Papal Authority in Eastern Catholic Church


It is my understanding that each Eastern Catholic Church has a Patriarch. If so does the interpretation of doctrine end there and does the administration of the church end there? If not is it regulated beyond the Patriarch? In a slightly different question, how much does the Pope actually involve himself in the administration of the Eastern Catholic Churches? I know that for the most part the EC Churches are allowed similar to the EO of certain interpretations following respective traditions.


This is not true; indeed, only a small number do. Most do not have their own primate, e.g. patriarch or major archbishop. So, they do generally come under the authority of the Holy See.

As for doctrine the Eastern Catholic churches have the same doctrine as the Latin (a.k.a. Roman) Catholic Church.


As previously stated, there are a few Eastern Catholic Patriarchs. The other particular Churches have primates like a metropolitan for example.

It should!

He shouldn’t unless he is asked to. According to the Chieti Document, officially called SYNODALITY AND PRIMACY DURING THE FIRST MILLENNIUM: TOWARDS A COMMON UNDERSTANDING IN SERVICE TO THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH, which was written by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, it states, “Appeals to the bishop of Rome from the East expressed the communion of the Church, but the bishop of Rome did not exercise canonical authority over the Churches of the East.” (emphasis mine)



From an earlier post of mine today:

Well, kind of. There are two levels of theology, theologia prima (first level theology) and theologia secunda (second level theology). In Greek the two are called theologia and theoria . The former, theologia prima, is the essential, dogmatic level of theology as contained in the Church’s rule of prayer, which is to say, in the liturgy of the Church.

Theologia secunda, on the other hand, is the result of contemplation and reflection upon the theologia prima, and it’s elaboration into doctrine. Doctrine, however, is culturally, historically and linguistically conditioned. The experience of each particular Church shapes how it understands the theologia prima. So, as Pope Saint John Paul II noted, doctrine is variable, but the underlying dogmatic faith is transcendent; we simply have to be careful not to conflate the two.

Unfortunately, for a number of centuries, the Church of Rome thought itself in exclusionary terms as the only Church; therefore, the doctrinal pronouncements of the Church of Rome were often labeled as “dogmatic,” when, if fact, they were particular only to the Church of Rome. Therefore, not everything Roman Catholics consider “dogmatic” really is. It is now understood that, as long as there is agreement on the level of the theologia prima, variety in the theologia secunda is both acceptable and desirable, for a Church that is uniformly Roman (or for that matter, uniformly Byzantine) can make no pretension to ecumenicity or catholicity.

For example, at the first level theology, theologia prima, we all believe in purification after death. Rome decided to define this as Purgatory. The East is completely fine in not defining this purification process and what it entails.



Does that document refer to the relationship between the Catholic churches and the Eastern Orthodox churches or does it also address the relationship between the Bishop of Rome and the Eastern Catholic churches?


It addresses the relationship of the bishop of Rome and the Eastern Churches during the first millennium. At this time, the first millennium, there was one Church which consisted of the five Patriarchal Sees, all who were in communion one another; Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem (Rome being in the West and the other four in the East). Rome occupying the first place, exercising a primacy of honour ( presbeia tes times ).

Eastern Churches in communion with Rome came after the unfortunate divorce between Rome and the East when groups of Orthodox found their way back into communion with Rome.

The document looks at the first millennium Church at the local, regional and universal level. It’s an easy read, only 21 paragraphs.



The Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch has a Patriarch, who also happens to be a Cardinal, therefore eligible to be Pope. What it feels like in practice to be Catholic and not Roman…when the local ordinary (Roman Bishop) says or plans something we as Eastern Catholics have the option of participating or not. He is like our uncle not our dad. Our first obedience is to our Eastern Bishop.


Trying to clarify in my head how things work: So if some churches have a Metropolitan as opposed to a Patriarch does that mean they have less autonomy? Is the reason some churches do not have a Patriarch because of small numbers or just how and when their respective church was received back into the Catholic Church?


That’s a good question. I know that the Pope of Rome does not pick a Patriarch. A synod elects one and they send a letter of communion to the Pope and he recognizes the election. The Pope does however appoint metropolitans who are in charge of a Church sui juris.




Being a cardinal has nothing to do with eligibility to be elected pope. Zilch. Nada.

In practice, nearly all of the leading candidates have been named cardinal by that point, but that’s not an eligibility issue.

Metropolitan churches suggest a list from which the Pope usually chooses, Major Archiepiscopal churches nominate for approval, and Patriarchal churches notify Rome and request communion.

(The next change for the UCC will be interesting . . .)



This gives us an opportunity to learn from one another.


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