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The Primacy of the See of Constantinople in Theory and Practice*

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Lewis Patsavos

The Primacy of the See of Constantinople within the Orthodox Church is based on canons of several Ecumenical Councils, as well as on the longstanding tradition and practice of the. A primacy of honor (presveia times) was accorded the Bishop of Constantinople by canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council (381). He was thereby elevated in rank to first place (protothronos) among all bishops in the East, a position of honor held until then by the Bishop of Alexandria. The position of honor accorded the Bishop of Constantinople brought with it genuine authority (exousia). This is made evident by several factors including: appeals from other churches; the importance of the Resident Synod (Endemousa Synodos); the authority exercised by several renowned patriarchs such as Saint John Chrysostom, who involved themselves with matters beyond the territorial limits of the Church of Constantinople (such as evangelizing the Goths and Scythians among others, and reforming the independent dioceses of Pontos, Asia, and Thrace).

*A paper delivered in October, 1990 at the 41st meeting of the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Bilateral Consultation in Brighton, Massachusetts.

It will be the purpose of this paper to recall the historical foundations which established the primacy of the see of Constantinople. The remainder of the paper will then focus upon the actual exercise of authority, and indeed primacy, in the past and especially in the present, both within the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself and among the other patriarchates and autocephalous churches. Besides listing the way in which primacy has been expressed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate up to the present, this paper provides an appendix with the views of three contemporary theologians on the same subject. From all four sources, it is apparent that the honorary primacy claimed by the See of Constantinople has not only been necessary but substantive. This, of course, is not to disclaim occasional instances of abuse and distortion in the exercise of primacy. One may cite here the patriarchal reign of Philotheos Kokkinos in the fourteenth century, who understood his "primacy of honor" in terms of universal authority. One may also make mention of arbitrary interventions in the affairs of other local churches, especially during the Ottoman period when such interventions were partly conditioned by historical circumstances. One recognizes these abuses, one does not condone them. However, one ought not because of them to challenge an institution which is not only fortified with primatial authority historically, but has also successfully and courageously withstood the attempts of others to undermine it.


First Ecumenical Synod

The beginnings of a position of preeminence accorded certain exceptional sees are found in canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council (325). The text of the canon follows:

Let the ancient customs prevail; that is to say those in Egypt, Libya, and the Pentapolis, which give the Bishop in Alexandria power over all these areas, since the same is also customary for the Bishop in Rome. In the same way in Antioch, and in the other provinces, the prerogatives are to be preserved for the Churches. It must be quite clear: if someone is made a bishop against the will of the metropolitan, the Great Council has resolved that he ought not to be a bishop. Yet if two or three bishops for reasons of personal contentiousness oppose the common vote of all, provided it is fair and follows ecclesiastical rule, let the votes of the majority prevail.[1]

Although this canon has been understood in several ways,[2] its mention here is meant to highlight the commonly accepted principle of the regional primacy of certain local churches as a historical fact. Specifically, the canon recognizes the elevated status of the bishops of Alexandria and Antioch above the other bishops in certain defined areas. Furthermore, it bases this status on "ancient custom." There is no mention of the bishop of Constantinople due to the fact that this see was as yet an insignificant little town, destined, however, from then on to become the imperial capital of the Byzantine State.[3] With the reconciliation of Church and State, the former adapted its organization to the administrative structure of the latter. As a result, the canons of the First Ecumenical Council reflect the principle according to which the secular importance of certain cities constitutes a canonical norm necessary for the exercise of greater regional authority.[4] Simultaneously, however, they also take seriously into account what is referred to as "ancient custom." Most often the secular capital of the province was also the mother church or "metropolis," hence "metropolitan" for its bishop, from which Christianity was originally introduced into the region.[5] In any event, canon 6 recognized the great ecclesiastical authority of the three sees it mentions by name, Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, thereby establishing an important canonical precedent for regional primacy in general.

Second Ecumenical Council

What began with canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council, namely the elevation in authority of certain important ecclesiastical centers, was furthered by canons 2 and 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council (381). Canon 2 determined that ecclesiastical territories and secular boundaries were to coincide, thereby introducing a new order in the hierarchy both for the spheres of jurisdiction of each local Church and for their organization within the Church universal.[6] Furthermore, it opposed uncanonical activity in other dioceses. Canon 3, for its part, deprived the bishop of Alexandria of a position of primacy in the East by according the bishop of Constantinople prerogatives of honor {presveia times) after the bishop of Rome, because Constantinople was the new Rome.[7] It is evident from these two canons at least, that "patriarchal" territories can be cited as early as the fourth century, although the term was not yet in use. It is clear that the five great ecclesiastical centers of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, later known as patriarchates, did not exist then as they were later to be recognized by the Fourth Ecumenical Council. Canon 3, especially, established the beginning of a recognition, or consciousness, of the prerogatives of honor inherent in the see (later Patriarchate) of Constantinople. This recognition was strengthened by canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and proclaimed by the celebrated canon 28 of the same council. A close investigation of their content assists in shedding light on the reasons for the prerogatives of honor claimed by the see of Constantinople, and for her role in world Orthodoxy.

First and foremost, canon 3 for the first time mentions the Church of Constantinople as occupying a position of prominence among the other churches of the East:

The bishop of Constantinople has the prerogatives of honor after the bishop of Rome, because Constantinople is the New Rome.[8]

Admittedly, difficulties in interpreting the meaning of the term presveia times have led scholars to a variety of conclusions. Some claim that it implies only a priority of honor or simple precedence, others that it entails constitutional order, or essential jurisdiction and power. Some scholars even support the view that the term pertains to the bishop of Constantinople personally and not to his see. Others again interpret this canon in the light of canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council.[9] Accordingly, presveia times associated with the see of Constantinople must be understood as placing it second to Rome in honor, not first. Rome continued to be first. Constantinople was to be second in rank and honor. However, this status was not to effect her influence and authority in dealing with important ecclesiastical issues.

In reality, this canon was exclusively aimed against Alexandria, not against Rome.[10] It was also the first stage in Constantinople's canonical elevation and gave meaning to the situation created by Constantinople's secular status by according its bishop presveia times. This situation was the result of the elevation of Constantinople to the new capital of the Eastern Empire. The exaltation of the see of Constantinople as the first ecclesiastical center of the East was a natural consequence. Canon 3 was not an arbitrary innovation. It was the result of development spanning a period of fifty years.

