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Primacy of the Roman Pontiff

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In the teachings of the Catholic Church, the primacy of the Roman Pontiff is the apostolic authority of the Pope the Bishop of Rome (the Holy See) over the several churches that comprise the Catholic Church in the Latin and Eastern Rites. It is also termed "papal primacy", [1] "primacy of Peter", [2] or "Roman primacy"; [3] one might encounter "Peter in primacy over the universal Church," [4] "Successor of Peter", [5], "Petrine Theory" and other related expressions.

Chapter 3 of the dogmatic constitution on the Church of Vatican Council I (Pastor aeternus) is the principal document of the Magisterium about the content and nature of the primatial power of the Roman Pontiff. Chapter 4 is a development and defining of one particular characteristic of this primatial power, namely the Pope's supreme teaching authority, i.e. when the Pope speaks ex cathedra he teaches the doctrine of the faith infallibly.

Opposition to the doctrine

The doctrine and interpretation of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff has been challenged ever since it was first introduced. Stephen Ray asserts that "There is little in the history of the Church that has been more heatedly contested than the primacy of Peter and the See of Rome."[1]

According to Bernhard Schimmelpfennig, Rome's efforts to establish primacy over the east were largely unsuccessful for two reasons: first, except for Leo I, Roman bishops were theologically unsophisticated compared to their Eastern counterparts; and second, major decisions were made at ecumenical councils at which Rome had little or no representation.

When the doctrine originated, the extent of the authority that the bishops of Rome were claiming was unclear. Historically, the primacy of the Pope was largely accepted by all bishops of the Church, and he was at least considered to be the first in honor of all bishops. However, the supremacy of the Pope over all bishops, first declared by Pope Leo I was rejected by the bishops serving outside of Rome's jurisdiction. The Eastern Orthodox churches consider that the Bishop of Rome had a mere primacy of honor.

The doctrines of Papal Primacy and Papal Supremacy are perhaps the greatest obstacles to ecumenical efforts among the various Christian churches. Most Eastern Orthodox Christians, for example, would be quite willing to accord the Roman bishop the same respect, deference and authority as is accorded to any Eastern Orthodox patriarch. They resist, however, granting the Roman bishop special authority over all Christians. Many Protestants are quite willing to grant the Pope a position of special moral leadership. However, they feel that according to the Pope any more formal authority than that would conflict with the Protestant principle of Solus Christus i.e. that there can be no intermediaries between a Christian and God except for Christ.

Historical development of the doctrine

Many theologians regard Roman "primacy" as having developed gradually in the West due to the convergence of a number of factors, e.g., the dignity of Rome as the only apostolic Church in the West; the tradition that both Peter and Paul had been martyred there; Rome's long history as a capital of the Roman empire; and its continuing position as the chief centre of commerce and communication.

The doctrine of the primacy of the Roman Bishops, like other Church teachings and instructions, has gone through a development. Thus the establishment of the primacy recorded in the Gospels has been gradually more clearly recognized and its implications developed. Clear recognition of the consciousness of the Primacy of the Roman Bishops, and of the recognition of the Primacy by the other churches appear at the end of the 1st century…St. Ignatius elevated the Roman community over all the communities using in his epistle a solemn form of address. Twice he says of it that it is the presiding community, which expresses a relationship of superiority and inferiority.[2]

Ante-Nicene period

Apostolic succession

In Roman Catholic theology, the doctrine of apostolic succession states that Christ gave the full sacramental authority of the church to the Twelve Apostles in the sacrament of Holy Orders, making them the first bishops. By conferring the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders on the apostles, they were given the authority to confer the sacrament of Holy Orders on others, thus consecrating more bishops in a direct lineage that can trace its origin back to the Twelve Apostles and Christ himself. This direct succession of bishops from the apostles to the present day bishops is referred to as apostolic succession. The Roman Catholic Church also holds that within the College of Apostles, Peter was picked out for the unique role of leadership and to serve as the source of unity among the apostles, a role among the bishops and within the church inherited by the pope as Peter's successor today.

In the second century (AD 189), the assertion of the primacy of the Church of Rome may be indicated in St. Irenaeus of Lyon's Against Heresies (3:3:2): "With [the Church of Rome], because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree... and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition."

