Patres (Lat. for fathers) is a transfer of the Oriental idiom by which every teacher or governor is respectfully entitled abba, father. The officers of the early Church were termed Patres Ecclesiae or Patres Clericorum. Presbyters were called Patres Laicorum, and simply patres. Thus the name papa,
pope, is a term of reverence and affection, corresponding to ἀββᾶ, πάππας. This title of papa was first given to the bishop of Alexandria, and the first bishop of Rome who assumed it in any public document was Siricius, A.D. 384. It was not, however, employed officially until the time of Leo the Great; and it was afterwards applied exclusively to the bishop of Rome, according to an order of Gregory the Great. This ancient title was attributed to all bishops alike until about the 6th century. Jerome, for example, in writing to Augustine, salutes him as Domine vere sancte et beatissime (Ep. 94); and he gives the same title to other bishops. The bishop of Constantinople was anciently called urbis papa; and the bishop of Rome, in like manner, urbis papa, or Romance urbis papa, and simply papa. The title continued in general use through the 5th and 6th centuries. It was also frequently applied to the primates (q.v.) of the Christian Church in Africa; and there was a peculiar reason for giving them this name, as the primacy in the African churches was not attached, as in other places, to the civil metropolis, but went along with the oldest bishop of the province, who succeeded to this dignity by virtue of his seniority, in whatever place be lived. The only exception to this was the Church at Carthage, where the bishop was a fixed and standing metropolitan for the province of Africa, properly so called. The term patres was also applied to the fathers of the monasteries, as Jerome and Augustine called them. SEE FATHER.