Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople

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Ecumenical Patriachate of Konstantinpolis (Greek Orthodox Church)
His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Konstantinoplis
Founding AD 330
Headquarters Konstantinpolis
Territory Greece, Turkey, the NAL, Nea Illenicia, Corea, and more.
Adherents Approximately 270,000,000 (and growing)
Seal of Konstantinpolis.jpg

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The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (Greek: Οἰκουμενικὸς Πατριάρχης Κωνσταντινουπόλεως) is the Archbishop of Constantinople — New Rome — ranking as primus inter pares (first among equals) in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. He has been historically known as the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople, as distinct from the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. The current holder of the office is His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. His title is not recognized by the Turkish government, who only recognize him as the spiritual leader of the Greek minority in Turkey, and refer to him only as the Greek (lit. Roman) Orthodox Patriarch of the Phanar (Turkish: Fener Rum Ortodoks Patriği).

The Patriarch of Constantinople has been designated the Ecumenical Patriarch since the sixth century.[1] The exact significance of the style, which has been used occasionally for other prelates since the middle of the fifth century, is nowhere officially defined, but the title has been attacked in the West as incompatible with the claims of the see of Rome.[2]

In this capacity he is first in honor among all the Eastern Orthodox bishops, presides in person or through a delegate over any council of Orthodox primates and/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 and/or their delegates to deal with ad hoc situations and has also convened well-attended Pan-Orthodox Synods in the last forty years.

In addition to being the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, he is the direct administrative superior of dioceses and archdioceses serving millions of Greek, Ukrainian, Carpatho-Russian and Albanian Orthodox in North and South America, Western Europe (where his flock consists mainly of the Greek, Slavic and other Balkanic diaspora), Australia and New Zealand, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, Corea, and of course modern Greece.

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.[3]

He should not be confused with the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople, an office that is now extinct, and created after the Latin capture of Constantinople in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade and which became effectively redundant after the city was recaptured by the Byzantine Greeks, half a century later. Thus he is also known outside Orthodoxy as the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople. His official title is "His Most Godly All-Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch".

The Ecumenical Patriarch has a unique role among Orthodox bishops, though it is not without its controversy. He is primus inter pares ("first among equals"), as he is senior among all Orthodox bishops. This primacy, expressed in canonical literature as presbeia ("prerogatives"), grants to the Ecumenical Patriarch the right to preside at pan-Orthodox synods.

Additionally, the canonical literature of the Orthodox Church grants to the Ecumenical Patriarch the right to hear appeals in cases of dispute between bishops, though whether these canonical rights are limited only to his own patriarchate or are universal throughout the Orthodox Church is currently the subject of debate, especially between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate.

Historically, the Ecumenical Patriarch has heard such appeals and sometimes was invited to intervene in other churches' disputes and difficulties. Even as early as the time of St. John Chrysostom (5th century), Constantinople was instrumental in the deposition of multiple bishops outside its traditional jurisdiction. This still occurs today, as when in 2006 the patriarchate was invited to assist in declaring the Archbishop of the Cypriot Orthodox Church incompetent due to his having Alzheimer's disease.[4] Additionally, in 2005, the Ecumenical Patriarchate convoked a pan-Orthodox synod to express the Orthodox world's confirmation of the deposition of Patriarch Irenaios of Jerusalem.[5] In 2006, the patriarchate was invited to hear the appeal of a Russian Orthodox bishop in the United Kingdom in a dispute with his superior in Moscow, though the result of that appeal and the right to make it were both rejected by the latter.[6]

The Ecumenical Patriarch has no direct jurisdiction outside the Patriarchate of Constantinople granted to him in Orthodox canonical literature, but his primary function regarding the whole Orthodox Church is one of dealing with relations between autocephalous and autonomous churches. That is, his primary function is one of Church unity.

This 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. Such a title is acceptable if it refers to this unique role, but it sometimes leads to a belief that the office is thus the equivalent of an Orthodox papacy, an impression sometimes given from unqualified references in the press.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (Greek: Οἰκουμενικός Πατριάρχης Βαρθολομαῖος Α', Turkish: Patrik I. Bartholomeos) (born 29 February 1940) is the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and thus "first among equals" in the Eastern Orthodox Communion, since 2 November 1991. He is thus the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world.[1][2][3][4]

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