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A priest is a holy man or woman who takes an officiating role in worship of any religion. There are priests in some branches of Christianity, Shintoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and many, many others, though each culture has a local denomination for the priestly office. Priests are generally regarded as having good contact with the gods of the religion he or she ascribes to, and other believers will often turn to a priest for advice on matters spiritual.

In ancient Judaism an entire tribe, the Kohanim were priests.

In many religions, being a priest is a full time assignment, ruling out any other career. In many other religions it is a position inherited in familial line.

In the Christian context, some confusion is caused for English speakers by two different Greek words traditionally translated as priest. Both occur in the New Testament, which draws a distinction not always observed in English. The first, presbyteros (πρεσβυτερος), Latin presbyter, is traditionally translated priest; literally, it means elder. The second, hiereus ('ιερευς), Latin sacerdos, refers to priests who offer sacrifices, such as the priesthood of the Jewish Temple, or the priests of pagan gods. The Epistle to the Hebrews draws a distinction between the two types of priesthood; it teaches that atonement by Jesus Christ has made the hiereus or sacerdotal priesthood redundant.

In Eastern Orthodoxy, a priest is sometimes also called a "presbyter" or elder. Priests are considered clergy; a priest can only be ordained by a bishop and with the "axios" or affirmation of the laity of his parish. Only men may become priests; traditionally the minimum age has been 35 in many jurisdictions, although exceptions are made from time to time at the bishop's discretion. A married man may be ordained a priest, but an unmarried or widowed priest may not marry. Among the most significant liturgical acts reserved to priests are his witnessing and praying with laity in the Sacrament of Repentance (or Confession), and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy (or Eucharist). The presence and ministry of a priest is required for an Orthodox parish to function normally.

Some branches of Christianity, often within Protestantism, do not use the term "priest" to describe the individual who has an officiating role; instead, terms like "Minister" or "Pastor" are often used in its place.

Quakerism does not grant a special priestly role to any individual, partly because Quakers do not practice any special sacraments that require priestly mediation, and partly because they believe that the priesthood of all believers grants the potential of a spiritual and ministerial role to all individuals within the denomination, regardless of sex or status within the faith.

In Judaism, the rabbi is the most imporant clergyperson. However, the role of the Kohen is still extant, although much less important than in Biblical times.

See also monk, nun, shaman, clergy, imam, brahman

For Catholicism, see Holy Orders.

For The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS/Mormon),
see Priesthood

Priest was also the name of a controversial British film, made in the 1990s in Liverpool. It starred Linus Roache as a Roman Catholic priest struggling between his calling as a priest in an inner-city parish and his homosexuality.

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