The process of getting a bishop

  1. How does a diocese get a bishop?
  2. According to Father Brent Lingle, coordinator of the diocesan department of formation and ministry, most average Catholics do not always get to see or understand all of the interesting inner workings of the church. One such process is the selection of a bishop.

When Bishop Walker Nickless was appointed as the Bishop of Sioux City on Nov. 10, 2005, and ordained on Jan. 20, 2006, a long process had taken place beforehand. The ultimate decision in appointing a bishop rests with the pope. He can choose whoever he wishes. However, he usually consults a wide group of advisors to assist him in the process.

The first stage is that of the bishop. Every bishop may submit to the metropolitan archbishop of his province (for us in the Diocese of Sioux City it is the Archbishop of Dubuque) the names of priests he thinks would make good bishops. The bishops of the province discuss those names and usually vote on a final list that is submitted to the apostolic nuncio in Washington.

  1. What’s an apostolic nuncio?
  2. The apostolic nuncio is the pope’s representative to a country. An native of Italy, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano has been the apostolic nuncio in the United States since Oct.19, 2011. The nuncio looks at the final list, gathers more information and offers suggestions to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome.
  3. How is it determined where a bishop will serve?
  4. Once all of the documentation from the nuncio is received, the congregation does its own research and investigation. After a series of meetings, the members of the congregation (cardinals and bishops) take a vote. They may follow the recommendation of the nuncio, choose another candidate from the list or even ask that another list be prepared.

Following this process, the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops has an audience with the pope, where he presents the recommendations from the congregation to the Holy Father. After some thought and prayer, the pope relays his decision to the congregation, who then informs the nuncio, who then contacts the candidate. If the candidate accepts, the Vatican is notified and they set a date for the public announcement.

The entire process is carried out under strict confidentiality that protects the integrity of the process. It is a process that takes time, often eight months to a year and sometimes even longer.

  1. Does that mean a priest from the Diocese of Sioux City could be named a bishop?
  2. A bishop can come from among the priests of his diocese or from somewhere else. Bishop Nickless came to us from the Archdiocese of Denver. Bishop Frank Greteman, who served as the Bishop of Sioux City from Oct. 15, 1970 to Aug. 17, 1983 was a native of the diocese. Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, from Hospers, was a priest of the Diocese of Sioux City until he was appointed as bishop of the Diocese of Duluth. He currently serves as the Archbishop of Cincinnati.

Got a question? Send it to The Globe, PO Box 5079, Sioux City, IA 51102 or email


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