The Bishop is the first and highest degree of the clergy in the Orthodox Church (episkopos in Greek, which means overseer). He is the successor to the Apostles in the service and government of the Church. A bishop is responsible for and the head of all the parishes located in his diocese. All authority of the lower orders of clergy is derived from the bishop. No divine services may be served in any Orthodox temple without the authorization of a bishop.
Rankings of Bishops
In the degree of their ordination, all bishops are equal. Nevertheless, there are distinctions of administrative rank among bishops.
In the Church of Antioch, a bishop who is in charge of a newly-created diocese on behalf of, and under the supervision of, the Patriarch of Antioch is called a Patriarchal Vicar. The diocese is usually kept under the direct control of the patriarch until it becomes self-supporting. Patriarchal Vicars are not members of the Holy Synod. When the diocese becomes self-supporting, it is usually granted a ruling bishop who is a member of the Holy Synod. The equivalent title in the Roman Catholic Church is Vicar Apostolic.
They are significantly different from auxilliary bishops, which the Church of Antioch may appoint to assist ruling bishops within their own diocese or archdiocese.
Archbishops and Metropolitans
The title of archbishop or metropolitan may be granted to a senior bishop, usually one who is in charge of a large ecclesiastical jurisdiction or archdiocese. He may or may not have suffragan bishops assisting him. In the Slavic and Antiochian traditions, a metropolitan outranks an archbishop. The reverse is true in the Greek tradition. The Antiochian tradition also uses the style of metropolitan archbishop to differentiate from metropolitans in the Greek tradition.
The change in the Greek tradition came about because at one point in history, the diocesan bishops of ancient sees (which in the Greek world are pretty much all of them) all came to be styled as metropolitans. Thus, while in the Slavic and Antiochian traditions, an archbishop is a senior bishop with an honorific title, a metropolitan is a bishop in charge of a major see and thus holding a territorial title. In the Greek tradition, all diocesan bishops (with a few exceptions) are metropolitans by default, and thus an archbishop is one who holds his title by reason of territory.
The title patriarch is reserved for the primate of certain of the autocephalous Orthodox churches. The first hierarch of the other autocephalous churches are styled metropolitan or archbishop (or some combination).
The primate of the Church of Constantinople takes the title Ecumenical Patriarch. The primate of the Church of Alexandria takes the title Pope and Patriarch. The primate of the Church of Georgia takes the title Catholicos-Patriarch.
In general, when referring to a hierarch, His is often used (e.g. His All Holiness, BARTHOLOMEW, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch visited Tarpon Springs, Florida in January of 2006). When speaking to a hierarch Your is often used (Your Eminence, I'm so glad to see you!).