Furthermore, the presveia were not simply honorary distinctions in hierarchical order. They involved genuine power in a corresponding relationship with the privileges of other bishops. This is confirmed by the fact that the First Ecumenical Council accepted the importance of ethos (ancient custom), recognized the exousia (jurisdictional power) of the bishop of Alexandria over Egypt, Libya, and the Pen-tapolis, and took note of the exousia of the bishop of Rome. The presveia are seen here as exousia, because the authority of the provincial synod's decisions was given to the first bishop, the metropolitan, whose opinion was important and necessary.

It is also interesting to note the interpretations of the twelfth century Byzantine commentators Zonaras and Balsamon of canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council. They underscore the essential importance of the metropolitan, the weight of his opinion and indispensable consent, even if it is in opposition to the majority decision of those under his authority.[11] Finally, canon 3 makes clear that the presveia times of Constantinople represented genuine authority and were prerogatives of a general kind over the eastern half of the empire. They must, therefore, be seen as an active, practical power within the Eastern Church, demonstrated among other things by the authority of the bishop of Constantinople to resolve issues brought to him on appeal.

An example of such an issue was the case involving the deposition of Metropolitan Bagadios of Bostra by Bishops Cyril and Palladlos.[12] The case was brought before the council of Constantinople in 394. Rather than judge the case, the council simply restated the principle that bishops must not depose another bishop. Instead, they should await the resolution of the synod of all the provincial bishops. As the presiding hierarch of the synod, Nektarios analyzed the case first and presented his decision, which was accepted by those present. This was the first step in the practical application of Constantinople's prerogatives which consolidated the hierarchical order as defined in canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council.

There is also the case of Bosporios, the bishop of Kolonia, which Gregory the Theologian referred to Nektarios' judgment. Gregory's aim was twofold: to prohibit recourse to the civil courts as a means of resolving ecclesiastical matters, and to settle disputes over parishes.

Additionally, there is the case of the deacon Gerontios, who had been punished by Bishop Ambrose of Milan and sought refuge in Constantinople. There he succeeded in gaining the court's favor and in being consecrated metropolitan of Nikomedia by Helladios of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Annoyed by this, Ambrose appealed his complaint not to Helladios but to Nektarios. It thus appears that, at least as early as Nektarios' time, the bishop of Constantinople did indeed intervene and exercise real power over Cappadocia and Bithynia, which are provinces of Pontos. Also, through his increasingly influential role in the Resident Synod, which brought together bishops of other local churches present (residing) in the capital, he had become arbitrator and judge of the entire church of the East.

Lastly, there are several instances when Saint John Chrysostom, in the role of first bishop of the East and president of the Resident Synod, exercised the prerogative of supreme judge both in Asia and Bithynia. As such, he deposed hierarchs considered unworthy and replaced them with his own appointees. Furthermore, by hearing cases outside his immediate jurisdiction, he fulfilled in a real way the prerogatives established by canon 3 of 381. In Chrysostom we see the presveia times and the jurisdiction of Constantinople extended not merely across the dioceses of Pontos, Asia, and Thrace, but beyond the frontiers of the Roman Empire as well. In this way, one might claim Chrysostom as the forerunner of the work accomplished by the Fourth Ecumenical Council in its celebrated canon 28.

Before considering the importance of canons 9, 17, and 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council as they relate to the historical development and practical application of the presveia times, let us summarize what has been said up to now. It is clear that the fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council recognized and confirmed the historical situation created by the new developments of Christian expansion. They, therefore, bestowed upon the church of Constantinople, which was the spiritual center of the new Greco-Roman Empire, its due position and its due presveia.

The rise of Constantinople's authority is a result of several factors:

  1. the importance of the new capital for the Christian world and the historical significance of its bishop's role;
  2. the role of the bishop of Constantinople as intermediary between the emperor and the bishops coming to the capital to settle their provincial affairs;
  3. the existence of the Resident Synod, which contributed greatly to the prestige of the bishop of the capital;
  4. the aura of grandeur associated with the patriarchal office, especially to those seeking to come under the authority of a new, more vigorous patriarchate;
  5. the charisma of some of its more illustrious bishops, such as Saint John Chrysostom;
  6. the cultural affinity of the dioceses of Thrace, Asia, and Pontos to Constantinople.
Fourth Ecumenical Council

Having established the importance of canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council in the development of the role of the see of Constantinople, we turn to canons 9, 17 and 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. In this discussion, we shall consider canons 9 and 17 together because of their similarity. We shall then summarize the significance of canon 28.

The importance of canons 9 and 17 lies in the fact that they recognize in the bishop of Constantinople the ultimate authority in disagreements between bishops and metropolitans. Both deal with disputes and subsequent appeals to the greater authority.[13]

The salient portion of canon 9 reads as follows:

If however a clergyman has a case against his own or another bishop, he is to be tried by the synod of the province. If a bishop or a clergyman has a dispute with the metropolitan of the same province, he is to repair to the exarch of the diocese, or to the throne of the imperial capital, Constantinople, and be tried before him.[14]

In canon 17 the key section is the following:

If anyone is wronged by his own metropolitan he is to be tried, as has been said before, by the exarch of the diocese or by the throne of Constantinople.[15]

In both cases, bishops and other clergy dissatisfied with their metropolitan are not compelled by the council to appeal to the see of Constantinople, thereby overturning the decision of the exarch of the diocese. On the contrary, they are given this option only if they so desire. It is evident that a voluntary process of appeal is recognized due to the, by now, well-established seniority of the imperial city. In this sense, the Byzantine commentator Balsamon recognizes in the bishop of Constantinople the same judicial prerogatives as in the bishop of Rome. Accordingly, in the case of the bishop of Rome, he understands these prerogatives as authorizing him to hear appeals in cases involving bishops already examined in provincial and other synods. These same prerogatives are also attributed to the bishop of Constantinople. This is further seen in Balsamon's interpretation of canon 12 of the Synod of Antioch: "The Second Ecumenical Council and the Fourth gave the Patriarch of Constantinople the prerogatives of the pope, and determined that both should be honored over all (others)."[16]

Similarly, in his widely circulated manual of Byzantine Law, Syntagma, Matthew Blastaris, the renowned canonist of the fourteenth century, cites the following from the Epanagoge, a remarkable monument of Byzantine law:

The throne of Constantinople, honored by the imperial office, was designated first by conciliar decisions; the divine laws which succeeded these decisions decree that disputes occurring in the jurisdictional areas of other thrones should be referred to the judgment and verdict of that throne.[17]

From the above, it is thus possible to draw the following conclusions regarding canons 9 and 17:

  1. Because he was in the capital, the bishop of Constantinople gained increasingly in prestige and authority in the East, such as that enjoyed by the bishop of Rome in the West.
  2. As head of the church of the capital, he was in close proximity to the emperor and court. This contributed significantly to his advancement in prominence and authority even beyond the limits of his immediate jurisdiction.
  3. The Resident Synod, of which he was presiding hierarch, contributed greatly to his projection. The other members of this synod were bishops who had come to the capital to seek favors or resolve problems. The Resident Synod was a way of accomplishing the latter.
  4. The Resident Synod is the last stage in the organizational development of the synod as reflected in the canons, beginning with the provincial synod.
  5. Canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council afford the right to bishops and clergy in general with grievances against their metropolitans to appeal their case to the exarch of the diocese, here understood to refer to those bishops later known as patriarchs, or to the see of Constantinople.
  6. Canons 9 and 17 recognize the right of the bishop of Constantinople to hear, upon appeal, disputed cases of all kinds which have already been examined by other sees.
  7. The prerogative of supreme judicial authority made the see of Constantinople the highest ecclesiastical court in the East, a similar prerogative accorded the bishop of Rome in the West by the canons of Sardica.
  8. This prerogative ought not to be seen as a violation of the rights of other sees, in view of the fact that the bishop of Constantinople intervened only upon request by the litigants.
Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council

In our study of the canonical foundations of the presveia times accorded the see of Constantinople, we must focus attention upon canon 28. Canons 9 and 17 must he seen as the prelude to this famous canon. At the same time, it is important to note that they do not introduce any innovation in church administration. On the contrary, they invested with canonical authority a custom which had taken root before. Canon 28, on the other hand, completed the jurisdictional power and increased authority of the bishop of Constantinople.

Also germane to the significance of canon 28 and its origins is the desire of the church of Constantinople to pursue missionary activity within lands beyond the Byzantine commonwealth. The success of this pursuit is well known, and as a result of this colossal task the church of Constantinople grew to exceptional importance. Additionally, the spread of monophysitism brought with it the division of the Christian world, as well as the rupture of the empire's spiritual cohesion. It was, therefore, considered imperative to consolidate the position of the church of Constantinople. Canon 28 was the classic example of the reverence and honor in which the bishop of the imperial capital was held in the East. It was furthermore the canonical formulation of the historical reality resulting from events in the Christian East. The text of the canon follows:

We, following in all things the decisions of the holy Fathers, and acknowledging the canon of the hundred and fifty most religious bishops which has just been read, do also determine and decree the same things respecting the prerogatives of the most holy church of Constantinople, New Rome. For the Fathers properly gave the prerogatives to the throne of Old Rome, because that was the imperial city. And the hundred and fifty most religious bishops, being moved with the same intention, gave equal prerogatives to the most holy throne of New Rome judging with reason that the city which was honored with the imperial office and the senate and which enjoyed equal prerogatives to the elder imperial Rome should also be magnified like her in ecclesiastical matters, being the second after her.

And we also decree that the metropolitans only of the Pontic, and Asian, and Thracian dioceses, and moreover the bishops of the aforesaid dioceses who are amongst the barbarians, shall be ordained by the above-mentioned most holy throne of the most holy church of Constantinople; each metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses ordaining the bishops of the province, as has been declared by the holy canons; but the metropolitans themselves of the said dioceses, shall, as has been said, be ordained by the bishop of Constantinople, the proper elections being made according to custom, and reported to him.[18]

The canon falls into two main parts. The first is a repetition and ratification of canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council, which had not been recognized by the entire Church as having universal authority. The second is a recognition of the authority exercised by the bishop of Constantinople over the dioceses of Thrace, Asia, and Pontos, as well as over the bishops of those dioceses described as "among the barbarians" (ετη 6ε xcù τους εν τοις βαρβαριχοΤς). It also grants him the exclusive prerogative of consecrating the metropolitans of these dioceses, together with their bishops who are "among the barbarians." In effect, he is recognized as exercising a prerogative which had already been in practice for a long time. It is clear that by repeating and ratifying canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council, the fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council were confirming its assessment of the bishop of Constantinople. As a result, they were now defining with precision the areas where his authority as protos exarchos and πατριάρχης should extend.

Three principles may be lifted from the canon:

  1. Prestige and authority of a church are the result of its influence and increased intervention in the affairs of other churches.
  2. The bishops of the most important cities held a position of honor and exercised appropriate influence.
  3. The status of Rome served as a precedent and as a useful model.

The fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council determined the rank and honor of the see of Constantinople. Their determination was that its prerogatives were equal to those of the bishop of Rome. In Canon 28 they defined his proper territory, jurisdiction, and power and subordinated to his administration and pastoral care the three large exarchates of the empire-Pontos, Asia, and Thrace. Finally, in contradistinction to the then prevailing practice in Rome and Alexandria to consecrate all provincial bishops within their jurisdiction, this was not the practice of the church of Constantinople according to canon 28.

The meaning of the clause "έν τοις ßocpßocptxoic" presents a problem. According to the view supported by S. Troitsky,[19] the word βάρβαρος in canon 28 can be used in one of two ways: in a geographical sense to indicate a certain area in relation to the borders of the empire, or in an ethnological sense to denote those outside the empire converted to the Christian faith. If understood in the first sense, it must be accepted that all regions beyond the empire have been entrusted to the see of Constantinople; if, on the other hand, in the latter sense, then the claim of Constantinople to exercise authority over all Orthodox in the "diaspora" loses weight.

In deference to the view that "barbaros" is an ethnological and not a geographical term, the church of Constantinople has always maintained that the canonical legacy of the

Fourth Ecumenical Council proves without a doubt the following:

  1. Ecclesiastically the church of Constantinople occupied the first place in the East. Furthermore, its administrative and judicial jurisdiction was extensive and continued to expand.
  2. Areas not claimed by a specific ecclesiastical jurisdiction were under the authority of the bishop of Constantinople.
  3. Similarly, the see of Constantinople heard appeals even from clergy of ecclesiastical regions beyond its immediate jurisdiction. Consequently, canon 28 does not merely reiterate canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council. It gives canonical status and new meaning to a "de facto" ecclesiastical situation. Just as canon 3 of 381 awarded πρεσβεία τιμής to the bishop of Constantinople, in like manner, canon 28 awarded him ίσα πρεσβεία to those enjoyed by the Bishop of Rome.

