Major Archbishops, like patriarchs, are the heads of their Eastern-rite Churches. They enjoy patriarchal rights in nearly all respects, but without the patriarchal title. Major Archbishop is a title for an hierarch to whose archiepiscopal see is granted the same jurisdiction in his autonomous (sui juris) particular Church that an Eastern patriarch has in his. The title is used for archbishops of episcopal sees that were founded more recently than the patriarchal sees.
There are differences between the two offices. The election of a new Major Archbishop requires confirmation by the Pope, whereas that of a new Patriarch needs to be notified to the Pope who will then extend ecclesiastical communion to the new Patriarch. Major Archbishops rank immediately below patriarchs in the order of precedence of the Catholic Church. If made members of the College of Cardinals, major archbishops join the order of Cardinal-Priests, whereas patriarchs of the east join the highest order, Cardinal-Bishops. Like patriarchs, major archbishops are elected by the synod of the sui iuris Church, but their election requires confirmation by the Pope, not mere notification and granting of communion required of patriarchs.
In addition to their role governing their particular Church, under canon law all major archbishops are members of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in the Roman Curia. They are required to attend the annual general meeting of this congregation, and to attend other sessions if they are visiting Rome or are otherwise able
The title was first granted to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1963. The Syro-Malabar Church became major archiepiscopal in 1992, followed by the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and the Romanian Greek Catholic Church in 2005, resulting in four major archbishops each leading a major archiepiscopal autonomous Church.
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