Vatican explains dropping of “Patriarch of the West”

Vatican explains dropping of “Patriarch of the West”

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?

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
6 comments
  • now that the Catholic Church, with Vatican Council II, has found, in the form of episcopal conferences and their international meetings, the canonical structure best suited to the needs of the Latin Church today

    LOL.  That’s exactly the opposite of what I was hoping to hear.

  • Let’s see…with the episcopal conferences we got heterodoxy from the pulpit, sexual abuse in the sacristy, redesigned churches that no longer reflect Catholic symbolism, Catholic colleges that promote abortion, clown masses, priest shortages, and churches being sold.  And this is what is “best suited to the needs of the Latin Church today”??

    What, one wonders, are these needs that the episcopal conferences are meeting?  What
    is intended to be the outcome of the satisfaction of these needs? 

    Ecumenism is a secondary consideration?  What was primary? 

    I suppose it could be argued that the office was not being exercised, but what I would have hoped for was exercise of the office, not the abandonment of it.

    Rome continues to boggle the mind!

  • Carrie,

    The phrase “best suited” seems to be a mistranslation by VIS of the original Italian “adeguato”, which may be better translated “adequate”, “adapted”, “adjusted”, etc.  But I’m not an Italian scholar.

  • Call it “adequate” or “best suited”…either way, seamole, the results are that the Church Christ founded is not being served by its current structue.  Rule by committee almost always breaks down in disagreements.  This is the Orthodox problem—no visible decision maker.  Now we’ve made it our own.  A Patriarch could overcome this difficulty if the Pope doesn’t want to be responsible for governance.  A committee will just call more committee meetings.

  • Carrie, You can’t blame both the episcopal conferences and the Novus Ordo for the same things, can you?

    You are proposing a correlative effect.  Because Vatican II did X, Y and Z, everything bad that happened after Vatican II is caused by X, Y and Z.  It is possible that X was good, and Y and Z were atrocious, or at least inadequate to deal with 1968. 

    I am greatly interested in the Apostolic See’s opinion.  It seems that someone has desired to affirm Rome’s support for episcopal conferences.  OK.  But is the affirmation phrased to radically conquer all arguments for reform?  “Best suited” sounds like we’ll be having a Feast day for Episcopal Conferences and international meetings of Episcopal Conferences on the Roman Calendar soon.  “Adequate” sounds more like the Holy See is satisfied merely with the basic framework that was established, and is open to drastic reforms, more drastic even than those that drastically curtailed the ability of the conferences to approve liturgical translations and issue pastoral statements.  Perhaps there will be room to put local Patriarchs on top of some episcopal conferences.  Perhaps there will be reforms to strengthen the Presidential office.  “Adequate” is almost a condemnation: God did not see that Creation was merely “adequate”. 

    There is no indication that the Pope has in any way abdicated his special relationship with the Latin Church.  This press release confirms that that relationship is unchanged by this move.  What is changed is the Pope’s relinquishing of the “West” as his territory.  I think that could have been better expressed with a new title, such as “Patriarch of the Latins” or “Patriarch of Rome”, but perhaps the Pope didn’t want to exchange a title echoing a dead geopolitical framework for another title echoing a dying one.  The Latin Church is certainly losing its Latin-ness, and while the Pope already is Bishop of Rome, it is possible that the location of the Chair of Peter will change when the Saracens conquer Italy from within.  I think “Patriarch of the World” would be a bit…controversial, don’t you?

  • Carrie, You can’t blame both the episcopal conferences and the Novus Ordo for the same things, can you?

    To the extent that the episcopal conferences originated with Vatican II, as did the Novus Ordo, they are not really separate issues.

    But the point is that the bishops gathered in the episcopal conferences have not exercised fraternal correction, which I assume was the intention of these conferences.  Rather it seems that what the conferences have accomplished is an entrenchment of heterodoxy.

    “Adequate” sounds more like the Holy See is satisfied merely with the basic framework that was established, and is open to drastic reforms, more drastic even than those that drastically curtailed the ability of the conferences to approve liturgical translations and issue pastoral statements.

    If “Adequate” is essentially the correct translation, and if what you propose is the motivation, then I look forward to seeing correction.  I do fail to see how this can promote ecumenism with the Orthodox, however.

    Perhaps there will be room to put local Patriarchs on top of some episcopal conferences.

    If this were done we would have a structure more like that of the Orthodox, which would facilitate ecumenism.  It would also relieve the Pope of oversight responsibilities apart from his own diocese, which have been such a bone of contention with the Orthodox.  This would place the Pope in a more neutral position, I would think.  It would result in the sort of papacy we saw under John Paul II, IMHO.  One that focuses on teaching and avoids discipline like the plague.

    There is no indication that the Pope has in any way abdicated his special relationship with the Latin Church.  This press release confirms that that relationship is unchanged by this move.

    What exactly is that relationship?  As Patriarch, he had oversight authority.  Does he have the same authority and responsibility for governance as Pope?  And if he does, how does that play out in ecumenical talks?

    it is possible that the location of the Chair of Peter will change when the Saracens conquer Italy from within

    If it does—and I’ll grant you that it looks possible—won’t the change open the door for all sorts of disagreements within the Latin Church, let alone in Orthodox ecumenism?

    I think “Patriarch of the World” would be a bit…controversial, don’t you?

    Gee, ya think??

    tongue wink

    In proofreading this comment, I realize that I’m concentrating on ecumenism as the sole motivator for this move.  It may be that the two are not as closely connected as I’m assuming they are.

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