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A patriarch is in pre-Reformation churches a highest-ranking bishop with sole jurisdiction jurisdiction over a patriarchy .

There are patriarchs in the Orthodox and Ancient Near Eastern churches as well as in the Roman Catholic Church ; they are at the top of the church hierarchy above the Grand Archbishop . There is no hierarchical order among patriarchs, but rather protocol-based priority of honor. A patriarch can traditionally hold patriarchal synods in his area , appoint bishops and other ordinaries, establish dioceses and diocese boundaries, enact canon laws and interpret canon law. A titular patriarch, like a titular bishop, has no patriarchal jurisdiction.

The salutation of the patriarchs is " Your Holiness " for autonomous and "Your Bliss" for United Churches or Latin Patriarchs ( the Roman Catholic Church ). In some churches, instead of or in addition to patriarch, the title Catholicos is used, which essentially corresponds to that of a patriarch. The ecclesiastical administrative unit is accordingly called a Catholic .

Word origin

The word comes from the Greek πατριάρχης patriarches "progenitor of a sex", "forefather" (from πατήρ patér "father" and ἄρχων archon "ruler, master", going back to αρχή arché "top / beginning of a community dominated by men (fathers)", cf. -archy ; later transferred to “Führer”), see also patriarchy . In modern Greek , αρχη means "beginning, start", in ancient Greek "beginning, starting point, government, supreme command". The Greek name is used in the Septuagint to mean archfather .

Orthodox churches

Damianus (1897–1931), Patriarch of Jerusalem , with the two highest honors of the Ottoman Empire, the Mecidî Nişanı and the Osmanî Nişanı , which Sultan Abdülhamid II gave him.

Orthodox patriarchs are at the head of the four remaining late ancient (early church) patriarchates ( Constantinople , Antioch , Alexandria , Jerusalem ) and some large regional Orthodox churches (i.e. the Serbian , Russian , Bulgarian and Romanian Orthodox Churches ). The other Orthodox churches have metropolitans or archbishops as heads.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchs see their churches as part of the "one Catholic and Apostolic Church" with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople as Head of Honor. Other autonomous churches are subordinate to one of the following patriarchs, who have a say in the appointment of the respective head of the church:

Church leaders of other church titles who preside over an autocephalous Orthodox church have the same position as a patriarch - not by name - see Orthodox churches .

Ancient oriental churches

The churches of the ancient oriental patriarchs do not recognize the Council of Chalcedon . The following Patriarchs and Catholics preside over churches that are autocephalous or consider themselves to be such:

Some church leaders have the title Catholicos in addition to or instead of a patriarchal title. With the Armenians, the Katholikoi precede the patriarchs.

Roman Catholic Church

Coat of arms of a Catholic patriarch, a galero with 30 tassels . If the patriarch is a cardinal , the Galero is red

The early church patriarchate of the Western Church in Rome is today the papal seat and the pope is head of the Roman Catholic Church. The title “Patriarch of the Occident” (or “Patriarch of the Occident”) conferred on the Roman bishops in the 5th century has been used by the Popes since the pontificate of Benedict XVI. no more.

There are ten patriarchs in the Roman Catholic Church, four in Latin and six in the Eastern Catholic Churches. Seven patriarchs and the Pope have their own jurisdiction, while three Latin patriarchs do not have their own jurisdiction. The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate is divided into three patriarchal seats, but they are led by a patriarch.

The Pope does not derive the claim of jurisdiction over the universal Church including the other patriarchies from the patriarchal jurisdiction, but from the jurisdiction primacy . The patriarchs of the Roman Catholic Church sometimes need the confirmation of certain legal acts by the Pope. The major archbishops have a comparable position but no patriarchal jurisdiction . They are heads of Eastern Catholic Churches who do not belong to the early church patriarchates or Catholics, or who do not have the title of patriarch for reasons of ecumenism with other churches. In the case of major archbishops, the Pope must confirm the election before the chosen one is enthroned and can take office. Confirmation of election is not required for patriarchs. The newly elected patriarch only asks the Pope in writing for the so-called Ecclesiastica communio .

Latin Church

There are four patriarchs within the Latin Church . Three of them head dioceses with patriarchal seats, one heads an archbishopric as archbishop:

Eastern Catholic Churches

Other churches

The heads of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Brazil and the Czechoslovak Hussite Church are also referred to as patriarchs.


  • Annuario pontificio. per l'anno 2007. ZDB -ID 370-0 (Papal Yearbook).
  • Niccolò Del Re (ed.): Vatican Lexicon. License issue. Pattloch, Augsburg 1998, ISBN 3-629-00815-1 .
  • Orthodoxia . Born 2007, ZDB -ID 585333-3 (Yearbook for Orthodoxy).
  • Steyler Missionswissenschaftliches Institut (Ed.): Atlas Hierarchicus. Descriptio geographica et statistica insuper notae historicae Ecclesiae Catholicae. 5. editio elaboravit. St. Gabriel-Verlag, Vienna 1992, ISBN 3-85264-399-6 (Jurisdiktionsbezirke, statistics).

Individual evidence

  1. W. Pape, Greek-German hand dictionary , Graz 1954. Volume 2, p. 535
  2. ^ W. Pape, Greek-German Concise Dictionary , Graz 1954. Volume 1, p. 367
  3. ^ W. Pape: Greek-German concise dictionary. Graz 1954, Volume 1, p. 365
  4. Pope Benedict XVI renounces the title "Patriarch of the West" on
  5. Title of the Popes on the page
  6. Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium : Can. 153
  7. Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium : Can. 76

Web links

Wiktionary: Patriarch  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations