The Difference Between a Priest and an Archpriest? A priest and an archpriest are titles for Orthodox Christian clergy. They are bestowed upon the so-called white clergy, those clergy members who are allowed to marry and have families. What sets a priest apart from an archpriest? There are differences between them, which we will discuss now.

What do the titles “priest” and “archpriest” mean?

Both words have Greek origins. “Priest” has long been used in Greece to refer to a clergyman and translates literally as “priest.” “Archpriest” means “chief priest.” The system of church titles began to take shape in the early centuries of Christianity. Most of the terms used to denote various ranks of the clergy, in both Western, Catholic, and Eastern, Orthodox, churches are Greek. This is because the religion originated in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, and its first adherents were predominantly Greek.

The difference between a priest and an archpriest lies in the fact that the latter title is used to refer to clergy members at a higher level of the church hierarchy. The title “archpriest” is bestowed upon a clergyman who already holds the title of priest, as a reward for services to the church. The conditions for receiving the title of archpriest can vary slightly among different Orthodox churches. In the Russian Orthodox Church, for example, a priest can become an archpriest after five years (no sooner) from receiving the pectoral cross (worn over clothing). Alternatively, they can receive the title after ten years from their ordination as a priest, but only if they are appointed to a leadership position within the church.

In Orthodoxy, there are three degrees of clergy. The lowest is the deacon, followed by the priest, and the highest is the bishop. Both the priest and the archpriest, as you might have guessed, belong to the middle (second) tier of the Orthodox hierarchy. In this regard, they are similar. However, the key difference lies in the title “archpriest” being an honorific bestowed as recognition of service to the church.

Archpriests are often appointed as the head priests (pastors) of churches, parishes, or monasteries. They are under the authority of bishops and are responsible for organizing and leading the church life of their parish. When addressing a priest, it is customary to use “Father” or simply their first name, such as “Father John.” When addressing an archpriest, it is “Reverend Father.”

In the past, there were other forms of address: to a priest, “Your Blessing,” and to an archpriest, “Your High Blessing.” However, these forms of address are now rarely used.