Are the other patriarchs dependent on Rome?

 

I posted an article about the purpose of the Eastern patriarchates (i.e., their being extensions of the Roman-based Papacy). In this, I presented the Tradition that the Apostle Peter himself set up the three original patriarchates: Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, in that order ...the other two patriarchates (Constantinople and Jerusalem) being imperial innovations. Originally, however, ... Rome was established as the See of Peter, administering Europe directly, while Peter's disciples in Alexandria and Antioch would preside locally over Africa and Asia ...thereby representing the Petrine authority across the three known continents (with Rome being the ultimate court of appeal).

Firstly, We have several Church fathers referring to the Tradition of Peter setting up the patriarchates as if it is common knowledge. The most clear outline of the Tradition comes to us from Pope Damasus I in 382:

"Although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad throughout the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman church has been placed at the forefront ****not by the conciliar decisions of the churches*****, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, Who says: "You are Peter ...(Matt 16:18-19)." In addition to this, there is also the companionship of the vessel of election, the most blessed Apostle Paul who, along with Peter in the city of Rome in the time of Caesar Nero, equally consecrated the above-mentioned holy Roman Church to Christ the Lord; and by their own presence and by their venerable triumph, they set it at the forefront over the others of all the cities of the world. ******The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church, which has neither stain nor blemish, nor anything like that. The second see is that of Alexandria, consecrated on behalf of the blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an Evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the Apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom. The third see is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Peter, where first he dwelled before he came to Rome*****, and where the name "Christians" was first applied, as to a new people." (Decree of Damasus # 3, 382 A.D.)

Pope Damasus released this decree to counter the Byzantine attempt to replace Alexandria (the Traditional 2nd See) with Constantinople at the Council of Constantinople I in 381. Because of Damasus' decree, this attempt was withdrawn, and Alexandria's place as the 2nd See was secured. However, when Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria, embraced Monophysism in the 450's ...withdrawing both himself and the entire Alexandrian delegation from the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Byzantines made yet another attempt to replace Alexandria with Constantinople as the 2nd See.

This was the infamous "Canon 28" of Chalcedon, which was line-item-vetoed by Pope Leo the Great, and thereafter stuck from the canons of the Council. Leo took this action because he ruled it to be unTraditional. Even if Alexandria was plunged into Monophysism, it was still the Traditional 2nd See. Constantinople had no right to replace it. An so, we have Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople writing to Pope Leo in apology for the Council's action:

"As for those things which the universal Council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favor of the Church of Constantinople, let Your Holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet, keeping myself in humility. It was the most reverend clergy of the Church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most reverend priests of those parts, who agreed about it. Even so, the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness. Therefore, let Your Holiness know for certain that I did nothing to further the matter, knowing always that I held myself bound to avoid the lusts of pride and covetousness." ---Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Leo, Ep 132 (on the subject of canon 28 of Chalcedon).

So, ... In these two cases, we see Rome maintaining the Tradition of the 3 patriarchates: Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch in that order. And, indeed, we see this at Nicaea as well, in the famous Canon 6 of that Council:

"Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis prevail that the Bishop of Alexandria has jurisdiction in all these, since **the like** is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise, in Antioch and the other provinces, let the churches retain their priveledges." (Nicaea, Canon 6).

Now, ... Here we see the "big three" one again. ...And they are spoken about as if they have always (Traditionally) been in place. Also, ... There has been much ink spilled over the phrase "the like" when refering to Rome above. Is Nicaea saying that Alexandria has local jurisdiction because Rome has similar local jurisdiction? Or, is Nicaea saying that Alexandria has jurisdiction in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis BECAUSE it is the custom of the Roman Church that Alexandria holds jurisdiction here? ...That Rome recognizes the local jurisdiction of Alexandria ...and of Antioch as well? :-) Well, ... I say it's the latter. And, again ... See the quote from Pope Damasus:

"The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church, which has neither stain nor blemish, nor anything like that. The second see is that of Alexandria, consecrated on behalf of the blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an Evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the Apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom. The third see is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Peter, where first he dwelled before he came to Rome, and where the name "Christians" was first applied, as to a new people." (Decree of Damasus # 3, 382 A.D.)

