The word diocese was originally used in the Roman empire for an administrative subdivision. In the reorganization of Diocletian* and Constantine* I the empire was divided into 12 (later 14) dioceses of which provinces were subdivisions.
The ecclesiastical use of diocese was derived from the civil, beginning in the 3d-4th c. Originally ecclesiastical dioceses tended to correspond to civil units also beyond the territory of the empire. But once established, the area of dioceses tended to remain fixed despite civil change. The word became prominent for the territory of a bp. in the 9th c. and was used interchangeably with paroecia or parochia (Lat. for Gk. paroikia, parish) until the 13th c. Thereafter diocese is the territory of a bp. and parish is a subdivision thereof.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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