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The following list is a current list of the highest ranking Christian leaders in major Christian churches or Christian denominations. The churches or denominations represented are those considered historically orthodox based on acceptance of the Nicene Creed, which is the oldest catholic creed of Christianity. The list is in descending order based on the number of congregants which the leader oversees, guides, and/or spiritually leads.
Numbers of adherents do not necessarily reflect those who are actually practicing the faith, but the statistics are based on actual church membership.
Current religious leaders of Christianity
Pope Benedict XVI of the Catholic Church
As Bishop of the Rome the Pope is the Supreme Pontiff and earthly head of the Roman Catholic Church and all other Churches in union with Rome. He is the only Christian leader to also reign ex officio as the head of a state, the Vatican City State. The Pope is believed by Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Churches to be the successor of St. Peter, who is considered by Catholics to be the First Pope; by virtue of this role he is called the Vicar of Christ.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Eastern Orthodox Church
Though the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I is not considered to be the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, his position does carry authorities that places him as the leader de facto of the Church, although his position is not equivalent to that of the Pope of Roman Catholicism. His official rank is primus inter pares (first among equals). The title "Ecumenical Patriarch" is a title that is exclusive and specific to the Patriarch of Constantinople and distinguishes the position, role, and responsibility of the the office within the broad family of the fourteen autocephalous or self-governing Orthodox Churches around the world.
He presides in person or through a delegate over any council of Orthodox primates and/or bishops in which he takes part and serves as primary spokesman for the Orthodox communion, especially in ecumenical contacts with other Christian denominations. He has no direct jurisdiction over the other patriarchs or the other autocephalous Orthodox churches, but he alone among his fellow-primates enjoys the right of convening extraordinary synods consisting of them and/or their delegates to deal with ad hoc situations. His chief function as leader is as the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the protector of orthodoxy in church.
Additionally, because of his work and the work of his predecessor, Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios, who established September 1st as the day for the protection of the environment, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has also been called the "Green Patriarch" by media around the world and government leaders including Vice President Al Gore. Thus, the person of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and by extension the position of the Ecumenical Patriarch is now being broadly viewed as the foremost religious spokesperson on environmental issues and "green" spiritual leader in the world.
Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow of the Russian Orthodox Church
As patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest autocephalous Christian church of Eastern Orthodoxy and the second largest after the Roman Catholic Church, the Patriarch of Moscow has direct leadership of the largest church in Asia and the Eastern World.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams of The Anglican Communion
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams is the principal leader of the Anglican Communion which places him as the spiritual leader of about 77 million Christians. In most contexts however, the Archbishop of Canterbury is considered just the spiritual leader of the Church of England, with about 13 million.
As Primate of the Church of England and the bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, the see that churches must be in communion with in order to be a part of the Anglican Communion, he is the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Also known as First Among Equals, he leads through example and persuasion but has no legal jurisdiction outside of England.
Bishop Mark Hanson of the Lutheran World Federation
Although the president does not have any jurisdiction outside of his own regional church, as president of the LWF he oversees the meetings of the leaders of other regional churches. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work.
Abune Paulos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
The church of Ethiopia is the largest church in Africa, the largest of the Oriental Orthodox churches, the second largest Eastern church (after the church of Russia), and the third largest autocehpalous church in the world. The Patriarch of the Church is the Archbishop of Axum whom precides over the see of Tekle Haymanot.
Abune Paulos, as of 2006 is one of the seven serving presidents of the World Council of Churches.
Patriarch Daniel of Romania of the Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is the second largest autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church after the Russian Orthodox Church. The Patriarch of Romania is responsible for oversight of the entire territory of Romania for the Eastern Orthodox communion along with surrounding territories such as Moldova and Hungary.
- ↑ http://christianity.about.com/od/denominations/p/catholicprofile.htm
- ↑ http://www.adherents.com/adh_rb.html
- ↑ http://christianity.about.com/od/easternorthodoxy/p/orthodoxprofile.htm
- ↑ http://www.goarch.org/news/patriarcal_ency-08-31-2009 and http://environment.about.com/b/2009/09/01/september-1-day-of-prayer-for-the-environment.htm and also see http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/sep2009/2009-09-01-093.asp
- ↑ See: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2008/09/15-Green-Spiritual-Leaders.aspx?p=2
- ↑ http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90196.htm
- ↑ http://www.adherents.com/adh_branches.html#Christianity
- ↑ http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2007-09-23-episcopal-bishops_N.htm
- ↑ http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article_buy.cfm?article_id=6071
- ↑ http://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/regions/africa/ethiopia/ethiopian-orthodox-tewahedo-church.html
- ↑ http://www.cnewa.org/ecc-bodypg-us.aspx?eccpageID=19&IndexView=toc