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From the Latin curatus (compare Curator), a curate (pronounced /ˈkjʊərɨt/, us dict: kyoorʹĭt) is a person who is invested with the care, or cure (cura), of souls of a parish. In this sense it correctly means a parish priest. In Anglican churches, however, the term is usually used for an assistant priest or deacon. In the Roman Catholic Church it is often the term used for the parochial vicar or priest assigned to assist the pastor of a parish. The duties or office of a curate are sometimes called a curacy (as the office of a president is a presidency).

Originally a bishop would entrust a priest with the 'cure of souls' (pastoral ministry) of a parish. When, in medieval Europe, this included the legal freehold of church land in the parish, the parish priest was the perpetual curate (curatus perpetuus). Occasionally a bishop might appoint a temporary or assistant curate (curatus temporalis). This was particularly the case if the perpetual curate was absent or needed assistance.

As the church became more embedded into the fabric of feudal Europe, various other titles often supplanted 'Curate' for the senior parish priest. 'Rector' was the title given to a priest in possession of the tithe income. This right to the income was known as a 'Living'. The title of rector comes from regere – 'to rule'. Those parishes where a monastery had appropriated the rights to the title income, a portion of this income was set aside for a priest to occupy the parish, essentially acting on behalf of the monastery, in other words vicariously – hence 'vicar'. In some cases, a portion of a tithe for a vicar could exceed the income of some rectors, depending on the value of the livings being compared.

In England and Wales, when a new parish was created from a larger rectoral or vicarious parish, the incumbent, or parish priest was sometimes styled as the Perpetual Curate. The term 'parson' came to be used to refer to all perpetual curates whether or not they received the higher titles of 'vicar' or 'rector'. This led to those perpetual curates who had no higher title preferring to be styled 'parson' so as to distinguish themselves from assistant curates. This happened to the extent that the term 'curate' came to mean 'assistant curate'. The British Parliament passed an act in 1868 which authorised all perpetual curates to use the title 'vicar'. This reinforced the notion that a curate is an assistant parish priest or deacon. Although widely called 'curates', however, they are still legally assistant curates. This English usage is used throughout the Anglican Communion and in some English-speaking Roman Catholic churches. The house provided for an assistant curate is sometimes colloquially referred to as a curatage.

Sometimes temporary curates, who have the status of assistant curates but lead the ministry of a parish, are appointed. However, to distinguish them from assistant curates, they are often referred to as 'priests in charge'. In the Church of Ireland temporary curates are called 'bishop's curates'.

The Book of Common Prayer (1662) of the Church of England refers to the clergy as 'bishops and curates' in the text of prayer of intercession for Holy Communion. It uses the word 'curate' in its original sense to refer to all clergy entrusted with a cure of souls and not just to assistant curates.

In other languages terms derived from curatus are often used differently. In French curé refers to the senior parish priest and, likewise, the Italian curato and Spanish cura.

In the charismatic and / or evangelical parts of the Anglican church, the role of the curate is usually perceived a little differently. Curates in charismatic and / or Evangelical churches tend to be seen as an assistant leader to the overall leader, often in a larger team of pastoral leaders. Many of the larger charismatic / evangelical churches have sizeable staff teams with a number of pastoral leaders, some ordained and others who are not.

In modern Roman Catholic practice in the United States, 'curate' is the term popularly used for priests assigned to a parish who are not the pastor. The parochus, or parish priest or 'pastor' is the priest who has canonical responsibility for the parish. In canon law, he may be assisted by one or more 'parochial vicars', priests assigned to assist him - though incorrect these parochial vicars are popularly called 'curate', 'associate pastor' or 'assistant pastor' in various regions of the country.


Minor Canons

Minor canons are those clergy who are members of the cathedral's establishment and take part in the daily services but are not part of the formal Chapter. These are generally more junior clergy, who in a parish church would be serving a curacy.

In popular culture

See also



1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CURATE (from the Lat. curare, to take care of), properly a presbyter who has the cure of souls within a parish. The term is used in this general sense in certain rubrics of the English Book of Common Prayer, in which it is applied equally to rectors and vicars as to perpetual curates. So, on the continent of Europe, it is applied in this sense to parish priests, as the Fr. cure, Ital. curato, Span. cura, &c. In a more limited sense it is applied in the Church of England to the incumbent of a parish who has no endowment of tithes, as distinguished from a perpetual vicar, who has an endowment of small tithes, which are for that reason sometimes styled vicarial tithes. The origin of such unendowed curacies is traceable to the fact that benefices were sometimes granted to religious houses pleno jure, and with liberty for them to provide for the cure; and when such appropriations were transferred to lay persons, being unable to serve themselves, the impropriators were required to nominate a clerk in full orders to the. ordinary for his licence to serve the cure. Such curates, being not removable at the pleasure of the impropriators, but only on due revocation of the licence of the ordinary, came to be entitled perpetual curates. The term "curate" in the present day is almost exclusively used to signify a clergyman who is assistant to a rector or vicar, by whom he is employed and paid; and a clerk in deacon's orders is competent to be licensed by a bishop to the office of such assistant curate. The consequence of this misuse of the term "curate" was that the title of "perpetual curate" fell into desuetude in the Anglican Church, and an act of parliament (1868) was passed to authorize perpetual curates to style themselves vicars (see Vicar). The term is in use in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland to designate an assistant clergyman, and also to a certain extent in the American Episcopal Church, though "assistant minister" is usually preferred.

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