Primate (pronounced /ˈpraɪˌmeɪt/) is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority (title of authority) or ceremonial precedence (title of honour).
In many countries, the Primate is based in a city other than the capital. This often reflects historical circumstances, with the Primate located in what had been the capital when the country first became Christianized, and with such geographical disparity helping to preserve the Church's autonomy from the secular government.
Roman Catholic Church
In the Western Church, a primate is an archbishop—or rarely a suffragan or exempt bishop—of a specific episcopal see (called a primatial see) which confers precedence over the bishops of one or more neighbouring ecclesiastical provinces, such as a 'national' church in historical, political, and cultural terms. Historically, primates were granted privileges including the authority to call and preside at national synods, the jurisdiction to hear appeals from metropolitan tribunals, the right to crown the sovereign of the nation, and presiding at the investiture (installation) of archbishops in their sees.
The office is generally found in the older Catholic countries, and is now purely honorific, enjoying no effective powers under canon law except for Esztergom (Gran) in Hungary. An exception is Poland, where the new statute of the episcopal conference states that the Primate of Poland is durante munere a member of the Perpetual Board of the episcopal conference and he has honorary precedence among Polish bishops (e.g. when carrying on liturgical ceremonies). Polish primates also actively wear cardinal's vestments, even if they have not been nominated cardinals, a privilege granted by the Holy See. The title, where it exists, may be vested in one of the oldest archdioceses in a country. The see city may no longer have the prominence it had when the diocese was created, or its circumscription may no longer exist as a state, nation or country — for example, the Archbishop of Toledo originated as the "Primate of the Visigothic Kingdom", while the Archbishop of Lyon is the "Primate of the Gauls".
Some of the leadership functions once exercised by primates, specifically presiding at meetings of the bishops of a nation or region, are now exercised by the president of the conference of bishops: "The president of the Conference or, when he is lawfully impeded, the vice-president, presides not only over the general meetings of the Conference but also over the permanent committee."  The president is generally elected by the conference, but by exception the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference is appointed by the Pope, and the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference has the Primate of All Ireland as President and the Primate of Ireland as Vice-President. Other former functions of primates, such as hearing appeals from metropolitan tribunals, were reserved to the Holy See by the early 20th century. Soon after, by the norm of the Code of Canon Law of 1917, confirmed in the 1983 Code, the tribunal of second instance for appeals from a metropolitan tribunal is "the tribunal which the metropolitan has designated in a stable manner with the approval of the Apostolic See".
The Holy See has continued in modern times to grant the title of primate. With the decree Sollicitae Romanis Pontificibus of 24 January 1956 it granted the title of Primate of Canada to the Archbishop of Quebec. As stated above, this is merely an honorary title involving no additional power.
The title of primate is sometimes applied loosely to the archbishop of a country's capital, as in the case of the archbishops of Manila in the Philippines, Seoul in Korea, and Edinburgh in Scotland. Functions can sometimes be exercised in practice (de facto), as by a de facto government, without having been granted by law; but since "primate" is today a title, not a function, there is no such thing as a "de facto" primate.
The Archbishop of Westminster has not been granted the title of Primate of England and Wales, which is sometimes applied to him, but his position has been described as that of "chief metropolitan" and as "similar to" that of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The heads of the following sees have at some time been referred to as primates:
- Carthage, Africa ancient, Pope Leo IX: 1893  
- Prague - Bohemia (1344-),
- Buenos Aires, Argentina (the title was granted under Pope Pius XI on 29 January 1936).
- Mechelen, *Belgium (1560)
- Vienne, Burgundy, Primate of Primates
- Rouen - Normandy, France
- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Auch,Novempopulania and both Navarres.
- Esztergom, also known as Gran in German.
- Rome, Italy
- Gniezno Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1418)
- Lund, Scandinavia
- Palermo, Sicily
- Venice, for Dalmatia
- Salzburg, Austria
- Antivari, Serbia
- São Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
- Gniezno, Poland
- Tarragona, Spain
- Gran, Hungary
- Mechlin, Belgium (1560)
- Armagh, All Ireland
Regular clergy equivalent
In the modern confederation of the Benedictine Order, all the Black Monks of St. Benedict were united under the presidency of an Abbot Primate (Leo XIII, Summum semper, 12 July 1893); but the unification, fraternal in its nature, brought no modification to the abbatial dignity, and the various congregations preserved their autonomy intact. The loose structure of the Benedictine Confederation is claimed to have made Pope Leo XIII exclaim that the Benedictines were ordo sine ordine ("an order without order"). The powers of the Abbot Primate are specified, and his position defined, in a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars dated 16 September 1893. The primacy is attached to the global Benedictine Confederation whose Primate resides at Sant'Anselmo in Rome. He takes precedence of all other abbots, is empowered to pronounce on all doubtful matters of discipline, to settle difficulties arising between monasteries, to hold a canonical visitation, if necessary, in any congregation of the order, and to exercise a general supervision for the regular observance of monastic discipline. The Primatial powers are only vested in the Abbot Primate to act by virtue of the proper law of its autonomous Benedictine congregation, which at the present is minimal to none. However, certain branches of the Benedictine Order seem to have lost their original autonomy to some extent.
