In the Roman Catholic Church, an Episcopal Conference, Conference of Bishops, or National Conference of Bishops is an official assembly of all the bishops of a given territory. Episcopal conferences have long existed as informal entities, but were first established as formal bodies by the Second Vatican Council (Christus Dominus, 38), and implemented by Pope Paul VI's 1966 motu proprio Ecclesiae sanctae. The operation, authority, and responsibilities of episcopal conferences are currently governed by the 1983 Code of Canon Law (see especially canons 447-459).
The nature of episcopal conferences, and their magisterial authority in particular, was subsequently clarified by Pope John Paul II's 1998 motu proprio Apostolos suos which stated that conferences of bishops do not participate in the teaching authority of the college of bishops although individuals bishops do as they are members of the college of bishops which maintains unity with and under the Bishop of Rome, that is, the Pope. Consequently, a conference of bishops cannot make doctrinal declarations unless it receives two-thirds approval of the individual bishops of the conference and receives the subsequent recognitio, that is, recognition of approval, of the Holy See. Thus, while a conference of bishops can assist the individual bishops of the conference it cannot substitute for the authority which they individually possess.
Episcopal conferences are generally defined by geographic borders, with all the bishops in a given country belonging to the same conference — which might also include neighboring countries. Certain tasks and authority are assigned to episcopal conferences, particularly with regard to setting the liturgical norms for the Mass. Episcopal conferences receive their authority under universal law or particular mandates. In certain circumstances, as defined by canon law, the decisions of an episcopal conference are subject to ratification from the Holy See. Individual bishops do not relinquish their authority to the conference, and remain responsible for the governance of their respective diocese.
This is a partial list of episcopal conferences: