To the Editor,
Bro. John M. Samaha, S.M., has written a fine article (November
2000) on the Eastern Catholic Churches and the ecumenical
necessity to safeguard and respect the spiritual and cultural
heritage of the ancient Eastern patriarchal churches. However,
his and other recent theologians’ sharp distinction
between the role of the Pope as Supreme Pontiff with a
universal jurisdiction over the entire episcopate of the Church
(East and West) and his role as "Patriarch of the Western
Church" is questionable.
In perhaps the best historical and doctrinal study of the
thesis of the Pope as a Patriarch in the Church, "Il Papa
Patriarca d’Occidente?: Studio storico dottrinale"
(Collectio Antoniana, 1990), Fr. Adriano Garuti notes that the
title of "Patriarch" was of Eastern origin (influenced by the
perspective of Byzantine Emperors), largely honorific, and in
the first Millennium never presumed any juridical or canonical
exercise of a patriarchal jurisdiction over the entire Western
Church. In fact, when the Pope intervened outside his own
bishopric in other Western dioceses, he did so, not as a
Patriarch but as the Pastor and Primate of the Universal Church.
The Latin Church was never a patriarchate. To this day, the
Canon Law of the Latin Church does not acknowledge the exercise
of a patriarchal jurisdiction by the Pope over the Church in
The ecclesiastical institution and organization of
patriarchates was peculiar to the Eastern tradition and though
certainly acknowledged by the Roman See in the first
Millennium as a modality of collegiality, the Roman Pontiffs
would never accept the reduction of their Universal Primacy to
a mere "patriarchate" as did later medieval Byzantine
dissidents who were to regard the Pope as the "first of equals"
in a Pentarchy governing the Church.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
— James Likoudis
Montour Falls, N.Y.