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How long can a priest stay in a parish?


Pascal Deloche | GoDong

Philip Kosloski - published on 05/19/22

A parish priest can stay in a parish for a number of years, depending on the diocese and the local bishop.

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When priest assignments are announced each year, many wonder how long a priest can stay in a single parish.

The Code of Canon Law favors the stability of a parish pastor, making it a law that pastors are to be assigned for an “indeterminate” amount of time.

A pastor must possess stability and therefore is to be appointed for an indefinite period of time. The diocesan bishop can appoint him for a specific period only if the conference of bishops has permitted this by a decree.

Can. 522

In 1984, the USCCB made a complementary decree that limited a pastor’s initial assignment to six years.

Individual ordinaries may appoint pastors to a six-year term of office. The possibility of renewing this term is left to the discretion of the diocesan bishop. The primary provision of canon 522 that pastors may be appointed for an indefinite period of time remains in force.

Sometimes a bishop will transfer a pastor before his six year term is completed. This can be for various reasons and is permitted under Canon Law.

Term limits are seen as a means of limiting the development of an unhealthy cult that can surround popular priests, while others would argue that a term limit does not allow a priest to become familiar with his flock, forcing him to move every few years.

Whatever the case may be, it is up to the local bishop and the pastoral needs of each diocese.

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