October 10, 2013

Why the Patriarch of Alexandria Bears the Title "Judge of the Universe"

Theophilos II was the Patriarch of Alexandria from 1010 to 1020. For most of his patriarchate he lived in exile in Constantinople due to the fierce persecutions in Egypt by the Islamic Fatimid Caliph Al Hakim. During this persecution, many Christians became Muslims or sought refuge in other countries, but in the latter part of the reign of Caliph Al Hakim, he allowed unwilling Christian and Jewish converts to Islam to return to their faith and rebuild their ruined houses of worship.

While in Constantinople, Patriarch Theophilos intervened in a dispute between Emperor Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer (975-1025) and Ecumenical Patriarch Sergios II of Constantinople (999-1019). The dispute was as follows: Sergios II became patriarch during the time that the institution of charistikion was actively used within the empire. Charistikion was a practice wherein the donation (charistike dorea) of monasteries to private individuals was made supposedly to support the operation of monasteries, but in actuality was used by the wealthy gentry to gain income. This practice was strongly supported by Emperor Basil for which his law Peri ton dynaton had been enacted. The institution of charistikion was not popular among the hierarchy and was challenged by Sergios' predecessor Patriarch Sisinnios II. After he came to the see of Constantinople in 999, Patriarch Sergios continued to resist the charistike dorea. However, as Emperor Basil refused to repeal his law, Patriarch Sergios II resumed its use in 1016.

On account of this reconciliation between two ecumenical leaders that was due to the intervention of Patriarch Theophilos, the Patriarchate of Alexandria was given the title of "Judge of the Universe", with the added privilege of wearing a second stole, known as the stole of judgement (Kritato). The Patriarch of Alexandria continues to bear this title and wear two stoles till today (as seen in the photo above of the current Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros II).