The Catholicate of the West (in full: Catholic Apostolic Church: Catholicate of the West) is the ecumenical federation under which the churches and religious orders of the Abbey-Principality are organized. The Prince-Abbot of San Luigi succeeded as Prince-Catholicos of the West, British Patriarch, and Patriarch of Caertroia and Malaga etc. in 2015; he is the sixth Catholicos and the seventh British Patriarch. Following the Syriac tradition of the Catholicate, his official designation as Catholicos is Maran Mar Joannes Edmundus.
The Catholicate of the West was founded on 23 March 1944 by the union of the Ancient British Church, British Orthodox Catholic Church, and Old Catholic Orthodox Church, and was known initially as the Western Orthodox Catholic Church. Under its first Catholicos, Mar Georgius, it was incorporated with perpetual succession in India in 1950. In 1953, Mar Georgius and some other members left the Catholicate which continued under its prelates in the USA. In 1977, the then-Patriarch of Malaga, Mar David I, merged the Catholicate with the Apostolic Episcopal Church of which he was also Primate. The Prince-Abbot of San Luigi succeeded to the primacy of the Catholicate of the West and the Apostolic Episcopal Church in 2015.
The Catholicate was conceived as a means of returning the West (and particularly the United Kingdom) to its original Orthodoxy. England was Orthodox before it was Roman Catholic, and there is a rich Celtic tradition with which the Catholicate has been closely connected. Moreover, since the Orthodox churches are generally ethnically-based, the Catholicate was (although internationally-based) intended to provide an alternative national church for Britain and the Western traditions alongside the churches of the East. With this being said, Old or Traditional Catholicism has always been one of the foremost currents in the Catholicate and in both faith and practice there is little that separates it from the Roman Catholic Church prior to the two Vatican Councils.
The Catholicate has since its inception been deliberately ecumenical, and has embraced all the major traditions of churchmanship. Its bishops hold an Ecumenical Apostolic Succession, that is to say, they hold the Apostolic lineages of all the major historic Catholic and Orthodox churches.
In the modern era, prevailing ecclesiastical liberalism means that there is a place for a church movement that attests to the historic truths and traditions of the Christian faith without compromise. The Catholicate aspires to fulfil this role, conceiving its mission widely and within a context of broad intellectual enquiry.
The Catholic Apostolic Church (Catholicate of the West) is incorporated in England and Wales as a company limited by guarantee with number 12692691 and exemption from using the “Limited” suffix.
The coat of arms of the Catholicate is reproduced above. Its motto is “nos pisciculi secundum nostrum ιχθον in aqua nascimur” which is taken from Tertullian’s De Baptismo 1, 3. In full, the quotation reads, “Sed nos pisciculi secundum nostrum ιχθον Iesum Christum in aqua nascimur, nec aliter quam in aqua permanendo salvi sumus.” It translates as, “But we little fishes are born in water according to our Fish Jesus Christ, and nor are we saved in any way but by remaining in the water.” The well-known Koine Greek symbol of the fish – ἸΧΘΥΣ (ichthys), used by the first Christians during their time of persecution – is an acrostic for “Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ”, Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr; which translates into English as ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’.
Faith and character
The Catholicate affirms the Holy Orthodox Faith, in which we are guided by the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins: that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all is truly Catholic (universal). It accepts the seven Ecumenical Councils of the united Church, the Council of Trent, the 1672 Synod of Jerusalem and the 1889 Declaration of Utrecht. It keeps the Faith once delivered unto the Saints, without which faith and apart from which Holy Church of God in Christ there is no salvation. The statement of faith of the Catholicate is contained in the Glastonbury Confession, first published in 1952, but subsequently revised in respect of certain aspects.
The Catholicate regards the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith, and as containing all things necessary to salvation. It accepts the Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal symbol, and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
The Catholicate accepts seven sacraments: baptism, anointing (confirmation or chrismation), communion, penance, holy orders, marriage, and holy unction. The Eucharist (Mass or Divine Mystery), as it is referred to, is definitely regarded as a sacrifice.
The Catholicate accepts and fully upholds the teaching of Supersessionism.
