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 (presbeia) which 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 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council, 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)
Constantinople's position as having "prerogatives equal to those of Old Rome" is based in the letter of the canons on its position as the imperial city, a position which passed away with the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Some canonists, especially those associated with the Church of Russia, use this canonical wording to argue that Constantinople's primacy is therefore no longer valid or is only honorary, not having any actual authority. Some may even go so far as to put forward the Third Rome theory regarding Moscow, implying that Moscow has replaced Constantinople as the capital of the Orthodox Christian commonwealth.
Yet other canonists, especially those associated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself, point out that in the ancient Church, Rome continued to maintain its position of both honor and authority in primacy even after its status as the imperial capital had long faded. Its position as the imperial city was not the only factor in its primacy, but also longstanding tradition had hallowed its place of authority in its sphere. As such, Constantinople's primacy also remained even though its political fortunes waned.
- Maximos, Metropolitan of Sardes. The Oecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church. Thessaloniki: Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, 1976. (A hard to find, but detailed and thorough study of the question from the viewpoint of a Constantipolitan canonist.)
- The Origins and Authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church, by Demetrios J. Constantelos
- Caesaropapism?: Theodore Balsamon on the Powers of the Patriarch of Constantinople, by Paul Halsall
- Chalcedon Canon 28: Yesterday and Today, by Rev. John H. Erickson
- Constantinople and Rome: A Survey of the Relations between the Byzantine and the Roman Churches, by Milton V. Anastos
- Brief Historical Note Regarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate, from the official website