Rome's role as arbiter

This passage in Irenaeus [from Against Heresies 3:4:1] illuminates the meaning of his remarks about the Church of Rome: if there are disputes in a local church, that church should have recourse to the Roman Church, for there is contained the Tradition which is preserved by all the churches. Rome's vocation [in the pre-Nicene period] consisted in playing the part of arbiter, settling contentious issues by witnessing to the truth or falsity of whatever doctrine was put before them. Rome was truly the center where all converged if they wanted their doctrine to be accepted by the conscience of the Church. They could not count upon success except on one condition -- that the Church of Rome had received their doctrine -- and refusal from Rome predetermined the attitude the other churches would adopt. There are numerous cases of this recourse to Rome... [3]

Stephen I

The first bishop to claim primacy in writing was Pope Stephen I (254-257). The timing of the claim is significant, for it was made during the worst of the tumults of the third century. There were several persecutions during this century, and they hit the Church of Rome hard.

Cyprian of Carthage

Cyprian of Carthage (d.258) stressed the Petrine primacy as well as the unity of the Church and the importance of being in communion with the bishops.[4]

Damasus I

Pope Damasus I (366-384) was first to claim that Rome's primacy rested solely on Peter, and was the first pope to refer to the Roman church as the "Apostolic See". The prestige of the city itself was no longer sufficient; but in the doctrine of apostolic succession the popes had an unassailable position.

Peter and Paul

The evolution of earlier tradition established both Peter and Paul as the forefathers of the bishops of Rome, from whom they received their position as chief shepherd (Peter) and supreme authority on doctrine (Paul).[5] To establish her primacy among the churches of the Western half of the empire, the bishops of Rome relied on a letter written in 416 by Innocent I to the Bishop of Gubbio, to show how subordination to Rome had been established. Since Peter was the only apostle (no mention of Paul) to have worked in the West, thus the only persons to have established churches in Italy, Spain, Gaul, Sicily, Africa, and the Western islands were bishops appointed by Peter or his successors. This being the case then, all congregations had to abide by the regulations set in Rome).[6] This claim to primacy may have been accepted in Italy, but was not so readily accepted in the rest of the West.

Primacy of Peter the apostle

Early belief in the Church is that Jesus granted Peter jurisdiction over the Church. There is no conclusive evidence, scripturally, historically or chronologically, that Peter was in fact the Bishop of Rome. Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History places Peter's arrival in Rome between 41 and 54 A.D., and there are a number of apocryphal legends relating conflicts there with Simon Magus.[7] The earliest traditions of the Catholic Church maintain that he served as the bishop of Rome for 25 years until 67 A.D. when he was martyred by Nero[8] (further information: Great Fire of Rome). The official Catholic position, as Eamon Duffy points out in his book, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, is that Jesus had essentially appointed Peter as the first pope.[9]

Classic Roman Catholic tradition maintained that the universal primacy of the bishop of Rome was divinely instituted by Jesus Christ. This was derived from the Petrine texts, and from the gospel accounts of Matthew (16:17‑19), Luke (22:32)and John (21:15‑17) according to the Roman tradition, they all refer not simply to the historical Peter, but to his successors to the end of time. Today, scriptural scholars of all traditions agree that we can discern in the New Testament an early tradition which attributes a special position to Peter among Christ's twelve apostles. The Church built its identity on them as witnesses, and responsibility for pastoral leadership was not restricted to Peter.[11] In Matthew 16:19, Peter is explicitly commissioned to "bind and loose"; later, in Matthew 18:18, Christ directly promises all the disciples that they will do the same. Similarly, the foundation upon which the Church is built is related to Peter in Matthew 16:16, and to the whole apostolic body elsewhere in the New Testament (cf. Eph. 2:10).[10]

The New Testament does not contain an explicit record of the transmission of Peter's leadership, nor is the transmission of apostolic authority in general very clear. As a result, the Petrine texts of the New Testament have been subjected to differing interpretations from the time of the Church Fathers on.