In a similar way the Confederation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, elects an Abbot Primate as figurehead of the Confederation and indeed the whole Canonical Order. The Abbots and Superiors General of the nine congregations of confederated congregations of Canons Regular elect a new Abbot Primate for a term of office lasting six years. The Current Abbot General is Rt. Rev. Fr Maurice Bitz, Abbot of St. Pierre, and Abbot General of the Canons Regular of St. Victor.
Anglican usage styles the bishop who heads an independent church as its "primate", though commonly they hold some other title (e.g. archbishop, presiding bishop, or moderator). The primates' authority within their churches varies considerably: some churches give the primate some executive authority, while in others they may do no more than preside over church councils and represent the church ceremonially.
In the context of the Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting, the chief bishop of each of the thirty-eight churches (also known as provinces) that compose the Anglican Communion acts as its primate, though this title may not be used within their own provinces. Thus the United Churches of Bangladesh, of North India, of Pakistan and of South India, which are united with other originally non-Anglican churches, are represented at the meetings by their moderators.
In both the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, two bishops have the title of primate: the archbishops of Canterbury and York in England and of Armagh and Dublin in Ireland. Only the bishop of the senior primatial see of each of these two churches participates in the meetings.
Primates and archbishops are styled "The Most Reverend". All other bishops are styled "The Right Reverend".
Traditional Anglican Communion
- "Primate". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- John P. Beal, New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Paulist Press 2002 ISBN 978-0-80914066-4), p. 595
- John P. Beal, New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Paulist Press 2002 ISBN 978-0-80914066-4), p. 1631
- Template:Sollicitae Romanis Pontificibus, in Mandements, lettres pastorales et circulaires des évêques de Québec, vol. XVIII : Son Éminence le Cardinal Maurice Roy (1955-1966), Québec, Chancellerie de l'archevêché, 1967, pp. 44-46, suivi de la traduction en français du décret, (pp. 47-48) (page viewed February 14, 2014)
- Paul A. Bramadat, David Seljak, Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada (University of Toronto Press 2008 ISBN 978-0-80209584-8), p. 131
- " As ordinary of the Diocese of Westminster his jurisdiction extends over much the same area as that of the Bishop of London. As chief metropolitan, he occupies a position similar to that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of All England" ( "Archdiocese of Westminster". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.). "By the grant in the Apostolic Constitution of 'certain new distinctions of preeminence', for the preservation of unity in government and policy, to the archbishop of Westminster for the time being, comprised under the following three heads: He will be permanent chairman of the meetings of the Bishops of all England and Wales, and for this reason it will be for him to summon these meetings and to preside over them, according to the rules in force in Italy and elsewhere. (2) He will take rank above the other two Archbishops, and will throughout all England and Wales enjoy the privilege of wearing the Pallium, of occupying the throne, and of having the cross borne before him. (3) Lastly, in all dealings with the Supreme Civil Authority, he will in his person represent the entire Episcopate of England and Wales. Always, however, he is to take the opinion of all the Bishops, and to be guided by the votes of the major part of them'. Thus, though the Archbishop of Westminster was vested with more powers and privileges than primates usually enjoy, unity of action has been safeguarded" ( "Reorganization_of_the_English_Hierarchy". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.).
- "Archdiocese of Baltimore". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Africa". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Hierarchy". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Archdiocese of Prague". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Episcopal Conference of Argentina: "Arquidiócesis de Buenos Aires".
- Agencia Informativa Católica Argentina: "El nuevo arzobispo de Buenos Aires es Mons. Mario Poli"
- Esquiu, 16 December 2012, p. 14
- "Mechlin". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Canterbury". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Ancient See of York". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Bordeaux". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Bourges". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Archdiocese_of_Aix". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Grenoble". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Archdiocese of Rouen". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Mainz". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Sens". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Armagh". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- James Murray, Enforcing the English Reformation in Ireland (Cambridge University Press 2011 ISBN 978-0-52136994-7), pp. 41-43; MacGeoghegan, James, The History of Ireland, Ancient and Modern (1844), James Duffy, Dublin, p. 337
- "Archdiocese of Gnesen-Posen". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Archdiocese of Cagliari". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- By royal grant ( "Scotland". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.) but refused by the Holy See (G.W.S. Barrow, Kingship and Unity (Edinburgh University Press 1981 ISBN 978-0-74860104-2), p. 69)
- "Toledo". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- "Archdiocese of Gran". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Anglican Communion: "What Is a Primate?"
- Traditional Anglican Communion primate resigns. December 12, 2011. CathNews.com.
Sources and references
- Catholic Encyclopaedia (also other articles)
- Catholic Hierarchy
- Westermann Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte (in German)