Patriarchate of the West Indies

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Patriarchate of West Indies
Patriarchatus Indiarum Occidentalium
Country  Spain
Territory West Indies
Denomination Roman Catholic
Sui iuris church Latin Church
Rite Roman Rite
Established 11 May 1524
Current leadership
Pope Francis
Patriarch Sede vacante

The Titular Patriarchate of the West Indies (Latin: Patriarchatus Indiarum Occidentalium) is a Latin Rite titular patriarchate of the Roman Catholic Church. It is vacant since the death of its last holder in 1963.[1][2]

Attempt to create a jurisdictional Patriarchate in the Spanish West Indies[edit]

King Ferdinand V of Castile asked Pope Leo X to establish a patriarchate for the ecclesiastical government of the American territories discovered by the Spaniards. The Holy See was not keen to accept the establishment of such an autonomous Spanish American church and, on 11 May 1524, Clement VII agreed to create it but only as honorific, without jurisdiction and without clergy. In addition, the Patriarch was banned from actually residing in the Americas.

Antonio de Rojas, archbishop of Granada and bishop of Palencia, was the first patriarch. The following patriarchs were the bishop of Jaén Esteban Gabriel Merino (1530–1535) and the archbishop of Granada Fernando Niño de Guevara (not the homonymous cardinal) (1546–1552). After the Niño de Guevara's death, the office remained vacant because Philip II, against the Holy See policy, wished an actual jurisdictional Patriarchate. Finally, the king agreed in 1591 to propose the archbishop of Mexico City (but who was actually resident in Madrid as President of the Council of the Indies) Pedro Moya de Contreras. However, the new patriarch died before he could take the oath of his new office.

In 1602, Philip III abandoned the idea of a fully jurisdictional Patriarchate and it turned into a merely honorific title for noble clergymen.[3]

Merge with the Spanish Military Vicariate[edit]

In 1705, the Patriarch Carlos de Borja Centellas was appointed by the Pope to be Military Vicar (General) of the Spanish Armies, but from 1736 on Pope Clement XII merged the office of Vicar General of the Spanish Armies with the Patriarchate of the West Indies pro tempore et ad septennium (temporarily, for seven years), and from 1741 on to the Royal Palace's Chaplaincy.[3]

The merger of the Patriarchate and the Military Vicariate was definitively decreed by Clement XIII in 1762.[4]

Vacancy and last(?) incumbent[edit]

In 1933, Patriarch Ramón Pérez Rodríguez was appointed bishop of Cádiz and Ceuta.[5] The previous year, the Republican Government had abolished the Military Vicariate. Thus, the Patriarchate remained vacant.

During the Civil War, the Nationalists organized a religious military service and the Holy See appointed Cardinal Isidro Gomá, Archbishop of Toledo, as interim Pontifical Delegate. In 1940, Gomá died and the auxiliary bishop Gregorio Modrego was commissioned with the deceased cardinal's military duties. In 1942, Modrego was appointed bishop of Barcelona. During all that time, the Patriarchate remained vacant.[4]

In 1946, the bishop of Madrid Leopoldo Eijo y Garay was appointed Patriarch of the West Indies, but without the Military Ordinariate (a military archbishopric would be established in 1950).

After Eijo's death, this titular patriarchate has remained vacant, is not considered likely to be filled and has effectively fallen into abeyance.[who?]

List of Patriarchs of the West Indies[edit]


  1. ^ "Patriarchate of West Indies" David M. Cheney. Retrieved February 29, 2016
  2. ^ "Titular Patriarchal See of Indias Occidentales" Gabriel Chow. Retrieved February 29, 2016
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hernández Ruigómez, Manuel: "Patriarcado de Indias", in Artola, M. (ed.): Enciclopedia de Historia de España, Madrid: Alianza, V, pp. 927-928
  4. ^ a b (in Spanish) Raíces históricas de la pastoral con los militares
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Catholic Hierarchy: Archdiocese of West Indies and Titular Patriarchal See of Indias Occidentales, Spain
  6. ^ Catholic Hierarchy: "Patriarch Antonio de Rojas Manrique" retrieved January 25, 2016

External links[edit]

See also[edit]