McBrien says this: "There is a tendency to describe church officials [of the final years of the first century] in terms of a divinely ordered pattern and as a parallel to Jewish cultic roles as performed in the Temple: apostles (missionaries), presbyter-bishops, and deacons. By the end of the first century, Christians saw themselves as a religious body distinct from Judaism, the Eucharist as the sacramental replacment of the Temple sacrifices, and those who presided at the Eucharist as priests. Regarding church order, Clement I appealed to both the order of the universe and the ordered structure of the Roman Empire (1 Clement 20,37). In fact, he drew exact parallels with the imperial system, insisting that church leaders commanded the same obedience as military and civil authorities." [11]

Raymond Brown argues that "the main feature of Early Catholicism -- sacramentalism, hierarchy, and dogma -- were meaningful within the life of the Church of the New Testament and of subsequent centuries and that is why the Church included the later books in the canon of Sacred Scripture. Consequently, 'what was truly normative was not a group of writings but the Spirit acting within the living church. It was church usage that led [the Council of] Trent to determine which books should be accepted as canonical; so it also is church usage that determines the degree of normative authroity (canonicity) to be attributed to a NT practice or doctrine.'"[12]

Role of Paul in the founding of the Church

Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 189) believed that Peter and Paul had been the founders of the Church in Rome and had appointed Pope Linus the office of the episcopate, the beginning of the Apostolic succession[13]. Though never the Bishop of Rome, St. Paul was highly responsible for bringing the Christian Faith to parts of the world other than where Christ had worked His Ministry before He had ascended in Heaven: to Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Crete, in addition to Rome, where Peter had established it. According to Duffy, Paul was an important figure of Christianity, but nonetheless was "not its founder".[9]

After the Edict of Milan

After the Edict of Milan granted Christianity legal status, the church at Rome was protected and rose in importance. The church adopted the same governmental structure as the Empire: geographical provinces ruled by bishops. The bishops of important cities therefore rose in power.


The bishops of Rome sent letters which, though largely ineffectual, provided historical precedents which were subsequently used by supporters of papal primacy. These letters were known as ‘decretals’ from at least the time of Siricius (384-399) to Leo I provided general guidelines to follow which later would become incorporated into canon law).[14]

Bishop of Rome becomes Rector of the whole Church

The power of the Bishop of Rome increased as the power of the Emperors gradually diminshed and the Roman authorities tried to bolster their waning power with religious support. Edicts of the Emperor Theodosius II and of Valentinian III proclaimed the Roman bishop "as Rector of the whole Church." The Emperor Justinian, who was living in the East in Constantinople, in the sixth century published a similar decree. These proclamations did not create the office of the Pope but from the sixth century onward the Bishop of Rome's power and prestige increased so dramatically that the title of "Pope" began to fit the Bishop of Rome best.[15]

First Council of Constantinople

The First Council of Constantinople (AD 381) suggested strongly that Roman primacy was already asserted. However, it should be noted that, because of the controversy of this claim, the Pope did not personally attend this ecumencial council that was held in the capital of the eastern empire, rather than at Rome. It was not until 440 that Leo the Great more clearly articulated the extension of papal authority as doctrine, promulgating in edicts and in councils his right to exert "the full range of apostolic powers that Jesus had first bestowed on the apostle Peter". It was at the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 that Leo I (through his emissaries) stated that he was "speaking with the voice of Peter". At this same Council, an attempt at compromise was made when the bishop of Constantinople was given a primacy of honour only second to that of the Bishop of Rome, because "Constantinople is the New Rome." Ironically, Roman papal authorities rejected this language since it did not clearly recognize Rome's claim to juridical authority over the other churches.[16]

Council of Constantinople 381 BnF MS Gr510 fol355

Early manuscript illustration of Council of Constantinople

Relationship with bishops of other cities

Rome was not the only city that could claim a special role in Christ's Church. Jerusalem had the prestige of being the city of Christ's death and resurrection, and an important church council was held there in the first century. Antioch was the place where Jesus' followers were first called "Christians" {7} (as well as "Catholic")[17] and, with Alexandria, was an important early center of Christian thought. It is important to note, however, that the three main apostolic sees of the early Church (ie. Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome) were directly related to Peter. Prior to holding the position of Bishop of Rome, Peter was the Bishop of Antioch. And his disciple, St. Mark the Evangelist, founded the church in Alexandria. Constantinople became highly important after Constantine moved his capital there in 330 AD.

