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Pope reactivates traditional title: ‘Patriarch of the West’

April 10, 2024

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CWN Editor's Note: Pope Francis has resumed the papal title, “Patriarch of the West,” which was dropped by Pope Benedict XVI.

The new edition of the Annuario Pontificio, the official Vatican yearbook, includes the traditional title, which had been missing from the list of papal titles since 2005.

In 2006, explaining Pope Benedict’s decision to drop the title, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity said that the change “could prove useful to ecumenical dialogue.” The Council explained that the meaning of the title “was never very clear.” While the four traditional patriarchates of the Eastern Church (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) were associated with particular geographical areas, “the territory of the see of the Bishop of Rome remained somewhat vague.”

Some Orthodox prelates, however, were disturbed by the change, suggesting that the “Patriarch of the West” should be seen alongside the patriarchs of the traditional Eastern churches as an equal partner in ecumenical dialogue.

The Vatican did not announce the change prior to the appearance of the new Annuario. But Pope Francis reportedly had informed the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

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