Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox patriarchates’

(Take One is here, where I ran off at the mouth for a while!)

Patriarch is one possible title for the presiding bishop or primate of a region of The Orthodox Church comprising a number of bishoprics, and/or even a number of smaller such regions.  Currently the other two possible titles are Metropolitan or Archbishop, although not all Metropolitans or Archbishops are presiding bishops of regions.

At this time Orthodoxy generally recognizes 9 Patriarchs of the following ‘home’ regions, listed in order of honorary seniority:

  1. Constantinople: northern and western Turkey, northern and eastern Greece, Semi-autonomous Church of Crete, Autonomous Church of Finland.  NB: Often referred to as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, style bestowed during the 1st Christian millennium as C’ople was capital of the (“Byzantine”/Eastern) Empire of the Romans, ie, “the  Ecumene,” even while the Pope* and Patriarch of Rome and All the West was still First Among Equals, though most of the time outside the Empire.
  2. Alexandria: continent of Africa, excluding Sinai Peninsula
  3. Antioch: (headquartered in Damascus, Syria, since Middle Ages): southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Persian Gulf
  4. Jerusalem: Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip, (Golan Heights?,) Jordan, rest of Arabian Peninsula, autonomous monastic Church of Sinai
  5. Moscow: former Soviet Union, except part of Caucasus (see Georgia below), Estonia (shared with Constantinople by temporary agreement), Autonomous Church of China (revival under negotiation with PRC; Hong Kong shared cooperatively with Constantinople), Autonomous Church of Japan (C’ople has a couple Greek parishes there), missions in Mongolia, North Korea
  6. Serbia: former Yugoslavia; ministry to Serbs in Romania and Albania by agreement with those Churches.
  7. Romania: that country; ministry to Romanians in Serbia by agreement with that Church.
  8. Bulgaria: that country.
  9. Georgia: that country and adjoining parts of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey.  NB: Georgia’s primate is fully titled Catholicos-Patriarch, Catholicos having been an ancient primatial title in the Caucasus and Mesopotamia.

The following regions’ chief bishops are titled Metropolitan: Poland (autocephalous), Czech Republic and Slovakia (autocephalous), Orthodox Church in America (OCA, de facto autocephalous), Ukraine (Moscow Patriarchate, autonomous), Belarus (MP, autonomous), Japan (MP, autonomous), Moldova (MP, autonomous), several provinces in Romania, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (aka ROCOR: MP, autonomous), the Ukrainian Churches of the USA and of Canada (parts of C’ople).  And the following regions’ chief bishops are titled Archbishop: Greece (ie, western Greece: autocephalous), Cyprus (autocephalous), Albania (autocephalous), Finland (C’ople, autonomous), Crete (C’ople, semiautonomous), the Greek Archdiocese of America (part of C’ople).

The title employed is a matter of local ecclesiastical tradition and evolution.  And as I mentioned, many Metropolitans and Archbishops do not head regions or clusters of bishoprics, but single bishoprics, or may even be auxiliary bishops.  But according to the common law of the Church, “A Patriarch never submits to another Patriarch,” nevermind to any other Bishop … except as equals in order of precedence or honorary seniority.  For example, if two or more Patriarchs find themselves in a meeting or church service together, the senior presides or chairs, but ideally does not ‘dictate.’

*–In Orthodox faith and practice, the title pope has never carried universal jurisdiction or significance, or even necessarily episcopacy.  Orthodoxy’s senior pope is the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, “only” second-among-equals; its other popes, ie, “Fathers,” are parish priests in Greece, Romania, and Russia [hence such common family surnames as Pappas, Popp, and Popov, respectively; St. Innocent of Alaska was born into a family of Popovs in Siberia, but since there were so many unrelated Popovs when he went to school, he was assigned a byname, Veniaminov, by which he became known exclusively].  Thus, the Pope of Rome in their eyes was never more than a brother Patriarch, senior only because Rome was the first capital of the Empire of the Romans (as affirmed on paper by Ecumenical Synods).  OTOH, in its own eyes Rome’s “pope” effectively developed another, higher level of jurisdiction, even over other Patriarchs, sometimes embodied in the fuller title “Pope of the Universal Church.”  The rest of Christianity never accepted this, even if from time to time Rome took actions in the East that came to be accepted, even acclaimed with what is sometimes called “Byzantine hyperbole.”

