Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More on the Late Patriarchate

Now we know why Cardinal Kasper got called in for an audience the other day....

On 1 March -- Ash Wednesday -- a flurry of stories reported that the new edition of the Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican's statistical yearbook, did not include the title "Patriarch of the West" among the Pope's official distinctions.

As no statement was released from the Holy See at that time, widespread speculation abounded as to why the decision was made.

This morning, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity issued the following press release on the move, which it has termed a "suppression" -- i.e. "don't come lookin' 'round here for it anymore."

The Whispers translation from the original Italian:
The Annuario Pontificio 2006 is lacking, in the listing of the Pope's titles, the title "Patriarch of the West." This absence has been commented on in different ways and requires a clarification.

Without the pretext of considering the complex historical questions of the title of Patriarch in all its aspects, the historical point of view can be affirmed that the ancient Patriarchates of the East, fixed by the Councils of Constantinople (381) and Chalcedon (451), were related to a territory already clearly circumscribed, while the territory of the See of the Bishop of Rome remained vague. In the East, in the ambit of the imperial ecclesiastical system of Justinian (527-65), together with the four Oriental Patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem), the Pope was included as Patriarch of the West. Inversely, Rome honored the idea of the three Petrine episcopal sees: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. [Note: the Pope spoke about these in his General Audience catechesis on 22 February, translated here.] Without using the title of "Patriarch of the West," the Fourth Council of Constantinople (869-70), the Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) and the Council of Florence (1439) listed the Pope as the first of the then-five Patriarchs.

The title of "Patriarch of the West" was adopted in the year 642 by Pope Theodore I. Its following uses were rare and were not clearly significant. Its flourishing came in the 16th and 17th centuries, during which time the Pope's titles multiplied; in the Annuario Pontificio it appeared for the first time in 1863.

Currently the significance of the term "the West" recalls a cultural dispute which refers not solely to Western Europe, but extends itself to the United States of America to Australia and New Zealand, which are differentiated by other cultural disputes. Obviously this significance of the term "the West" does not intend to describe an ecclesiastical territory nor is it meant to be adopted as the definition of a patriarchal territory. If it's desired to give to the area of "the West" a significance applicable to the lexicon of ecclesiastical juridics, there would only be able to be such an inclusion in reference to the Latin Church. Therefore, the title "Patriarch of the West" would describe the special relation of the Bishop of Rome to this end, and would express the particular jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome for the Latin Church.

As a result, the title "Patriarch of the West," lacking clarity from its beginning and in its evolution from history, became obsolete and practically no longer useful. It appears, therefore, deprived of sense to insist on dragging it along. This has become more the case for Catholic Church which, with the Second Vatican Council, has found in the form of the Episcopal Conferences and of the international meetings of Episcopal Conferences the canonical ordering adequate to the necessities of today.

To omit the title of "Patriarch of the West" clearly changes nothing in the recognition, so solemnly declared by the Second Vatican Council, of the ancient Patriarchal Churches (Lumen Gentium 23). Even less, this suppresion can seek to say that it understands new claims. The renunciation of the said title wishes to express a historical and theological reality and, at the same time, to be the leaving behind of a pretense, the renouncement of which could contribute to the benefit of ecumenical dialogue.