The bridging of the deep divide between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church—centered around differing views of the primacy of Peter—is work that will take time and this article from Cheisa examines why, and also why it has never seemed more promising.
“ ROME, January 25, 2010 – This evening, with vespers in the basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls, Benedict XVI is closing the week of prayer for Christian unity.
“There are some who say that ecumenism has entered a phase of retreat and chill. But as soon as one that looks to the East, the facts say the opposite. Relations with the Orthodox Churches have never been so promising as they have since Joseph Ratzinger has been pope.
“The dates speak for themselves. A period of chill in the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches of Byzantine tradition began in 1990, when the two sides clashed over so-called "uniatism," meaning the ways in which Catholic communities of the Eastern rites duplicate in everything the parallel Orthodox communities, differing only by their obedience to the Church of Rome.
“In Balamond, in Lebanon, the dialogue came to a halt. It hit an even bigger obstacle on the Russian side, where the patriarchate of Moscow could not tolerate seeing itself "invaded" by Catholic missionaries sent there by Pope John Paul II, who were all the more suspect because they were of Polish nationality, historically a rival.
“The dialogue remained frozen until, in 2005, the German Joseph Ratzinger ascended to the throne of Peter, a pope highly appreciated in the East for the same reason he prompts criticisms in the West: for his attachment to the great Tradition.
“First in Belgrade in 2006, and then in Ravenna in 2007, the international mixed commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches started meeting again.
“And what rose to the top of the discussion was precisely the question that most divides East and West: the primacy of the successor of Peter in the universal Church.
“From the session in Ravenna emerged the document that marked the shift, dedicated to "conciliarity and authority" in the ecclesial communion.
“The document of Ravenna, approved unanimously by both sides, affirms that "primacy and conciliarity are mutually interdependent." And in paragraph 41, it highlights the points of agreement and disagreement:
"Both sides agree that . . . that Rome, as the Church that 'presides in love' according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch, occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos 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, a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium."
"Protos" is the Greek word that means "first." And "taxis" is the structure of the universal Church.”