Thursday, March 20, 2008

One Down...

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:
  1. Melkite Patriarch Gregory III (Laham)
  2. Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir
  3. Syrian Catholic Patriarch, formerly Ignace Pierre VIII (Abdel-Ahad). He resigned in February and has yet to be replaced (to my knowledge).
There had been a Latin Patriarch of Antioch since the time of the Crusades (est. 1098), but the office was allowed to expire in 1964, having been vacant for more than a decade. What bearing that happy example may have upon the current Jerusalem vacancy, I'll leave to my readers to draw.

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.)

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4 Comments:

Blogger Chris T. said...

I'm not sure what you mean in the title by "one down..." Sabbah is retiring, but he has a coadjutor, so the RC see of Jerusalem will not be vacant for even a moment.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Ariston said...

You know, having actually attended the Orthodox church in Rome, I don't think Orthodoxy in the City has the numbers or facilities to run a patriarchate there, even if it was a good idea (and I don't think it is). The church there in Rome is basically a little above a house church in size and facilities (though it is PACKED), but it does have a full iconostasis.

8:17 PM  
Blogger orrologion said...

In Papadakis's book in the Church in History Series published by SVS Press, he noted a difference between how the Orthodox and the non-Chalcedonians were treated by the Latins in the Crusader Kingdoms. The Non-Chalcedonians were allowed their own hierarchies. The Orthodox were not allowed their own hierarchs, but their dioceses were taken over by Latin bishops. The point he was noting was that the non-Chalcedonians (and Non-Ephesians, I should note) were obviously heretics, whereas the Orthodox held a middle ground of some sort where they were not to be trusted or relied on as 'fully Christian', but not so out of bounds that their people were unable to be members of a Latin-ruled church.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Eric John said...

While Emperor Alexius sent a letter to the pope, I don't think the First Crusade was what he had in mind, especially since the Crusaders didn't fight the Turks in his backyard.

12:49 PM  

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