishops and changes in diocesan boundaries require consultation with civil governments, the Secretariat of State has primary responsibility, but must consult the Congregation for Bishops.
The Congregation for Bishops has its origins in the "Congregation for the Erection of Churches and Consistorial Provisions" founded by Pope Sixtus V on 22 January 1588. Before the Second Vatican Council, when the pope announced the names of new cardinals at a Secret Consistory, that is, a consistory that only churchmen attended, the names of new cardinals would be read out, followed by those of archbishops and bishops. The name was changed from the Sacred Consistorial Congregation to the Congregation for Bishops in 1967. Since 30 June 2010 its Prefect has been Cardinal Marc Ouellet. Since 12 October 2013 its Secretary has been Archbishop Ilson de Jesus Montanari. Since 25 January 2012 its Undersecretary has been Monsignor Udo Breitbach.
The Congregation's members who live in Rome meet every other Thursday for an entire morning. Appointments for four dioceses are reviewed in a typical session. Before the meeting, congregation members are sent documentation on the candidates for each diocese. At the meeting, one member takes the role of the presenter (ponente), reviews the information and makes his own recommendation from the list (terna) of three candidates. Each member, in order of seniority, offers his assessment. The Congregation's recommendations, including any doubts, questions or minority opinions, are sent to the pope. He usually approves the congregation's decision, but may choose to send it back for further discussion and evaluation. The prefect then meets with the pope every Saturday and presents the recommendations of the congregation. A few days later, the pope informs the congregation of his decision. The congregation then notifies the nuncio, who in turn contacts the candidate and asks if he will accept the appointment.
In 1965, the head of the congregation took the title prefect, while the prefect's deputy took that of secretary.
The secretary of the Congregation for Bishops is concurrently the secretary of the College of Cardinals. During a Papal election the secretary of the Congregation acts as the secretary to the Conclave.
Members of the Congregation, as is the general practice in the Roman Curia, are usually appointed for five-year mandates. On 16 December 2013, Pope Francis modified the Congregation's membership. He confirmed 18 of the Congregation's 33 members to continue and appointed 12 new members: