A Brief History of the Patriarchate of St. Stephen

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ROME—FLORENCE—ENGLAND

The modern Patriarchate of St. Stephen is a conglomeration of several historic lineages, both spiritual and temporal. Its episcopal jurisdiction and Apostolic Succession descend from the First Chair of the Patriarchate, the former Diocese of the Southwest. It is traditional Old Roman Catholic with Anglican heritage. Its temporal heritage derives from Florence and also includes the Kingdom of Italy in the Holy Roman Empire and the Electorates of Würzburg, Trier, Westphalia, and Mainz. The Patriarchate is at once historical and modern — ancient and new. It is both distinct in its heritage and diverse in its work in service to God and others. It has a deep history of parochial work, but today focuses only on mission work. It is of Christ's Kingdom of Heaven, but firmly planted in the world. It past is rooted in the rule of nations, yet today it is a nation without borders. Its people are devoted and pious, compassionate in service, fierce in defense. It is perhaps singular in modern world history, and its people are rightly proud of it.

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Historic throne of the First Chair of the Patriarchate, bearing the diocesan coat of arms of the
Old Roman Catholic Patriarchate of St. Stephen (then the Anglican Diocese of the Southwest)
located in St. Chad’s Cathedral, San Antonio, Texas. The shield above the throne is that of St. Chad of
Mercia, the 7th century Bishop of Northumbria and the Mercians. St. Willibrord, the Apostle to the Dutch,
first Bishop of Utrecht, the See from which the Patriarchate’s Roman Catholic succession derives, was born in Northumbria.

 

The Diocese of the Southwest was at its founding a part of the traditional protestant Anglican movement that separated from the Episcopal Church of the USA in the 1970s. It had a thriving parochial ministry and founded the St. George Theological Seminary, now Pontifical Georgian College, the principle seminary of the Patriarchate. By the early 2000s, internal dissent resulted in schism. Some went to other protestant Anglican churches, some went to the Orthodox or Roman Catholic Churches, and some ended up effectively as Congregationalist parishes—an oddity in the Catholic context. The Chancellor of the Diocese, who had also been ordained in traditional Roman Catholic succession through the Independent Catholic Church and was also an abbot, remained and brought the remnants of the diocese into the Apostolic Communion of Anglican Churches. There he was consecrated as its bishop.

To provide contextual background, the Independent Catholic Church was a jurisdiction in communion with the Philippine National Catholic Church and in Apostolic Succession from Pope Leo XIII through Bishop Duarte Costa in Brazil, and from the Armenian Uniate and Greek Melkite Catholic Churches in union with Rome. Bishop Duarte Costa was separated from the Roman Communion over a dispute over Pope Pius XII’s alleged (though now shown to be unfounded) support for Adolf Hitler during the Second World War. The separate administration of Duarte Costa continues today as the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church. There has been some tension over the years with the Roman Communion, though it should be pointed out that such tension exists even within the Roman Communion itself. As an example of the esteem in which the Duarte Costa line is held by Rome, Mgr. Salomão Barbosa Ferraz, a bishop consecrated by Mgr. Duarte Costa, was received as a bishop within the Roman Communion by Pope John XXIII and served on a committee of the Second Vatican Council at the invitation of Pope Paul VI. Mgr. Ferraz was married with seven children.

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Archbishop Duarte Costa
First Patriarch of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church


L-R: Pope John XXIII, Mgr. Salomão Barbosa Ferraz, Bishop, and Pope Paul VI

The Apostolic Communion of Anglican Churches was and remains a confederation of diverse bishops that share both Anglican heritage and Old Roman Catholic Apostolic Succession. That is, it is effectively an Old Roman Catholic jurisdiction with Anglican heritage. “Old Roman Catholic” refers to lineage from the ancient Roman Catholic Diocese of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Founded by the Northumbrian bishop Willibrord, it was granted autonomy by the Holy See around 900 years ago. During the 1700s, tensions arose with Rome due to unfounded accusations of heresy against the Archbishop of Utrecht made by the Jesuits. The Archbishop was twice acquitted, but the damage was done. By the time of the reign of Pius IX, a separate diocese was established in Utrecht, and both remain to this day. Those of the original See referred to themselves as “Roman Catholics of the Old Episcopal Order” and similar names.

