Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a composition of πατήρ (pater) meaning "father" and άρχων (archon) meaning "leader", "ruler", etc.
The word has mainly taken on specific ecclesiastical meanings. In particular, the highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy are called patriarchs. The office and ecclesiastical conscription (comprising one or more provinces, though outside his own (arch) diocese he is often without enforceable jurisdiction, unlike the Pope, the Bishop of Rome) of such a patriarch is called a patriarchate. Historically, a Patriarch may often be the logical choice to act as Ethnarch, representing the community that is identified with his religious confession within a state or empire of a different creed (as Christians within the Ottoman Empire).
Patriarchs of the Pentarchy
The following five patriarchs, later known as the Pentarchy, are the ancient, established patriarchates listed below:
- The Patriarch of Constantinople
- The Patriarch of Rome
- The Patriarch of Alexandria
- The Patriarch of Antioch
- The Patriarch of Jerusalem
Patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox Churches
see: Eastern Orthodoxy
- The Ecumenical Patriarch, head of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople and the Spiritual Leader of Eastern Orthodoxy
- The Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria in All Africa
- The Patriarch of Antioch and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East in the Near East
- The Patriarch of Jerusalem and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and Holy Zion in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and All Arabia
- The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia
- The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia and the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church in Georgia
- The Patriarch of Serbia and the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro
- The Patriarch of All Romania and the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Romania
- The Patriarch of All Bulgaria and the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Bulgaria
As part of the Pentarchy, the Pope's Patriarchate of Rome was the only one in the Western Roman empire. It was roughly coterminous with present territory of the Latin Rite. In the past popes have used the title Patriarch of the West. However, this title was removed from a reference publication issued by the Vatican in 2006.