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Orthodox-Catholic commission reaches agreement on primacy

September 22, 2016

A joint Catholic-Orthodox theological commission has approved a statement on the primacy in Church history.

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The statement-- which covered the questions of both synodal government and primacy in the first Christian millennium-- was approved and issued at the conclusion of a meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, held this week in Chieti, Italy. The representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church registered some objections to the language of the statement, but did not stop its approval.

The agreement on the historic function of primacy is significant because the question of papal primacy is one of the key stumbling blocks in Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical discussions. The statement acknowledged that the Bishop of Rome enjoyed primacy, while also noting that synods set directions for the Church. The document reportedly says that the Pope did not exercise canonical authority over the Eastern churches, but acted as "first among equals."

Although the approval of the document on primacy and synodality represented a substantial victory for this, the 14th mission of the joint commission, the future of the ecumenical talks was clouded because of insistence by Russian Orthodox delegates that the next meeting should focus on the "Unia"-- the term used by the Moscow patriarchate for the Eastern churches in union with Rome. The joint commission did not settle on a topic for the next meeting; that issue will be discussed by the group's coordinating committee.


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  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Sep. 27, 2016 3:23 PM ET USA

    How does this reported agreement reflect Catholic teaching on the universal/particular jurisdiction of the Pope, defined Catholic teaching?The document claims that the Pope did not exercise canonical authority over the Eastern churches. Vatican II teaches: In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.