Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Catholic Hierarchy: The Patriarch

Many Roman or Latin Rite Catholics do not know what a Patriarch is. Literally, it means “Prince of Fathers”. They are the highest rulers in their Churches with only the Pope having authority over them. Since the Eastern Schism in 1054,  their importance, except for that of the Pope, has greatly diminished. They are without jurisdiction except in virtue of some particular law.

On March 2, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI dropped the traditional title of Patriarch of the West. His hope in doing so is ,

to eliminate one possible obstacle to ecumenical progress with the Orthodox world, the Holy Father has renounced the title “Patriarch of the West.” (Source)

The Holy Father is now identified by the Annuario as:

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.

In the order of precedence:

  1. Patriarch
  2. Primate
  3. Metropolitan
  4. Bishop

In oder of dignity, the Patriarch of Rome precedes the following Rites:

  1. Armenian
  2. Maronite
  3. Melkite
  4. Chaldean

The minor Patriarchs include:

  1. Venice
  2. Lisbon
  3. West Indies
  4. East Indies

The rights and roles of the Patriarch include:

  1. Ordain all bishops of their patriarchate.
  2. Consecrate the holy chrism.
  3. Summon synods.
  4. Send the omophorion (pallium) to their Metropolitans.
  5. Hear appeals from lower courts.

Here is a jurisdictional map of the various Patrichates circa 451.

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