See also the Epistle of Pope Julius I (A,D. 342) ...a contemporary of Nicaea itself ...where he writes to the Byzantine court to complain about St. Athanasius and St. Marcellus when they were deposed by the Arians from their sees of Alexandria and Antioch, respectfully:

"It behoved you to write to us that thus what is just might be decreed for all. For they who suffered were bishops, and the Churches that suffered no common ones, over which the Apostles ruled in person. And why were we (the Pope) not written to concerning the Church, *****especially Alexandria*****? Or are they (the Arians) ignorant that ****this has been the custom first to write to us, and thus what is just be decreed from this place (Rome)*****? If therefore, any such suspicion fell upon the bishop there (Alexandria), it was benefitting to write to this Church (Rome)." (Julius, Ep. n. 6,21.)

So, again, we have Rome defending the Traditional set up. And Julius' statement that Rome has authority to give rulings over Alexandria (the 2nd See) places Canon 6 of Nicaea into its proper context. The jurisdiction of Alexandria (over Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis) was recognized by the Council ***because*** that was the custom of Rome (i.e., Peter --when at Rome --had sent his disciple Mark to preside over Alexandria, allowing that see to participate in the Petrine ministry of Rome through ties of discipleship). And, indeed, the Church father Theodoret of Cyrus (c. 450) --an Antiochian --echoes the very same Tradition, when he writes to Pope Leo the Great to complain about Patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria:

"But this man (Patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria) will not abide by the decrees (of Nicaea), but brings forward at every turn that his is the ****Throne of Mark****; and yet he knows well that the great city of Antioch has the Throne of Peter, who was both teacher of Mark, and the first and the leader (coryphaeus) of the choir of the Apostles." (Theodoret, T. iv. Ep. lxxxvi.).

Now, ... When he wrote this, Theordet was still under censure as a Nestorian heretic, pleading to be re-instated into communion with Rome. So, for various reasons, Pope Leo was to respond rebuking him ...including for seeking to place Antioch over Alexandria (the very thing that the Byzantines at Chalcedon were trying to do with Constantinople). Yet, compare Theodoret to Damasus:

"The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church, which has neither stain nor blemish, nor anything like that. The second see is that of Alexandria, consecrated on behalf of the blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an Evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the Apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom. The third see is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Peter, where first he dwelled before he came to Rome, and where the name "Christians" was first applied, as to a new people." (Decree of Damasus # 3, 382 A.D.)

"But this man (Patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria) will not abide by the decrees (of Nicaea), but brings forward at every turn that his is the ****Throne of Mark****; and yet he knows well that the great city of Antioch has the Throne of Peter, who was both teacher of Mark, and the first and the leader (coryphaeus) of the choir of the Apostles." (Theodoret, T. iv. Ep. lxxxvi.).

And, indeed, Rome echoes this very same Tradition at the time of Theodoret, when Pope Leo writes to Patriarch Dioscorus of Alexandria directly, saying: "As the most blessed Peter ***received the Apostolic Primacy from the Lord***, and the ***Roman church continues in his institutions***, it is criminal to believe that his (Peter's) holy disciple Mark, who was ****the first to govern the church of Alexandria*** formed decrees by other rules of his own Traditions; since without doubt from ****the same source of grace was the spirit both of the disciple and of his master****. (Pope Leo, T. i. Ep. ix. ad. Diosc. Ep. Alex.)

As for Theodoret's reference to Antioch as possessing the "Throne of Peter" (in opposition to Alexandria's "Throne of Mark"), this needs to be understood in context. For, Theodoret also writes to Pope Leo:

"If Paul, the hearld of truth, the trumpet of the Holy Spirit, hastened to the great Peter to convey from him the solution to those at Antioch, who were at issue about living under the law, how much more so do we, poor and humble, run to ****your Apostolic Throne*** (Rome) to receive from you (Pope Leo) healing for the wounds of the Churches. For it pertains to you to have primacy in all things, for your throne is adorned with many prerogatives." (Theodoret, Ep. cxiii.)

