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The Latin Patriarch of Constantinople was an office established as a result of Crusader activity in the Near East. The title should not be confused with that of the "Patriarch of Constantinople", an office which existed before and after.

Before the East-West Schism in 1054, the Christian Church within the borders of the ancient Roman Empire was ruled by five patriarchs: the Bishop of Rome (who rarely if ever used the title "Patriarch"), of Constantinoplemarker, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch. This is a simplified view, since, for example, beyond the former borders of the Empire were Christian communities with traditional hierarchical structures in the Armenian, Georgian, Persian, Syriac and Ethiopian Churches that do not fit too easily into this scheme of things. Likewise as long as the Latin Church of North Africa lasted, the Bishop of Carthage held a certain primacy, though he acknowledged the overall primacy of Rome.

The Bishop of Rome had the primacy and in the Greek world the Patriarch of Constantinople came to occupy a leading position. The sees of Rome and Constantinople were often at odds with one another, just as the Greek and Latin Churches as a whole were often at odds both politically and in things ecclesiastical. There were complex cultural currents underlying these difficulties, including the fact that in the West feudal models began to influence the way of viewing relations within the Church. The tensions led in 1054 to a serious rupture between the Latin West and the Greek East, which while not in many places absolute, has dominated the ecclesiastical landscape into our day.

In 1204, the Fourth Crusade invaded, seized and sacked Constantinople, and established the Latin Empire. This was not the doing of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, but the popes showed weakness in condoning the fact that the Latin clergy who were the camp followers of the crusaders, who set up a Latin Patriarchate subservient in the Western manner to the Pope. This act was part of a more general picture in which the Crusaders on the one hand established Latin Kingdoms in the Middle East and in Greece and the Greek Islands, as in parts of the Balkans, and similarly an array of Latin episcopal sees were established. The Latin establishment in Constantinople was defeated and dispossessed in 1261, although the Latin Patriarchate persisted with varying vigour, based in Rome at the Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticanomarker. For a time, like many ecclesiastical offices in the West, it had rival contenders who were supporters or protegés, of the rival popes. As to the title Latin Patriarch of Constantinople, this was the case at least from 1378 to 1423. Thereafter the office continued as an honorific title, the latter centuries attributed to a leading clergyman in Rome, until it ceased to be assigned after 1948 and was finally abolished in 1964.

It must be noted that a Vicariate Apostolic of Istanbul (until 1990, Constantinople) has existed from 1742 into the present day.

List of Latin Patriarchs of Constantinople

This title was officially abolished in 1965.


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