18- THE PATRIARCHATE OF ROME

Go To the Beginning of this Booklet The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: An Overview of the Family Theology that Revolutionizes Bible Reading and its Implications Towards the Eventual Re-Establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity

Some Undivided Early Church First Millennium Highlights of the Pentarchy of the First Five Christian Patriarchates and their Contributions to the One Universal Church of Christ

THE PATRIARCHATE OF ROME

Center of the Roman Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Roman Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church

Recognized as a Patriarchate at the 1st Ecumenical Council 325AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is God, One in Being with the Father, Against the Arian Christian Heretics

Since Rome was the center of the vast Roman Empire, people from all over came to live in Rome, making it a very multi-cultural city though predominantly Roman.  As such, the Christian Rite of Rome was more than just one culture’s response to and expression and celebration of the Gospel.  This meant the Rite of Rome was more flexible than that of the other cultures renewed in Jesus, which is one of the reasons that the Roman Rite has changed its ritual Christian worship more often than any other Christian Rite (though another reason for this is that all of the four Eastern Patriarchates were eventually militarily conquered by the Muslims, meaning that Eastern Christians had to work hard to preserve both their culture and their distinct cultural expression of the Gospel [their Rite] against a greater culture hostile to Christianity, which meant of necessity that their ritual forms became more fixed and rigid, since they did not have the luxury the Roman Patriarchate did of being free to develop and change with the times as a Christian culture). 

After the (Western) Roman Empire fell (the Byzantine Empire was the Eastern half of the ancient Roman Empire) to the invasions of various barbarian tribes in 476 AD, the Church’s leadership structure was the only organization left functional.  The Pope in Rome, the Patriarch of the Roman Patriarchate, sent missionaries (mostly of the relatively new Benedictine religious order) all over barbarian Western Europe, eventually successfully bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the various barbarian tribes and civilizing the barbarians.  The finalization of this accomplishment was done non-ideally, by Charlemagne in the 9th Century (whose grandfather Charles Martel “the Hammer” had protected Western Christendom from falling to Muslim conquest as much of Eastern Christendom had).  Charlemagne militarily conquered the last of the barbarians who were either pagans or Arian heretical Christians (the Arian heretics had had successful missions in barbarian territory even though the Arian heresy within the Roman Empire had been defeated by the Second Ecumenical Council).  Charlemagne imposed orthodox Christianity upon his conquered subjects, which was not ideal, but at least the conquered barbarians did not feel abused by this as it was normal for the tribal chieftain to decide which god was worshiped, and Charlemagne, realizing that Christianity must ideally be accepted freely, made sure that missionary schools were readily available throughout his new “Holy Roman Empire” to train the next generation of conquered barbarians so they would know and be likely to freely accept orthodox Christianity (Charlemagne’s far-reaching educational reforms are known as “the Carolingian Renaissance”).  This was successful, and until modern times all of Western Europe felt privileged and proud to be known as Christian Europe, the advanced civilization it spread over all the globe through its colonies known as “Western Christian Civilization.”

The evangelization and civilization of all Western Europe by Roman Rite Christian missionaries (both before and after Charlemagne conquered Europe) meant that all of Western Europe, despite the cultural differences between the tribes and later countries of Europe,  had a common “cultural baseline” in the Roman culture of the Roman Catholic missionaries who evangelized and civilized all of Western Europe.  This, together with the fact that the Roman Rite had been the most flexible of the Christian Rites from the beginning because Rome was a multi-cultural city, resulted in the Roman Patriarchate not forming distinct daughter Rites and daughter Churches near as much as the Eastern Patriarchates did.  Instead, major cultural responses to the Gospel within the Roman Patriarchate such as the Celtic Rite and the Gallican Rite ended up being “mainstreamed,” absorbed into the Roman Rite as a whole but altering it, leaving their permanent mark on it.  For example, Roman Catholic liturgy was quite “bare,” utilitarian, like the Roman culture which had militarily conquered and organized the known world but had had to borrow its religion and philosophy and arts from Greece, until the Gauls (later Franks, ancestors of the modern French) became Christian, and the Gallican Rite once absorbed into the mainstream Roman Rite made Roman Catholicism as a whole much more ‘flowery’ and poetic in its Christian worship than it had been.  The North African Roman Rite Church of Saint Augustine (the greatest Western theologian of the Early Church, who became the Roman Catholic bishop of Hippo just shortly after the 393 AD Council of Hippo which first confirmed Saint Athanasius’ list of the New Testament Canon) was distinct enough from the Roman Rite in continental Europe that it may have become a distinct Roman “daughter Church” (recognizably Roman yet culturally distinct, as the distinct Byzantine daughter Churches are recognizably Greek) had it not been utterly destroyed by the Muslim conquerors of North Africa.

