Patriarch of Alexandria

Patriarch of Alexandria
Coptic icon of Saint Mark the Evangelist, the apostolic founder of the Church of Alexandria, and the first Primate of Alexandria

The Patriarch of Alexandria is the Archbishop of Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt. Historically, this office has included the designation of Pope (etymologically 'Father', like Abbot etc.), and did so earlier than that of the Bishop of Rome. The first Bishop to be called Papas was the thirteenth Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria, Papas Heraclas.[1]

At first the position was an Episcopate, which was revered as one of the three most ancient Episcopates, along with Rome and Antioch, a century before Jerusalem or Constantinople attained that status in 381; the five subsequently came to be known as the Pentarchy. It was, de facto, elevated to an Archiepiscopal status by the local Alexandrine Council on the one hand and it was then regulated by canon law of the First Ecumenical Council stipulating that all the Egyptian episcopal and metropolitan provinces be subjected to this Metropolitan See of Alexandria, as was already the prevailing custom.

The office was acknowledged as a Patriarchate by the time of the First Council of Ephesus, and was officially ratified as such by the Council of Chalcedon. The title Pope was originally used in a capacity of an appellation rather than a title and eventually it became a title, but unlike the case of the Pope of Rome, the Pope of Alexandria had no distinction in his Papal or Pontifical titles on the one hand and his Patriarchal titles on the other. They were used together in the same capacity and this dual title did not put him on a higher ecclesiastical/hierarchical level than the other Patriarchs of the Pentarchy. Moreover the use of the title by the Roman Bishop did not restrict it to himself or deprive his Alexandrian colleague of its use.

Papa has been the specific designation for the Archbishop of Alexandria and Patriarch of all Africa on the See of Saint Mark. Historically, this office has held the title of Pope, "Παπας", which means "Father" in the Greek and the Coptic languages, since Pope Heracleus, the 13th Alexandrine Bishop (232–249 AD), was the first to associate the appellation of Pope with the title of the Bishop of Alexandria three centuries before it was assumed by John I, Bishop of Rome (523–526),[contradictory] who ratified the Alexandrian computation of the date of Easter. Bestowing the title on Rome's Pontiff did not strip it from Alexandria's, and the Roman Catholic Church recognizes this ecclesiastical fact.[2]

According to Church tradition, the Patriarchate was founded in 42 by the Apostle Saint Mark the Evangelist. All churches acknowledge the same succession of church leaders up to about the dividing Council of Chalcedon 451, that gave rise to the non-chalcedonian Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, and to the chalcedonian Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria.


Jurisdictional claimants to the title of Patriarch of Alexandria

Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria

Pope and Archbishop of the Great City of Alexandria and Patriarch of all Africa, the Holy Orthodox and Apostolic See of Saint Mark the Evangelist that is, in Egypt, Pentapolis, Libya, Nubia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and all Africa.
The Successor of St. Mark the Evangelist, Holy Apostle and Martyr, on the Holy Apostolic Throne of the Great City of Alexandria
Diocesan Bishop of Alexandria
Elder Metropolitan Archbishop of the Egyptian Province
Primate of Pentapolis, Libya, Nubia and Sudan
Patriarch of all Africa
The Pillar and Defender of the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Orthodox Faith
The Dean of the Great Catechetical School of Theology of Alexandria
The Ecumenical (Universal) Judge (Arbitrator) of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic (Universal) Church
The Thirteenth among the Holy Apostles
Father of Fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds
Hierarch of all Hierarchs
Bishop (Archpriest) of Bishops (Archpriests)
The Thirteenth Apostle
Judge (Arbitrator) of the Universe (the Oecumene)

Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria

Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria, Libya, the Pentapolis, Ethiopia All Land of Egypt and All Africa

Eastern Catholic Churches

Coptic Catholic Church of Alexandria

Melkite Greek Catholic Church

  • The Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkites, who leads the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See, also carries the titles of the Titular Patriarch of Alexandria of the Greek-Melkites and the Titular Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Greek-Melkites.

Latin Catholic Church

See also

See the linked articles for lists of the primatial patriarchs of each church.


The Pentarchy
Patriarch of Rome
(1st century)
Patriarch of Alexandria
(1st century)
Patriarch of Antioch
(1st century)
Patriarch of Jerusalem
(5th century)
Patriarch of Constantinople
(4th century)

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