After all the speculation a couple of weeks ago about the dropping of the official papal title of “Patriarch of the West” from the most recent statistical yearbook of the Vatican, the Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican has issued a notice. At the time, it was dropped without any word of explanation, but with all the hubbub, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity decided to clarify.
“From a historical perspective,” the communique reads, “the ancient Patriarchates of the East, defined by the Councils of Constantinople (381) and of Chalcedon (451), covered a fairly clearly demarcated territory. At the same time, the territory of the see of the Bishop of Rome remained somewhat vague. In the East, under the ecclesiastical imperial system of Justinian (527-565), alongside the four Eastern Patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), the Pope was included as the Patriarch of the West. Rome, on the other hand, favored the idea of the three Petrine episcopal sees: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. Without using the title ‘Patriarch of the West,’ the Fourth Council of Constantinople (869-870), the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and the Council of Florence (1439), listed the Pope as the first of the then five Patriarchs.
“The title ‘Patriarch of the West’ was adopted in the year 642 by Pope Theodore. Thereafter it appeared only occasionally and did not have a clear meaning. It flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in the context of a general increase in the Pope’s titles, and appeared for the first time in the ‘Annuario Pontificio’ in 1863.”
What does “West” mean?