And, ....

"For that all holy throne (Rome) has the office of heading the Churches of the whole world." (Theodoret, EP. cxvi.)

So, ... Both Rome and Antioch are drawing from the very same Tradition ...the Tradition that says Peter left St. Evodius in Antioch, while he went to set up Rome, sending his other disciple, St. Mark, to Alexandria ...thereby covering the three known continents. In this, Peter was ****triangulating****. Since "all roads led to Rome," he could oversee a universal Church from there (thus the Quo Vadis story). However, his disciples (Mark and Evodius) were in place in Africa and Asia respectively, while Rome administered Europe directly (being the final court of appeal as well).

This Tradition is seen reflected again in an Epistle from the Eastern Bishops to Pope Symmachus c. 499 A.D. They write:

"But for the precious salvation, not only of the East, but of ***three parts*** (i.e., the three known continents), almost of the inhabited world, redeemed, not with corruptible gold or silver, but with the precious Blood of the Lamb of God, according to the doctrine of the blessed Prince of the glorious Apostles, **whose See** Christ, the ***Good Shepherd***, has ***entrusted to Your Blessedness***. ........You are not ignorant of this malice, you whom Peter, your blessed Doctor, teaches always to shepherd, not by violence but by an authority fully accepted, ****the sheep of Christ which are entrusted to you in all the habitable world****." (Ep. ad. Symmachus, Mansi. viii, 221 seq.).

So, Africa was administered by Alexandria under Peter's disciple Mark, and Asia was administered by Antioch under Peter's disciple Evodius, with the final authority resting with the See of Peter at Rome, which directly administered Europe as well.

And this we can seen as early as St. Evodius' immediate successor, St. Ignatius of Antioch (between 110 and 116 A.D.)

Don't forget, Ignatius ...as Bishop of Antioch ...was the Traditional Patriarch of Asia. And so, ...as he was being transported as a prisoner to Rome ....we see him teaching and giving instruction to all of the ***Asian*** churches under his care (Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Magnesia, Tralles). However, once he leaves Asia, and enters Europe the instructions stop. We know that Ignatius passed through Philipi and Dalmatia. Yet, no instructions for the Christians there. And, when he writes to the Romans, he also gives absolutely no instructions or teaching ....this, when Ignatius personally knew (and was the disciple of) the Apostle John, and no bishop or presbyter in Rome could claim such an honor at this time. So, why didn't Ignatius teach the Romans? ...As he did other prominent Apostolic churches (like Ephesus and Smyrna)? Could it be that he had no authority to do so? :-)

Indeed, ... In his Letter to the Romans, Chapter III, he writes:

"You have never envied anyone; you have taught others. Now I desire that those things may be confirmed by your conduct, which in your instructions you enjoin on others."

Ignatius says this by way of begging them not to interefere with his martyrdom, asking that they help him to maintain his conviction to be thrown to the beasts in the arena. Yet, it clearly shows that the teachings of the Roman church were known as far away as Antioch.

Also, ... When Ignatius opens his Letter to the Romans, he writes:

"Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church that has found mercy in the transcendent Majesty of the Most High Father and of Jesus Christ, His only Son; the church by the will of Him who willed all things that exist, beloved and illuminated through the faith and love of Jesus Christ our God; which also ****presides in the chief place of the Roman territory****; a church worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of felicitation, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and ****presiding in love***, ****maintaining the law of Christ***, and bearer of the Father's name: her do I therefore salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father." (Ignatius to the Romans Chap. I)

Now, here Ignatius twice says how Rome "presides." For this, he uses the Greek word "prokatthemena," which is defined as an authoritative, jurisdictional position; and this is the meaning of the word whenever Ignatius uses it. However, Ignatius **never** applies this word to another church, but **only** to Rome. Why so?

Now, many have tried to claim that Ignatius is referring to Rome's local authority --meaning that Rome presided over the surrounding churches of Italy. And, at first glance, this seems quite plausible, since Ignatius says that Rome: "presides in the chief place of the Roman territory" ...Or, in another translation: "which presides in the chief place of report of the Romans." Both these could be read as referring to Rome's local jurisdiction ...That is, until one considers the alternate possibility, which is much more plausible considering the context of the letter.

