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(Lat., prœpositus; Fr., prévôt; Ger., Probst)
Anciently (St. Jerome, "Ep.", II, xiv: Ad Rusticum monach.) every chapter (q. v.) had an archpriest and an archdeacon. The former officiated in the absence of the bishop and had general supervision of the choir, while the latter was the head of the chapter and administered its temporal affairs. Later the archpriest was called decanus (dean) and the archdeacon prœpositus (provost). At present the chief dignity of a chapter is usually styled dean, though in some countries, as in England, the term provost is applied to him. The provost, by whatever name he may be known, is appointed by the Holy See in accordance with the fourth rule of the Roman Chancery. It is his duty to see that all capitular statutes are observed. To be authentic, all acts of the chapter, in addition to the seal of the chapter, require his signature. Extraordinary meetings of the chapter are convened by him, generally, however, on written request of a majority of the chapter, and with the consent of the bishop. He presides in chapter at the election of a vicar capitular, who within eight days of the death of the bishop is to be chosen as the administrator of the vacant see. He conducts the ceremonies at the installation (q. v.) of canons-elect, investing them with the capitular insignia, assigning them places in choir, etc. In choir, the first place after the bishop belongs to him. In the absence of the bishop, or in case the see is vacant, the provost conducts episcopal ceremonial functions, while he takes precedence of all, even of the vicar capitular. He must be present, however, personally, not being allowed a substitute. When the bishop pontificates, the provost is assistant priest. It is his office to administer Viaticum to the bishop, and to conduct the bishop's obsequies.
TAUNTON, The Law of the Church (London, 1906); FERRARIS, Bibliotheca canonica (Roman ed., 1888-96), s. v.
ANDREW B. MEEHAN.