Latin Patriarchates?

Just a little question for those in the know. I am currently reading Dr Adam DeVille’s “Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy”, which concentrates on the question of the place of the “patriarch” in ecclesiology.

I am interested that the archbishop of Venice is accorded the title “patriarch”. I read in Wikipedia that:

The Patriarch of Venice (Latin: Patriarcha Venetiarum, Italian: Patriarca di Venezia) is the ordinary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. The bishop is one of the few Patriarchs in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church (currently five Latin sees, including the Diocese of Rome itself, are accorded the title of Patriarchate, together with Lisbon, the East Indies and Jerusalem). Currently, the only advantage of this purely formal title is the bishop’s place of honor in papal processions.

Does anyone have any information about why Venice is accorded this title? Or Lisbon or the East Indies for that matter? I can understand the Jerusalem title – that is historical from the time of the Crusades (just as there was once a Latin Patriarch of Constantinople – finally abolished only in 1964). Would it be possible to accord this title to any other Latin jurisdictions? And under what circumstances would it be considered appropriate?

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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5 Responses to Latin Patriarchates?

  1. Joshua says:

    As I recall, the Latin Patriarchates are purely honorary. As the old Catholic Encyclopedia puts it well, it is of the essence of a patriarch not to be subject to another’s patriarchal jurisdiction – well, all the Latin ones are indeed subject to the Pope as Patriarch of the West, so they hold no peculiar exempt status, and are simply high-sounding titles.

    Since 1520, there has been the title of Patriarch of the West Indies, held by some Spanish bishop. It was created by Leo X to as it were recognize the extension of the Church throughout the New World. However, no one has been appointed to this since 1963, when the last holder (who was simultaneously the Bishop of Madrid) died. I suppose the title remains “in abeyance”.

    In 1716, the Portuguese, at the behest of their King (jealous of the Spanish title), were awarded a Patriarch of Lisbon, at first in addition to, and, after 1740 made the title of, the Archbishop thereof. He even maintained a sort of miniature Papal court, complete with ostrich-feather fans and a threefold chapter like unto the College of Cardinals.

    The Archbishop of Goa has held the title of Patriarch of the East Indies (the counterpart to the title of Patriarch of the West Indies) only since 1886; it was awarded as a consolation prize for the Holy See’s rejection of the Portuguese pretensions to their Goan Archbishop having rights of ecclesiastical jurisdiction throughout (by-then) British India.

    Back in the fifth and sixth centuries, the Bishop of Aquileia in northern Italy (near Venice) was styled Patriarch; and that title passed to Venice in 1751 – but Venice was already a Patriarchate, having acquired the title from Grado, which had been suppressed in 1451. (After the resolution of a schism in those parts, the Bishop of Grado had also been styled Patriarch, from 700 until then.)

    Finally, certain premier sees were unofficially called Patriarchal back in the Middle Ages, such as those of Canterbury, Toledo, Lyons, Bourges, and Pisa; but the title was never officially given to these. (Hence some Anglican fancies of the reunion of their ecclesial body with Rome, with the Archbishop of Canterbury to be made a Patriarch.)

    • While my historical knowledge of the subject is not as broad as Joshua’s, it has also always been my understanding that these titles were simply honorary and that their only practical significance related to the order of processions behind the Pope! Incidentally, my understanding of Orthodox Patriarchates is that, beyond their weighty historical and cultural significance, they simply denominate who is the president of a national synod of bishops.

  2. Cn.: “particular national synods of bishops”. Not every national synod is headed by a Patriarch, of course (and I suppose, come to think of it, not every Patriarch actually heads a “national synod”). As to why this is so I’ll defer to any Orthodox who may care to comment. I understand the importance of honour in ancient eastern cultures, from which, no doubt, much of this nomenclature stems, but wouldn’t it have been better to heed our Lord’s words about “the first being last in the kingdom”?

    • matthias says:

      I agree Pastor,”the first shall be last and the last first’. I think of the statement by Queen Victoria,that she will lay her crown at the feet of the King of Kings. Pity Brian Houston-Senior Pastor -at Hillsong when president of the AOG ,rang up their office-then in my suburb of Mitcham here in Victoria- and was kept waiting. he then said to the receptionist-now a colleague of mine- “you know who I am don’t you”. Uhm must go with being a Prosperity Gospeller

  3. William Tighe says:

    The remote origins of the Patriarchate of Venice go back to the schism over the First Council of Constantinople in 553, and particularly the tergiversations of Pope Vigilius in first rejecting, and then accepting, that council’s condemnation of the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 429), Theodoret of Cyrus (d. 457) and Ibas of Edessa (d. ca. 461) — the first time that men who had died in the peace of the Church (indeed, Theodoret and Ibas had been exonerated of accusations of heterodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon) had been posthumously anathematized as heretics.

    The pope’s acquiescence in this decree, and its endorsement by his successor, caused all of Northern Italy, from Genoa to Milan to Aquileia to go into schism and to repudiate the (First) Council of Constantinople root and branch. But by ca. 600 Milan (thitherto the leading party to the schism) and Genoa has been reconciled with Rome, and the location of the schism became confined to Aquileia and its surrounding regions of Friulia and Istria — hence the name, the “Istrian Schism.” At some point in the late 500s the title of “Patriarch” was assumed by the schismatic Metropolitan of Aquileia. Somewhat later, in the 600s, around 606, when the Byzantine exarch of Ravenna attempted to procure the election of a “Patriarch” who would end the schism on orthodox terms, the result was a disputed election that produced two patriarchs, an orthodox one, who settled on the island of Grado (where a Byzantine military station oversaw the lagoons, marshes and islands at the head of the Adriatic Sea), and one committed to maintaining the schism, who resided on Lombard territory, outside of Byzantine control. (Aquileia itself had been sacked and destroyed by the Huns in 451 AD, and the patriarchs appear to have resided at Cividale thereafter, although in the 1030s a later patriarch built himself a cathedral on the site of ancient Aquileia.)

    When the schism was brought to an end by the schismatics’ submission to Rome ca. 698, there remained two patriarchates — that “of Grado,” who was at one point kidnapped and forced to reside in Venice (until his diocese was merged with Venice in 1451); and that “of Aquileia,” which for much of the late Middle Ages was held by German aristocratic prelates (who counted as Dukes in the Holy Roman Empire) and who were at perpetual loggerheads with Venice, even after Venice annexed most of Friulia around 1420 — until the patriarchate was suppressed by the papacy in 1751.

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