Why Patriarch at all?  By the middle of the 1st millennium the 5 most important or regionally-influential bishoprics in Chalcedonian Christendom had been accorded recognition as ecclesiastical “country-rulers,” or from the Greek, patri-archs: Old Rome, New Rome (C’ople), Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.  (This among several hundred Ecclesiastical Provinces, and thousands of bishoprics!)  This usage spread with Byzantine Christianity among the Serbs and Bulgarians, and eventually to the Empire of Russia, to Romania, and to Georgia.  Sometimes a new Local Orthodox Church’s primate was not called Patriarch, but “just” Metropolitan or Archbishop, only to have the higher honor of Patriarch bestowed upon him later in history.  The others listed above have not yet been “elevated” to Patriarchal status, and perhaps never will, since in modern times it seems established that a Local Orthodox Church can be autocephalous without having to be a patriarchate; in fact, Cyprus was formally affirmed as autocephalous by the Third Ecumenical Synod (the Council of Ephesus) in the 5th century, and has never been a Patriarchate.

By comparison, AFAIK Metropolitan as a distinct title was never used in Western Europe, although most Latin prelates called Archbishop are actually defined as metropolitan archbishops, that is, as chief bishops of ecclesiastical provinces.  But most Latin provinces have long since lost most of their significance in Church life to Vatican agencies and the relatively-new national and regional Bishops’ Conferences.  In my own state, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference includes resident ruling hierarchs not only of the Latin Church, but also the Ukrainian and Ruthenian (aka “Byzantine”) uniate Churches.  Similarly, some Anglican primates or archbishops are defined as metropolitans, but not as a title.  OTOH, the most historically significant Latin Patriarchs other than Rome developed thanks to the Crusades’ introduction of the Latin Church into the Near East, and continued with later honorifics for bishops in Venice, Lisbon, the West Indies (ie, colonial Spanish America), and the East Indies (ie, colonial India and vicinity); but there has never been any question of the strictly subordinate character of these other Latin patriarchs to the Pope of Rome.

[In re: “Patriarch of the West”: The page just referenced at Giga-Catholic.com actually graphically illustrates the elevation of Rome above Patriarchates, just as this one does not list Rome AS a Patriarchal See — just as some Orthodox commentators feared when Benedict XVI disused his most influential ancient title, Patriarch of the West, a couple years ago.  What they critiqued is that from the o/Orthodox perspective, far from humbling Rome’s Papal office, this move sought to rely ever more on the unaccepted claim to “Pope of the Universal Church.”  Again ISTM the Orthodox and Rome are talking past one another without realizing it.]

Historically the Latins in many countries had national Primates.  Often these were the bishops of those nations’ oldest Sees, sometimes their most important even if not oldest — and then there are England and Ireland, each with TWO primatial Sees, Canterbury and York, and Armagh and Dublin, respectively!  Baltimore was kind-of considered primatial see of the United States, although the status never developed into as big a deal as in some European countries.  These primacies were usually honorific, sometimes real chairmen of their episcopates, although sometimes in local ecclesiastical politics, or even in dealings with civil rulers, they became real leaders of their peoples.  They are now said to be on the wane worldwide, again in exchange for Bishops’ Conferences.

(“Oops, I did it again.”  Oh well, live and learn!)

It’s being noted in news coverage that Moscow Patriarch-elect KYRILL was “Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne” since shortly after the repose of Patriarch ALEXEI.  This concept is not unknown in Western Christianity … in fact, locum tenens is the traditional Latin-language term whose Greek or Slavonic counterpart I do not know, but seems commonly used by Orthodox jurisdictions in the English-speaking world at least.

A locum tenens is “the person holding the place” of another — in Christian contexts, the post of a bishop who has died, resigned, or been removed from office.  Sometimes traditionally in the case of a typical diocese, the local primate or metropolitan-archbishop would automatically become locum tenens upon the vacancy.  Sometimes he or the local synod of bishops might proceed to choose another bishop to be locum tenens more long-term, until a permanent successor takes office.  Currently in North America, Orthodox Church in America (OCA) primate, Metropolitan JONAH, is Locum Tenens of the Bulgarian Diocese, but their synod has named Eastern Pennsylvania bishop TIKHON Locum Tenens of the Western Pennsylvania diocese.*  Similarly, two of the Antiochian Archdiocese’s new local dioceses still await Bishops of their own, and so their primate, Metropolitan PHILIP, is serving as locum tenens of the Diocese of Worcester and New England, but Bishop JOSEPH of Los Angeles and the West is serving as locum tenens of the Diocese of Eagle River and the Northwest.  Relatedly, Metropolitan JONAH is also locum tenens of the OCA’s Alaska Diocese (since the retirement of Bishop NIKOLAI), but Bishop BENJAMIN of San Francisco and the West (who previously served in Alaska as a priest) is temporary Administrator of the Alaska Diocese, assisting Jonah with his responsibility.

