Church of Constantinople

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The Church of Constantinople

The Church of Constantinople is one of the fifteen autocephalous churches, also referred to as the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is headed by the Ecumenical Patriarch, who has the status of primus inter pares ("first among equals") among the world's Orthodox bishops. The current Ecumenical Patriarch is His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople.

The local churches of the Ecumenical Patriarchate consist of five archdioceses, three churches, 13 metropolises ("metropolis" is preferred use over "metropolitanate" within this particular Orthodox jurisdiction), and one diocese, each of which reports directly to the Patriarch of Constantinople with no intervening authority. In addition, three of the five archdioceses have internal metropolises (16 in all), which are part of their respective archdioceses rather than distinct administrative entities, unlike the other metropolises.

The entrance to the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Phanar in Constantinople

Peculiar prerogatives of the patriarchate

Main article: 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:

Universal Right of Appeal to Constantinople

Canon 9 of Chalcedon reads: "If any Clergyman has a dispute with another, let him not leave his own Bishop and resort to secular courts, but let him first submit his case to his own Bishop, or let it be tried by referees chosen by both parties and approved by the Bishop. Let anyone who acts contrary hereto be liable to Canonical penalties. If, on the other hand, a Clergyman has a dispute with his own Bishop, or with some other Bishop, let it be tried by the Synod of the province. But if any Bishop or Clergyman has a dispute with the Metropolitan of the same province, let him apply either to the Exarch of the diocese or to the throne of the imperial capital Constantinople, and let it be tried before him." [1]

St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain comments on the meaning of this canon:

:"So it is evident that the Canon means that if any bishop or clergyman has a dispute or difference with the Metropolitan of an exarchy, let him apply to the Exarch of the diocese; which is the same thing as saying that clergymen and metropolitans subject to the throne of Constantinople must have their case tried either before the Exarch of the diocese in which they are situated, or before the Bishop of Constantinople, as before a Patriarch of their own. It did not say that if any clergyman has a dispute or difference with the Metropolitan of any diocese or parish whatever, they must be tried before the Bishop of Constantinople…. That is why Zonaras too says that the Bishop of Constantinople is not necessarily entitled to sit as judge over all Metropolitans, but (only) over those who are judicially subject to him (interpretation of c. XVII of the present 4th C.). And in his interpretation of c. V of Sardica the same authority says: "The Bishop of Constantinople must hear the appeals only of those who are subject to the Bishop of Constantinople, precisely as the Bishop of Rome must hear the appeals only of those who are subject to the Bishop of Rome" [2]

One might also point out the absurdity of not reading the canon as St. Nichodemos suggests. You would have to conclude that Constantinople could even overrule Rome... something that even the pre-schism Roman Church would never have accepted, nor is it likely that any other Patriarchate of that time would have either.

Universal Jurisdiction: The Claim to All "Barbarian Lands"

Canon 28 of Chalcedon reads: "Everywhere following the decrees of the Holy Fathers, and aware of the recently recognized Canon of the one hundred and fifty most God-beloved Bishops who convened during the reign of Theodosius the Great of pious memory, who became emperor in the imperial city of Constantinople otherwise known as New Rome; we too decree and vote the same things in regard to the privileges and priorities of the most holy Church of that same Constantinople and New Rome. And this is in keeping with the fact that the Fathers naturally enough granted the priorities to the throne of Old Rome on account of her being the imperial capital. And motivated by the same object and aim the one hundred and fifty most God-beloved Bishops have accorded the like priorities to the most holy throne of New Rome, with good reason deeming that the city which is the seat of an empire, and of a senate, and is equal to old imperial Rome in respect of other privileges and priorities, should be magnified also as she is in respect of ecclesiastical affairs, as coming next after her, or as being second to her. And it is arranged so that only the Metropolitans of the Pontic, Asian, and Thracian dioceses shall be ordained by the most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople aforesaid, and likewise the Bishops of the aforesaid dioceses which are situated in barbarian lands; that is to say, that each Metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the Bishops of the province, shall ordain the Bishops of the province, just as is prescribed try the divine Canons. But the Metropolitans of the aforesaid dioceses, as has been said, are to be ordained by the Archbishop of Constantinople, after the elections have first been conducted in accordance with custom, and have been reported to him." [3]

Concerning the meaning of the reference to "barbarian Lands", St. Nicodemos writes:

"Not only are the Metropolitans of the said dioceses to be ordained by him, but indeed also the bishops located in barbarian regions that border on the said dioceses, as, for instance, those called Alani are adjacent to and flank the diocese of Pontus, while the Russians border on that of Thrace" [4].

And so the canon does not refer to all unclaimed territory on the planet, according to St. Nicodemos, but only to a specific area on the border of a specific area.

Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Founder(s) Apostle Andrew
Autocephaly/Autonomy declared Traditional
Autocephaly/Autonomy recognized Traditional
Current primate Patriarch Bartholomew I
Headquarters Istanbul, Turkey
Primary territory Constantinople, most of Turkey, Mount Athos, Crete, parts of Northern Greece, the Dodecanese
Possessions abroad United States, Canada, Great Britain, Western Europe, South America, Central America, Australia, Southeast Asia
Liturgical language(s) Greek, English
Musical tradition Byzantine Chant
Calendar Revised Julian, Julian
Population estimate 3,500,000
Official website Church of Constantinople


Structure of the patriarchate


There are also two autonomous churchs whose primates are confirmed by Constantinople, but which are not hierarchically or administratively part of the patriarchate, the Church of Finland, and the Church of Estonia.

See also


Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches of Orthodoxy
Autocephalous Churches
Four Ancient Patriarchates: Constantinople · Alexandria · Antioch · Jerusalem
Russia · Serbia · Romania · Bulgaria · Georgia · Cyprus · Greece · Poland · Albania · Czech Lands and Slovakia · OCA* · Ukraine*
Autonomous Churches
Sinai · Finland · Estonia* · Japan* · China* · Ukraine*
The * designates a church whose autocephaly or autonomy is not universally recognized.


References

  1. (D. Cummings, trans., The Rudder of the Orthodox Catholic Church: The Compilation of the Holy Canons Saints Nicodemus and Agapius (West Brookfield, MA: The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1983), p. 253).
  2. (D. Cummings, trans., The Rudder of the Orthodox Catholic Church: The Compilation of the Holy Canons Saints Nicodemus and Agapius (West Brookfield, MA: The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1983), p. 255).
  3. (D. Cummings, trans., The Rudder of the Orthodox Catholic Church: The Compilation of the Holy Canons Saints Nicodemus and Agapius (West Brookfield, MA: The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1983), p. 271-276)
  4. The Rudder, p. 276

External links