“If the bishop of Rome enjoys any primacy whatsoever, it is only because the Church as a whole is primary.”
Whether and how the bishop of Rome possesses primacy has been the subject of much discussion and heated debate throughout the centuries. It was a major issue in the events culminating in the schism of 1054, and it is likewise the central theme of current Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, which is fueled by the desire to reestablish full ecclesial communion. The bishop of Rome’s claim to primacy is also considered one of the foremost—if not the foremost—issue dividing Catholics and Protestants. The fact that the Catholic Church proposes the papal office as an essential element in the Church’s constitution, while other Christian Churches and ecclesial communities frequently perceive it as a great obstacle to full ecclesial union, renders the investigation of papal primacy a matter of paramount importance. Moreover, the significance of the issue is enhanced by the presence of theological disputes among Catholic theologians themselves.
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