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The Vatican makes proposals to create a papal office for all churches

The Vatican makes proposals to create a papal office for all churches

According to Cathapress, Cardinal Curia Kurt Koch, who is in charge of the ecumenical movement, and the Secretary General of the World Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Mario Grech, presented the proposals on Thursday in Rome in the form of a study document.

Officials from the Anglican and Armenian Apostolic Churches have welcomed recent proposals by the Vatican for a new way to exercise the papacy. During the presentation of the “Bishop of Rome” document on Thursday in the Vatican's press room, Archbishop Khachag Barsamyan, who spoke from Armenia, said that the document will henceforth be a reference point for discussions between the churches.

Barsamian emphasized that in the first centuries there was an ecclesiastical community without a common legal code and pluralism was accepted at that time. He hopes that this practice from the early centuries will be applied again in the future.

“A certain form of collegiality”

The Armenian archbishop said there could be “a certain form of collegiality between the churches, even if there is not yet complete ecclesiastical unity.” He suggested that the document and the views emerging from it be deepened among the churches on the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea.

Speaking at the Anglican Church of England's media event, Archbishop Ian Ernest hailed the document as a “huge success”. The personal representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Rome said the paper opens new horizons for inter-church relations on the much-discussed issue of papal primacy.

The orientations collected under the title “Bishop of Rome” are the result of decades of theological dialogues conducted separately by the various Christian churches with the Catholic Church. The Bishop of Rome's paper, approved by Pope Francis, proposes several sweeping changes for the Catholic Church. The new understanding and different exercise of papal supremacy should “contribute to the restoration of Christian unity.”

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The church is no longer a property, but a community

The first change concerns a new reading of the teachings of the First Vatican Council. In 1870 this declared the doctrinal infallibility of the head of the church. It also declared that the Pope was the supreme legislator and supreme judge of the entire Christian Church. According to the newspaper, decisions made at that time must now be integrated into more recent theology, which no longer sees the church as a monarchy, but as a community. In addition, it should be adapted to “today’s cultural and ecumenical context.”

Next, the paper calls for a clear separation of the different areas of responsibility of the Bishop of Rome. To do this, he had to exercise his local bishopric in Rome more clearly. It must then be clarified to what extent he, as “Patriarch of the West,” could be on the same level as the Churches of the East on some issues, while on others he might have “the primacy of unity in the community of the East.” Western and Eastern Churches.

The third proposal relates to the Constitution of the Catholic Church. Internally, this trend towards “synodality”, that is, joint consultation and decision-making, must continue. This includes reflection on the authority of national and regional bishops' conferences and the question of the position they will occupy in the future in the network of the Universal Catholic Episcopal Conference and the Roman Curia.

Global advisory level

Finally, the text proposes the establishment of a new global level of consultation through regular meetings of church leaders from different denominations. This aims to deepen the existing community among them and make it more visible to the outside world.

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The paper also contains suggestions about the future ecumenical role of the Pope. In the future, he should be able to convene and chair cross-sectarian councils. He can also assume the role of mediator in the event of disciplinary or educational conflicts.

As for the churches in the West that separated from Rome – that is, the Protestant sects – the paper speaks of the “priority of declaration and testimony” that is acceptable to them even if full ecclesiastical unity has not yet been achieved.

The first steps have already been taken

It remains unclear how the Vatican's proposals will be implemented under canon law. Some of these laws, which relate to his authority or to the conciliar constitution of the Church, can be enacted by the Pope through the Statutes of the Church. He had already taken the first steps regarding his role as Roman bishop and the synodal constitution of the Church.

Others will likely require approval by the Third Vatican Council. Perhaps recognition of the Pope as “president emeritus” can only be achieved through a new kind of “ecumenical council.” As in the first millennium, delegates from other churches with voting rights will also participate.

As a first step, Cardinal Koch announced that the Vatican would send the proposals to other churches for evaluation. We hope for positive answers and further discussions.

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