Territorial Abbey
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Territorial Abbey
The coat of arms of a territorial abbot are distinguished by a green galero with twelve tassels and a gold crozier with a veil attached.

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 dioeceseos (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.

While most belong to the Latin Church, and usually to the Benedictine or Cistercian Orders, there are Eastern Catholic territorial abbeys -- most notably the Italo-Greek Abbey of Grottaferrata.


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.[1]

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.[2]

Present territorial abbeys

There are eleven remaining territorial abbeys, as listed by the Vatican in the Annuario Pontificio:[3]

  • T?kwon (), North Korea
    • Ecclesiastically united with South Korea, T?kwon (the only territorial abbey outside Europe) has been vacant for many years. The Abbot of Waegwan is the present apostolic administrator of the T?kwon 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.[3]

Other historical territorial abbacies

Historically there have been more, such as :



  1. ^ Johnston, William M. ed. (2000). Encyclopedia of Monasticism. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 3. ISBN 1579580904.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b "Vatican announces reorganisation of Montecassino Abbey". en.radiovaticana.va. Retrieved .
  3. ^ a b "Catholic Dioceses in the World (Territorial Abbacies)". www.gcatholic.org. Retrieved .
  4. ^ Cheney, David M. "Belmont-Mary Help of Christians (Territorial Abbey)". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved .
  5. ^ Cheney, David M. (2007), "Territorial Abbey of Saint Peter-Muenster", Catholic-Hierarchy.org, retrieved

External links


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Missing or empty |title= (help) passim

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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