For example, we know from Chapter X of the Epistle that Ignatius is writing from Smyrna in Asia Minor, where he and his imperial guards were staying with St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna.

"Now I write these things to you from Smyrna by the Ephesians ..." (Ignatius to the Romans Chap X).

Therefore, given this "international" context, why would Ignatius be referring to Rome's **local** jurisdiction? If that was his meaning, surely he would have referred to the surrounding Italian churches in the context of his letter. Yet, he does not. Therefore, we are left with a second possibility.

While the phrase: "which presides in the chief place of the Roman territory" can be read to mean:

"Which presides in the chief place of the Italian (or Western) churches." (something Ignatius could easily have said) ...

It can also be read to mean, ...

"Which presides in the chief place, **located in*** the Roman territory." That is to say, that Rome holds the chief place ...or "the place of report" (as in the alternate translation).

And this is surly St. Ignatius' meaning, since *****this sentence is his first address to the Roman church by name******. Look again at the quote:

"Ignatius, also called Theophorus, **to the church** (which church?) that has found mercy in the transcendent Majesty of the Most High Father and of Jesus Christ, His only Son; **the church** (which church?) by the will of Him who willed all things that exist, beloved and illuminated through the faith and love of Jesus Christ our God; which also ****presides in the chief place of the Roman territory**** (Ah! That church!) ; a church worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of felicitation, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and ****presiding in love***, ****maintaining the law of Christ***, and bearer of the Father's name: her do I therefore salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father." (Ignatius to the Romans Chap. I)

So, the sentence in question identifies who he is writing to:

"which also presides in the chief place of the Roman territory." In other words, 'the church of the Roman territory which presides in the chief place." ..Or "the Roman church which presides in the place of report."

Yet, notice that Ignatius uses the word "presides" ("prokatthemena") once again. This time, he says how Rome "presides in love," and adds: "maintaining the law of Christ". Well, ...? Which "law" is this? Remembering that "prokatthemena" means an authoritative jurisdiction, Ignatius' meaning becomes abundantly clear. Rome was what Jeruslem used to be in Acts 15. It was the principal Church (as Cyprian would later call it). And, this is why, in the conclusion of his letter, Ignatius writes:

"Remember in your prayers the Church of Syria (Antioch) , which now has God for its bishop, instead of me. Jesus Christ alone will oversee it, and your love [will also regard it]."

This is most significant. Firstly, ... While Ignatius asks all the churches he writes to to pray for the church of Syria (Antioch), he never commends it to the care of another church, but ****only to Rome*****. Also, the phrase he uses is quite interesting, echoing the terminology he invokes in his introduction, where he says how Rome: "presides in love." Now, in his closing, he says of Antioch:

"Jesus Christ alone will oversee it (i.e., be its bishop), ****and your love****." ....The **presiding** love of Rome. :-)

Thus, my point: The patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch were only patriarchs because of their relationship with the MAIN patriarch in Rome (the **spiritual father** of all).

Patriarch does mean "father," don't forget. :-) And, if one bothers to contrast Matt 16 with Isaiah 22:20-24, we get a very clear picture of what the Petrine ministry is in fact suppose to be. When speaking of the Prime Minister (or Vicar) of the Hughic kingdom, Isaiah 22:21 describes him as ...

..."a FATHER (patriarch) to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to those of the house of Judah."

This Vicar also received "keys" (v. 22) and the ultimate authority to "bind and loosen" (v 22 again). He was also (v. 23) fixed as a "sure spot" (i.e., a ROCK!) :-)

So, this Rock & Key-bearer, with the authority to bid and loosen, was a ***father*** (patriarch) to ALL.

So, ... All these distinctions between the Pope as Chief Shepherd vs. his being Patriarch of the West as a bunch of smoke and mirrors, rooted in **Byzantine** (i.e., Imperial) ecclesiology and cultural eliteism. Either the Pope is father to all or he's not. Either he has Peter's authority over the entire Church or he doesn't.