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Saint Willibrord
First Bishop of Utrecht, Apostle to the Dutch

Then, Utrecht was sent into turmoil by a movement at the time of the First Vatican Council. In opposition to Papal Infallibility, the so-called “Old Catholic” movement gained traction and became the dominant faction in the old-order Utrecht archdiocese (and still is today). The new movement passed resolutions rejecting much of traditional Roman Catholic teaching. Those in “opposition to the opposition,” i.e., those who did not wish those changes, were led primarily by Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew, a bishop consecrated by the Archbishop of Utrecht and with jurisdiction over Britain. In order to maintain the old order of Roman Catholicism that was the right of Utrecht, he separated from the new administration of Utrecht. They retained the name Old Roman Catholic, and it is from Mgr. Mathew that most Old Roman Catholic lineages derive.

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Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew

The main Roman Catholic lines of succession of the Patriarchate via Mgr. Mathew descends from St. Peter through Cardinal Antonio Barberini, Archbishop of Reims and nephew of Pope Urban VIII (reigned 1623-1644). Antonio Barberini was made a Cardinal in 1627 at the age of 20 (not at all uncommon at the time). He was installed as the Archbishop of Reims in 1657 during the reign of King Louis XIV. He was also the Crown Cardinal of France from 1636.

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Antonio Cardinal Barberini
Archbishop of Reims, Crown Cardinal of France

Another Roman Catholic line of succession of the Patriarchate descends from Clement XIII (reigned 1758-1769). Other lines include the Chaldean Uniate, Armenian Uniate, and Greek Melkite Uniate Churches in union with Rome.

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Pope Clement XIII

The Patriarchate also holds temporal patrimony that was restored to it based on hereditary descent, as well as a Cardinal Deaconry (Santa Maria Antiqua) in perpetuity. From that temporal patrimony, the first Patriarch is also the third Cardinal Prince of Florence in succession from Pope Leo X (who is considered Founder of the legacy of the Patriarchate), and also is the ecclesiastical successor to Matilda of Tuscany in Tuscany and the Vice-Kingship of Italy in the Holy Roman Empire. Indeed, upon her death without issue, Matilda ceded the rights to her lands to the Holy Church of Rome. The Patriarchate also is linked to the Merovingian dynasty from which are held the French titles of Count of Sainte Animie and Count of Marmande.

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Pope Leo X, first Cardinal Prince of Florence

The name of the Patriarchal Household, the Court of Saint Mary of Walsingham, is a combination of the name of the Cardinal Deaconry, Santa Maria Antiqua, and Our Lady of Walsingham, Our Lady's title as Patroness of the English and English-speaking people. Several of the senior officials of the Patriarchate are or were Priests Associate of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. (The Patriarchate also maintains the ministry of the Servants of Our Lady of Walsingham in Italy.)

The spiritual, temporal, and even linguistic heritage of the modern Patriarchate of St. Stephen may perhaps be best depicted in this famous painting by Romano Giovanni Romanelli of Matilda of Tuscany, Vice Queen of Italy, and Saint Anselmo, the Italian-born Archbishop of Canterbury, England, with Pope Urban II. The Holy Father Urban represents the Latin language and the Holy Roman Church. Saint Anselmo represents the English Church and language, and indeed by being Italian, he embodies the Anglo-Italian linkage even more explicitly. Matilda of Tuscany represents the Italian language and the temporal heritage of the Patriarchate, with over 1000 years of heritage of defense of the Faith and Church.

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Saint Anselmo of Canterbury (left), Pope Urban II (centre), and Matilda of Tuscany (right)

Today the Patriarchate is a mission-based jurisdiction and is dedicated to its celestial Patron, St. Stephen the Deacon and Protomartyr. Though its historic spiritual and temporal home is Florence, it operates around the world. Although it no longer controls the lands of its temporal patrimony, it maintains its status as an ecclesiastical sovereignty and government. The Patriarchate focuses on humanitarian and service work, grounded in the saving grace of the Holy Mass, and perpetuates in a modern context the rich heritage of those portions of the historic Holy Roman Empire entrusted to it to preserve.

See also:

Patriarchal Household
Government of the Patriarchate
Information Portal
Historic Timeline
Frequently Asked Questions
Holy Roman Empire
Apostolic Succession
Patriarchal States

 

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