Pope Francis recovers the title “Patriarch of the West” as an ecumenical gesture

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Pope Francis can once again be called the “Patriarch of the West.” The new edition of the Vatican Yearbook lists the papal titles, names and duties of the curial staff.

The Vatican has not yet given an explanation as to why Pope Francis is reinstating this title after his predecessor stopped using it in 2006. At that time, the then Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity explained it was a difficult title to use today since the West is no longer defined by the borders of the Roman Empire. Culturally, the West could apply as far as New Zealand, which is counterintuitive, since for ancient Rome, it was the easternmost part of the world.

But Pope Francis' decision does not seem to be related to whether the position is relevant or not. Rather, it may be a gesture towards the Orthodox Church, where the pope was seen as just one more among the patriarchs. The pope would not be a superior figurehead. This is how the Rome advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople describes it. He points out that Francis' decision expresses his vision of the papacy.

Advisor, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople

Why did the Pope make these gestures? Because, at heart, the Pope is very much about the importance of the synodality.
To make important decisions again, we must be united.

The Orthodox Church has expressed its appreciation for the Pope's gestures over the years: from introducing himself as Bishop of Rome rather than Pope upon his election to reviving this historic title of Patriarch.


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