What are “ecclesiastics”?


This week on Ask a Teacher, we’re answering a question from Ichiro in Japan. He writes:


Dear VOA, the Japanese do not understand Christian religious terms such as “religious leaders“, “clergy” and “clergy”. What are the differences?

-Ichiro, Japan


Hi Ichiro,

The terms “clergy” and “clergy” are general and can describe any official leader within established religions. “Clergymen” is plural and used when the leaders are men. “Clergywomen” is the plural form for women.

In Christianity there are several terms for leadership the roles. Many are less well known, even by some Christians.

Christianity is divided into several smaller subgroups, or sects. Examples of Christian sects include Catholics, Baptists, and Protestants.

Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has a long list of religious leaders.

In Catholicism, priests are leaders who perform religious services, such as veneration services and ceremonies.

In fact, all members of the clergy of the Catholic Church, including priests, bishops, and deacons, are permitted to give sermons or religious speeches. They can also lead worship and perform religious ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals.

The highest leader of the Catholic Church is the Pope, who lives in the Vatican, an independent city-state inside Rome, Italy. The current pope is Pope Francis.

Baptist, Protestant churches

Baptist and Protestant churches have far fewer leaders than the Catholic Church.

They call their main religious leader one of three names: “pastor”, “minister” or “reverend”. This person conducts religious services, organizes religious ceremonies, and gives spiritual or religious counseling to church members.

There is, however, a role common to Catholics, Baptists and Protestants. It is that of “deacon”. Deacons have a lower status as the main religious leader of a church. They are considered “servant leaders” and help fulfill the duties of priests and pastors. They are also expected to establish a relationship with the local church community.

And that’s Ask a Teacher for this week.

I am Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this lesson for Learn English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in this story

Plural – adj. pertaining to a form of word that refers to more than one person or thing

Role – nm a part that someone or something has in a particular activity or situation

Veneration – show respect and love for God or for a god especially by praying, having religious services, etc.

Status – n the position or rank of someone or something in relation to others in a society, organization, group, etc.


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