A Synergy of the One and the Many:
Governance in the Eastern Catholic Patriarchal Churches
by Chorbishop John D. Faris
Even though the patriarch is father and head of the entire patriarchal church (OE n. 9), he does not exercise his power in the same manner over all the bishops and other members of his church. Each patriarchal church is geographically divided into two spheres: those residing inside the territory of the patriarchal church and those residing outside that territory. The territory of the patriarchal church is the region in which the rite of the patriarchal church is observed and the patriarch enjoys the right to establish an ecclesiastical jurisdiction (c. 146 §1). In the case of a doubt regarding the boundaries of the patriarchal territory or if the synod of bishops of the patriarchal church wants to expand the territory, the Roman pontiff can decide on the matter (c. 146 §2).
The question of patriarchal jurisdiction outside the territory of the patriarchal church has been a most highly debated question throughout the revision process because of the drastic changes Eastern Catholics have undergone. Because of social and religious discrimination or persecution, economic difficulties and political upheavals, there has been an emigration of Eastern Catholics from their lands of origin to the entire world, resulting in a situation where some churches have the majority of their faithful residing outside the territory. The issue of the jurisdiction of the patriarchs and their synods in these circumstances is treated in canons 146 150.
The patriarch represents the patriarchal church in all its juridic affairs (c. 79). In the ecclesiastical sphere, the patriarch fulfills this role for the church over which he presides as presiding hierarch. In the civil sphere, the representational role of the patriarch as the head of his religious community is manifested especially in those countries where Islam is an established religion. In those countries an institution known as personal statutes exists, an institution that recognizes the religious law of the various communities and incorporates those laws in the civil law. The patriarch can reserve to himself any matters regarding civil authorities (c. 100), but certain constraints are placed upon his power: prior to entering or putting into effect any agreements with civil authorities at the national level, he must obtain the approval of the Roman pontiff (c. 98).
The patriarch can issue: decrees to urge the observe of a law; instructions to explain sound doctrine, foster piety, correct abuses, and approve and recommend practices that foster the spiritual welfare of the Christian faithful; encyclical letters concerning questions regarding his own church and rite (c. 82 §1).