Protopresbyter (πρῶτος ἱερεύς, usually called protopope) is in the Russo-Greek Church an intermediate degree between the bishop and the simple priests. The situation and functions of the protopresbyter are essentially the same as those of the former archpriests of the episcopal cathedrals, and of the deans in the country. Each cathedral has its protopresbyter, but the same dignity exists in other important churches of large cities where several popes are employed. This title belongs also to such popes of the first rank as exercise some rights of supervision and administration over several surrounding parishes; for every diocese or eparchy in Russia is divided into several protopopates (as in the Roman Catholic Church into deaneries). This class of dignitaries forms, in litigious and disciplinary matters of ecclesiastical resort, the first instance in the diocese. In important cities the protopopes are generally employed as counsellors, assessors or secretaries in the episcopal consistories or other ecclesiastical colleges. The distinguishing garment of the protopopes is the so-called epigonaticon. The protopresbyterate is the most influential of the lower clerical functions, and the highest degree open to a secular ecclesiastic; for in the Greek Church the episcopate, and the still higher dignities, can only be occupied by unmarried priests, or such as are separated from their wives by death or voluntary renunciation, and who belong to the monastical order, mostly archimandrites (abbots) and hegemons (priors). — Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lexikon, s.v.

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