Prerogatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

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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:


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associated with the Church of Russia, use this canonical wording to argue that Constantinople's primacy is therefore no longer valid or is only honorary, not having any actual authority.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.)

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