first started circulating after observant watchers noticed the familiar
title conspicuously missing from this years edition of the “Annuario
Pontificio” or pontifical yearbook.
the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said in a
statement today that "From a historical perspective, the ancient
Patriarchates of the East, defined by the Councils of Constantinople
(381) and of Chalcedon (451), covered a fairly clearly demarcated
territory. At the same time, the territory of the see of the Bishop of
Rome remained somewhat vague.”
that “In the East, under the ecclesiastical imperial system of
Justinian (527-565), alongside the four Eastern Patriarchates
(Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), the Pope was
included as the Patriarch of the West. Rome, on the other hand, favored
the idea of the three Petrine episcopal sees: Rome, Alexandria and
the title 'Patriarch of the West,'“ the group added, “the Fourth
Council of Constantinople (869-870), the Fourth Lateran Council (1215)
and the Council of Florence (1439), listed the Pope as the first of the
then five Patriarchs.”
'Patriarch of the West' was adopted in the year 642 by Pope Theodore.
Thereafter it appeared only occasionally and did not have a clear
meaning. It flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in
the context of a general increase in the Pope's titles, and appeared
for the first time in the 'Annuario Pontificio' in 1863," the statement
Council explained that difficulty arises because “The term 'West'
currently refers to a cultural context not limited only to Western
Europe but including North America, Australia and New Zealand, thus
differentiating itself from other cultural contexts.”
"If we wished to
give the term 'West' a meaning applicable to ecclesiastical juridical
language, it could be understood only in reference to the Latin
Church." In this way, the title "Patriarch of the West," would describe
the Bishop of Rome's special relationship with the Latin Church, and
his special jurisdiction over her.
that "The title 'Patriarch of the West,' never very clear,” saying that
“over history, [it] has become obsolete and practically unusable. It
seems pointless, then, to insist on maintaining it.”
“Even more so
now that the Catholic Church, with Vatican Council II, has found, in
the form of episcopal conferences and their international meetings, the
canonical structure best suited to the needs of the Latin Church
today," the Council added.
concluded today‘s statement saying that "Abandoning the title of
'Patriarch of the West' clearly does not alter in any way the
recognition of the ancient patriarchal Churches, so solemnly declared
by Vatican Council II. ... The renouncement of this title aims to
express a historical and theological reality, and at the same time, ...
could prove useful to ecumenical dialogue."
widespread media speculation on the Vatican’s abandonment of the papal
title, “Patriarch of the West”, the Holy See today offered
clarification about the move saying the title was unclear and had
become obsolete. It’s absence, they added, may now increase chances for
meaningful ecumenical dialogue.