The island of Britain, like North Africa, was also not as “attached” to continental Europe and Roman Rite Christianity there also took on the character of a distinct ‘daughter’ Rite or Church, which was effectively the Anglican Rite of the Catholic Church, with the Archbishop of Canterbury (who still heads the Protestant Anglican Communion today) effectively functioning as its head overseer – to use Eastern terms, as the metropolitan or ‘patriarch’ of the Anglican Rite.  The Church of England was founded originally by Saint Augustine of Canterbury who was sent to evangelize England by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, and it remained a Catholic Rite, effectively a Roman Catholic daughter Church (even though the West was not so used to such terms because it had so few compared to the East), until the schism of English King Henry VIII who broke the Church of England (with its distinctly English Rite or “Use”) away from the Catholic Church when the pope refused to allow him to divorce his wife who had not given him a son.  Thus the major distinct daughter Rites of the Roman Patriarchate were either absorbed into the mainstream Roman Rite or lost to the Catholic Communion, and most of today’s Roman daughter Rites are small and local, like the Ambrosian and Mozaribic and Bragan Rites.

All of the Patriarchs were at one time called Popes, both the word Pope and Patriarch being derived from the word Father, since the Christian Family of the Church is a family communion of those adopted by God, and leadership roles in the Church are roles of pastoral guidance of the family.  But the word pope eventually became reserved for the head overseer of the Church, the chief bishop, who resided in Rome, where Peter died.  Since in the New Testament accounts Peter is easily recognized as the Chief Apostle, who usually speaks for all of the Apostles and whom Jesus sets apart to give special commissions He gives to no other Apostle (most notably the keys of the Kingdom, which in the Old Testament the Davidic King gave to the man who would function as the “Prime Minister” of Israel, running the daily affairs of the Kingdom on behalf of the Davidic King – the Davidic King Jesus had just announced Himself to be, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as David’s immediate son Solomon had done when he was crowned King), the Early Church instinctively recognized the Christian overseer/bishop of Rome where Peter died as having pastoral responsibility from Jesus (the King) beyond that of the other overseers (bishops or eparchs) the Apostles had ordained to lead and teach the Church (the portion of the Earth which already acknowledges Jesus as King) after them (see So That The World May Believe Volume III’s Chapter 4).  Thus the Bishop of Rome exercised authority in the settling of disputes among Christians far outside of his own local Roman jurisdiction right since Apostolic times, as in Clement of Rome who settled a dispute in far away Corinth while the Apostle John was alive and closer to Corinth, and Clement’s 1st Century letter to the Corinthians was so highly regarded by the earliest Church that it was part of many orthodox Christian New Testament collections until the Catholic Church fixed the New Testament Canon between 367-405 AD.  Most of the Early Ecumenical Councils were presided over by those the Pope in Rome chose, and the same Early Ecumenical Councils which established basic Christian orthodoxy against the heretics, and established the Patriarchates as Church provinces, also formally recognized the Pope in Rome as the Successor of Peter and therefore as Head Pastor of the entire Universal (Catholic) Christian Church, notably in the 3rd, 4th, and 6th Ecumenical Councils, where the papacy is mentioned in the Acts of the Councils as something clearly accepted by all of the Sister Churches in the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion of East and West.

The historical details laid out in So That the World May Believe Volume III’s Chapter 5 demonstrate beyond doubt the existence of the papacy in at least implicit form since Apostolic times, becoming a clearly defined and explicit part of orthodox Christian faith at the same time Jesus’ nature as “fully God and fully man” did, these two doctrines in fact being related, since it was Pope Saint Leo the Great who articulated this doctrine, the “crown” of the Church’s Christology, and who used “the keys of the kingdom” Jesus gave to Peter to “bind on earth and in heaven” to in fact bind the Church to interpret the Bible this orthodox way, since some of the Eastern bishops at the 451 AD 4th Ecumenical Council called by Leo were willing to compromise with the heretics by adopting a less precise and clear dogmatic definition.  Just a few decades afterwards Patriarch Acacius of Constantinople wrote a compromise formula (the Henoticon) to be used instead of “Jesus is fully God and fully man,” to make the Monophysite heretics happy, and he attempted to excommunicate the Pope in Rome for his opposition to the Henoticon.  This brief “Acacian Schism” was settled by the whole Church accepting the 517 AD Creed of Pope Saint Hormisdas which affirmed both the orthodox Christology of the Church that Jesus is “fully God and fully man” (first articulated by Pope Leo I) and the office of the papacy, of Peter’s Successor being Head Pastor of the entire Christian Church.

