Discover the Archdiocese of Seattle

The Archdiocese of Seattle is an archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S.state of Washington. Headquartered in Seattle, the archdiocese encompasses all countiesin the state west of the Cascade Range. Its cathedral is St. James Cathedral, and its presentarchbishop is J. Peter Sartain.

The archdiocese was established in 1850 as the Diocese of Nesqually, headquartered inVancouver, Washington, as a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Oregon City. In 1903, the episcopal see was moved to Seattle, and the diocese's name was changed to Diocese of Seattle in 1907. The diocese was elevated to archdiocese status in 1951.

The Archbishop of Seattle concurrently serves as metropolitan bishop of the suffragandioceses within the Ecclesiastical Province of Seattle, which includes the Dioceses ofSpokane and Yakima, both of which were carved out of the Archdiocese of Seattle territory in 1913 and 1951, respectively. Together the three dioceses cover the entire state of Washington.

Today the archdiocese has 144 parishes, 11 high schools, and 2 colleges, and claims a Catholic population of 972,000.


The Catholic Church presence in the present-day state of Washington dates to the 1830s, when missionary priests François Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers traveled fromQuebec and arrived in what was then known as the Oregon Country. On December 1, 1843, the Holy See established the Vicariate Apostolic of the Oregon Territory and named Blanchet its vicar apostolic. In 1846 Pope Gregory XVI established an ecclesiastical territory in the region, and the apostolic vicariate was split into three dioceses: Oregon City with François Blanchet as bishopVancouver Island, with Demers as bishop; and Walla Walla, with François Blanchet's brother, Augustin-Magloire Blanchet, as bishop.

The Whitman massacre in 1847 and the ensuing Cayuse War increased tensions between Christians and the native population of the Oregon Territory, and as a result by 1850 the Diocese of Walla Walla was abandoned and its territory administered from Oregon City. On May 31, 1850, Pope Pius IX created the Diocese of Nesqually out of the defunct Walla Walla diocese, with Augustin Blanchet as bishop. In January 1851, Augustin Blanchet dedicatedSt. James Church near Fort Vancouver as the new diocese's cathedral. A new St. James Cathedral was built in Vancouver, Washington in 1885.

In 1903 Bishop Edward O'Dea, realizing that Vancouver was no longer the economic and population center of the region, moved the episcopal see to Seattle and began construction on a new cathedral in 1905. The diocese changed its name to Diocese of Seattle on September 11, 1907, and the present-day St. James Cathedral was dedicated on December 22, 1907. It was elevated to the rank of an archdiocese and metropolitan on June 23, 1951; Bishop Thomas Arthur Connolly became the first archbishop.

In 1983, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), initiated an apostolic visitation to the Archdiocese of Seattle. The visitation was largely prompted by concerns over whether the archdiocese under Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen was adhering to church teachings on matters including contraception in Catholic hospitals, and its treatment of homosexuals and divorced people. Archbishop James Hickey of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC was sent to Seattle to gather information on behalf of the CDF. As a result of the CDF's findings, on December 3, 1985, the Vatican under Pope John Paul II named Donald Wuerlauxiliary bishop of Seattle, with the authority to overrule Hunthausen in several areas. This unconventional arrangement proved untenable and unpopular among the people of the archdiocese, and Wuerl was replaced with Thomas Murphy on May 26, 1987. Murphy was appointed as coadjutor bishop with immediate right of succession to Hunthausen; he became archbishop upon Hunthausen's retirement on August 21, 1991.

Under Archbishop Murphy the archdiocese saw an increase in registered Catholics and an increase in lay ministries and outreach for women and various ethnic groups. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in December 1996, and died on June 26, 1997. FatherGeorge Leo Thomas was appointed administrator of the archdiocese until the installation of Archbishop Alexander Brunett in December 1997. Brunett later appointed and consecrated George Thomas as auxiliary bishop, a post he held until his appointment as Bishop of Helena in 2004. Eusebio Elizondo Almaguer and Joseph J. Tyson were appointed as auxiliary bishops and consecrated in 2005; Elizondo still serves in that capacity, while Tyson departed in 2011 to become Bishop of Yakima. Brunett served as archbishop until his retirement in 2011 and was succeeded by the incumbent bishop, J. Peter Sartain.



Bishops of Nesqually

Bishops of Seattle

Archbishops of Seattle

Auxiliary bishops



High schools


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