DIOCESE

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DIOCESE, or DiocEss(<3to(V77ffi?); 1. a prefecture. According to Strabo, the division of the Roman empire into dioceses, at least, in Asia, was customary as early as the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. The whole empire was afterward divided into dioceses by Constantino and his successors ; at first into 4, and afterwards into 13: these comprehended 120 provinces, and were governed by 12 vicars or subprefects. Rome and its neighborhood had one of these officers to itself, exclusive of the one appropriated to Italy at large. 2. An ecclesiastical division in the Christian church ; in the Catholic church, a territory over which the jurisdiction of an archbishop or bishop extends. With the Protestants in Germany, a diocese signifies all the parishes which are under the inspection of one superintendent. This arrangement is derived from the times of the emperor Constantine (4th cent., A. D.), who made Christianity the religion of the state. In the Episcopal Protestant countries, diocese signifies the jurisdiction of a bishop. Thus, in England, the province of Canterbury contains 21 dioceses, and the province of York, 3: each diocese is divided into archdeaconries, each archdeaconry into rural deaneries, and each deanery into parishes.