A question posed when considering the canonical principle given expression in canon 28 and ratified by canon 36 of the Penthekte Ecumenical Council has to do with the theory in the East of the pentarchy of patriarchs. Is this theory compromised by canon 28 and thereby contradicted? According to the theory of the pentarchy, there are four divisions of the civilized world divided among five patriarchs. Just as there are only five senses in the human body, there can only be five patriarchs in the Church of Christ. The corollary of this conviction is that the administration of the Church can only be correct when exercised harmoniously by the five patriarchs as if by the five senses of the body.

Nevertheless, in the history of the Eastern Church the above posture never excluded the possibility of elevation in status and prestige of one or more of the patriarchs without the others being reduced to a level of insignificance. It is true that the pentarchy theory has never been considered essential from the point of view of ecclesiology or canonical tradition. It is equally true that the basic principles of canonical order and ecclesiastical organization are not violated by according the see of Constantinople the right to hear appeals originating beyond its territorial limits.

In summation, it must be asserted that from the end of the fourth century the bishop of Constantinople had exercised the authority which canon 28 recognized as his legitimate prerogative without opposition in the East. This fact is significant when one considers that the prerogatives of the bishops of Alexandria and Antioch were greatly reduced during the course of the fifth and sixth centuries. The churches of the East looked to New Rome for support and inspiration in their difficult struggles against heresy. The study of the canonical foundations of the πρεσβεία τιμής of Constantinople and the practical application of her resulting privileges is most instructional. It discounts the notion of arbitrary innovation in the development of ecclesiastical structure, reflecting a natural order within ecclesiastical affairs.

The Administrative Structure of the Patriarchal See of Constantinople[20]

Throughout its long history, the patriarchal see of Constantinople has upheld a synodal system of administration as required by canon 2 of the Second Ecumenical Council.[21] A variety of synods have convened within its territory.[22] These have included ecumenical and regional synods, as well as provincial synods meeting at first biannually and then annually, and resident synods meeting exceptionally and then regularly. Taking part in the latter have been both active and retired hierarchs of the see of Constantinople. When the seriousness of the issues under consultation warranted, patriarchs from the other patriarchates of the East also participated.

Related to the Resident Synod, especially from the mid-eighteenth century when it met more frequently was the institution of the γέροντες (the venerable hierarchs of certain diocesan sees), which developed at about the same time. Γεροντισμός, brought about with approval of the Ottomans, had both strengths and weaknesses. Those hierarchs designated as γέροντες occupied the thrones of what were mostly the historic and distinguished metropolitan sees in the vicinity of Constantinople, such as Herakleia, Kyzikos, Nikaia, Nikomedia, Chalcedon, and later Derkos, Caesarea, and Ephesos. Thus, elevated to a rank of prominence among the metropolitan sees of the patriarchate, these eight γέροντες exercised a greater degree of authority and influence upon its affairs. The institution of the γέροντες was eventually abolished by the General Regulations in the last century. It was at that time that the familiar permanent Holy Synod appeared, which from then on became the established administrative body of the Patriarchate.

The regularity and composition of these synods, including the participation of distinguished clerics (other than hierarchs) and lay persons, were not foreseen by any regulation. On the contrary, they were coincidental, and for the most part necessitated by circumstances. Some of the participating clerics became the privy council of the patriarch, especially in matters related to the Archdiocese of Constantinople.

The laity became increasingly active in the administrative life of the Church, especially after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Their role was significantly strengthened by the influential Phanariots and by the Committee for the Public (Επιτροπή τον Κοινού) established within the patriarchate. It reached the zenith of its development with the permanent national mixed council, a body imposed by the Ottomans, which appeared in the nineteenth century.

Among the more notable manifestations of ecclesiastical administration, which are also the object of fundamental legislative decrees, are the election of bishops, and indeed that of the patriarch. As to the extent of involvement of the lay element in this process of election in the early Church, there is no clear evidence of a consistent process upon which to base one's assumptions.

As stated previously, after the fall of the empire the see of Constantinople was administered by the patriarch and synod. Due to the extenuating circumstances at the time, the synod did not preoccupy itself with the creation of ordinances. The needs of the Church at that time called for a different approach to the maintenance of order and preservation of unity. As a result, without relinquishing his primarily spiritual mission in favor of a worldly one, the patriarch was recognized as the ethnarch, or leader of his people in matters related to ethnic identity, religious, and minority rights.

This new role given the patriarch of Constantinople extended beyond the boundaries of his ecclesiastical territory to include the other Eastern patriarchates within the Ottoman Empire as well.[23] It was not uncommon, in fact, for patriarchs of these jurisdictions of the East to be elected in Constantinople and to reside there indefinitely. Because of the significant role played by the Church, she was accorded privileges by the Ottomans to regulate the affairs of Christians related both to their personal and public lives. These included family and educational matters, as well as penal acts on occasion. This, of course, did not preclude the occasional violation of the privileges granted and arbitrary interference on the part of the Ottoman state.

With the absence, therefore, of other regulations, legislative decrees in the realm of ecclesiastical administration during this time period are found in the following: canonical definitions, imperial decrees, chrysobulls, tomes, memoranda, encyclicals and decisions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, local customs, and traditions. Beginning in the seventeenth century, several attempts were made to adopt a code of regulations by which to administer the patriarchate. This was finally accomplished in the second half of the nineteenth century with the adoption of the General or National Regulations of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which were subsequently ratified by the Turkish government, thereby becoming laws of the state.

Opinions vary as to the actual effectiveness of the Regulations in the administration of the Patriarchate. On the one hand, there are those who viewed the newly developed relations between Church and State favorably;[24] on the other, there are those who considered the Regulations detrimental.[25] In any event, the Patriarchate continued to function according to the Regulations until 1923, occasional arbitrary interventions on the part of the Turkish government notwithstanding[26] Their validity ceased at that time with the Treaty of Lausanne, based upon which the role of the Patriarchate was strictly limited to religious matters.[27]

By this time, the venerable churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Cyprus had recovered full responsibility for their own administration. Furthermore, in the nineteenth century, metropolitan sees and bishoprics of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in liberated areas such as the Balkan peninsula began to seek ecclesiastical independence once political independence was secured. Thus, each of these became administratively self-governing with its own decrees and administrative bodies. As stated in the ecclesiastical tomes which established them, however, their relationship to the church of Constantinople remains that of a daughter to a mother. Moreover, the proclamation of these onetime dependencies as autonomous or autocephalous churches enhanced the opportunities and responsibilities of the patriarchate to oversee and take initiative for the issues affecting all of Orthodoxy. It thereby also preserved the patriarchate's precedence among all the churches of world Orthodoxy.

