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Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem

The Bishopric of Jerusalem, out of which the Patriarchate subsequently arose, counted its bishops from S. James the Less, the 'Brother of the Lord,' and was in Apostolic times the center of the Jewish Christian community. When, after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.d., Caesarea became the civil capital of Palestine, the Church followed the Government, and the Bishop of Allia. Capitolina became only a local bishop under the Metropolitan of Caesarea.

A patriarchate of Jerusalem was first projected at the Jerusalem. Council of Ephesus A.D. 431. In 325 the Council of Nicaea had accorded privileges to the See of Jerusalem, but the See remained subject to Caesarea. Nevertheless, his peculiar position as bishop of the most sacred city of Christendom was recognized by the Council of Nicaea with the grant of 'the succession of honor' The unscrupulous Juvenal was Bishop during the Episcopate in Rome of Leo I. and the sitting of the Council of Ephesus, and obtained possession of the three Palestine Sees through an unseemly transaction with the Patriarch of Antioch. The action of the Council in forming a new Patriarchate so composed, was neither formally rescinded or accepted by Leo, and the arrangement has continued to this day. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 the See was raised to the dignity of a Patriarchate, the other Patriarchates being Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch.

The Greek Church rests its claim to authority upon the fact that Constantine. the first Christian emperor, gave Rome the go-by when his victory over Licinius made him master of the empire, and built his capital on the Bosphorus, calling it Constantinople. The later Greek (in which the New Testament was written) was the language of the Eastern Empire. During the early centuries the language and the learning of the Christian Church was Greek, and the great fathers and teachers of the early centuries were theirs. St. Helena, Constantine's mother, discovered, so tradition says, the true cross, and the cavity from which it was taken is reverently shown to-day, hard by the sepulcher. Most of the sacred places owed their preservation and their defense to the Greeks, who were far in advance of all other Christian sects in their Holy Land possessions and influence.

At the conquest of Jerusalem in 637 by the Khalif Omar, Sophronius was Patriarch. Sophronius begged to be allowed to surrender the city to the Khalif in person. Omar agreed, travelled with one single attendant to Jerusalem, promised the Christians the possession of their churches and freedom of worship on the usual condition - a poll-tax - and then entered the city side by side with the Patriarch, discussing its antiquities.

On the division between East and West the Patriarch of Jerusalem, as one of the four remaining Patriarchs, became one of the four Heads of the Holy Orthodox Eastern Church. The Crusades caused the Orthodox Church to give way before the Latin, and for many centuries thereafter the Patriarchs were content to reside in Constantinople, whence they only returned to Jerusalem in 1867 under Cyril II. In 1672, however, was held the important Synod of Jerusalem, which made the last notable official pronouncement of the Orthodox Church in matters of faith.

The British civil administration of Palestine found, on its assumption of office, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in a state of tribulation, partly owing to financial difficulties caused by the cessation of financial supplies from Russia, partly owing to a deadlock which had arisen between the Patriarch Damianos and his Synod. The Government accordingly appointed a Commission, consisting of Sir Anton Bertram, Chief Justice of Ceylon, and Mr. H.C.Luke, Assistant Governor of Jerusalem, to inquire into and if possible find a solution for these difficulties. The Commissioners, whose report was published by the Oxford University Press in 1921, found in favour of the Patriarch on the constitutional issue.

The Patriarch, whose jurisdiction was practically coextensive with Palestine and Trans-jordania, and whose flock consisted of 40,000 to 80,000 Orthodox, almost wholly Arabic-speaking, was assisted in his duties by a number of titular bishops, with the title of Metropolitan or Archbishop. These prelates had no real diocesan jurisdiction, their function being either to represent the Patriarch in the Districts or to assist in the ecclesiastical ceremonies in Jerusalem. The titular sees thus held in 1922 were are the following: - Metropolitans : Ptolemais, Nazareth; Archbishops: Lydda, Mount Tabor, Gaza, Kyriacoupolis, Philadelphia, Neapolis, the Jordan, Sebasteia, Tiberias, Diocaesarea, Hierapolis, Madaba, Pella, Eleutheropolis.

The Patriarchs since the beginning of the 19th century had been : Anthimos, 1788-1807 ; Polycarp, 1808-1827 ; Athanasios IV., 1827-1845 ; Cyril II., 1845-1872 ; Procopios, 1872-1877 ; Hierotheos, 1879-1882 ; Nikodemos, 1882-1889 ; Gerasimos, 1890-1897 ; Damianos, 1897-.

In the 21st Century Jerusalem Patriarchate, after the Holy Synod - a council of Bishops - elects a new Patriarch, that Patriarch must have the approval of the Israeli Government, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority in order to take the seat. These Governments do not care about the spiritual reasons for electing a Patriarch, or about following the Holy Canons. They care only about the interests of their own government and state. These are not holy or canonical concerns, but rather political and economic ones. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem has an influence in the world, one that has to be considered. Therefore, it stands to reason that just because certain governments support an elected Patriarch, does not prove the canonical validity of that Patriarch - only that he fits in with their political and economic objectives.

