Patriarch of All the Northern Lands

October 2014

At a press conference in Moscow on 24 September, His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill answered questions from journalists about the Church. Particular attention was paid to the historical development of the Patriarchate itself. It was noted that when the Patriarchate was created in 1589 by all the Eastern Patriarchs, the title granted to the Russian Patriarch was ‘Archbishop of Moscow and Patriarch of all the Northern Lands’. Indeed, this was the title used until the uncanonical abolition of the Patriarchate by Peter I. His Holiness explained that the word ‘Patriarchate’ does not signify some mononational entity, jurisdiction over one ethnic group (as in the modern corruption of the term), but canonical jurisdiction over a part of the world. This was, for example, the meaning of the usage in the old Roman Patriarchate in multinational Western Europe, which lasted until 1054.

It is also the meaning of the usage for the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which had jurisdiction over the now non-existent Byzantine Empire, the Pope (Patriarch) of Alexandria, whose Patriarchate has jurisdiction over lands to the south of the Byzantine Empire (Africa) and the Patriarch of Antioch whose Patriarchate has jurisdiction over lands to the east of the Byzantine Empire. Patriarch Kyrill explained that after the Patriarch (Pope) of Rome fell away from the Orthodox Christian Faith, so the ‘Patriarch of Moscow, All the Russias and All the Northern Lands’ was chosen to replace him as Patriarch of all Christendom to the north of the Byzantine Empire. Since this title has never been cancelled, it remains in force today. As the Patriarch commented, this means that the Patriarch has to take into account the interests of all the peoples who are in his jurisdiction. To imagine that he is Patriarch of only the peoples of the contemporary Russian Federation is quite unfounded.

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