Statement of Joint Catholic-Orthodox Commission

Statement of Joint Catholic-Orthodox Commission:

42. Conciliarity at the universal level, exercised in the ecumenical councils, implies an active role of the bishop of Rome, as protos of the bishops of the major sees, in the consensus of the assembled bishops. Although the bishop of Rome did not convene the ecumenical councils of the early centuries and never personally presided over them, he nevertheless was closely involved in the process of decision-making by the councils.

43. Primacy and conciliarity are mutually interdependent. That is why primacy at the different levels of the life of the Church, local, regional and universal, must always be considered in the context of conciliarity, and conciliarity likewise in the context of primacy.

Concerning primacy at the different levels, we wish to affirm the following points:

1 Primacy at all levels is a practice firmly grounded in the canonical tradition of the Church.

2 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.

To summarize: the Eastern and Catholic Churches have agreed that the Pope does, in fact, have primacy over the other Bishops. The remaining question is “How much?” It would not shock me to see a Pope in the future agree to give up some of his power in the interests of Christian Unity. (I hve no doubt our current Pope would, but I think the reconciliation will take long enough that Pope Benedict won’t be one who welcomes our Orthodox brethren home.)

We’re one step closer to fulfilling Christ’s prayer to the Father: “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)”