Catholic Dictionary




The father and ruler of a family, tribe, or race in biblical history. A name commonly applied to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Also a prelate who has the honor of being called the prince of fathers but is without jurisdiction except in virtue of some particular law. He holds precedence over primates, metropolitans, and bishops. In the order of their dignity, the Patriarch of Rome leads those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. In the East there are patriarchs of the Armenian, Maronite, Melkite, and Chaldean rites, with minor patriarchs of Venice, Lisbon, the West and East Indies. The power and importance of patriarchs, except that of the Pope, have diminished since the Eastern Schism. They have the right to ordain all bishops of their patriarchate; consecrate the holy chrism; summon synods; send the omophorion (pallium) to their metropolitans, and hear appeals from lower courts. they are the highest rulers in their churches. The Sovereign Pontiff alone is over them. (Etym. Greek patriarchēs, father of a race.)