The idea seems to be that a flock should never, or only very, very briefly if necessary depending on jurisdictional practice and guidelines, be without a shepherd in at least some capacity, considering that in o/Orthodox Christianity a Bishop is not only some kind of feudal lord or bureaucrat, but ideally spiritual father of the Church … and a local Orthodox Church, and Orthodox Christians, should always have spiritual guidance.

When it’s a Patriarchate or Autocephalous Province whose incumbent has moved on, similar procedures may be put in place, since he is not only his diocese’s spiritual father, but his region’s or country’s, and an important overseer of that Church’s central administration.  In the case of Moscow, Patriarch ALEXEI reposed on December 5, and on December 6 the Synod met and chose Metropolitan KYRILL Locum Tenens.  Thus, he remained Ruling Hierarch of the Diocese of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and Chairman of the Patriarchate’s external relations department, and also took on the Patriarchal locum tenentes, the state of being locum tenens.

Once again, the Western Christian post most comparable to Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow is Pope of Rome.  When a Pope dies (a few in the distant past have abdicated), that office is said to temporarily cease to exist, the state known in Latin as Sede Vacante, vacant See or Throne, a state accompanied by elaborate activities around the actual, dramatic suspension of Roman Catholic Church and Vatican State activity except the burial of the late Pope and election of his successor, as amply covered by newsmedia.  Some Latin commentators have even ventured that the RCC itself temporarily ceases to exist, since the Church is in the reigning Pope, there.  And this takes weeks or longer, especially in the age before telecommunications and air travel.  In the meantime leading Cardinals in Rome assume temporary administration of these activities, but to my knowledge, Locum Tenens theory is not technically employed: the Diocese of Rome and the churches in communion with it are without an actual shepherd for as long as it takes to elect a replacement.  I would gladly be corrected on this point; it seems to be a different approach, a different theory, a different attitude, a different theology, from Orthodoxy.

Locum Tenens theory early on was subject to abuse: an early Church council issued a Canon condemning locum tenens — obviously lower-ranking hierarchs — who used the temporary post to lobby for election to the vacant See as a means of careerist promotion not necessarily in that diocese’s or province’s own best interests.  Remember that this was also a time when local dioceses almost everywhere had the tradition of electing or nominating their Bishops, usually from among their own local clergy or laymen (even primatial or patriarchal Sees), more rarely from outside their own locality or district, and when provincial synods had the tradition of extremely reluctantly translating Bishops from one post to another  (normally a Bishop “married” his Church for life, and still today Orthodox refer to a vacant See as “widowed”), by Canon only in a case of anticipated extraordinary benefit to the destination-diocese.  So bishops maneuvering like chess pieces, angling for “promotion,” was officially heavily frowned upon; even today I don’t hear about bishop transfers in Orthodoxy nearly as much as I did as a Catholic … for good or for ill.

OTOH, locum tenentes of the Patriarchal Throne of Moscow seemed to be  all who held that whole Church together during the very darkest times under Communism.  Moscow’s 1917-1918 Council restored the Patriarchal dignity allowed to lapse by Tsar Peter “the Great” in the early 1700s.  St. Tikhon (Bellavin), former Archbishop of North America, was elected Patriarch by lot just in time to deal with the first flush of Revolutionary rule.  He was martyred in 1925, and leadership of the Church passed to locum tenens, Metropolitan St. Peter of Krutitsy, himself martyred in 1937.  When St. Peter was arrested at the end of 1925, deputy locum tenens, Metropolitan Sergius, effectively became primate of the Church under Peter’s nominal or technical locum tenentes, until assuming the full locum tenentes upon a premature report of Peter’s death in prison in 1936.  It wasn’t until 1943 that Stalin, feeling the need of the Church’s support for the war effort, allowed Sergius’ election as Patriarch, and lessened its harsh treatment.

(*–His Late Eminence Archbishop KYRILL led both dioceses simultaneously.  In November the assembly of the West. Pa. diocese nominated a priest-monk with area roots, Archimandrite Melchisedek [Pleska], for consideration by the Synod possibly in May to become their new Ruling Hierarch.)