Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Byzantine eagle.JPG
Emblem of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (found atop the front entrance of the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George)
ClassificationEastern Orthodox
OrientationGreek Orthodoxy
ScriptureSeptuagint, New Testament
PrimateArchbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I
Bishops125 (73 acting, 52 titular)
Parishes525 in United States,[1]
Monastics~1,800 (Mt. Athos)
Monasteries20 (U.S)[1] 32 (Mt. Athos), 8 (Australia), 6 (Meteora)
LanguageGreek, English, Ukrainian, French, Korean, Turkish
HeadquartersSt. George's Cathedral, Istanbul
41°01′45″N 28°57′06″E / 41°01′45″N 28°57′06″E / 41.02917; 28.95167
TerritoryIstanbul, most of Turkey, Mount Athos, Crete, part of northern Greece, the Dodecanese, Korea, Greek and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches in the Diaspora
FounderApostle Andrew
Independence330 AD from the Metropolis of Heraclea
Separationsseveral, see § Autocephalous churches formerly under the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Members~3,800,000 in Greece, ~1,500,000 in diaspora, =5,300,000 in total .

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Greek: Οἰκουμενικόν Πατριαρχεῖον Κωνσταντινουπόλεως, romanizedOikoumenikón Patriarkhíon Konstantinoupóleos, IPA: [ikumeniˈkon patriarˈçion konstandinuˈpoleos]; Latin: Patriarchatus Oecumenicus Constantinopolitanus;[2] Turkish: Rum Ortodoks Patrikhanesi,[3][4] "Roman Orthodox Patriarchate") is one of the fourteen to sixteen autocephalous churches (or "jurisdictions") that together compose the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is headed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, currently Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople.

Because of its historical location as the capital of the former Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and its role as the Mother Church of most modern Orthodox churches, Constantinople holds a special place of honor within Orthodoxy and serves as the seat for the Ecumenical Patriarch, who enjoys the status of [[Primus inter pares|primus inter pares]] (first among equals) among the world's Eastern Orthodox prelates and is regarded as the representative and spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

The Ecumenical Patriarchate promotes the expansion of the Christian faith and Orthodox doctrine, and the Ecumenical Patriarchs are involved in ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, charitable work, and the defense of Orthodox Christian traditions. Prominent issues for the Ecumenical Patriarchate's policy in the 21st century include the safety of the believers in the Middle East, reconciliation of the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches,[12] and the reopening of the Theological School of Halki, which was closed down by the Turkish authorities in 1971.[13][14]

The Great Church of Christ

The Church of Hagia Irene, was the cathedral church of the Patriarchate before Hagia Sophia was completed in 360

Christianity in the Greek colony of Byzantium existed from the 1st century, but it was in the year 330 that the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great moved his residence to the town renaming it Nova Roma (Νέα Ῥώμη), or "New Rome." Thenceforth, the importance of the church there grew, along with the influence of its bishop.

Prior to the moving of the imperial capital, the bishop of Byzantium had been under the authority of the metropolitan of Heraclea, but from the 4th century on, he grew to become independent in his own right and even to exercise authority throughout what is now Greece, Asia Minor, Pontus, and Thrace. With the development of the hierarchical structure of the Church, the bishop of Constantinople came to be styled as exarch (a position superior to metropolitan). Constantinople was recognized as the fourth patriarchate at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, after Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. The patriarch was usually appointed by Antioch.

Because of the importance of the position of Constantinople's church at the center of the Roman Empire, affairs involving the various churches outside Constantinople's direct authority came to be discussed in the capital, particularly where the intervention of the emperor was desired. The patriarch naturally became a liaison between the emperor and bishops traveling to the capital, thus establishing the position of the patriarch as one involving the unity of the whole Church, particularly in the East.

In turn, the affairs of the Constantinopolitan church were overseen not just by the patriarch, but also by synods held including visiting bishops. This pan-Orthodox synod came to be referred to as the ενδημουσα συνοδος (endimousa synodos, "resident synod"). The resident synod not only governed the business of the patriarchate but also examined questions pertinent to the whole Church as well as the eastern half of the old empire.[15]

The patriarch thus came to have the title of Ecumenical, which referenced not a universal episcopacy over other bishops but rather the position of the patriarch as at the center of the oikoumeni, the "household" of the empire.

As the Roman Empire stabilized and grew, so did the influence of the patriarchate at its capital. This influence came to be enshrined in Orthodox canon law, to such an extent that it was elevated even beyond more ancient patriarchates: Canon 3 of the First Council of Constantinople (381) stated that the bishop of that city "shall have primacy of honor after the Bishop of Rome because Constantinople is the New Rome."

Hagia Sophia was the patriarchal cathedral until 1453

In its disputed 28th Canon, the Council of Chalcedon in 451 recognized an expansion of the boundaries of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and of its authority over bishops of dioceses "among the barbarians", which has been variously interpreted as referring either to areas outside the Byzantine Empire or to non-Greeks. The council resulted in a schism with the Patriarchate of Alexandria.

In any case, for almost a thousand years the Patriarch of Constantinople presided over the church in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and its missionary activity that brought the Christian faith in its Byzantine form to many peoples north of the imperial borders. The cathedral church of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), was the center of religious life in the eastern Christian world.[16]

The Ecumenical Patriarchate came to be called the "Great Church of Christ" and it was the touchstone and reference point for ecclesiastical affairs in the East, whether in terms of church government, relations with the state, or liturgical matters.

Prerogatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

In history and in canonical literature (i.e. the Church's canons and traditional commentaries on them), the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been granted certain prerogatives (πρεσβεία, presveía) that other autocephalous Orthodox churches do not have. Not all of these prerogatives are today universally acknowledged, though all do have precedents in history and canonical references. The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of these prerogatives and their reference points:

  • Equal prerogatives to Old Rome (Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, Canon 36 of the Quinisext Council);
  • The right to hear appeals, if invited, regarding disputes between clergy (Canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council);
  • The right to ordain bishops for areas outside defined canonical boundaries (Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council);
  • The right to establish stavropegial monasteries even in the territories of other patriarchates (the Epanagoge, commentaries of Matthew Blastares and Theodore Balsamon)