Reasons for dropping “Patriarch of the West”

A reader notes that perhaps we can see the roots of why Pope Benedict has decided to drop the papal title of Patriarch of the West in a document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith that he signed in 2000. It is called “Note on the Expression ‘Sister Churches’”. The relevant paragraph is number 3 after the introduction:

In Christian literature, the expression begins to be used in the East when, from the fifth century, the idea of the Pentarchy gained ground, according to which there are five Patriarchs at the head of the Church, with the Church of Rome having the first place among these patriarchal sister Churches. In this connection, however, it needs to be noted that no Roman Pontiff ever recognized this equalization of the sees or accepted that only a primacy of honour be accorded to the See of Rome. It should be noted too that this patriarchal structure typical of the East never developed in the West.

In other words, the phrase Patriarch of the West would give the appearance of the pope being the head of the Roman Catholic Church while the various patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches would be the heads of their respective regions, when in fact the primacy of the pope extends over the entire universal Church, i.e. all Christians.

Perhaps this will negatively affect ecumenical efforts with the Orthodox, but what’s more important it is the truth.

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