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The title is granted purely as an honor for various historical reasons.

They take precedence after the heads of autonomous churches in full communion, whether pope, patriarch, or major archbishop.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are referred to as the three patriarchs of the people of Israel, and the period during which they lived is termed the Patriarchal Age.

In the Pentarchy formulated by Justinian I (527–565), the emperor assigned as a patriarchate to the Bishop of Rome the whole of Christianized Europe (including almost all of modern Greece), except for the region of Thrace, the areas near Constantinople, and along the coast of the Black Sea.

He included in this patriarchate also the western part of North Africa.

However, differences exist in the order of precedence (i.e.

patriarchs take precedence over major archbishops) and in the mode of accession.

Whereas the election of a major archbishop has to be confirmed by the pope before he may take office, no papal confirmation is needed for a newly elected patriarch before he takes office.

Rather, a newly-installed patriarch is required to petition the pope as soon as possible for the concession of what is called ecclesiastical communion.

The highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church (above major archbishop and primate), and the Church of the East are termed patriarchs (and in certain cases also popes).

The word is derived from Greek πατριάρχης (patriarchēs), Originally, a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family.

The pope can confer the rank of Patriarch without any see, to an individual Archbishop, as happened on 24 February 1676 to Alessandro Cescenzi, Somascans (C. R.), former Latin Titular Patriarch of Alexandria (19 January 1671 – retired ), who resigned the title on 9 January 1682.

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