In a general sense the term describes a characteristic feature of every bishopric, namely, that it elects its own primate, or head, and is self-governing (auto, in Greek, means "self," and kephale means "head"). More specifically, the term is used to describe bishops who are made independent of any higher church authority, including that of a patriarch (q.v.), either by imperial decree or by an ecumenical council (q.v.). It can also refer to bishops who depend on a patriarch independent of an intermediate metropolitan (q.v.). The term can even apply to entire churches, like those of Cyprus and Bulgaria (qq.v.), which are self-governing. Relations between autocephalous churches and bishoprics were determined by a hierarchy headed by the "ecumenical patriarch" of Constantinople (q.v.), considered first among equals. This contrasts with the western church, whose organization was influenced by the principle of papal primacy (q.v.).

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

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  • Autocephalous — Au to*ceph a*lous, a. [Gr. ? independent; ? self + ? head.] (Eccl. Hist.) Having its own head; independent of episcopal or patriarchal jurisdiction, as certain Greek churches. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • autocephalous — [ôt΄ōsef′ə ləs] adj. [see AUTO & CEPHALOUS] self governing; independent: said of certain churches within the communion of the Eastern Orthodox Church …   English World dictionary

  • Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate — Bağımsız Türk Ortodoks Patrikhanesi Founder Papa Eftim I Independence …   Wikipedia

  • autocephalous church — ▪ Eastern Orthodoxy       in the modern usage of Eastern Orthodox canon law, church that enjoys total canonical and administrative independence and elects its own primates and bishops. The term autocephalous was used in medieval Byzantine law in… …   Universalium

  • autocephalous — adjective Etymology: Late Greek autokephalos, from Greek aut + kephalē head more at cephalic Date: 1863 being independent of external and especially patriarchal authority used especially of Eastern national churches • autocephaly …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • autocephalous — /aw teuh sef euh leuhs/, adj. Eastern Ch. 1. (of a church) having its own head or chief bishop, though in communion with other Orthodox churches. 2. (of a bishop) subordinate to no superior authority; self governing. [1860 65; < LGk autoképhalos… …   Universalium

  • autocephalous — adjective /ɔːtə(ʊ)ˈsɛfələs/ Self governing or autonomous: independent of other episcopal jurisdiction. See Also: autocephaly, autocephalic …   Wiktionary

  • autocephalous — adj. type of Church that has its own chief bishop, independent of episcopal or patriarchal jurisdiction (Religion) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • autocephalous — [ˌɔ:tə(ʊ) sɛf(ə)ləs, kɛf ] adjective (of an Eastern Christian Church) appointing its own head, not subject to the authority of an external patriarch or archbishop. Origin C19: from Gk autokephalos (from autos self + kephalē head ) + ous …   English new terms dictionary

  • Autocephalous — ♦ Self headed, autonomous. Used to describe a branch of the Orthodox Church (e.g., the Serbian Church) that could, while remaining in communion with Constantinople, elect its own bishop and administer itself; such a Church, however, did not have… …   Medieval glossary

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