I see Eastern Orthodox keyboard warriors commonly posting memes, bite size apologetics and propaganda against Catholicism which make some variation on the claim "4 out of 5 Patriarchs choose Eastern Orthodoxy. You should too".

I was wondering how much veracity is behind this claim. I was under the impression that the Patriarch of Alexandria wasn't even in communion with the Eastern Orthodox church at all. I thought he was a Copt and a member of the Oriental Orthodox communion instead? Likewise for Jerusalem and Antioch. I thought that the only Patriarch of the original Pentarchy that is an actual Eastern Orthodox is the Patriarch of Constantinople?

My understanding is that 1 out of 5 Patriarchs chooses Catholicism, 1 out of 5 Patriarchs chooses Eastern Orthodoxy, and 3 out of 5 Patriarchs choose Oriental Orthodoxy. Please help me understand this situation further?

  • There are/have been actually five different Patriarchs of Alexandria.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 7, 2017 at 10:45
  • @curiousdannii zomg. So who is the most "legit" Patriarch? My money is on the Coptic guy.
    – user35774
    Aug 7, 2017 at 10:58
  • and haha, if that's how the game is played, then why don't the eastern orthodox just set up their own patriarch of rome? Then they can edit their propaganda to read "5 out of 5 Patriarchs choose Eastern Orthodoxy"
    – user35774
    Aug 7, 2017 at 10:59
  • What does "legit" mean? It depends who you will ask.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 7, 2017 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


St Mark the Evangelist is recognised as the first Patriarch of Alexandria. The twenty-fifth was Dioscorus. In 449 he presided over the Second Council of Ephesus. Two years later another Council, regarded by Rome and Constantinople as the Fourth Ecumenical Council, was held at Chalcedon. The Council of Chalcedon repudiated the Second Council of Ephesus, known as the Robber Synod, and deposed Dioscorus, sending him into exile, where he died in 454.

Proterius was chosen to replace Dioscorus but not widely accepted by many Alexandrians who still regarded Dioscorus as their patriarch. When Dioscorus died Timothy Aelurus (the cat) was chosen as non-Chalcedonian patriarch of Alexandria and is said to have arranged the murder of Proterius on Easter Day 457. The final split came in 536 since when there have been two separate patriarchs of Alexandria, the Coptic one (oriental Orthodox) supported by most Egyptian Christians, and the Eastern Orthodox one supported by Constantinople. (This is somewhat similar to Armagh in the UK where both C of I and RC primates of Armagh clain continuity from St Patrick.)

From the thirteenth century there was also a titular Latin Patriarch, and in recent centuries a "Coptic Catholic" patriarch leading an Oriental Rite Catholic Church in communion with Rome. The Latin patriarchate was abolished after Vatican II.

The only two in a continuous line from St Mark are the Coptic patriarch and the Eastern Orthodox patriarch. The Coptic Patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, is recognised by over 90% of Egyptian Christians. His name was picked at random from a chalice containing three names by a blindfolded boy in 2012.

There is, then, an Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria of ancient lineage, but the great majority of Egyptian Christians, now and across the centuries, have accepted the Oriental Orthodox Coptic Patriarch, also of ancient lineage, as head of the African Church.

  • you say, "Proterius was chosen to replace Dioscorus but not widely accepted by many Alexandrians who still regarded Dioscorus as their pope". Was there multiple popes? are the words partriarch and pope interchangeable? i'm not very familiar with this section of history, thank you.
    – L1R
    Aug 8, 2017 at 17:38
  • @L1R Yes the word pope and the word patriarch are interchangeable as regards the style given to the Patriarch of Alexandra and Head of the Coptic Church. I will amend my answer to say patriarch as this will be clearer. Sorry for confusion..
    – davidlol
    Aug 8, 2017 at 21:57
  • Thanks for the Answer, this might be too much to ask here. But i assumed that the Pope was a rather exclusive thing, you know, one Pope in Rome and thats it. Was there a time when multiple Popes existed in unity? (or semblance of unity) -- If its to much to ask here, help me phrase a question about the history and ill ask it on its own
    – L1R
    Aug 9, 2017 at 20:54
  • @L1R - Excellent question. You might start with en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_(disambiguation) and ask about the origin and history of the various uses of the term. I had no idea there was any Pope other than the RC Pope until I read this question.
    – Bit Chaser
    Aug 10, 2017 at 2:48
  • 1
    @L1R The Pope of Alexandria never claimed any universal jurisdiction, in the way the Pope of Rome did and does. So the Patriarch of Alexandria is not what most English speakers mean by pope, but that is the title he uses. By it is meant that he is father of many churches throughout Africa who might, if in doubt on some point, refer to him for guidance or resolution. As to whether the major patriarchs together ever exercised any particular collective jurisdiction over the whole world, apart from being all bishops, I don't think so but maybe. It would be a good question to ask.
    – davidlol
    Aug 16, 2017 at 9:35

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