Since 1923, the church of Constantinople within the Republic of Turkey has been administered by the holy canons, ecclesiastical decrees, the law of custom, and several of the previous regulations retained by common assent. In view of the absence of a subsequent statutory regulation, these are the sources directly invoked by the administrative bodies of the patriarchate to substantiate their decisions affecting the life of the Church. The Patriarchate functions as an exclusively religious and spiritual institution. It has the status of a free church within a secular, religiously indifferent state, the absolute majority of whose citizens are Muslims.

The dioceses of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the continents of Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas also retain the status of free churches within secular states, the majority of whose citizens are Christians. In countries where the official religions are Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, or Lutheranism, its dioceses have the same status. In Greece and Finland, their status is that of a state church.

There are four active dioceses headed by a metropolitan within Turkey today. Other metropolitans bearing the titles of earlier dioceses within the jurisdiction of the patriarchate, although today without a flock, are also considered active. Additional provinces of the Ecumenical Throne include the following: the "new provinces" in northern Greece (annexed to the Church of Greece in 1928), the semiautonomous Church of Crete, the four dioceses of the Dodecanese Islands, the Archdiocese of North and South America, the Archdiocese of Australia, the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, five remaining dioceses in Europe headed by metropolitans, and the autonomous Archdiocese of Finland.

Archbishops and metropolitans of the Ecumenical Throne are subject to the authority of the Patriarchate. Titles of preeminence are reserved for the heads of autonomous churches or for metropolitans with broad jurisdictional authority. Provincial bishops, titular metropolitans and titular bishops, who are auxiliaries to the patriarch, metropolitans or archbishops, are also within the Patriarchate's sphere of authority.

The elections of all those promoted to the episcopacy are carried out by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate based on the instructions of the holy canons. An exception is the church of Crete, which carries out the elections of hierarchs with the participation of her synod according to her own statutory charter.


The position of authority and leadership of the church of Constantinople within world Orthodoxy is especially demonstrated in the life and practice of the Church. By recalling specific incidents in the actual practice of πρεσβεία τιμής during three separate periods, we shall in the final section of this paper present an historical overview of this practice.[28] The three periods extend:

  1. from the Fourth Ecumenical Council to 1453;
  2. from 1453 to the nineteenth century; and
  3. from the nineteenth century to today. Following this historical overview, we shall review the prerogatives maintained by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in its desire to preserve order, in love, in service to world Orthodoxy.[29]
From the Fourth Ecumenical Council to 1453

Following the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the privileged position of the Church of Constantinople in the East was accepted as fact. At the same time, her territorial limits were extended, surpassing those of the other churches in the East in size and importance. Orthodox remnants of the Armenian and Iberian churches became subject to the church of Constantinople in the seventh century, and as a direct result of her subsequent missionary activity, new churches were founded in Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia, and Wallachia. Several events substantiate the above statements.

1) As a result of a long schism in Egypt which saw the ascendancy of a Monophysite bishop to the throne of Alexandria, the Orthodox clergy together with their bishop sought the emperor's intervention. The issue was remanded to the bishop of Constantinople Anatolios and his synod, who condemned the usurper, thereby exercising judicial authority over the Alexandrian throne.

2) The see of Constantinople continued to exercise authority over the affairs of the church of Alexandria in the person of Bishop Anatolios' successor. During his tenure in office, he succeeded in having the earlier Monophysite bishop exiled again and an Orthodox bishop elected.

3) At the same time, the Monophysite problem in the see of Antioch prompted its bishop to seek the support of Bishop Gennadios of Constantinople. As a result, the former's Monophysite adversary was eventually exiled and replaced by another Orthodox bishop.

4) Longstanding doctrinal controversies contributed to the emergence of the bishops of Constantinople as the actual patriarchs of the entire Eastern Church. This was due to the fact that the struggles in the capital against Monophysitism were waged with the collaboration of emperor and patriarch (bishop of Constantinople).

5) With the rise of Islam in the late seventh century, the diminishing influence of the onetime flourishing sees of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem became apparent, although they were politically independent. When they again became part of the Byzantine Empire by reconquest and were thereby aligned ecclesiastically with the see of Constantinople, the preeminence of the latter was evident.

6) With the Persian conquest of Antioch in 611, the patriarchs of Antioch resided for a time in Constantinople in exile and were elected there. Subsequent political events determined the way this arrangement was to develop in the future. Nevertheless, patriarchs of Antioch continued for the most part to reside and be elected in Constantinople until the late thirteenth century.

7) A similar humiliation was endured by the patriarchs of Jerusalem when that city was occupied by the Arabs in 638, although they were not expelled until much later by the Crusaders.

There are other instances in which the see of Constantinople intervened in the affairs of other churches based on the πρεσβεία τιμής. One may mention here a sentence of deposition by Archbishop John of Cyprus and his synod which was overturned by the patriarch of Constantinople Loukas Chrysoberges in the late twelfth century. Similarly, there was the refusal of the Ecumenical Patriarch Kallistos I two centuries later to recognize claims of the archbishop of Trnovo and all Bulgaria to actual patriarchal privileges.

The contribution of the church of Constantinople to the Christianization of Rus' is well known. Until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the metropolitans of Russia, with few exceptions, were nominated by the patriarchs of Constantinople. There are also many documented instances of intervention by Constantinople to resolve sensitive canonical matters not only in the church of Rus,' but in other churches of the East as well. Suffice it to say that despite the gradual decline of the Byzantine Empire during this period of time, the see of Constantinople continued to exert great influence in the East and to play a pivotal role in projecting the ecumenical character of Orthodoxy. In fact, the advice and approval of Constantinople was frequently sought by the other Eastern churches. Once secured, approval of ecclesiastical policy by Constantinople usually determined its acceptance by all other Churches in the East. Nevertheless, in the self-awareness of its role within world Orthodoxy, the see of Constantinople has never used these privileges to subjugate the churches over which her influence has been exerted.

From 1453 to the Nineteenth Century

With the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453, the patriarch was recognized both as a religious leader and the symbolic head or ethnarch for all Orthodox Christians within the empire. During this period, the patriarchate of Constantinople also kept a constant vigil over the internal and external affairs and life of the other three patriarchates necessitated by their weakened state and gradual decline. Numerous examples exist of intervention by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the affairs of these patriarchates and other autocephalous Churches as well, when required. Included in this period are the churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Russia, and Cyprus. Examples cited are the following:[30]

1) In 1660, the Ecumenical Patriarch and his synod elected a patriarch for the see of Alexandria, an action which was to be repeated for this see many times until 1870.

2) In 1665, the patriarchal synod of Constantinople deposed Patriarch Paisios of Alexandria.

