- This article deals with presbeia in canon law and tradition. For the presbeia of the saints, see intercession.
The term presbeia (πρεσβεία, Greek for "prerogatives," "seniority," or "privileges") refers to the position of certain bishops with regard to others, whether purely in honor or in terms of authority. It may also refer to the seniority of order among clergy in general, ascertained from date of ordination.
Canonical literature distinguishes between two forms of honor for bishops, the presbeia timis (πρεσβεία τιμίς, "prerogatives of honor") and the akolouthia timis (ακολουθία τιμίς, "service of honor"). The first term, presbeia timis, refers to authoritative prerogatives, such as the right to ordain bishops in a certain region. The latter, akolouthia timis, refers to purely honorific status. For instance, at one point in the history of the Church in Palestine, the Patriarch of Jerusalem had the akolouthia timis because of his position as the bishop of the Holy City of Jerusalem, but the nearby Metropolitan of Caesarea held the presbeia timis, having the right to ordain bishops in Palestine.
The traditional phrase, primus inter pares ("first among equals") is an example of timis which is both presbeia and akolouthia in that it gives its holder a position more honored than all other Orthodox bishops, but also it has traditionally been associated with the right to preside at Ecumenical Councils. It may further include other sorts of prerogatives, depending on canonical interpretation.
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