As early as the second century, the bishop of Rome began to claim his supremacy over all other bishops, and some church fathers also made this claim for him.

Leo I

The doctrine of the sedes apostolica (apostolic see) which states that every bishop of Rome, as Peter’s successor, possesses the full authority granted to this position. This power, then, is inviolable on the grounds that it was established by God himself and so not bound to any individual. Leo I (440-461), with the aid of Roman law, solidified this doctrine by making the bishop of Rome the legal heir of Peter. According to Leo, the apostle Peter continued to speak to the Christian community through his successors as bishop of Rome.

East-West Schism

The dispute about the authority of Roman bishops reached a climax in the year 1054, when Michael I Cerularius tried to bolster his position as the "Patriarch of Constantinople", seeming to set himself up as a rival of Pope Leo IX, as the Popes previously had forbidden calling Constantinople a patriarchate. The disputed ended when the Pope's legate excommunicated Michael I Cerularius and, in exchange, he "excommunicated" the Pope—who by then was already dead, due to sickness. This event resulted the separation of the Churches.[18]

Second Council of Lyons

The Second Council of Lyon, which was convoked to act on a pledge by Byzantine emperor Michael VIII to reunite the Eastern church with the West.[19] Wishing to end the Great Schism that divided Rome and Constantinople, Gregory X had sent an embassy to Michael VIII Palaeologus, who had reconquered Constantinople, putting an end to the remnants of the Latin Empire in the East.

On 29 June (Feast of Peter & Paul patronal feast of Popes), Gregory X celebrated a Mass in St John's Church, where both sides took part. The council declared that the Roman church possessed “the supreme and full primacy and authority over the universal Catholic Church.”

The council was seemingly a success, but did not provide a lasting solution to the schism; the Emperor was anxious to heal the schism, but the Eastern clergy proved to be obstinate. Patriarch Joseph of Constantinople abdicated, and was replaced by John Bekkos, a convert to the cause of union. In spite of a sustained campaign by Bekkos to defend the union intellectually, and vigorous and brutal repression of opponents by Michael, the vast majority of Byzantine Christians remained implacably opposed to union with the Latin "heretics". Michael's death in December 1282 put an end to the union of Lyons. His son and successor Andronicus II repudiated the union, and Bekkos was forced to abdicate, being eventually exiled and imprisoned until his death in 1297. He is to this day reviled by many in the Eastern Church as a traitor to Orthodoxy.


The primacy of the Roman Pontiff was again challenged in 1517 when Martin Luther began preaching against several practices in the Catholic Church, including some itinerant friars' abuses involving indulgences. When Pope Leo X refused to support Luther’s position, Luther claimed belief in an "invisible church" and called the Pope the Antichrist.

Luther’s rejection of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff led to the start of the Protestant Reformation, during which numerous Protestant sects broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The Anglican Church also broke away from the Catholic Church at this time, although for reasons different than Martin Luther and the Protestants.

First Vatican Council

The doctrine of papal primacy was further developed in 1870 at the First Vatican Council where ultramontanism achieved victory over conciliarism with the pronouncement of papal infallibility (the ability of the pope to define dogmas free from error ex cathedra) and of papal supremacy, i.e., supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary jurisdiction of the Pope.

The most substantial body of defined doctrine on the subject is found in Pastor Aeternus, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ of Vatican Council I. This document declares that “in the disposition of God the Roman church holds the preeminence of ordinary power over all the other churches.” This council also affirmed the dogma of papal infallibility, deciding that the “infallibility” of the Christian community extended to the pope himself, at least when speaking on matters of faith.

Vatican I defined a twofold Primacy of Peter — one in papal teaching on faith and morals (the charism of infallibility), and the other a primacy of jurisdiction involving government and discipline of the Church — submission to both being necessary to Catholic faith and salvation.[20]

Vatican I rejected the ideas that papal decrees have "no force or value unless confirmed by an order of the secular power" and that the pope’s decisions can be appealed to an ecumenical council "as to an authority higher than the Roman Pontiff."

