Status in the Orthodox Church
Emblem found atop the front entrance of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
His All Holiness|
Your All Holiness|
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is first among equals, or first in honor among all Eastern Orthodox bishops, who presides in person—or through a delegate—over any council of Orthodox primates or bishops in which he takes part and serves as primary spokesman for the Orthodox communion especially in ecumenical contacts with other Christian denominations. He has no direct jurisdiction over the other patriarchs or the other autocephalous Orthodox churches, but he, alone among his fellow primates, enjoys the right of convening extraordinary synods consisting of them or their delegates to deal with ad hoc situations and has also convened well-attended Pan-Orthodox Synods in the last forty years. His unique role often sees the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to as the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church in some sources, though this is not an official title of the patriarch nor is it usually used in scholarly sources on the patriarchate. The Orthodox Church is entirely decentralized, having no central authority, earthly head or a single Bishop in a leadership role, having synodical system canonically, is significantly distinguished from the hierarchically organized Catholic Church whose doctrine is the papal supremacy. His titles primus inter pares "first among equals" and "Ecumenical Patriarch" are of honor rather than authority and in fact the Ecumenical Patriarch has no real authority over Churches other than the Constantinopolitan.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is the direct administrative superior of dioceses and archdioceses serving millions of Greek, Ukrainian, Rusyn and Albanian believers in North and South America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Korea, as well as parts of modern Greece which, for historical reasons, do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Church of Greece.
The Orthodox Church in America, while acknowledging the Ecumenical Patriarch's role in "guiding and preserving the worldwide unity of the family of self-governing Orthodox Churches", also emphasizes that he carries no sacramental or juridical power over bishops outside of his own Patriarchate, and further states that "it is possible that in the future this function may pass to some other church."
His actual position is Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, one of the fourteen autocephalous and several autonomous churches and the most senior (though not oldest) of the four orthodox ancient primatial sees among the five patriarchal Christian centers comprising the ancient Pentarchy of the undivided Church. In his role as head of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, he also holds the title Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate is also sometimes called the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople to distinguish him from the Armenian Patriarchate and the extinct Latin Patriarchate, which was created after the Latin capture of Constantinople in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade.
The see of Byzantium, whose foundation was later ascribed to Andrew the Apostle, was originally a common bishopric. It gained importance when Emperor Constantine elevated Byzantium to a second capital alongside Rome and named it Constantinople. The see's ecclesiastical status as the second of five Patriarchates were developed by the Ecumenical Councils of Constantinople in 381 and Chalcedon in 451.
The Turkish government recognizes him as the spiritual leader of the Greek minority in Turkey, and refer to him as the Greek (literally Rûm) Orthodox Patriarch of Fener (Turkish: Fener Rum Ortodoks Patriği). The Patriarch was subject to the authority of the Ottoman Empire after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, until the declaration of Turkish Republic in 1923. Today, according to Turkish law, he is subject to the authority of the state of Turkey and is required to be a citizen of Turkey to be Patriarch.
The Patriarch of Constantinople has been dubbed the Ecumenical Patriarch since the 6th century. The exact significance of the style, which has been used occasionally for other prelates since the middle of the 5th century, is nowhere officially defined but, according to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, the title has been criticized in the Catholic Church as incompatible with its own claims by the Holy See.
The monastic communities of Mount Athos are stauropegic and are directly under the jurisdiction of Ecumenical Patriarch, who is the only bishop with jurisdiction thereover. Athos, officially the "Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain” (Ancient Greek: Αυτόνομη Μοναστικὴ Πολιτεία Ἁγίου Ὄρους), is a self-governed polity within the Greek state subject to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its political aspect and to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinopole as regards to its religious aspect and is home to 20 monasteries and numerous other monastic communities.