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Primate (religion)

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Primate (from the Latin Primus, "first") is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority (title of authority) or ceremonial precedence (title of honour).

Roman Catholic ChurchEdit

Primatenoncardinal

Catholic Patriarchal (non cardinal) coat of arms

See also: Catholic Church hierarchy#Primates and Bishop (Catholic Church)#Primate

In the Western Church, a Primate is an archbishop—or rarely a suffragan or exempt bishop—of a specific episcopal see (called a primas) which confers precedence over the bishops of one or more neighboring ecclesiastical provinces, such as a 'national' church in historical, political, and cultural terms. Historically, primates were granted privileges including the authority to call and preside at national synods, the jurisdiction to hear appeals from metropolitan tribunals, the right to crown the sovereign of the nation, and presiding at the investiture (installation) of bishops in their sees.

The office is generally found in the older Catholic countries, and is now purely honorific, enjoying no effective powers under canon law, (exemption is Poland where the new status of episcopal conference states that the Primate of Poland is durante munere member of Perpetual Board of episcopal conference, he has honorary precedence among polish bishops (e.g. by carrying on liturgical ceremonies), Polish primates also actively wear cardinal's vestments, even if they were not nominated cardinals, a privelege granted by the Holy See. The title, where it exists, may be vested in one of the oldest archdioceses in a country. The see city may no longer have the prominence it had when the diocese was created, or its circumscription may no longer exist as a state, nation or country — for example, the Archbishop of Toledo originated as the "Primate of the Visigothic Kingdom", while the Archbishop of Lyon is the "Primate of the Gauls".

Some of the leadership functions once exercised by primates, specifically presiding at meetings of the bishops of a nation or region, are now vested in the president of the national conference of bishops. With the exception of the President of the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana, these presidents are elected by the other bishops of the conference for a fixed term in office. Other former functions of primates, such as hearing appeals from metropolitan tribunals, are now reserved to the Holy See.

The closest equivalent position in the Eastern Catholic Churches is an exarch. In the order of precedence of the Catholic Church, primates and exarchs rank immediately below major archbishops, and precede metropolitan archbishops. Primates who have been made cardinals follow the precedence established for cardinals, unlike the higher ranks enjoying no precedence, not even the right to join a high order of the sacred college.

At the First Vatican Council, the only (arch)bishops figuring as primates, in virtue of then recent concessions, were these (by country)[1] :

A selection of primatial pretences in other countries (here grouped by modern states, but sometimes the claimed 'primas' had a smaller or overlapping territory) and their Roman Catholic primates (some historical claims are dormant or have been void for centuries; new titles can only be awarded by the Holy See):

When England and Wales was split into three ecclesiastical provinces in 1911, the pre-existent Archbishop of Westminster was given certain privileges of pre-eminence constituting him 'chief metropolitan', but without the title of primate. Similarly the Archbishop of Seoul is often considered to be the primate of Korea, but such title has never been granted by the Vatican. Such 'analogous' use of the title is confusing and technically incorrect.

Informal titlesEdit

The following are often called by the title "Primate" of the area indicated, for historical, or other reasons. However, the titles do not have official ecclesiastical standing:

Orthodox ChristianityEdit

Bartolomeo I

Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch

In the Orthodox churches, Primate is often used in the general sense of the head of an autocephalous or autonomous church, but not as a specific title. Thus, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Greek Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, the Archbishop of Athens, the Archbishop of Washington and New York, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, and the Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland are all primates of their respective churches, regardless of their individual titles.

Anglican CommunionEdit

An Anglican primate is the chief bishop or archbishop of one of the thirty-eight churches (also known as provinces) of the Anglican Communion.[4] Some of these provinces are stand-alone ecclesiastical provinces (such as the Church of the Province of West Africa), while others are national churches comprising several ecclesiastical provinces (such as the Church of England). Since 1978, the Anglican primates have met annually for an Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is regarded as the chief (though primus-inter-pares) of the Anglican primates. While the gathering has no legal jurisdiction, it acts as one of the informal instruments of unity among the autonomous provinces of the Communion.

