Autocephalous Nazarene Church of Alexandria
The Autocephalous Nazarene Church of Alexandria (formerly the Imperial Church of Alexandria) is the former state church of the late Empire of the Alexandrians. It was officially incoporated as the state church of Alexandria in 1468 AN. It currently among the largest faiths in the nations of Alduria, Natopia, the Wechua Nation, and Ransenar. It was the second-largest faith in former Caputia, after the Melusinian Faith.
Though it remains the main church of the Alexandrian diaspora, it no longer bears Imperial patronage. Headed by the Patriarch-Archbishop of Dos Gardenias, the Church is administrated by the Holy See which has its official and ceremonial base at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Storms and Sorrows in the city of Dos Gardenias, Natopia.
Until the collapse of Alexandria in 1646 AN, the church was known as the Imperial Church of the Alexandrians because of its Imperial patronage. With the Emperor at its head, the church was considered to be an extension of the Emperor's possessions in-state but his role was limited with much of its administration and direction led by the most senior cleric, the Archbishop of Geneva.
When Imperial patronage was removed after the death of Emperor Edgard II in Dos Gardenias, a council of the most senior clergy was convened at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Storms and Sorrows where a new constitution for the governance of the church was authored and promulgated. The resulting constitution declared that the church would be renamed as the Autocephalous Nazarene Church of Alexandria. Its new senior cleric became the Patriarch-Archbishop of Dos Gardenias, establishing the See of Saint Luis in Dos Gardenias. This proved controversial, with many important clerics and lay leaders suggesting that the declining role of the church and a shortfall in membership suggested that the church had no right to separate itself from the Emperor and the House of Carrillo. The new constitution, along with the new details of the rising new church, were approved by the Conclave of Frenzyville in 1650 AN.
The Holy See of St Luis
The Holy See of St Luis is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Autocephalous Nazarene Church of Alexandria and the episcopal see of the Patriarch-Archbishop who is head of the church. It serves as a central point of reference and is responsible for the governance of the faithful organized in their individual churches and religious institutes. The governance of the See is devolved in many aspects to the Curia.
There is a common misconception that the Curia meets, works, and lives within the Basilica of Our Lady of the Storms and Sorrows in the city of Dos Gardenias, Natopia. In fact, only the most formal of church meetings and events take place there and only Metropolitan Archbishops who have been awarded the Holy Patriarchal Welcome can sit as members. Today, there are around 30 members and 20 junior members of the Curia who do not hold the rank of Metropolitan Archbishop but are still entitled to attend councils. These junior members however do not have the right to cast a ballot in the election of a new Patriarch-Archbishop. All members of the Curia head various departments and congregational councils dealing with different areas of church governance.
Until the collapse of Alexandria and removal of Imperial patronage, the most senior cleric was the Archbishop of Geneva. Under the new constitution, a new office of Patriarch-Archbishop was formed. Patriarch-Archbishops are usually known simply as "The Patriarch" or "Patriarch NAME" and are addressed as "His Holiness" or "Holy Father". He wears white vestments as opposed to the black, blue, or purple vestments worn by junior clerics. The Patriarch also wears a mantle during church services of white and gold. His official residence is the Holy Palace in the city of Dos Gardenias but he enjoys the use of smaller residences that were transferred to church ownership by the government of the Most Serene Union of Dos Gardenias.
The current incumbent is Patriarch Louis I. The Patriarch-Archbishop is elected from within the Curia. He must be of the senior rank of Metropolitan Archbishop and is considered to be primarily responsible not for the Curia or the church as a whole but for the Archdiocese of Dos Gardenias. He must be in good health and not over the age of 75 at the time of his election though members of the Curia are not expected to formally retire until the age of 80. Upon his election, the Patriarch-Archbishop chooses a regnal name and is formally enthroned at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Storms and Sorrows.
