The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, is retiring after 20 years.
The Crusaders established the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1099 as part of their self-imposed imperial kingdom. (Pope Urban II had launched the First Crusade to free Byzantines from Muslim rule, at the express request of Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus.) The Crusaders took the campaign as an opportunity to establish independent spheres of influence, complete with their own episcopacy. Their ecclesiology demanded the establishment of new patriarchates, as Orthodox bishops who did not recognize the Pope as head of the church and font of all holy orders were regarded as "schismatic." For centuries, most of the Latin "patriarchs" of Jerusalem were resident in Rome, but in the last 160 years, they have returned to the Holy Land.
Nowhere has this view of the episcopacy been taken to more extravagant lengths than in Antioch. The Crusaders established their own patriarchate a year before that of Jerusalem and appealed to the pope to personally take the throne. (What was to become of the current resident patriarch, H.H. JOHN IV, they didn't say.) Further schisms have fed the tangled web of overlapping Antiochian patriarchal claimants in communion with Rome. In the city where "they were first called Christians," one could find Roman Catholics under the leadership of:
- Melkite Patriarch Gregory III (Laham)
- Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir
- Syrian Catholic Patriarch, formerly Ignace Pierre VIII (Abdel-Ahad). He resigned in February and has yet to be replaced (to my knowledge).
Readers may also be interested in a related post: "Why Not an Orthodox Pope of Rome?" (For the record, I wrote that in favor of appointing one.)