The patriarchate had an adventurous history and has known many conquerors and persecutions. But there were always clergymen and faithful people who with big sacrifices and sufferings established the vested rights of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
History of the Patriarchate
In 52 AD takes place the first Apostolic Council in Jerusalem.
In 70 AD the Roman emperor Titus captures and destroys Jerusalem. The Romans demolish the Jewish temple and under difficult conditions the Christians emigrate in Pella in the east bank of Jordan river.
In 135 AD the Roman emperor Hadrian builds on the ruins of Jerusalem a new roman city and names it Aelia Capitolina and permits the Christians to come back. However the Jewish are not permitted to come in town. In the meantime christianism spreads all over Palestine and a lot of communities and episcopacies were created but the primacy had the Metropolis of Caesaria.
Thanks to roman emperor Constantine the Great and his mother St. Helena who builds churches all over Palestine, the Jerusalem Patriarchate gained its previous glory. It is the time of the conflict between the Patriarchate of Caesaria and Jerusalem for the primacies. Finally the fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD recognises the sublimity of Jerusalem and is granted status of Patriarchate with jurisdiction over Palestine and the east banks of Jordan River. During the Byzantine period (5th to 7th century) the Patriarchate had five metropolis, 60 episcopacies and hundreds of monasteries.
In 637 AD, the Arabs who had conquered Jerusalem, restrict the Patriarchate activities who although had authority over Christian affairs social or religious, and the Patriarch is recognised as the highest authority of all the Christians on earth.
When the crusaders conquered the Holy Lands in 1099 AD, they appointed their own patriarch (the schism between the East Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches preceded in 1054 AD) but they weren’t able to abolish the Greek orthodox patriarch who stayed for safety reasons in Constantinople.
After the eviction of the crusaders in 1187 the orthodox Patriarch returns to his throne while the crusaders Patriarchate moves to Akko and remains there until 1230 AD when after the final eviction of the crusaders from Palestine, is abolished.
The years that followed under the occupation of the Mamluks (13th-15th centuries) were the cruelest and tragic the Patriarchate ever encountered. The Mamluks who hated the Christians tried to destroy everything Christian.
In the 13th century the Armenian Patriarchate is established.
In the 14th century Franciscan monks arrive in the Holy Land and together with monophysites of different nationalities like Copts, Ethiopians and Syrians organise in ecclesiastical communities and claim rights over the pilgrimages.
In 1517 AD the Ottomans conquer Jerusalem and the Patriarchate’s struggle to salvage the pilgrimages, not only against the Turks but also against the demands of the other Christians, continues.
In 1856 AD the scene clears with the confirmation of the Status Quo of the Pilgrimages in the Paris council.
Since then begins a new era of reformation of the Patriarchate. The entire Christian world and in particular the - at last- unoccupied Greek state contributes with donations. Monks and contributors buy land, build churches and monasteries, and reform the ruined pilgrimages establishing the necessary basis for the Patriarchate’s sustenance.
First Secretary: Archbishop of Constantinis Aristarhos
The Current Address: Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of JERUSALEM, P.O. Box 19 632, Tel. & Fax: 282.048
The Ecumenical Patriarchate holds an honorary primacy among the autocephalous, or ecclesiastically independent, Churches. It enjoys the privilege of serving as “first among equals.” It is also known as the “Roman” Patriarchate (hence the Turkish phrase: Rum Patrikhanesi), recalling its historical source as the Church of New Rome, the new capital of the Roman Empire, transferred in 330 from Old Rome to Byzantium by Constantine the Great. The first bishop of the city of Byzantium was St. Stachys (38–54), a disciple of the Apostle Andrew. In 330, Byzantium was renamed Constantinople and New Rome, while its bishopric was elevated to an archbishopric. The Metropolitan of Heraclea, to whom Byzantium was formerly subject, now came under the jurisdiction of Constantinople and enjoyed the privileges of the latter’s most senior see.
As a title, the phrase “Ecumenical Patriarchate” dates from the sixth century and belongs exclusively to the Archbishop of Constantinople. The Great Schism of 1054—in fact the culmination of a gradual estrangement over many centuries—resulted in formal separation between the Churches of the East and the West, granting Constantinople sole authority and jurisdiction over the Orthodox Churches throughout the world.
After the capture of Constantinople by the Latins during the Fourth Crusade (1204), the Ecumenical Patriarchate was transferred to Nicaea (1206), but Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologos restored it to Constantinople when he recaptured the city in 1261. When Constantinople became the capital of the Ottoman Empire in 1453, the Ecumenical Patriarch (at the time, Gennadius II) was recognized as Ethnarch of the Orthodox peoples, with increased authority over the Eastern Patriarchates and the Balkan Churches, as well as farther afield.
From that time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate became a symbol of unity, rendering service and solidarity to the Eastern Churches. In difficult periods, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was consulted for the resolution of problems. Frequently, patriarchs of other Churches would reside in Constantinople, which was the venue for meetings of the Holy Synod that was chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate also sponsored missionary growth through the centuries, the most notable of which was the conversion of the Kievan Rus in the tenth century and the most recent of which was the missionary work in Southeast Asia in the last century. This pastoral role and responsibility has earned the characterization of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as “the golden beacon of Orthodoxy, preserving the unwaning brilliance of Christianity.”
Currently, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is actively engaged in diverse ecclesiastical activities and ministries. It has historically proved to be a dynamic leader in the ecumenical movement, fully participating in the World Council of Churches from its inception, as well as in local ecumenical bodies instituting and chairing bilateral theological dialogues with non-Orthodox Christians but also with other monotheistic faiths.