John IV's (Patriarch of Constantinople) claim to being universal bishop

Why did John IV make such an arrogant and outrageous claim to be Universal Bishop? :confused:

Note: Universal Bishop must not be confused with the Pope’s universal Jurisdiction as they are two entirely different concepts.

Universal Bishop means :

an exclusion of all the others [privative quoad omnes alios] so that hewho calls himself æcumenic, that is, universal, thinks all other patriarchs and bishops to be private persons and himself the only pastor of the inhabited earth

In simple, it means that all jurisdiction comes from one bishop, that all other bishops are only his vicars and delegates.

Catholic theology does not affirm this of the pope or anyone.

With regards to Catholic Bishops and the pope :

Diocesan bishops have ordinary, not delegate,
jurisdiction; they receive their authority immediately
from Christ, though they may use it only in the
communion of the Roman See. It is the whole difference
between diocesan ordinaries and vicars Apostolic. All
bishops are not Apostolic vicars of the pope. Nor has
any pope ever assumed the title “universal bishop”,
though occasionally they have been so called in
complimentary addresses from other persons.

Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia

Thank you and your answers are much appreciated.
God bless

Patriarch John the Faster used the title “Ecumenical” which translates to “Universal” because he was the patriarch of the city which was the head of the empire, almost literally the center of the universe at that time. It’s a flowery title. They all have them The Pope of Alexandria is called “The 13th Apostle” and “Judge of the Universe.”

Or Vicar of Christ for the pope.

If the Pope is not a universal bishop, why does he have universal ordinary jurisdiction? If his authority in every diocese, in every particular Church is the same as the local bishop, isn’t that what a universal bishop is?

I think you’re missing the historical context of the Universal Bishop controversy between Pope St.Gregory the Great and John IV.

John IV was not using the “Ecumenical” as a flowery title as his predecessors did but in fact claimed it in the light that all jurisdiction comes from one bishop (Patriarch of Constantinople) and that all other bishops are only his vicars and delegates. He was claiming to be the only real bishop.

This is what is so outrageous about the claim and sparked Pope St. Gregory to sternly rebuke John IV bu saying (amongst other things) :

"Was it not the case, as your Fraternity knows, that the prelates of this Apostolic See, which by the providence of God I serve, had the honour offered them of being called Universal by the venerable Council of
Chalcedon. But yet not one of them has ever wished to
be called by such a title
, or seized upon this ill-advised
name, lest if, in virtue of the rank of pontificate, he took
to himself the glory of singularity, he might seem to have
denied it to all his brethren.

I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or
desires to be called Universal Priest, is in his elation
the precursor of the Antichrist, because he proudly puts
himself above all others.

If then he shunned the subjecting of the members of
Christ partially to certain heads, as if besides Christ,
though this were to the apostles themselves, what wilt
thou say to Christ, who is the head of the universal
Church, in the scrutiny of the last judgment, having
attempted to put all his members under thyself by the
appellation of universal? Who, I ask, is proposed for
imitation in this wrongful title but he who, despising the
legions of angels constituted socially with himself,
attempted to start up to an eminence of singularity, that
he might seem to be under none and to be alone above

I’m confused between “Universal Jurisdiction” & “Universal Bishop”?

Nobody said the Pope wasn’t a universal bishop. He is Universal bishop but NOT in the manner John IV tried to use the title.

The title “Universal Bishop” was not the problem. The problem was the manner in which The Patriarch of Constantinople attempted
to use the title to convey himself as the only true Bishop and all others are just vicars and delegates of him.

The Pope is Universal bishop , In its approved sense, which is that the title “universal bishop” suggests that the Bishop of Rome’s jurisdiction and authority extend to the whole Church, something with which Gregory was in hearty agreement.

Two different ideas.

Here are links for more information pertaining to you question as it has been asked numerous times :

There’s probably two levels going on here. There is likely a fallen human level that arises from pride, hubris and attachment to prestige. But perhaps there is something that can still be salvaged via the Holy Spirit working in spite of the foibles of those in apostolic office. I dunno because I’m no scholar of the period and know even less about eastern orthdoxy.

But it would be completely in line with human nature to mistake the original pre-eminance of the office of St. Peter with the fact that that seat was located at the center of the Roman Empire. Simple human pride might creep in once the secular Empire shifted its center to Constantinople. Think about it: you’re the patriarch of the faith in the city at the center of the world! Why shouldn’t you be considered greater in authority than the bishop of that rotting old town of ruins that was Rome? Even holy men have egos and are vulnerable to pride.

It is my understanding that at the 3rd eucuminicale council the patriarch of contantinople was declared ecumenical patriarch and declared 2nd to the bishop of Rome. We never accepted this even then the Pope objected. However, the proclamation of eucuminie patriarch by definition he is 2nd to the Pope. I think you are misunderstanding his proclamation

Go read up on the dispute between Pope St.Gregory the Great and John IV. You are misunderstanding his proclamation. He was not using the title in the flowery nature the council intended and the manner in which it was and is used by John IV’s predecessors and successors.

John IV was claiming to be Universal bishop in the sense that he is the ONLY real bishop and that all others are his vicars. :tsktsk:

Can you outline the difference between John IV’s claim and the Papacy as defined by Pastor Aeternus? Why do you think they are not the same thing?

Well many things were stated about the Pope in Pastor Aeternus. However I’ll only mention relatable relevant proclamations of PA.