The Catholicate acknowledges Christ as the one, real and substantial Head of the Church (both of the ideal and actual – visible and invisible) throughout all time and in all places, unto the consummation of the Kingdom. It looks to the words of St Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch in writing to the Church of Smyrna, “Where Christ is, there is the Catholic Church”. It disclaims that any man can possibly be the supreme head of the Whole Universal Church in the place of Christ the Lord. As such, it believes along with the Eastern Orthodox churches that the Pope of Rome holds a primacy of honour, and not one of jurisdiction.
The character of the Catholicate is determinedly Western, with an ethos in which both Traditionalist Catholicism and the Catholic tradition within Anglicanism are predominant. The Tridentine Mass, whether in Latin or the vernacular, is the normative means of Eucharistic worship, although other rites may be authorized for use where particular pastoral circumstances commend them. A special place is reserved for the intellectual richness of the Anglican tradition, although it will be obvious that the Catholicate rejects many aspects of Protestant theology. Several constituent churches of the Catholicate maintain a Continuing Anglican perspective.
The Catholicate knows no bounds whatsoever regarding race, colour or nationality, and ministers to all peoples in the spirit of the primitive, undivided Christian Church. In this respect it differs in practice from the majority of other Orthodox churches which are ethnically based.
More generally, our approach is well expressed in the words of our first Catholicos:
There is nothing cold, sanctimonious, unctuous, condemnatory or “puritanical” in our midst; the most spiritual people are usually the most natural. We hold that natural pleasures were given to us by God to enjoy, and the people are encouraged not only to have fellowship together in the public worship and works of mercy and love, but as members of the same Family of God to enjoy their social pleasures together also. We do not teach total abstinence from the good things of life, and our people are free to go to theatres, cinemas, dances, and so forth, and to take liquor and to smoke, just as they desire; although we do inculcate moderation in all things. The “killjoy” attitude is emphatically condemned by us, for it is really Manicheeism, an ancient heresy against which the early Church strenuously contended.
Mar Georgius, Maranatha Pamphlets no. 2: The Catholic Apostolic Church (Catholicate of the West) (Glastonbury, 1947)
The Catholicate of the West claims no jurisdiction over the original Catholic Apostolic Church, commonly but erroneously called “Irvingites”, but accepts a number of its teachings and continues certain aspects of its mission.
Including the formation and organization of missions and parishes, the charismata, Divine Healing, and education.
Issues of practice
Including marriage, divorce and remarriage, the clergy, the liturgy, confession, the use of Ikons, Pro-Life, and Information for Roman Catholics.
As well as active ministries, the Catholicate of the West also includes a number of historic churches which have merged within it. It has acted as a means of ecumenical reunion in pursuance of resolution 9 of the 1920 Lambeth Conference: “Reunion of Christendom”. This stated that the “visible unity of the Church will be found to involve the wholehearted acceptance of…a ministry acknowledged by every part of the Church as possessing not only the inward call of the Spirit, but also the commission of Christ and the authority of the whole body.” To this end, the Resolution commended the uniting of the various lineal successions present in the historic churches by means of the additional commissioning of bishops.
There is scope for the affiliation of self-governing churches to the Catholicate as autocephalous tropoi. At present, there are no churches in this category.
Not infrequently, the question arises as to whether the Roman Catholic Church recognizes as valid the Holy Orders of the Catholicate of the West. In answer, we reproduce firstly what a Roman Catholic newspaper article had to say on the matter, and secondly the opinion of a Roman Catholic religious.
Since its inception, the Catholicate has been hierarchically organized. In the modern era, the relatively small size of the Catholicate and the close links between its bishops have led to a position where the Decrees, Ordinances and Regulations of the Catholicos motu proprio are binding on the Catholicate, with other clergy and laity fulfilling a role that is principally advisory and consultatory. The matter of governance is kept under continual review so that the Catholicate can adequately meet the needs of its mission without undue bureaucracy. The Apostolic Episcopal Church, a member church of the Catholicate of the West, maintains a formal scheme of canon law, and the Order of Antioch maintains similar provisions in its Statutes. Since most clergy of the Catholicate are members of these bodies, the Canons and Statutes constitute general principles that guide quotidian practice within the Catholicate as a whole.
List of constituent churches and religious orders
Member churches and orders of the Catholicate of the West are conceived as apostolates in the Catholic sense of that term, thus preserving their own particular traditions and charisms within the overall context of the Catholicate. The active churches and orders that are currently members of the Catholicate of the West are as follows:
- The Apostolic Episcopal Church (The Holy Eastern Apostolic and Catholic Orthodox Church)
The Prince-Abbot of San Luigi was appointed as a bishop of the Apostolic Episcopal Church in 2008 and in 2015 succeeded as Primate and Presiding Bishop. The Apostolic Episcopal Church, founded in 1925 and recognized by the Statutes of the State of New York in 1932, is an autonomous and fully independent Christian church that combines the heritage of the Chaldean Catholic Church, of which it is an extension, with that of traditional Anglicanism. It is thus one of the older separated or “continuing” Anglican bodies currently in existence. With a strong ecumenical focus, the AEC worked closely during the 1940s with the Catholicate of the West, a union of the smaller sacramental churches, eventually merging with the Catholicate in 1977. Today, the AEC is represented in Scandinavia, Italy, Latin America and the USA.
>>The Apostolic Episcopal Church
- The Byelorussian Patriarchate of St Andrew the First-Called Apostle
In 2015, upon the death of the late Prince Kermit of Miensk, the adoptive father of the Prince-Abbot of San Luigi, the ecclesial jurisdiction of San Luigi entered into personal union with the Byelorussian Patriarchate of St Andrew the First-Called Apostle, which had been founded under Patriarch Zhurawetsky in 1965. The Patriarchate is today active in Latin America, and especially Brazil, where there is a cathedral and several parishes.
>>The Byelorussian Patriarchate of St Andrew the First-Called Apostle
- Ecclesia Apostolica Divinorum Mysteriorum
This body was chartered by the AEC in 2010 and represents a continuation of the inner mission of the Christian Church with particular interests in the study of the Templar and Gnostic traditions.
- The Order of Antioch
Originally formed in 1928 as an act of solidarity among the Syrian-descended clergy in the United States and the United Kingdom, the Order of Antioch today is an international religious association of clergy following the Western Orthodox tradition. The Order of Antioch is a member of the International Council of Community Churches, which is a member of the World Council of Churches, Churches Uniting in Christ and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. It maintains a relationship of friendship with the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, which it regards as its parent body.
>>The Order of Antioch
- The Order of Corporate Reunion
Established in 1874 at the impetus of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Venice, the Order of Corporate Reunion was initially intended as a means whereby Rome’s objections to the validity of the Holy Orders of the Church of England could be overcome through the practice of subconditional ordination or consecration of Anglican clergy. The office of Prelate of the Order has been united with the Primacy of the Apostolic Episcopal Church since 1946.
>>The Order of Corporate Reunion
- Prefectory of Great Britain of the Confraternitas Oecumenica Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani
The Prefectory of Great Britain of the Confraternitas Oecumenica Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani (Ecumenical Brotherhood of the Holy Grave of Jerusalem, or COSSH) was erected by the late Grand Prior, Dom Klaus Schlapps OPR OA, in November 2012. The Patron of the COSSH is St Andrew the Apostle. The Spiritual Protector is H.E. Mar Aprem, Metropolitan of India in the Church of the East. The Prince-Abbot of San Luigi serves as Prefect for Great Britain and holds the Gold Cross of Merit of the COSSH.
>>Prefectory of Great Britain of the Confraternitas Oecumenica Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani
Merged churches and religious orders
In addition, the following historic churches and religious orders have merged within the Catholicate of the West or its constituent bodies, and while remaining canonically valid and capable of action, do not pursue a regular public ministry at the present time.
- The Ancient British Church (Catholic Apostolic Church of the West)
This church, also known as the British Patriarchate, being founded in 1874 under the authority of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, merged with the Catholicate of the West in 1945.
>>Ancient British Church – Decree
- The Ancient Catholic Church
This church, which was chartered by the Catholicate of the West in 1950, was placed under the primacy of the Prince-Abbot of San Luigi in 2008.
>>Ancient Catholic Church further information
>>Ancient Catholic Church – Decree
- The Ancient Christian Fellowship and Divinity School of Divine Science Universal
Initially formed by Archbishop W.D. de Ortega Maxey in 1930 as the Old Catholic Church of America; renamed 1936. On 31 July 1946 it merged in the Apostolic Episcopal Church, but was shortly afterwards recreated as a dependent religious society of the AEC. Its headship has been merged in the Apostolic Episcopal Church Primacy since the death of Patriarch Robert R. Ramm in December 2000.
