Pope Resumes Title ‘Patriarch of the West’

Pope Francis has resumed the papal title “Patriarch of the West.” Even though Pope Benedict xvi retired this title in 2006, the newest edition of the Vatican yearbook once again includes the moniker. The pope has not explained the change.

Since Eastern Orthodox prelates complained that Benedict sought universal jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome over the entire church, Francis’s move is likely intended to foster more friendly relations between Catholic and Orthodox Christians.

History: At the Council of Chalcedon in a.d. 451, five churches were recognized as having extra-provincial powers: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

Since four of these five cities were in the Eastern Roman Empire, the patriarch of Rome was dubbed “Patriarch of the West” by Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius ii. This is why many Orthodox prelates were offended when Benedict abolished the title. They saw it as an attempt to extend the pope’s authority.

Ecumenical movement: Pope Francis has taken a more reconciliatory tone toward the Eastern Orthodox Church than his traditionalist predecessor. He often emphasizes his position as bishop of Rome to avoid sounding like he wants to rule over other patriarchates. His decision to resurrect the title “Patriarch of the West” is likely another conciliatory move toward Eastern Orthodox churches.

Despite Francis’s diplomatic approach, the Bible indicates the last pope will rule over most of Christendom from a seven-hilled city (Isaiah 47:8; Revelation 17:9). So by force or flattery, expect Catholic attempts to bring Orthodox Christians under Rome’s rule to intensify.

Learn more: Read The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy.