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This article is about Byzantine governors and ecclesiastical ranks. For other uses, use Exarch (disambiguation).

In the Byzantine Empire, an exarch, from Greek ἔξαρχος (exarchos), was governor of a province at some remove from the capital Constantinople. The prevailing situation frequently involved him in military operations.

In the Christian Church, an exarch is the deputy of a patriarch, or a bishop who, in Eastern Christendom, holds authority over other bishops, without being a patriarch.


[edit] Byzantine Empire

In the civil administration of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire the exarch was, as stated above, the viceroy of a large and important province.

The best-known case is that of the Exarch of Italy, who, after the defeat of the Goths, governed in the name of the Byzantine emperor from Ravenna (552-751) the area of Italy, known as Exarchate of Ravenna, that remained under Byzantine control after the reconquest by Belisarius for Justinian. Ravenna had become the capital of the western Roman Empire in 404 under Honorius. It remained the capital of Italy under the Ostrogoths, and after the reconquest became the seat of the provincial governor (539). Ravenna remained the seat of the Exarch until the revolt of 727 over Iconoclasm. Thereafter, the growing menace of the Lombards and the split between eastern and western Christendom that Iconoclasm caused made the position of the Exarch more and more untenable. The last Exarch was killed by the Lombards in 751.

The Byzantine Exarch of Africa nominally governed also Sardinia and Corsica.

[edit] Ecclesiastical Exarchs

[edit] Early tradition

The term exarch entered ecclesiastical language at first for a metropolitan (a bishop) with jurisdiction not only for the area that was his as a metropolitan, but also over other metropolitans. The Council of Chalcedon (451), which gave special authority to the see of Constantinople, as being "the residence of the emperor and the Senate," still did not use the term "patriarch", but in its ninth canon still spoke only of "exarchs". When the proposed government of universal Christendom by five patriarchal sees (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, known as the pentarchy), under the auspices of a single universal empire, was formulated in the legislation of Emperor Justinian I (527-565), especially in his Novella 131, and received formal ecclesiastical sanction at the Council in Trullo (692), the name "patriarch" became the official one for the Bishops of these sees, and the title "Exarch" remained the proper style of the metropolitans who ruled over the three remaining (political) dioceses of Diocletian's division of the Eastern Prefecture, namely the Exarchs of Asia (at Ephesus), of Cappadocia and Pontus (at Caesarea), and of Thrace (at Heraclea). The advance of Constantinople put an end to these exarchates, which fell back to the state of ordinary metropolitan sees (Fortescue, Orthodox Eastern Church, 21-25). But the title of exarch was still occasionally used for any Metropolitan (so at Sardica in 343, can. vi).

The principle became that, since no addition should be made to the fixed number of five patriarchs of the pentarchy, any bishop with authority over other bishops who was not dependent on any one of these five should be called an exarch. Thus, since the Church of Cyprus was declared autocephalous (at Ephesus in 431), its Primate received the title of Exarch of Cyprus.

The short-lived medieval Churches of Ipek (for Serbia), Achrida (for Bulgaria) and Tirnova (for Romania), were governed by exarchs, though these prelates occasionally assumed the title of patriarch (Fortescue, Orthodox Eastern Church, 305 sq. 317 sq., 328 sq.). On the same principle the Archbishop of Mount Sinai is an exarch, though in this case, as in that of Cyprus, modern Orthodox usage generally prefers the title "Archbishop".

[edit] Modern Orthodox Churches

When the Bulgarians reconstituted their national Church in 1870, they obtained from the Ottoman authorities for its head the title of Exarch, not the highest, that of Patriarch. The Bulgarian Exarch, who resided at Constantinople, was then the most famous bearer of the title; adherents throughout Macedonia were called exarchists, as opposed to the Greek patriarchists.

After imperial Russia destroyed in 1802 the old independent Georgian Church (autocephalous since 750, and whose head was since 1008 styled Catholicos-Patriarchs of Iberia, i.e. the Caucacus), the Primate of Georgia (always a Russian) sat in the Holy Synod at St. Petersburg with the title of Exarch of Georgia (Fortescue, Orthodox Eastern Church, 304-305). On 7 April 1917 the Georgian Patriarchate was restored for the Archbishops of Mtsheta and Tbilisi, with the style Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia; in 1943 its autocephaly was recognized by Russia, and on 3 March 1990 the Georgian Patriarchate was recognized by Constantinople.

After the dismembering of the Ottoman Empire, which like the Byzantine empire had ruled most of Orthodoxy (allowing quite some autonomy under the millet system - see Ethnarch), the pentarchy-number principle, already abandoned in the case of Russia, gave way to the desire of the now politically independent orthodox nations to see their sovereignty reflected in ecclsiastical autonomy - autocephaly - and the symbolic title to crown it: a 'national' Patriarch. There are now about twenty Patriarchs.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, an Exarch is now a deputy of a Patriarch. In many cases he rules on behalf of the Patriarch a Church outside the home territory of the Patriarchate. Thus, in the United States of America, there are Exarchs representing, among others, the Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Jerusalem Patriarchs. The style of the Exarchs of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is "Exarch of the Holy Sepulcher".

The Mexican Orthodox parishes in five deaneries (Mexico City, D.F., State of Mexico, State of Jalisco, State of Veracruz and State of Chipas) of the Orthodox Church in America are governed as the "Exarchate of Mexico," with Archbishop Dimitri of Dallas and the South serving as Exarch of Mexico concurrently with his responsibilities for the southern United States. [1]

The Oriental Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch currently has under his authority an Exarch in India, known by the ancient title Maphrian, although he is popularly referred to as Catholicos. This is not to be confused with the autocephalous Assyrian Catholicate of the East, which is also located in India.

[edit] Bulgarian Exarchate

On 28 February 1870 the twenty-year old struggle between Greeks and Bulgarians for the control of the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria culminated when the Ottoman Sultan Abd-ul-Aziz created an independent Bulgarian ecclesiastical organisation, known as the Bulgarian Exarchate. The Orthodox Church in Bulgaria had now become independent of the Greek-dominated Patriarchate of Constantinople. For more information see Bulgarian Exarchate and Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

[edit] Sui generis uses

  • After Russian Emperor Peter the Great abolished the Patriarchate of Moscow (1702), he appointed, for twenty years before he founded the Russian Holy Directing Synod, a vice-gerent with the title of Exarch as president of a temporary governing commission.
  • The third officer of the court of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who examines marriage cases (analogous to the Catholic defensor matrimonii), is called the Exarch.

[edit] Catholic

Historically, there have been a very few cases of the title of Exarch granted by the civil authority to prelates of the Latin Church, as when Emperor Frederick I named the Archbishop of Lyon Exarch of Burgundy in 1157.

The ecclesiastical title of Exarch has disappeared in the Western Catholic Church, being replaced by the terms "Primate" and "Vicar Apostolic".

However, in Eastern Rite Catholic Churches (of Eastern tradition but in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Pope), the ecclesiastical title of Exarch is in common use.

These Churches are, in general, not identified with a particular liturgical rite. Thus, no less than fourteen of them use the one same Byzantine Rite, mostly in one or other of only two languages, Greek and Church Slavonic, but they maintain their distinct identities. The use of the word "Rite" (with upper-case R) to refer to these Churches has largely, though not altogether, fallen into disuse and can lead to confusion with the liturgical sense of the word "rite" (see the section about them in the Roman Catholic Church article). Because of population shifts, half or so of these Churches have not just exarchates but full-scale eparchies or even archeparchies outside their original territory.

An Apostolic Exarch is a Bishop of a titular see to whom the Pope, as Bishop of the Roman See of the Apostle Peter, has entrusted the pastoral care of the faithful of an autonomous particular Church in an area, not raised to the rank of eparchy, that is situated outside the home territory of a patriarchate or major archbishopric. An Apostolic Exarch thus corresponds to what in the Latin Rite is called a Vicar Apostolic.

Patriarchs and Major Archbishops may also appoint Exarchs (not always Bishops).

The 2006 Annuario Pontificio listed the following Catholic Exarchates.

[edit] Apostolic Exarchates

[edit] Patriarchal Exarchates

[edit] Archiepiscopal Exarchates

Only two, both of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, in Ukraine:

  • Donetsk–Kharkiv
  • Odessa–Krym

[edit] Sources and references

de:Exarchat (Kirchenwesen) fr:Exarque id:Eksarka it:Esarca nl:Exarchaat fi:Eksarkki sv:Exark uk:Екзарх


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