In stand-alone ecclesiastical provinces, the Primate is the metropolitan archbishop of the province. In national churches composed of several ecclesiastical provinces, the Primate will be senior to the metropolitan archbishops of the various provinces, and may also be a metropolitan archbishop. In those churches which do not have a tradition of archiepiscopacy, the Primate is a bishop styled "Primus" (in the case of the Scottish Episcopal Church, "Presiding Bishop", "President-Bishop", "Prime Bishop" or simply "Primate". In the case of the Episcopal Church in the United States, which is composed of several ecclesiastical provinces, there is a Presiding Bishop who is its Primate, but the individual provinces are not led by metropolitans.

The Moderators of the United Churches of North and South India, which are united with other originally non-Anglican churches, and which are part of the Anglican Communion, while not primates, participate in the Primates' Meetings.

Anglican primates may be attached to a fixed See (e.g., the Archbishop of Canterbury is invariably the Primate of All England), he or she may be chosen from among sitting metropolitans or diocesan bishops and retain their See (as with, for example, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia), or he or she may have no See (as in the Anglican Church of Canada). Primates are generally chosen by election (either by a Synod consisting of laity, clergy and bishops, or by a House of Bishops). In some instances, the primacy is awarded on the basis of seniority among the episcopal college. In the Church of England, the Primate, like all bishops, is appointed by the British Sovereign, in his or her capacity as Supreme Governor of the established church, on the advice of the Crown Appointments Commission.

It should be noted that in the Church of England and in the Church of Ireland, the metropolitan of the second province has since medieval times also been accorded the title of Primate (see section "Roman Catholic" above). In England, the Archbishop of Canterbury is known as the "Primate of All England" while the Archbishop of York is "Primate of England" (see also Primacy of Canterbury). In Ireland both the Anglican and Catholic Archbishops of Armagh are titled "Primate of All Ireland"; while both the Anglican and Catholic Archbishops of Dublin are titled "Primate of Ireland". As both of these positions pre-date the 1921 partition, they relate to the whole island of Ireland. The junior primates of these churches do not normally participate in the Primates' Meeting.

Regular clergy equivalentEdit

In the modern confederation of the Benedictine Order, all the Black Monks of St. Benedict were united under the presidency of an Abbot Primate (Leo XIII, Summum semper, 12 July 1893); but the unification, fraternal in its nature, brought no modification to the abbatial dignity, and the various congregations preserved their autonomy intact. The loose structure of the Benedictine Confederation is claimed to have made Pope Leo XIII exclaim that the Benedictines were ordo sine ordine ("an order without order"). The powers of the Abbot Primate are specified, and his position defined, in a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars dated 16 September 1893. The primacy is attached to the global Benedictine Confederation whose Primate resides at Sant'Anselmo in Rome. He takes precedence of all other abbots, is empowered to pronounce on all doubtful matters of discipline, to settle difficulties arising between monasteries, to hold a canonical visitation, if necessary, in any congregation of the order, and to exercise a general supervision for the regular observance of monastic discipline. The Primatial powers are only vested in the Abbot Primate to act by virtue of the proper law of its autonomous Benedictine congregation, which at the present is minimal to none. However, certain branches of the Benedictine Order seem to have lost their original autonomy to some extent.

In a similar way the Confederation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, elects an Abbot Primate as figurehead of the Confederation and indeed the whole Canonical Order. The Abbots and Superiors General of the nine congregations of confederated congregations of Canons Regular elect a new Abbot Primate for a term of office lasting six years. The Current Abbot General is Rt. Rev. Fr Maurice Bitz, Abbot of St. Pierre, and Abbot General of the Canons Regular of St. Victor.

NotesEdit

  1. (Coll. Lacens., VII, pp. 34, 488, 726)
  2. Paul Handley "Churches Goal is Unity not Uniformity, Church Times (May, 2003), 1. (Dr. Kasper spoke of a "re-evaluation" of Apostolicae Curae, the bull of Leo XIII which declared that Anglican orders were null and void.")
  3. "Prague Archdiocese". The Archbishop of Prague. http://www.apha.cz/biskupove_vypis.php?osoba=vlk_ang. Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  4. http://www.aco.org/primates/index.cfm

Sources and referencesEdit

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