>>Ancient Christian Fellowship (Old Catholic Church of America) – Decree
- The Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church and the Apostolate of Holy Wisdom
This was the parent body of the Catholicate of the West, being formed in pursuance of resolutions of the Council of London in October 1943, and through the wider Order (later Apostolate) of Holy Wisdom, came also to include nobiliary and esoteric aspects. Upon the death of its last bishop Mar Titus in 2015, the Prince-Abbot of San Luigi as his adopted heir succeeded him.
>>Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church and Order of Holy Wisdom – clarification
>>Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church etc. – Decree
- The Anglican Church, Inc.
This church was one of the Continuing Anglican churches whose Diocese of the Southwest was led by the late Archbishop H. Edwin Caudill, also Apostolic Episcopal Church Archbishop of the Central and Western Provinces, USA, and his successor in both offices and from 2000, Presiding Bishop of The Anglican Church, Inc., Archbishop Wayne Ellis. It is now merged with the Apostolic Episcopal Church.
- The Fellowship of Free Churches
Established as an organ of the Catholicate of the West in 1948, this existed to unify the Nonconformist elements of the Catholicate. These were but few, and the Fellowship had ceased activity within a few years.
- The Old Catholic Church of Great Britain
Established in 1968 as the British extension of the Celtic mission of St Tugdual de Saint-Dolay, this church has been under the Primacy of the Prince-Abbot of San Luigi since August 2012.
>>Old Catholic Church of Great Britain further information
- The Old Catholic Orthodox Church (1925)
This church was formed by members of the Old Roman Catholic Church of Great Britain in 1925 and in 1941 entered into personal union with the Apostolic Episcopal Church when Archbishop Brooks was elected its Presiding Bishop. It was merged in the Catholicate of the West at its foundation in 1944.
>>Old Catholic Orthodox Church – Decree
- The Order of Rievaulx
This body was established in England, and in 1946 Archbishop Maxey was appointed its Grand Prior for the Americas. It was structured as an Order of Franciscan Tertiaries, open to both men and women, and following a modified Rule. While the English branch became extinct, the American branch survived and its headship today is merged in the Catholicate of the West.
- The Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church (Apostolic Church of the Indies)
This church formed circa 1938 in India and asserted that it was the successor to the Independent Catholic Church of India (Metropolis of the Diocese of Ceylon, Goa and India (excluding Malabar)) of Mar Julius I Alvares, who had died in 1923, being a presbyteral continuation of his movement. It entered intercommunion with the Catholicate of the West in 1948 (see that church) and merged with it in 1956.
>>Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church – Decree
- The Syro-Antiochean Church
This church was established as a part of the Apostolic Episcopal Church under the late Bishop Robert Amadou, who was also a priest in the Syrian Orthodox Church, and reverted to the AEC Primacy upon the death of Bishop Amadou in 2006.
- The Syro-Chaldean Metropolitical See of India, Ceylon, Mylapore, Socotra and Messina
This See was re-erected in 1862 by the Syro-Chaldean Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, and passed in due course to the English bishop Ulric Vernon Herford. It was merged in the Catholicate of the West in 1945.
>>Syro-Chaldean Metropolitical See of India, Ceylon, Mylapore, Socotra and Messina – Decree
- The United Armenian Catholic Church in the British Isles
This church was founded by the Armenian expatriate Mar Leon (Chechemian) in 1889 and its primacy was united with the Ancient British Church until 1945, when it became united with the Catholicate of the West.
>>United Armenian Catholic Church in the British Isles – Decree
The Catholicate does not hold to the tenets of British Israelism as a matter of faith or dogma, but a number of its clergy past and present have taken a close interest in the subject.
British Israelism is the theory that the native peoples of the British Isles are the direct descendants of the Ten Tribes of Israel, and that Queen Elizabeth II is directly descended from the House of David. The genealogy of the royal descent from the House of David has been widely publicised and is summarized below. British geneticist Adam Rutherford has said that it is “virtually impossible” that a person with a predominantly British ancestry is not descended from King Edward III of England. He has calculated that “almost every Briton” is “descended between 21 and 24 generations from Edward III”. If this is so, then those Britons will also share in the same royal descent from Israel as our present Queen.
There are several organizations today that are concerned with British Israelism and from whom further information and publications can be obtained, of which the British-Israel-World Federation is the most prominent.