As the Vatican offered its condolences to the Church of Alexandria for the passing of Pope Shenouda III, I would like to begin a brief review on the multiple Eastern Churches and their relationships each keep with the Roman Catholic Church.
During the Nicea Council in 325, three major ‘Patriarchates’ were recongnized: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. Later on, the Council of Constantinople (381) added Constantinople and Jerusalem as ‘Patriarchates’ as well.
These five patriarchs were known as the Pentarchy; with the Patriarch of Rome and Alexandria also recieving the name of Popes. However, due to different ecclesiological and doctrinal issues, the Pentarchy did not last long an by 1054 they were not united anymore.
Today’s Eastern Churches can be divided into 4 groupings:
1. The Eastern Orthodox Church. Is the largest group and follow the Byzantine tradition.
2. The groups of six independent churches known as Oriental Orthodox Churches
3. The Assyrian Church of the East
4. The Eastern Catholic Churches. In communion with Rome and the Pope, but with unique Canon Law and customs
More to follow….
Source: Eastern Christian Churches by Fr. Robin Gibbons