Paul Collins argues that "(the doctrine of papal primacy as formulated by the First Vatican Council) has led to the exercise of untrammelled papal power and has become a major stumbling block in ecumenical relationships with the Orthodox (who consider the definition to be heresy) and Protestants."[21]

Forced to break off prematurely by secular political developments in 1870, Vatican I left behind it a somewhat unbalanced ecclesiology. "In theology the question of papal primacy was so much in the foreground that the Church appeared essentially as a centrally directed institution which one was dogged in defending but which only encountered one externally," [22]

Second Vatican Council

At the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) the debate on papal primacy and authority re-emerged, and in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on the authority of the Pope, bishops and councils was further elaborated. Vatican II sought to correct the unbalanced ecclesiology left behind by Vatican I. The result is the body of teaching about the papacy and episcopacy contained in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

Vatican II reaffirmed everything Vatican I taught about papal primacy and infallibility, but it added important points about bishops. Bishops, it says, are not "vicars of the Roman Pontiff." Rather, in governing their local churches they are "vicars and legates of Christ" [23]. Together, they form a body, a "college," whose head is the pope. This episcopal college is responsible for the well-being of the Universal Church. Here in a nutshell are the basic elements of the Council’s much-discussed communio ecclesiology, which affirms the importance of local churches and the doctrine of collegiality.

In a key passage about collegiality, Vatican II teaches: "The order of bishops is the successor to the college of the apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated. Together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never apart from him, they have supreme and full authority over the Universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff" [24]. Much of the present discussion of papal primacy is concerned with exploring the implications of this passage.

21st century

Relation between the Roman Catholic Church and Christians not in full communion with it

In the document Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church] of 29 June 2007 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterated that, in the view of the Roman Catholic Church, the Christian communities born out of the Protestant Reformation and which lack apostolic succession in the sacrament of orders are not "Churches" in the proper sense. The Eastern Christian Church that are not in communion with Rome, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy and the Assyrian Church of the East, are Churches in the proper sense and sister Churches of the Catholic particular Churches, but since communion with the Roman Pontiff is one of the internal constitutive principles of a particular Church, they lack something in their condition, while on the other hand the existing division means that the fullness of universality that is proper to the Church governed by the successor of St Peter and the bishops in communion with him is not now realised in history.

Efforts at reconciliation

Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) statement of Venice (1976) states that the ministry of the bishop of Rome among his brother bishops was "interpreted" as Christ's will for his Church; its Importance was compared "by analogy" to the position of Peter among the apostles.

Unlike many other Churches of the Reformation, the Anglican Church has never abandoned a possible role for the Roman primacy, so long as the ministry of the Bishop of Rome is rightly understood, interpreted, and implemented. The ministry of the Bishop of Rome should not be an obstacle, but rather should function as a possible instrument of ultimate Christian unity. Orthodox Anglicanism today acknowledges that the ministry of the papacy is evolving rapidly and could someday be received by the Anglican Church as means tending toward the reconciliation of all Churches. A de facto recognition of the historic papal ministry already exists within the Anglican Communion, which has consistently maintained throughout her history that the Roman Pontiff possesses a station of primus inter pares, ‘first amongst equals,’ a primacy of honour and reverence, though not of jurisdiction or personal infallibility.[25]

"Communion with the bishop of Rome does not imply submission to an authority which would stifle the distinctive features of the local churches. The purpose of the episcopal function of the bishop of Rome is to promote Christian fellowship in faithfulness to the teaching of the apostles."[26]

Joint worship service with the Archbishop of Canterbury

At a joint service during the first official visit of Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie to the Vatican, Runcie appealed to Anglicans to consider accepting papal primacy in a reunified church. At the same time, Pope John Paul II stressed that his office must be more than a figurehead.[27]

Ut Unum Sint

In Ut Unum Sint, John Paul II asked the ‘pastors and theologians’ of ‘our Churches’ – ie, the RC and the Orthodox Church – to come up with suggestions about how the primacy could be exercised in ways that would unite rather than divide.[28]

Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue

In October 2007, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, a joint commission of Orthodox and Catholic theologians, agreed that the Pope has primacy among all bishops of the Church, something which has been universally acknowledged by both churches since the First Council of Constantinople in 381 (when they were still one Church) though disagreements about the extent of his authority still continue.

