A title typically seen for the heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches, did you know there are patriarchs in the Western Church other than the Pope?

“A patriarch is a bishop who enjoys power over all bishops including metropolitans and other Christian faithful of the Church over which he presides.” – Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches 56

A patriarch is typically the head of any of the 23 particular autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris in communion with the Pope in Rome. In the Latin Church, the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome was designated the title “Patriarch of the West” until Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI relinquished the title in 2016.

However, the Patriarch of the West is not the only one. Within the Western Church, there currently exists 5 titular patriarchates.

“The titles of patriarch and primate entail no power of governance in the Latin Church apart from a prerogative of honor unless in some matters the contrary is clear from apostolic privilege or approved custom.” – Code of Canon Law 438

In the Latin Church, titular patriarchates exist merely as an honorable designation without any jurisdiction over other metropolitan bishops, while taking precedence over the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Today, there are 3 active Latin titular patriarchates: the Patriarch of Lisbon, headed by Manuel Clemente III; the Patriarch of Venice, headed by Francesco Moraglia; and the Patriarch of the East Indies, headed by Filipe Neri Ferrão.

There are also 2 vacant Latin titular patriarchates. The Patriarch of Jerusalem has been sede vacante since 2016. Currently, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa manages the patriarchate as apostolic administrator. The Patriarch of the West Indies has been sede vacante since the death of Leopoldo Eijo y Garay in 1963, and is considered unlikely to be filled.

Throughout Church history, 5 Latin titular patriarchates have existed but have been later suppressed: the Patriarch of Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople were suppressed in 1964. The Patriarch of Grado was suppressed in 1451, and the Patriarch of Aquileia was suppressed in 1751.

A curious case exists when the Pope confers the title of patriarch ad personam to a bishop without a see or any jurisdiction to preside over. This has only happened one time in history, to Alessandro Cescenzi on February 24th, 1676, given a personal title of patriarch.

Get our inspiring content delivered to your inbox every morning - FREE!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here