And when my Byzantine Catholic critic says silly things like "If the Church is a family, it ought to be family sized," he betrays the very universality (Catholicity) of the Church, and has bought into the error of Eastern Orthodox ecclesiology ....a criticism which Karl Keating, Patriach Madrid, Scott Butler and other Byzantine Catholics echo. This particular Byzantine Catholic has his priorities out of wack. Preserve the customs of the East, fine. But not at the expense of the Church's Catholicity. We are ONE Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. ...not many. And Jesus appointed one Shepherd to oversee all.

These distinctions made between the Pope's pastoral and jurisdictional roles are rooted in accidents of history, not in the will of Jesus Christ for His Church. The Church needs only one Patriarch (spiritual father). The others may maintain the title if that's absolutely necessary, but they are only bishops with the local roles of bishops. The ancient Eastern patriarchates have been defunct for centuries. Alexandria and Antioch were lost since the 500's; and Constantinople and Jerusalem (while imperial creations) are valueless ****as patriarchates**** as well. ...To say nothing of the political and ethnic creations of Moscow, Rumania, Bulgaria, and the rest. None of these are patriarchates by Apostolic standards. ...And We need to get over ourselves and realize this.

And, in saying this, I mean no disrespect to the existing Orthodox patriarchates. I would gladly call them "patriarch" and kiss their hands. However, that's only out of respect. The truth is, they are just bishops ...with no more authority or importance than the Bishop of Milan, or Paris, or Madrid. They do not compare to the Apostolic See of Rome, which defines what a patriarch is, and has so from the beginning.

So, once again .... Bishops in every see, yes! Patriarchs aside from Rome, .... Why?

Today Rome administers dioceses as far apart as China, India, and S. America. The Pope is father to all of these ...and they are much further away from Rome than N. Africa and Syria, don't you think? :-) So, why are the other patriarchates needed AS patriarchates? They were created out of necessity, and that necessity is no longer there. It hasn't been there for some time.

  • Alexandria --a Muslim city, which had been predominently Monophysite before that.
  • Antioch -- Ditto; and a city that no longer exists, with its descendants living in Damascus and a third of them answering to Rome.
  • Jerusalem --a Muslim and Jewish city, where few Christians even live anymore.
  • Constantinople --another Islamic city with a tiny Christian minority.

Rome is all that's left. It's the only one functioning as a patriarchate, and history has proved that it's the one we need. The others may be "essential" as bishopics, but not as patriarchates. That time has passed. Yet, the Rock remains.

P.S.

There is also an interesting quotation from Book V, Epistle 40 of St Gregory the Great to Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria:

"Wherefore though there are many apostles, yet with regard to the principality itself the See of the Prince of the Apostles alone has grown strong in authority, which in three places is the See of one."

This clearly refers to the three Petrine Sees. He repeats this idea in Book V, Epistle 39; Book X, Epistle 35; and Book XIII, Epistle 41.

CHRYSOSTOM "In speaking of Saint Peter, the recollection of another Peter has come to me (St. Flavian of Antioch, his bishop), the common father and teacher, who has inherited his prowess, and also obtained his chair. For this is the one great privilege of our city, Antioch, that it received the leader of the apostles as its teacher in the beginning. For it was right that she who was first adorned with the name of Christians, before the whole world, should receive the first of the apostles as her pastor. But though we received him as teacher, we did not retain him to the end, but gave him up to royal Rome. Or rather we did retain him to the end, for though we do not retain the body of Peter, we do retain the faith of Peter, and retaining the faith of Peter we have Peter (On the Inscription of the Acts, II. Taken from Documents Illustrating Papal Authority (London: SPCK, 1952), E. Giles, Ed., p. 168. Cf. Chapman, Studies on the Early Papacy, p. 96).

Mark Bonocore

Thanks to Mark Bonocore for the basis of this article.

 

More on the Pope here

Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
become a reality, in Your way.
We have absolute confidence
that you can bring your people together,
we give you absolute permission to move.
Amen