Jeremias II

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JEREMIAS II (1530 or 15351595) was a Greek prelate, scholar, and patriarch of Constantinople. Jeremias II was born in the ancient city of Anchialus, Thrace (present-day Pomorie, Bulgaria), on the Black Sea; he was a descendant of the important Tranos family. Because there were no organized Greek schools in the Turk-dominated area, Jeremias was privately educated. In 1565 he was elected metropolitan of Larissa, and in 1572 he became patriarch of Constantinople at an uncommonly early age. As a result of the policy of the Ottoman rulers of changing patriarchs, Jeremias was deposed twice, in 1579 and again in 1584, but he was restored to his post by popular demand. He was patriarch from 1572 to 1579, 1580 to 1584, and from 1586 until his death in 1595.

While Jeremias was patriarch, he raised the standards of ecclesiastical and cultural life, both of which were at extremely low levels. He condemned simony among the clergy, and he undertook to restore the former austerity of the monastic life by abolishing the idiorrhythmic monasteries and strengthening the more centralized cenobitic life. He also forbade the establishment of monastic houses in secular environments without prior ecclesiastical consent. The authority of the patriarchate itself was strengthened as a result of his frequent visits to other Orthodox churches. At the insistence of Tsar Feodor I Ivanovich (r. 15841598), Jeremias raised the Russian church to the status of patriarchate, placing it in fifth place in the pentarchy after Jerusalem.

Jeremias would not accept the calendar sought by Pope Gregory XIII and suggested that the Orthodox church in the West should also follow the old calendar. For the Orthodox living in Italy, he transferred the see of Philadelphia to Venice, and Gabriel Severus, the scholar, was appointed the first metropolitan. Jeremias's reaction to the establishment of Western schools for proselytism during the period of Turkish occupation was to advise his bishops to establish Greek schools in their territories. He thereby made a contribution to the development of education.

Jeremias is, for the most part, remembered for his contacts and theological dialogues with the Protestant theologians of Tübingen. The Lutherans and the Greek Orthodox sought support in their disagreements with the church of Rome and therefore turned to one another for assistance. In 1573, two professors from Tübingen, Martin Crusius and Jakob Andreä, sent a copy of the Augsburg Confession (1531) to Jeremias. In his correspondence with the Lutheran theologians, Jeremias pointed out the serious differences in dogma that precluded any union of the Protestant and Orthodox churches. This correspondence went on for some time, and it was published as The Three Dogmatic Answers to the Theologians of Tübingen. In his various other works, Jeremias presented Orthodoxy as a continuation of the ancient catholic church, stressing, in particular, faithfulness and adherence to the original traditions of the church and avoidance of new doctrines and practices. Although his dialogues with the Lutheran theologians eventually deteriorated, Jeremias began the dialogues in a climate of love and friendship, and thus they became the forerunner of today's ecumenical dialogues.


No English work on Jeremias II is readily available. Readers of Greek may consult Iōannēs N. Karmirēs' Ta dogmatika kai sumbolika mnēmeia tēs Orthodoxou Katholikēs Ekklēsias, vol. 1 (Athens, 1960), pp. 437503. German readers are directed to Wort und Mysterium: Der Briefwechsel über Glauben und Kirche, 1573 bis 1581 zwischen den Tübinger Theologen und dem Patriarchen von Konstantinopel (Witten, 1958).

Theodore Zissis (1987)

Translated from Greek by Philip M. McGhee