Vatican explains why pope no longer ‘patriarch of the West’
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) – The title papal title "patriarch of the West" was eliminated as “obsolete and practically unusable,” with the change may proving useful to ecumenical dialogue, according to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The Vatican press office confirmed March 1 that the 2006 edition of the Vatican's official yearbook, which was put on sale to the public in early March as the first edition printed since Pope Benedict’s 2005 election, no longer refers to the pontiff with the title "patriarch of the West," but offered no explanation for the change.
In the 2006 Annuario Pontificio, the pope is described as "bishop of Rome, vicar of Jesus Christ, successor of the prince of the apostles, supreme pontiff of the universal church, primate of Italy, archbishop and metropolitan of the province of Rome, sovereign of Vatican City State and servant of the servants of God."
In previous editions, the title "patriarch of the West" had been listed after "supreme pontiff of the universal church."
In the wake of media comments concerning the papal title, the Vatican issued a communique clarifying the reasons for the omission.
"From a historical perspective," the communique reads as reported by the Vatican Information Service, "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. 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 Antioch. Without using the title 'patriarch of the West,' 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.
"The title '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 16th and 17th 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 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, says the communique. "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."
"The title 'patriarch of the West,' never very clear, over history 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."
"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 statement said. “The renouncement of this title aims to express a historical and theological reality, and at the same time... could prove useful to ecumenical dialogue."
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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