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PRELATE ; in the Roman Catholic ch urch, those spiritual officers who exercise jurisdiction in their own name. These were, originally, only the bishops, archbishops, patriarchs, and the pope. The cardinals and legates, abbots and priors, also obtained certain privileges of jurisdiction by grant or prescription. In the German empire, previous to the secularisations of 1803, a number of high ecclesiastics, who held immediately of the emperor, had also a secular jurisdiction, and several had the princely dignity, with a seat and voice in the diets. (SeeElector,nnd German Empire.) The term prelates is often used merely to signify the higher dignitaries of the church.