The second time someone (Photius) attempted to excommunicate a pope, the 8th Ecumenical Council was held in 869 AD, at which all the assembled Eastern and Western Christian Patriarchs and bishops dogmatically decreed the papacy a necessary part of Christian faith. They did not even have to come up with a new understanding of the papacy, but just gave the 517 AD definition (which took into account the description of the papacy in the Acts of the earlier Ecumenical Councils) dogmatic force, confirmed by Ecumenical Council.  Those Eastern Orthodox Churches which are no longer part of the Catholic Communion of East and West only call themselves “the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils” because the 8th Ecumenical Council dogmatically defined the papacy they are currently out of communion with as necessary to orthodox Christian faith (and indeed, the Protestant lack of recognition of the papacy which helped define and defend the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity in the First Millennium is a big part of the reason many Protestant churches “go liberal” and lose their grip on orthodox Christians fundamentals.  The Eastern Orthodox Churches are only unshakably orthodox because they act as if the early popes really did have authority from God to lead, guide, and ratify the Early Ecumenical Councils as they in fact did).  The Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs and eparchs in fact participated in most of the first 17 Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church, before the Muslim conquerors of Constantinople forced the total separation of today’s Eastern Orthodox Churches from Catholic (Universal Christian) Communion.  In the midst of the 4th Century Arian crisis, Saint Jerome (ordained in the East though he did special commissions for the Pope in the West, notably the Latin Vulgate which he translated  in Israel) noted the importance of the papacy being that once a head has been appointed, there may be no opportunity for schism” – and indeed, the 26 ancient or semi-ancient orthodox Christian Sister Churches that recognize the pope as the head chosen by Christ who gave Peter (and his successors) the keys today still form one massive worldwide Catholic Communion sharing a unity in diversity of Eastern and Western Rites, as did the Early Church.  The churches which do not recognize the pope as the one earthly head pastor of the Church are, instead, hopelessly divided from one another.  The “loose communion” of dozens of Orthodox Churches are less unified as time goes on (today there are 3 separate denominations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) and the Protestants and Evangelicals have split into 35,000 denominations since the Protestant Reformation.

The main point here is to show briefly (thoroughly in So That the World May Believe Volume III, especially its Chapter 5) that the papacy which is disputed by non-Catholic Christians simply was a historical fact of the Undivided Early Church, and one that was integral to the formation and establishment of basic Christian orthodoxy (and it was the center of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity).  It is not helpful for Christians to be “for” or “against” the papacy – they all must acknowledge the reality of its existence, intertwined very much with basic, fundamental Christian orthodoxy, as well as Early Christian Unity, and they must come to terms with this existence, ideally eventually coming to mutually agreed-on solutions to current disputes, in which the legitimate concerns of all sides are taken into account.  It is certainly true that not everything popes have actually done in history is considered good even by Catholics who respect the office of the papacy, but the Catholic Church has a sophisticated understanding of the nature and limitations of the papacy (described in So That the World May Believe Volume III) which non-Catholic Christians must learn in ecumenical discussion – one which has come out of Catholics listening to the concerns and complaints of the Protestant Reformation, so non-Catholic Christians may find many of their concerns about the papacy have already been addressed in the Catholic Church’s modern official self-understanding.

I would also like to mention in this section how the Protestant Churches are very much like Roman daughter Churches, which simply are no longer on good speaking terms with their Mother Rite, the Roman Catholic Church. However, as with the Eastern daughter Churches, the Protestant churches retain much from their Mother Rite – many Western, Roman perspectives and theological approaches and traditions which Eastern Christians do not share.  Also, like the once-separated Eastern Catholic Chaldean Rite, even while out of the Catholic Communion they have developed many valid worship forms and so on which are based on the vast amount of Catholic orthodoxy they took with them when they left, which allows them already to enrich the whole Catholic Christian Communion which has and still does in fact borrow many good things from Protestant churches (especially worship music, and more recently Bible Studies).  As the Chaldean Rite was an Antiochene daughter Church separated from the Catholic Communion in the 5th Century because they embraced the Nestorian heresy, but was restored to the Catholic Communion in the 16th Century after recanting Nestorianism, so Protestant churches which recant much less serious errors of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation (which lead liberal Protestants to unorthodoxy but which are not gross heresies themselves) could be restored to the Catholic Communion in new daughter Rites of the ancient Roman Patriarchate, after Vatican Council II, which at last formally defined the nature and structure of the Christian Church according to the Undivided Early Universal (Catholic) Church model, is fully implemented within the Catholic Church.

© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

Go To the Next Section Ecumenical Conclusion with A Few Suggestions Towards the Practical Re-Establishment of the First Millennium Church’s Unity in Diversity

Go To the Beginning of this Booklet The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: An Overview of the Family Theology that Revolutionizes Bible Reading and its Implications Towards the Eventual Re-Establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity