Patriarch of Alexandria

Painting of bearded man with red robe
Coptic icon of Saint Mark the Evangelist, the apostolic founder of the Church of Alexandria, and the first Primate of Alexandria

The Patriarch of Alexandria is the archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Historically, this office has included the designation " pope" (etymologically "Father", like "Abbot").

The Alexandrian episcopate was revered as one of the three major episcopal sees (along with Rome and Antioch) before Constantinople or Jerusalem were granted similar status (in 381 and 451, respectively). [1] Alexandria was elevated to de facto archiepiscopal status by the Councils of Alexandria[ citation needed][ which?], and this status was ratified by Canon Six of the First Council of Nicaea, which stipulated that all the Egyptian episcopal provinces were subject to the metropolitan see of Alexandria (already the prevailing custom).[ citation needed] In the sixth century, these five archbishops were formally granted the title of " patriarch" and were subsequently known as the Pentarchy. [2]

Due to several schisms within Christianity, the title of the Patriarch of Alexandria is currently held by several persons belonging to different denominations: the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, the Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and all the East and the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate of Alexandria. [1] It was also previously held by the Latin Patriarch of Alexandria. Each of those denominations consider their patriarch as the successor to the original early bishops of Alexandria. [1]


According to church tradition, the patriarchate was founded in 42 AD by Mark the Evangelist. It was the centre from which Christianity spread throughout all Egypt. Within its jurisdiction, during its most flourishing period, were included about 108 bishops; its territory embraced the six provinces of Libya Superior, Libya Inferior, the Thebaid, Egypt, Heptanomis, and Augustamnica. In the beginning the successor of St. Mark was the only metropolitan bishop, and he governed ecclesiastically the entire territory. As the Christians multiplied, and other metropolitan sees were created, he became known the arch-metropolitan. The title of patriarch did not come into use until the fifth century. [3]

Up to the time of the First Council of Constantinople (381) the Patriarch of Alexandria ranked next to the Bishop of Rome. By the third canon of this council, afterwards confirmed by the twenty-eighth canon of the Council of Chalcedon (452), the Patriarch of Constantinople, supported by imperial authority and by a variety of concurring advantages, was given the right of precedency over the Patriarch of Alexandria. But neither Rome nor Alexandria recognized the claim until many years later. During the first two centuries of our era, though Egypt enjoyed unusual quiet, little is known of the ecclesiastical history of its chief see, beyond a barren list of the names of its patriarchs, handed down to us chiefly through the church historian Eusebius. [3]

All denominations acknowledge the succession of church leaders until the time of the monophysite Second Council of Ephesus (the so-called "Robber Council") of 449 and the orthodox Council of Chalcedon in 451, which gave rise to the non-Chalcedonian Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and the Chalcedonian Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria.[ citation needed]

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