In 2005 Bishop Theophilos was put on the most Holy Throne as Patriarch, and the elected Patriarch Irineos, was removed from power. Further, at the orders of Theophilos, he is currently living under house arrest. In May 2005 Orthodox Church leaders agreed they will no longer recognise the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Irineos I. The decision came during a gathering of representatives of 12 main Orthodox Churches in a rare synod presided over by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Patriarch Irineos was accused of authorising the sale of some church land in the old city of Jerusalem to Jewish investors. The State of Israel continued to recognize Mr Irineos Skopelitis as Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem despite his renunciation and dismissal from office.

In April 2008 the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem elected a new patriarch to replace Irineos I. Theophilos III was unanimously elected by the 14 permanent members of the Greek Orthodox church's Holy Synod.

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

The Latins are the natural opponents of the Greeks, and since the anathemas exchanged in the year 1054, each sect has claimed independent authority and priority. Nowhere else is the great schism between the East and the West so evident as in Jerusalem.

Whatever the early relations between Rome and Constantinople, there was no attempt to establish a Western Church in the Holy Land independent of the existing Orthodox Patriarchate until the establishment of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem during the Crusader kingdom (1099-1291). The Roman Catholic Church was officially established in Palestine on the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, the first Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem being Daimbert, Archbishop of Pisa. The head of this Church was the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and his patriarchal Church was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, served by Augustinian or Black Canons.

For the ensuing two centuries the history of the Patriarchate is largely that of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem ; on the capture of the city by Saladin in 1187 the Patriarchs established themselves in Acre ; and, when that fortress fell in 1291, the Patriarchate ceased effectively to exist, although ten more de jure occupants of the see, including one Englishman, Antony Beake, Bishop of Durham (Patriarch, 1305-1311), were appointed. The dignity of Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem then became a purely titular one, accorded to prelates of the Roman Curia, and so remained until the de facto revival of the see in 1847.

The office of the Latin Patriarch was reconstituted in 1847. Until then, responsibility for the local church rested with the Franciscan Order, which has served as Latin custodian of the holy places since the 14th century. When in 1847 Pope Pius IX re-established the Patriarchate as a resident see, the Patriarchs resumed these special rights from the Custodia. The Latin Patriarchs of Jerusalem are Lieutenants of the Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, in whose name they are entitled to bestow the Order. The Patriarchs since 1847 were : Giuseppe Valerga, 1847-1872 ; Vincenzo Bracco, 1873-1889 ; Ludovico Piavi, 1889-1905 ; Filippo Camassei, K.B.E. (afterwards Cardinal), 1906-1919 ; Luigi Barlassina, 1920-.

Today the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is headed by a bishop who has the title of patriarch. He is assisted by three vicars, resident in Nazareth, Amman and Cyprus. In recent years there has been a fourth vicar for the Hebrew-speaking congregations within Israel. In popular parlance, local Roman Catholics are referred to as "Latins", in reference to their historic liturgical language. Since the Second Vatican Council, however, the Roman Catholic liturgy is generally celebrated in the vernacular, except at some of the holy places, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity, where the mass and other services are still celebrated in Latin. In March 2008 the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, announced he will retire on March 19 at the age of 75. Patriarch Michel Sabbah will be replaced by Fuad Twal, a 67-year-old bishop.

Other Patriarchs of Jerusalem

Eldest in occupancy, and claiming priority from the fact that they are the descendants of those who listened to the teaching of the Apostles themselves, are the Syrians, the ancient stock of Palestine. They are few in number, but possess the ancient Convent of St. Mark, and the tombs of Nicodemus and of Joseph of Arimathea. They are ruled in 1913 by His Beatitude Abighatios II, the Syrian Patriarch of Jerusalem.

A little before Rome was converted to the faith, Armenia, under the teaching of Gregory "the Illuminator," had become the first Christian kingdom. Next to the Greek Church, it is to-day the most important in the East. In Jerusalem they have a great church and monastery on Mt. Zion. Their permanent following by 1913 was not large - not more than eight hundred - but thousands of pilgrims came yearly to tarry awhile in the sacred places. Their patriarch at that time was His Beatitude Izimerlinn, and they kept the shrine and tomb of St. James, whom Herod slew with the sword.

Abyssinia was wrongly associated with the ancient Sheba, now known to have been located in southwest Arabia, and whose queen came to Jerusalem to sec King Solomon's splendor and glory. In AD 338, St. Athanasius appointed a bishop for the Abyssinians, who had received Christianity, so the legends say, from two sailors cast upon their coasts. Through the march of fifteen centuries Christianity endured. Their patriarch was always a Coptic monk appointed and consecrated by the Patriarch of Egypt. In Jerusalem they maintained a large monastery and convent, where devout men and women spent their lives.

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