The document recognizes the historical patriarchates of the united Church, in Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Among these, the Ravenna participants agreed, Rome has primacy. However, the Ravenna document does not settle questions about the power the Pope enjoys as a consequence of that primacy. In fact, in their concluding statement the commission noted that Catholic and Orthodox theologians continue to disagree "on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos," or first among the patriarchs. The document explains that, "While the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West, there are differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations."[29]

The Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue reached the agreement in a meeting in Ravenna, Italy, where the Pope was said to have a primus inter pares (first among equals) role not complete authority. [30]

See also


  1. Ray, Stephen K.. Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church. Ignatius Press. ISBN 9780898707236. 
  2. Ott, Ludwig (1960). Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. pp. 289. 
  3. Fr. Nicholas Afanassieff: "The Primacy of Peter" Ch. 4, pgs. 126-127 (c. 1992)
  4. Richard McBrien The Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 63.
  5. Schimmelpfennig, p. 27
  6. Schimmelpfennig, p. 39
  7. Wikisource-logo.svg "Simon Magus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  8. Pennington, p. 2
  9. 9.0 9.1 Duffy, ch. 1
  10. "Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America : Papal Primacy". 
  11. McBrien, 46.
  12. McBrien, 48.
  13. Ireneaus Against Heresies 3.3.2: the "...Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. ...The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate."
  14. Schimmelpfennig, p. 47
  15. D'Aubigne, Book I, p. 81.
  16. La Due, William J., "The Chair of Saint Peter", pp.300-301, Orbis Books (Maryknoll, NY; 1999)
  17. "Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8". New Advent. 
  18. Thompson, Ernest T. (1965). Through The Ages: A History Of The Christian Church. The CLC Press.
  19. Wetterau, Bruce. World history. New York: Henry Holt and company. 1994.
  20. "Vatican I And The Papal Primacy". 
  21. Collins, Paul (1997-10-24). "Stress on papal primacy led to exaggerated clout for a pope among equals". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2009-01-20. 
  22. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
  23. cf. Catechism, nos. 894-95
  24. Lumen Gentium, no. 22
  25. "Philorthodox: Anglican Cathlolicism and Papal Primacy". 
  26. ARCIC, Authority in the Church, 1, para. 3.12.
  27. The Washington Post. 1989-10-01. 
  28. Ut Unum Sint, paras 95-95: “I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility …above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation. For a whole millennium Christians were united in ‘a brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life … If disagreements in belief and discipline arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consent as moderator’. In this way the primacy exercised its office of unity. When addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Dimitrios I, I acknowledged my awareness that, ‘…what should have been a service sometimes manifested itself in a very different light. … I constantly pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek – together, of course – the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned’. “This is an immense task, which we cannot refuse and which I cannot carry out by myself. Could not the real but imperfect communion existing between us persuade Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ for his Church and allowing ourselves to be deeply moved by his plea ‘that they may all be one … so that the world may believe that you sent me’ (Jn 17.21)?” )(para 95) “The Catholic Church … holds that the communion of the particular Churches with the Church of Rome, and of their Bishops with the Bishop of Rome, is – in God’s plan – an essential requisite for full and visible communion. Indeed, full communion, of which the Eucharist is the highest sacramental manifestation, need to be visibly expressed in a ministry in which all the Bishops recognize that they are united in Christ and all the faithful find confirmation for their faith. The first part of the Acts of the Apostles presents Peter as the one who speaks in the name of the apostolic group and who serves the unity of the community – all the while respecting the authority of James, the head of the Church in Jerusalem.” (para 97)
  29. "Ecumenical talks reach partial accord on papal primacy". 2007-11-14. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  30. Catholics and Orthodox agree on primacy of pope


  • Schatz, Klaus (1996). Papal Primacy. Liturgical Press. ISBN 0-8146-5522-X. 
  • Schimmelpfennig, Bernhard (1992). The Papacy. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231075152. 

External links

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