The Catholic Church throughout the world is divided into administrative units called dioceses. Each diocese is headed by a bishop. In some cases (as in South Africa) those dioceses which are of greater political importance are called archdioceses and are headed by an archbishop. In South Africa there are four such archdioceses, one of which is Cape Town.

Each diocesan bishop in the world (ecclesiastically called an ordinary to distinguish him from other bishops who work in an administrative capacity) is responsible directly to the Pope. In order to facilitate and co-ordinate various matters of national interest such as seminaries, the bishops of South Africa are associated into the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC). This conference is affiliated to two other such conferences: IMBISA (the Inter-regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa) and SECAM (the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar).

A representative of the Pope was appointed in 1922 as the Apostolic Delegate. In 1994 the Holy See (the diocese of Rome and the Papal administration) and South Africa established diplomatic relations, setting up an Apostolic Nunciature for the Holy See in Pretoria and a South African Embassy in the Vatican.

Because Cape Town is the seat of parliament and the legislative capital of South Africa, it is ecclesiastically known as a metropolitan diocese – with the dioceses of Aliwal, De Aar, Oudtshoorn, Port Elizabeth and Queenstown as its suffragan sees.

These other dioceses rely to some extent on Cape Town for ecclesiastical support, although they are in no way subordinate to Cape Town.

To help him administer the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Archbishop has appointed two vicars general.

A chancellor is appointed in each diocese, whose task it is to act as a notary or someone who authenticates any official document which the archbishop might issue.

To help in the ministry of the various departments of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, a number of priests have been appointed as vicars or heads of those departments.

Together with an equal number of other priests elected by the priests serving in Cape Town, these constitute the presbyteral council, and it is from this body that the archbishop chooses his consultors or advisors.

In order to co-ordinate the pastoral function of the various parishes in Cape Town, five deans have been elected by the priests as their spokesmen in certain matters.

The body of deacons constitutes the Council of Deacons and the Archbishop appoints a co-ordinator as a liaison between himself and the deacons.

The geographical area of Cape Town is divided up into 80 autonomous areas called parishes. Each parish is obliged to have its own pastoral council as well as a finance council.

Representatives from these parish councils – as well as of other bodies – together form the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council whose task it is to advise the archbishop in certain matters.

In total the archdiocese covers an area of 30 892 square kilometres with a total population of 4 737 197 people, of whom 264 342 are Catholics (2021).

The administrative centre of the archdiocese is called a chancery and is located at 12 Bouquet Street in Cape Town. Its postal address is PO Box 2910, Cape Town, 8000. The telephone number for all departments in the chancery is (021) 462 2417; the fax number is (021) 461 9330 and the e-mail address is