Originally Posted by Vatican I , Session 4 Chapter 3
So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has
merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not
the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the
whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and
morals, but also in those which concern the discipline
and government of the Church dispersed throughout the
whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but
not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that
this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both
over all and each of the Churches and over all and each
of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.

Notice that the declaration of the Pope’s universal jurisdiction is totally different to what John IV was claiming. This Jurisdiction does not take a way the legitimacy of the all other bishops and their jurisdiction but only seeks to clarify that the Pope oversees the whole Church just as peter did when Christ said :

“He said to him the third time: Simon, son
of John, lovest thou me? Peter was
grieved, because he had said to him the
third time: Lovest thou me? And he said
to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou
knowest that I love thee. He said to him:
Feed my sheep.”
John 21:17

What the Patriarch of Constantinople was claiming was that he was the only real pastor of inhabited earth. That all other bishops were not real bishops but just were delegates/vicars who ran the dioceses while John IV was not there.

I urge you to read up on the Universal Bishop controversy. This is why today the Patriarch of Constantinople still uses this title, because of John IV although today it seems a more flowery term than what John had in mind.

You do realize that the title Ecumenical Patriarch is still used by the Patriarch of Constantinople (although it is illegal to address him as such within the borders of Turkey), and that the title Ecumenical Patriarch does not at all mean that he is the universal bishop from whom all jurisdiction flows, right? Which is more likely, that Pope St. Gregory the Great, who did not speak Greek, correctly understood the intention behind title, or that the Greek-speaking East which has continued to use Ecumenical Patriarch as a title for the bishop of Constantinople after the episcopacy of John the Faster, has correctly correctly understood up to this very day the correct meaning of this title? Gregory the Great was simply shooting from the hip, without understanding the cultural context behind the title.

Yes I am well aware that the Eastern Orthodox still hold tot he tradition of calling the Patriarch of Constantinople the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

To get a better understanding of the word ,ecumenical, and its use, we need to see how it was used back then.

According to Lossky (In the Image and
Likeness of God, 174-75), :

The οικουμνη meant for Greek antiquity “the inhabited world,” the known world, in contrast to the unexplored desert and to the ocean which surrounded the orbis terrarum peopled by men, perhaps also in contrast to the unknown countries of the barbarians. The οικουμνη of the first centuries of the Christian era was thought of in particular as the ensemble of the countries of Greco- Latin civilization, the Mediterranean world, the territory of the Roman Empire. For this reason the adjective οικουμνικος became a designation of the Late Empire —”the ecumenical Empire.” Because the limits of the Empire coincided more or less with the expansion of the Church about the Constantinian epoch, the Church
often used the term οικουμνικος. It was given as an
honorific title to the bishops of the two imperial capitals,
Rome and later Constantinople, the “New Rome.” It was
applied above all to the general councils of the Church
that gathered together the episcopate of the ecumenical
empire. Thus “ecumenical” marked what covered the
totality of ecclesiastical territory
, in contradistinction
to what only had local or provincial value (for example,
a provincial council, a local cultus)… When St. Maximus,
to whom ecclesiastical tradition gives the title of
Confessor, replied to those who desired to force him to
be in communion with the monothelites “Even if **the
whole world (οικουμνη)**should be in communion with
you, I alone should not be,” …

You need to comprehend the manner and sense in which John IV intended universal bishop to be understood and used. Forever has it been Catholic teaching that all bishops are not mere agents of the Pope, but true successors of the Apostles. The supreme authority of Peter is expressed in the Popes; but the power and authority of the other Apostles is expressed fully and truly in also the other bishops in the true sense of the word. The Pope is not the “sole” Bishop; and, although his power is supreme, his is not the “only” power.

John IV, Patriarch of Constantinople, desired to be bishop even of the dioceses of subordinate bishops, thus reducing them to mere agents and making himself the universal/ecumenical or only real bishop. Pope Gregory condemned this intention, and wrote to John the Faster telling him that he had no right to claim to be universal bishop or " sole" bishop in his Patriarchate.

It should also be noted that the title of Universal Bishop had been offered to Pope Leo the Great and other Popes ,but they all turned it down due to the implications and the sense in which the title was being offered. This is the same sense in which John IV claimed Universal Bishop of himself

Wandile, my friend, remember you are representing your Church when speaking to members of others faiths. I’m only beginning to study this facet of our history, and it disappoints me to see someone who is clearly very knowledgeable taking such an antagonistic tone with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wandile, I wonder at why someone so knowledgeable about the intentions of a man who lived so long ago, knowledgeable to the point of denying that those familiar with his culture and language correctly understand him, would start a thread asking what the intentions of said man were.

In short: you seem to have had an answer to your question before you even began the thread.

There’s no point to this thread.

I do have knowledge about what John IV did but that’s not what I’m concerned about. I really have no answer to the question I asked except that I would say its pride… I just was hoping for other opinions on this.

I feel I have been misunderstood. The reason why I started the thread was to try find an answer as to why John IV would claim such a thing in the manner that he did if it was such an objectionable and irresponsible thing to claim.

I apologise if I have come off the wrong way. :frowning:

Did John IV claim to be “ecumenical patriarch” or “ecumenical bishop?”

I see a theological problem with the latter title, but not the former.


He claimed to be ecumenical patriarch which , in context, translates to Universal Bishop.

Universal Bishop Controversy

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