3) In its exercise of pastoral care over the see of Antioch, the patriarchate of Constantinople acted as arbitrator in disputes and deposed controversial patriarchs and metropolitans.

4) Because of the singular role of the patriarchate of Jerusalem as guardian of the holy shrines, it received even greater moral, and especially, material support. For two hundred years, patriarchs of Jerusalem were elected in Constantinople and normally resided there.

5) In the Church of Russia, the Ecumenical Patriarchs intervened directly until the separation of the Metropolis of Kiev from that of Moscow in 1461. Thereafter, contacts of varying significance continued to exist. These led ultimately to the granting of autocephalous status to the Church in Russia and ratification in 1593 of its elevation to patriarchate.

6) Beginning in the sixteenth century, the Ecumenical Patriarchate also served as mediator in resolving questions brought before it by the Church of Cyprus.

During the difficult period summarily alluded to above, it is true that the Ottoman conquerors accorded the see of Constantinople a degree of authority and privileges theretofore rarely exercised. This has led some on occasion to attribute to it ambitious goals incompatible with Orthodox Church polity and ecclesiology.[31] The Patriarchate, on the other hand, has never officially claimed the right to interfere arbitrarily in the affairs of other local churches. On the contrary, its self-awareness of the facilitating role it played during a time of oppression stands in sharp contrast to the charges of its critics.

From the Nineteenth Century until Today

The rise of nationalism forced the Patriarchate to face new problems, especially those related to the tension between newly established national territories and the resulting break-up of a hitherto unified church structure. To be sure, the promotion of the churches of Greece (1833), Rumania (1865), Bulgaria (1870), and Albania (1922-1928-1933) to the status of autocephalous churches can be attributed to a great extent to a nationalist mentality. Nevertheless, despite these tides of change, the patriarchate succeeded in reconciling peoples of different ancestry and character within a Christian ecumenical spirit. This could not have happened, however, without a head-on confrontation by the Ecumenical Patriarchate with the principle of division by race. This occurred with the condemnation of ethnophyletism by the Great Local

Synod held in Constantinople in 1872. Although officially condemned, blatant nationalism in some quarters at least, still persists in undermining the true ecumenical spirit of Orthodoxy. Worse still, it threatens its very unity, especially in the so-called "diaspora."

In our own century, it is important to note several key events in the life of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which again point to the significant facilitating and coordinating role it continues to play within world Orthodoxy.

1) In 1917 Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow communicated with the Ecumenical Patriarch about the sweeping political change taking place in Russia. He also expressed his Church's regret at the separation from it of the church of Georgia. The Church of Georgia, meanwhile, had appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate to bless its autocephalous status.

2) Following the schism of the so-called "Living Church" in 1922-23, both the canonical Patriarchal Church and the schismatic "Living Church" appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch for support.

3) Similarly, the Ukrainian hierarchy in the Soviet Union also appealed to the Ecumenical Throne for its support.

4) The churches of Finland, Estonia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Albania have all approached the Ecumenical Patriarchate about their canonical status.

5) The patriarchate of Antioch sought and obtained the assistance of the Ecumenical Throne in dealing with the patriarchal election of 1933.

6) The Church of Cyprus, too, sought and obtained the assistance of the Ecumenical Throne in dealing with sensitive internal matters in 1933, 1946 and 1947.

7) The Ecumenical Patriarchate established the prerequisites for dialogue with other Christian communities in the two acclaimed synodical encyclicals of 1902 and 1920.

8) The Ecumenical Patriarchate convened the celebrated Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1923 in Constantinople.

9) In 1945, it ended the schism of the Church of Bulgaria by issuing a patriarchal and synodical Tomos granting autocephaly.

10) It has coordinated both Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian conferences and dialogues which have steadily improved relations within the Orthodox Church, and with the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Old Catholic, Non-Chalcedonian, and Lutheran churches, as well as the World Council of Churches.

Concluding Remarks

The history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople demonstrates a longstanding canonically-based tradition of leadership within Orthodoxy. This tradition is seen in the moral authority it exercises, as expressed in the events enumerated above.[32] It brings with it special privileges, one of which is the right to take initiative, with the consent of the other churches, in general ecclesiastical matters effecting them all. The presveia times fully recognizes that all bishops are equal by divine institution, having received the same degree of episcopal grace and sharing the same unbroken apostolic succession. This does not mean, however, that all bishops are equal in honor in the canonical system of ecclesiastical administration. They have different titles and different prerogatives, depending upon the status historical precedent has established for them. Some bishops have thereby obtained hierarchical seniority, exercising greater influence because of it. In practice, the tradition of the Church has preserved a "hierarchy of honor" which corresponds to the τιρεσβεΤα τιμής.

The Orthodox Church has always recognized that each area has its own first bishop, variously called archbishop, metropolitan, or patriarch, depending upon the extent of his authority. Furthermore, she has always acknowledged one among them in the universal Church as first. Since the separation of the Eastern and Western churches, the Patriarch of Constantinople has been recognized as first, his authority having been recognized as equal to that of the Bishop of Rome since the Fourth Ecumenical Council.

Before concluding, it is important to state how the hierarchical seniority, status of precedence, and authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople within Orthodoxy are not understood. In the words of Metropolitan Máximos of Sardis:

The patriarch of Constantinople rejects any 'plenitudo potestatis ecclesiae' and holds his supreme ecclesiastical power not as 'episcopus ecclesiae universalis,' but as Ecumenical Patriarch, the senior and most important bishop in the East. He does not wield unrestricted administrative power. He is not an infallible judge of matters of faith. Always the presupposition of his power is that in using it he will hold to two principles: conciliarity and collegiality in the responsibilities of the Church and non intervention in the internal affairs of the other churches. . . .[33]

Keeping in mind these fundamental concepts of non-interference, conciliarity, and collegiality, it is important to note that as the principal spokesman for all the heads of the Orthodox churches, the Ecumenical Patriarch not only holds πρεσβεία τιμής, but also prerogatives of true ecclesiastical authority. These prerogatives are manifested in his role as supreme administrator and judge within his own jurisdictional territory, and as facilitator/convener for the entire Orthodox Church in general ecclesiastical matters, in consultation with the other heads of the Orthodox Churches. As history has shown repeatedly, his intervention has been sought in resolving disputes and arbitrating sensitive issues in the life of other Orthodox churches. Such, in fact, has been his authority, that without his approval an ecclesiastical act affecting all of Orthodoxy would be considered, at the very least, canonically insufficient.

The authority exercised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate is borne out by history and the canons. It is, however, an authority understood as service according to the example of Christ.[34] It is this image of service which predominates in its relations as πρωτόθρονος with the other Orthodox Churches for the purpose of fostering unity among them and assisting in their mission to the world.[35]


(The "Presveia Times" in Practice)

1. T. FitzGerald, "The Patriarchate: A Primacy for Unity and Witness," Orthodox Observer (June 30,1990) 14: "The leadership of the Patriarchate of Constantinople among all the Orthodox is expressed in our day and age especially in four important areas which serve the unity of the Church. First, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has the responsibility for granting autocephalous status to particular regional churches prior to the convocation of an Ecumenical Council. Second, the Patriarchate has championed the cause of conciliarity among the various sister churches often in the face of very difficult political circumstances. The numerous formal and informal conferences associated with the coming 'Great and Holy Council' are expressions of this conciliarity (Patriarch Dimitrios I has demonstrated a very personal commitment to pan-Orthodox cooperation. He visited in recent years nearly all the autocephalous churches and met with their clergy and faithful. His historic visit to Moscow in 1987 marked the first visit of an Ecumenical Patriarch to Russia since the sixteenth century). Third, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has been the principle coordinator of Orthodox participation in the various aspects of the ecumenical movement. Through a series of encyclicals dating from 1902, Constantinople has been a proponent of Christian dialogue and a champion of reconciliation based upon the Apostolic Faith. Finally, the Patriarchate has special responsibility for Orthodox living in territories beyond the canonical boundaries of other autocephalous churches. .. . [From the early decades of this century, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been a proponent of greater unity among the Orthodox in America. The Patriarchate, for example, encouraged the establishment of the 'Federation of Orthodox Jurisdictions' in 1943 and its successor, the 'Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops' (SCOBA) in I960.] Because of its historical and canonical prerogatives, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in a unique position to guide the Orthodox Church in North America as it moves toward greater unity and greater mission within this society."

2. V. Istavridis, "The Authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Life of the Orthodox Church," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 35/1 (1990) 17-18: "In general, the Ecumenical Patriarch has the right of initiative in matters affecting the relations of Orthodox with other Christians and in matters of Pan-Orthodox character, a right attributed to him by the heads of all Orthodox churches. In particular he has the following rights and duties:

(1) To consider appeals submitted to him by all clergy under him or by all other Orthodox churches; (2) to initiate correspondence on one or more important problems of inter-Orthodox, inter-Christian, or secular nature; (3) to convoke wider or pan-Qrthodox synods; (4)4o confer, with the consent of the other Orthodox churches, autonomy, autocephaly, and patriarchal status to churches formerly under him which have the canonical presuppositions; (5) to settle matters of outstanding importance concerning one or more Orthodox churches in the domains of faith, moral life, ecclesiastical law, church order, etc., either directly from the Phanar or by sending patriarchal exarchs; (6) to appoint on a permanent basis some hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne in the lands outside of Turkey as exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; (7) to bless the holy myron and distribute it to sister Orthodox churches, as a token of the spiritual bonds existing between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the other Orthodox churches; (8) to recognize saints who have lived not only within the boundaries of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but outside of it as well, after the proper petition of the churches concerned; (9) to have precedence in concelebrations with other Orthodox prelates during worship services; (10) to put under his direct jurisdiction, or to establish certain monasteries as patriarchal stauropegia within his archdiocese, and the dioceses, archdioceses, and metropolises of his church and in certain cases, also within the limits of other Orthodox churches, as an outcome of their joint decision; (11) to be a point of contact with the outside world (...); (12) to receive visitors, such as the newly elected leaders of the Orthodox and other Christian churches, as well as the directors or general secretaries of various Christian institutions, who usually start their official visits towards the outside world by first coming to the Ecumenical Patriarchate; (13) to accept on behalf of the entire Church invitations of other Christian churches, institutions, and international foundations; (14) to receive holy relics when in some cases the Roman Catholic Church returns them from the West to the Eastern churches through the Ecumenical Patriarchate; (15) to maintain an important spiritual connection with Mount Athos, which has the character of an ecclesiastical embassy of the Church of Constantinople for the other Orthodox churches; (16) to maintain a special relationship with the Orthodox Diaspora."

3. M. Fahey, "Eastern Synodal Traditions: Pertinence for Western Collégial Institutions," Episcopal Conferences: Historìcal, Canonical, and Theological Studies, ed. T. Reese (Washington, D.C., 1989), pp. 258-59: "The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, acting in association with his synod, has in recent years exercised primatial ministry in a number of important ways. First, and most importantly, this ministry has been expressed in the promotion of Orthodox unity and in the encouragement of international pan-Orthodox cooperation. In the last several years, with the approval of the synod, the patriarch has embarked upon a series of visits to other patriarchates and major Christian sees, including Rome. While the patriarch and synod do not claim to have 'jurisdiction' over other bishops outside the patriarchate, they do claim responsibility for fostering unity. Second, the ecumenical patriarch and his synod have agreed to hear appeals from other local churches, a practice which has historical precedents as far back as the fifth century. Third, they have assumed ecumenical initiatives through publishing encyclical letters and promoting interchurch dialogues. And finally, they exercise pastoral care for churches of the diaspora, which remain at present under the care of this patriarchate."

[1] Canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council, in Metropolitan Máximos of Sardis, The Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church, trans. G. McLellan (Thessalonike, 1976), p. 64. Because of its importance, the book by Metropolitan Máximos was a basic resource in the preparation of this paper.

[2] The various problems that have arisen from it have been thoroughly researched by B. Pheidas, Προϋποθέσεις διαμορφώσεως τον θεσμοϋ της πενταρχίας των πατριαρχών (Athens, 1969), pp. 51-95.

3 The Byzantine commentator Balsamon (twelfth c.) writes as follows concerning the privileges of the see of Constantinople: "The great throne of Constantinople ... subject to the Perinthians (Heraclea), functioned under a bishop. For the great city was not yet called Constantinople, but was a small town named Byzantium. However, when divine mysterious providence caused the sceptres of the Empire to b[3]e transferred thither from Old Rome as from a wild olive to a cultivated olive, Saint Metrophanes who was at that time in charge of the church of this throne was named archbishop instead of bishop. For this reason the first holy Ecumenical Council commemorated in the sixth and seventh canons the four patriarchs, Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, but did not mention the bishop of Constantinople." G. Rhalles and M. Potles, Σύνταγμα των θείων και ιερό/ν κανόνων (Athens, 1854), 4,542-43, quoted in Máximos, p. 74, note 1.

