A joint commission working to heal the 1,000-year split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches has agreed the Pope has primacy over all bishops but disagrees over just what that authority permits him to do.
The Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue reached the agreement during talks last month in Ravenna, Italy, according to a document being published Thursday.
The theological commission said it agreed in Ravenna that Rome occupied the “first place” in canonical order of the ancient seats of bishops – including Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.
The commission said it agreed “that the bishop of Rome was therefore the ‘protos’ (first in ancient Greek) among the patriarchs.”
“They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as ‘protos,”‘ the commission’s document said.
“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,” the document continued. …
The meeting was marred at the start when delegates from the Russian Orthodox Church walked out over a territorial dispute with a rival Orthodox church.
The Russian Orthodox representative who walked out, Bishop Ilarion, posted the commission’s final document on his website ahead of the official release Thursday. The Vatican confirmed its authenticity.
In his posting, Ilarion noted that the document was adopted without the presence of representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate at the meeting, casting doubt over whether it could be considered to reflect Moscow’s view.
“The Moscow Patriarchate will analyze the Ravenna document and present its conclusions in due course,” the posting said.
Catholic News Service interviews Cardinal Walter Kasper.