Catholic Patriarchal (non cardinal
) coat of arms
Map of Justinian's Pentarchy
Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham
of Antioch with Archbishop Jules Joseph Zerey
In the Catholic Church, the bishop who is head of a particular
autonomous Church, known in canon law as a Church sui iuris, is ordinarily a patriarch, though this responsibility can be entrusted to a Major Archbishop, Metropolitan, or other prelate for a number of serious reasons.
Since the Council of Nicaea, the bishop of Rome has been recognized as the first among patriarchs. That Council designated three bishops with this 'supra-Metropolitan' title: Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. In the Pentarchy formulated by Justinian I (527–565), the emperor assigned as a patriarchate to the Bishop of Rome the whole of Christianized Europe (including almost all of modern Greece), except for the region of Thrace, the areas near Constantinople, and along the coast of the Black Sea. He included in this patriarchate also the western part of North Africa. The jurisdictions of the other patriarchates extended over Roman Asia, and the rest of Africa. Justinian's system was given formal ecclesiastical recognition by the Quinisext Council of 692, which the see of Rome has, however, not recognized.
There were at the time bishops of other apostolic sees that operated with patriarchal authority beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, such as the Catholicos of Selucia-Ctesephon.
Today, the patriarchal heads of Catholic autonomous churches are:
- The Bishop of Rome (Pope), as head of the Latin Catholic Church
- The Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia and head of the Armenian Catholic Church, formed 1740, recognised 1742
- The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, formed 1552, recognised 1553
- The Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria and head of the Coptic Catholic Church, established 1824
- The Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and head of the Maronite Catholic Church, established 685
- The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church; in his case, Antioch is the actual and sole patriarchate, Alexandria and Jerusalem are just titular (once residential) patriarchates vested in his see
- The Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and head of the Syriac Catholic Church
Four more of the Eastern Catholic Churches are headed by a prelate known as a "Major Archbishop," a title essentially equivalent to that of Patriarch and originally created by Pope Paul VI in 1963 for Josyf Slipyj:
Within their proper sui iuris churches there is no difference between patriarchs and major archbishops. However, differences exist in the order of precedence (i.e. patriarchs take precedence over major archbishops) and in the mode of accession. Whereas the election of a major archbishop has to be confirmed by the pope before he may take office, no papal confirmation is needed for a newly elected patriarch before he takes office. Rather, a newly-installed patriarch is required to petition the pope as soon as possible for the concession of what is called ecclesiastical communion. Furthermore, patriarchs who are created cardinals form part of the order of cardinal bishops, whereas major archbishops are only created cardinal priests.
Titular Latin patriarchates
Titular patriarchs do not have jurisdiction over other Metropolitan bishops. The title is granted purely as an honor for various historical reasons. They take precedence after the heads of autonomous churches in full communion, whether pope, patriarch, or major archbishop.
Historical Latin patriarchates
Patriarch as title ad personam
The pope can confer the rank of Patriarch without any see, upon an individual Archbishop, as happened on 24 February 1676 to Alessandro Cescenzi, of the Somascans, former Latin Titular Patriarch of Alexandria (19 January 1671 – retired 27 May 1675), who nevertheless resigned the title on 9 January 1682.
"Patriarch of the West"
In theological and other scholarly literature of the Early Modern period, the title "Patriarch of the West" (Latin: Patriarcha Occidentis; Greek: Πατριάρχης τῆς Δύσεως) was mainly used as designation for the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome over the Latin Church in the West. From 1863 to 2005, the title "Patriarch of the West" was appended to the list of papal titles in the Annuario Pontificio, which in 1885 became a semi-official publication of the Holy See. This was done without historical precedent or theological justification: There was no ecclesiastical office as such, except occasionally as a truism: the patriarch of Rome, for the Latin Church, was the only patriarch, and the only apostolic see, in the "west".
The title was not included in the 2006 Annuario. On 22 March 2006, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity offered an explanation for the decision to remove the title. It stated that the title "Patriarch of the West" had become "obsolete and practically unusable" when the term the West comprises Australia, New Zealand and North America in addition to Western Europe, and that it was "pointless to insist on maintaining it" given that, since the Second Vatican Council, the Latin Church, for which "the West" is an equivalent, has been organized as a number of episcopal conferences and their international groupings.
Though the formulation "Patriarch of the West" is no longer used, the pope in that role issues the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church. During the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appeared, as patriarch of the Latin Church, with the other patriarchs, but without the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, though he was present at the same Synod.
Current and historical Catholic patriarchates