Hindu priest doing a religious rite
Roman Catholic priest from the Belgian Congo.

A priest or priestess is a person who is allowed to do religious rites. Their office or position is the priesthood, a word which can also be used for such persons collectively. In most religions and cultures in history there have been priests, although they have a lot of different names, and follow different rules.

In Christianity

A priest is a member of a church that has been told to look after his (spiritual) community. He is the head of a parish.

  • Catholic priests are ordained (put in place) by the Pope (or in his absence: a bishop).
  • Orthodox priests are ordained by the Patriarch
  • Anglican priests are ordained by their bishop.
  • Most Protestant groups do not ordain priests.

To become a Catholic priest, you are required to study Theology. The Orthodox and Protestant Churches also have laymen as clergy.

Catholic priests are not allowed to marry meaning that they have to be celibate. Orthodox priests can be married, but they must not marry after they become a priest. Anglican priests can get married before or during the time they are a priest.

The Catholic Church does not allow women to become priests. However, some Anglican Churches allow women to be priests.

Higher priests are called Bishops and Archbishops in the Anglican Church. John Sentamua and Rowan Williams are the archbishops of York and Canterbury. In some denominations only men can become priests.

The Orthodox Church has a higher priest called a Patriarch. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, like the Roman Catholic Church has a Pope, Pope Tawadras.


Many Protestant churches have ministers or pastors instead of priests.


In Japan there are Buddhist priests and nuns, Shinto priests and priestesses (kannushi) as well as clergy in the Christian traditions.

Priest Media

Other websites

  Media related to Priests at Wikimedia Commons