Prelate (Lat. praelatus, i.e. pronoted) is an ecclesiastic who has direct authority over other ecclesiastics. The term is a general one, and includes not merely bishops of various degrees, but also in Roman Catholic countries the heads of religious houses or orders and other similar ecclesiastical dignitaries. These, for the most part, are privileged to wear the insignia of the episcopal rank. In the Roman court many of the officials, although not possessing episcopal or quasi-episcopal jurisdiction, have the insignia and the title of prelate. They are of two classes-the higher, called del mantelletto ("of the little mantle"), and the secondary, called del mantellone ("of the great mantle"), from the robe which they respectively bear. The same root underlies other ecclesiastical terms in which all the clergy are on an equality, and are governed by a representative body or by the local church; prelatic and prelatical. i.e. pertaining to a prelacy or a prelate, as prelatical authority. Prelates are confined to those churches which recognize in the bishop (q.v.) a distinct and superior order of clergy. SEE PRELACY.

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