Things appear to be on schedule for a return to Communion with the East by 2054.
Catholics out there, get used to the world “Protos.”
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.
Since then, the discussion on controversial points has advanced at an accelerated pace. And it has started to examine, above all, how the Churches of East and West interpreted the role of the bishop of Rome during the first millennium, when they were still united.