[4] See also canon 38 of the Penthekte Ecumenical Council, where this principle is clearly defined.

[5] There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule as indicated by examples cited in Máximos, pp. 77-78, whereby "the bishops of certain ancient sees were still considered metropolitans, even when the towns concerned were not provincial capitals."

[6] "Bishops outside a diocese must not enter upon churches outside their own borders, nor bring confusion into the churches; but according to the canons, the bishop of Alexandria must have the administration of the affairs of Egypt only, and the bishops of the East must administer the East only, the privileges which were assigned to the Church of Antioch by the canons made at Nicaea being preserved. ..." Canon 2 of the Second Ecumenical Council, in Máximos, pp. 101-02.

[7] V. Stephanides, 'Εκκλησιαστική Ιστορία, 2nd ed. (Athens, 1959), p. 281.

[8] Canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council, in Máximos, p. 108. The significance of this canon, even more than that of canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in establishing the primacy of the see of Constantinople, is highlighted by two theologians of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan Chrysostom Constantinides and Emmanuel Photiades, quoted by V. Istavridis, "The Authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Life of the Orthodox Church," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 35(1990), 11-12.

[9] For a detailed account of these, see Máximos, pp. 108-16.

[10] Stephanides, Ιστορία, p. 281.

[11] G. Rhalles and M. Po ties, Σύνταγμα των θείων και ιερών κανόνων (Athens, 1852), 2, 128-29.

[12] This and the following examples here cited can be found in greater detail in Máximos, pp. 116-21.

[13] "The actual rights of the patriarch of Constantinople are the normal consequence and expression of his being the 'first' among Orthodox bishops: chairmanship at Pan-Orthodox meetings and a certain responsibility (although not a monopoly) for initiating common action. In addition, canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon grant him the right to receive appeals against the judgment of local provincial synods." J. Meyendorff, "Contemporary Problems of Orthodox Canon Law," Living Tradition: Orthodox Witness in the Contemporary World (Crestwood, 1978), p. 111.

[14] Canon 9 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, in Máximos, p. 141.

[15] Canon 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, in Máximos, p. 142.

[16] Translation in Máximos, p. 147.

[17] Translation in Máximos, p. 150.

[18] Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, in Máximos, pp. 213-14.

[19] Found in Máximos, p. 219

[20] The main resource for this chapter was B. Tzortzatos, Oi βασικοί θεσμοί διοικήσεως των 'Ορθοδόξων Πατριαρχείων (Athens, 1972), ρ. 15-35. See also V. Istavridis, "Authority," pp. 6-8

[21] "The above canon respecting the dioceses being observed, it is plain that the synod of each province must administer the affairs of the province, according to what was decreed at Nicaea..." Canon 2 of the Second Ecumenical Council, in Máximos, p. 102.

[22] For a listing and analysis of all these, see V. Istavridis, "Ό συνοδικός θεσμός εις το Οικουμενικον ΠατριαρχεΤον," Φιλία εις Κωνσταντίνον Μπόνην (Thessalonike, 1989), pp. 489-99.

[23] J. Meyendorff, "Contemporary Problems," p. 111.

[24] Archbishop Chrysanthos, Oi γενικοί κανονισμοί τον Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου επί τη βάσει του Κωδικός TE' του Πατριαρχικού 'Αρχειοφυλακείου (Πρακτικά Εθνοσυνελεύσεως 1858-1860) (Athens, 1946), pp. 8-9.

[25] Μ. Gedeon, "Κανονισμών άπόπειραι," Εκκλησιαστική 'Αλήθεια 9 (1919), 214-18; 40 (1920) 145-49, 244-46, 280-82, 300-02.

[26] For an account of some of these situations, see V. Istavridis, Ιστορία του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου (Athens, 1967), pp. 13-14.

[27] For an account of the contemporary legal status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate within the Turkish State, see K. Vavouskos, Ή νομοκανονική ύπόστασις των Μητροπόλεων των Νέων Χωρών (Thessalonike, 1970).

[28] The examples cited throughout this section, of πρεσβεία τιμής in actual practice, are found in Máximos, pp. 268-313

[29] Consult also the recent accounts, in appendix, of how these prerogatives are understood and interpreted by three contemporary theologians, two Orthodox and one Roman Catholic.

[30] The examples cited for each of the churches mentioned are by no means exhaustive. They are, however, characteristic of instances documented in the patriarchal archives when the patriarchate of Constantinople intervened during critical times in the life of these churches in order to preserve their harmony and well being. For a listing of these examples and for further details, see Máximos, pp. 279-300.

[31] See, for example, an article published recently in the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate by K.E. Skurat, "The Constantinople Patriarchate and the Problem of the Diaspora," 9 (1989), 50-53.

[32] Cf. J. Meyendorff, "The Council of 381 and the Primacy of Constantinople," Catholicity and the Church (Crestwood, New York, 1983), p. 136.

[33] Maximos, p. 236. A similar view is expressed by John Meyendorff in an essay entitled, "Needed: The Ecumenical Patriarchate," Vision of Unity (Crestwood, 1987), p. 133: "(The) Patriarchate, for the past many centuries, has been recognized as having a certain responsibility for the entire Church as a center of consensus with a 'primacy of honor.' This is why it is called the 'Ecumenical Patriarchate.' Misinformed journalists sometimes identify the Ecumenical Patriarch's position to that of the pope in Roman Catholicism, which is, of course, quite absurd, but it is unquestionable that the Orthodox conception of the Church recognizes the need for a leadership of the world episcopate, for a certain spokesmanship by the first patriarch, for a ministry of coordination without which conciliarity is impossible. ..."

[34] Cf. the view of J. Meyendorff ("Contemporary Problems," p. 113): "It is indeed refreshing that a recent book on the ecumenical patriarchate by Metropolitan Máximos of Sardis defines the primacy of Constantinople in terms of 'service' (diakonia) to all the Churches. This is, indeed, the theological and ecclesiological category which makes the idea of primacy acceptable and ancient canons fully understandable, while remaining adequate to the new historical situation in which we live."

[35] Again, the view of J. Meyendorff is especially pertinent here: "Personally, I see no way in which the Orthodox Church can fulfill its mission in the world today without the ministry of a 'first bishop,' defined not any more in terms which were applicable under the Byzantine Empire or in terms of universal jurisdiction according to the Roman model, but still based upon that 'privilege of honor' of which the Second Ecumenical Council spoke. We should all think and search how to redefine that 'privilege' in a way which would be practical and efficient today. I believe that the tradition of the Church offers sure guidelines in this respect." "The Council of 381," p. 142.

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