A Synergy of the One and the Many:
Governance in the Eastern Catholic Patriarchal Churches
by Chorbishop John D. Faris
In the case of a patriarchal election, if the one elected is an ordained bishop and accepts the election (c. 74), he is to make a profession of faith and promise to exercise his office faithfully (c. 76 §1). The synod of bishops proceeds with the proclamation and enthronement of the patriarch according to the liturgical books (c. 74). By virtue of enthronement, the patriarch obtains his office with the full effects of the law (qua pleno iure officium obtinet) (c. 77 §1). The synod of bishops is to notify the Roman pontiff by means of a synodal letter of the election, enthronement, profession of faith and promise to exercise his office faithfully and to notify the patriarchs of the other Eastern churches of the election (c. 76 §1).
The patriarch is then to request ecclesiastical communion from the Roman pontiff (c. 76 §2). Although the patriarch receives the fullness of his office with his enthronement, he cannot convoke a synod or ordain a bishop until he has received the letter of ecclesiastical communion. This restriction on the exercise of the patriarchal office is an apparent contradiction to the provision of canon 77 §1, which asserted that the patriarch obtained his office with the full effects of the law with enthronement. When objections were raised to this restriction, the explanation was offered that such actions can be carried out only in full communion with Roman pontiff, the head of the college of bishops. However, such an explanation is weak if the one elected is a bishop who has already made a profession of faith and a promise of obedience to the Roman pontiff (c. 187 §2). Does election to the patriarchal office result in a loss of communion?
Election of Bishops
In addition to the general canons on elections (cc. 947-957), there is a special section on the election of bishops (cc. 180-189).
The minimal qualifications for a bishop are: solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls and prudence, good reputation, not bound by a marriage bond, at least 35 years old, in the order of presbyters for at least five years, academic credentials such as a doctorate, licentiate or an expertise in some sacred science (c. 180).
The election of bishops can take the form of the preparation of a list of approved candidates. The list should contain a number of candidates sufficient to fulfill the needs of the patriarchal church and can be constructed to include a list of candidates for the episcopacy in general or a list of candidates for a specific office.
It is the exclusive right of the members of the synod of bishops to propose candidates. If a bishop considers it necessary, he may consult with presbyters and other Christian faithful for their opinions. They are then to inform the patriarch of their findings. If the patriarch, after adding his own opinion, deems it appropriate, he sends the proposal to the members of the synod. With the approval of the Roman pontiff, particular law can restrict the right of presentation of candidates for election to the patriarch. The list is then transmitted to the Apostolic See for the assent of the Roman pontiff; which, if given, is valid until it is expressly revoked. (c. 182)