The Patriarch-Archbishop is not considered to be God's representative on Micras. Rather, he is considered to be the spiritual leader of the faithful who gives endorsement to the rulings of the Curia - the representatives (plural) of God on Micras. On rare occasions, the Patriarch-Archbishop may insist that a ruling be changed or introduced according to his wishes without the recommendation or endorsement of the Curia. This is known as a Patriarchal Ordinance and cannot be challenged or questioned by the faithful. In the past, such ordinances were issued by Archbishops within the Imperial and Royal Church but they could be nullified by the Emperor.
Clergy & Religious
There is a strict hierarchy among the clergy of the Autocephalous Nazarene Church with appointments made with the Patriarch-Archbishop's approval but mostly orchestrated by the Congregation for the Clergy & Religious, one of the governing departments of the Alexandrian Curia. The highest-ranking official in the church below the rank of Patriarch-Archbishop is that of Cardinal-Archbishop. Cardinal-Archbishops are "elected" by the Patriarch-Archbishop in a special ceremony known as "the Elevation of the Princes". This is a reminder that in days gone by, Cardinal-Archbishops were entitled to petition the Emperor to raise their family to the rank of Princes.
- Cardinal-Archbishops usually number no more than 25, though some may continue to sit 'in curia' and be eligible for election to the Patriarchy even though they no longer carry out diocesan duties. They are given the style of "Your Eminence" and upon their election, they are entitled to wear red vestments.
- Bishops usually number no more than 10. They may head Congregations within the governance of the Curia but are not entitled to enter the conclave to elect the Patriarch-Archbishop. They are given the style of "Your Grace" and upon their election, they are entitled to wear purple vestments. In 1670 AN, the Curia imposed a mandatory retirement age on Bishops which is currently set at the age of 80.
- Priests Superior are pastors or diocesan priests who have been given special authorities or additional duties by their Bishop. This may be as Curate to a particular religious order or to take charge of certain projects or departments within local church administration. Priests Superior wear black vestments trimmed with purple ribbon to show their obedience to their Bishop. They are addressed as "Father Superior".
- Priests General are diocesan priests who carry out the local duties of a parish priest. They wear black vestments and are addressed as "Father".
All clergy are forbidden to marry, neither can they own property in their own right or make large purchases in their own name. All clergy are forbidden from standing for political office and are expected to maintain a reasonable degree of political impartiality.
As well as the clergy, the Church has a religious presence in communities of monks, nuns, and others in consecrated life. At present, there are an estimated 200,000 monks, nuns, and others in Natopia and Alduria and most are organized orders within the Church though dispensation or approval has been given to new communities, hermits, or consecrated individuals who do not live according to a rule approved by the Curia. Male enclosed communities will often be comprised of a mix of friars and priests general.
The largest orders are:
- The Congregation of the Sacred Blood;
- The Congregation of the Brothers & Sisters of St Luis (also known as the Luisians);
- The Warriors of the Lord;
- The Order of Our Lady of Storms and Sorrows.
Alexandrian Nazarene Sects
There are many groups outside the Autocephalous Nazarene Church of Alexandria which regard themselves as Alexandrian Nazarene, such as:
- The Movement of the Most Holy Nazarene Church: a decentralized and organized movement on a largely cellular basis that started in Ciudad Santa, Alduria. There are several denominations, known as the "Bastions of the Holy Church", the most prominent of which is the Most Holy Bastion of Ciudad Santa, each offering a different interpretation of the movement's beliefs. There are an estimated 700,000 to 1 million "Naztas" (as followers of this movement are commonly known) across Micras; the largest population is in Alduria, although communities can be found in many major population centers. The majority of practitioners are of black Alexandrian descent, although a minority come from other Alexandrian groups.
- The Neridian Alexandrian Church: The church regards the last Archbishop of Geneva, whom they revere as a martyr, and his predecessors as true leaders of the church, but hold, on the grounds of claimed apparitions, that the Patriarch-Archbishop of Dos Gardenias is excommunicated and that the See has been transferred to their See of Eadricton, at the Cathedral of St. Luis, the Protector of All Nations.
- The Alexandrian Nazarene Church of the Sun