The Orthodox Catholic Church is, as established by Christ, a Hierarchical Church, governed by the Holy Episcopacy and the ranks of her Clergy. Just as the Church herself is the Body of Christ God, and not a mere human institution, so too the hierarchy of her clergy is also divinely fashioned, following the pattern set forth by Christ and handed down in unbroken succession through the Apostles and the Holy Fathers of the Church throughout her history.
Under the Head of the Church, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Communion is under the pastoral care of the Holy Synod of Bishops, some of whom serve as Ordinary of a Diocese, a specific area that typically includes mission territory. From these, some are elected to office as presider and judge of a larger territory, which carries with it the title of Archbishop with a descriptive such as Primus or Metropolitan. These higher titles pertain to offices for a term not a lifetime and nobody is exempt from the oversight of the Holy Synod and the collegial synods of Clergy and Laypeople.
The governing structure of the Orthodox Old Roman Catholic Church is Canonical AND Hierarchical – ruled by Bishops who govern according to Canon Law. Our Code of Canon Law which established the Communion and governs all particular Churches of the Communion, was unanimously adopted on November 9, 2017 by the holy Synod in Chicago. Everyone in Sacred Ministry, formation, and Religious Life, vows to be governed by this Code of Canon Law, and nobody acting alone can change it, and no one, regardless of title or position, is above that law.
The Communion is a spiritual family, headed by our Hierarchs together with our beloved clergy, who strive to live the ‘Life in Christ’ — the Holy Orthodox Faith — together with all the flock as one Body seeking to be ‘made perfect in Christ’ (cf. Hebrews 10.14).
The Holy Synod
The highest hierarchical, canonical and doctrinal authority in the Communion is the Holy Synod. It consists of all the consecrated bishops, ordained clergy, clerics, religious and commissioned lay faithful in various apostolates and curial positions. The holy Synod meets as a whole triennially or when convened by the Primus at the instigation of the Episcopal College or the Provincial Synods to discuss Communion-wide matters. Otherwise the authority of the holy Synod is exercised vicariously through those administrative structures established by Canon Law.
Curia: The holy Synod when in session is facilitated by the Chancery of the hosting Province ref the recording of Minutes and other administrative needs. The implementation of its decisions, policies or directives will be stipulated by any motion voted and decided upon by session of the holy Synod.
The holy Synod consisting of both the Episcopal College and the Convocation of Clergy, elect from among the Provincial Metropolitans the “Primus” (inter pares) i.e. the “first among equals”. It is the privilege of the Primus to chair the Episcopal College, the holy Synod and the Primatial Council; the Primus enjoys no other privilege than being accorded first in honour among his colleagues.
Curia: The Primus is administratively assisted by the Chancery and Curia of his own Metropolitical Province.
The Primatial Council
The Primatial Council consists of the Provincial Metropolitans and those officers by co-option at the Primus’s discretion to discuss and determine petitions or issues that may require the convening of the holy Synod or to discuss the implementation, guidance or policies by directive of the holy Synod.
Curia: The Primatial Council is facilitated in session and administratively assisted by the Chancery of the Primus’s own Metropolitan Curia.
The Episcopal College
The Episcopal College consists of all those men in Apostolic Succession consecrated to the holy episcopacy and those who exercise Ordinary and Canonical jurisdictional authority in the local Churches, Dioceses and ecclesial communities of the Communion. According to Canon Law, the College shall have the right to pass judgment on the qualifications and character of any candidate for the Episcopate. Only the College may issue a Mandatum, and no Consecrations may be done without such Mandatum (Canon 79).
Curia: The Episcopal College is facilitated in session by one of its number or otherwise administratively assisted by the Primus’s own Metropolitan Curia.
The Provincial Synod
The Provincial Synod consists of the Ordinaries, elected Clergy and lay faithful representatives of the local Churches or Dioceses within a Metropolitical Province and its Missionary Territories. The Provincial Synod is convoked and presided over by the Metropolitan Archbishop (Canon 104 §1).
Curia: The Provincial Synod is administratively facilitated by the Chancery and Curia of the Province itself who will keep appropriate records and transcriptions of its sessions and implement its directives or coordinate the same with Diocesan Chanceries/Curia or local Church’s administration.
The Diocesan Chapter
The Diocesan Chapter is convoked and presided over by the Bishop of the Diocese; the Vicar General, by particular mandate, may take his place for this purpose (Canon 104 §2). The Diocesan Chapter consists of the Ordinary and all those who share vicariously in the exercise of his jurisdictional authority, the College of Clergy and the lay faithful representatives elected by the Parishes and Missions within the Diocese. The Diocesan Chapter may formulate petitions to the holy Synod.
Curia: Each Diocese will have a Curia including a Chancery to provide administrative assistance to the Bishop who will erect and direct such departments as he believes necessary and appoint such officers at his discretion to facilitate the administration.
Of Local Churches
Local Churches i.e. particular Churches who have membership of the holy Synod but who are autonomous or have autocephalous status, may have their own form of hierarchical or synodical government. The bishop or a representative(/s) of such a local Church may attend the relevant Provincial Synod and Diocesan Chapter (sharing local geography/missionary territory). Such local Churches representatives have speaking rights and additionally may have voting rights according to the stipulations or terms of their Concordat of Intercommunion with the holy Synod.
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