On Papal Primacy

by St. Symeon of Thessaloniki (ca. 1381-1429)

With the resignation of Pope Benedict, it is a good time to review a few important ideas with regard to the Bishop of Rome.

peterFirst, the Orthodox affirm Papal Primacy, but reject Papal Supremacy.

We should not contradict the Latins when they say that the Bishop of Rome is the first. This primacy is not harmful to the Church. But only let them show that he is true to the faith of Peter and his successors; then let him have all the privileges of Peter, let him be first, the head of all and the supreme hierarch. Only let him be faithful to the Orthodoxy of Sylvester and Agathon, Leo, Liberius, Martin and Gregory, then we too shall call him apostolic father and the first among hierarchs; then we will be under his authority not only as under Peter, but the very Saviour Himself.

(PG 145, 120 AC)

Papal Supremacy, on the other hand, is that teaching which claims that the Bishop of Rome has immediate jurisdiction in and over every diocese and church throughout the world. There is, in the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great, no universal bishop, but in the context of the Church, the Bishop of Rome, as the head of the Church in the former capital of the Roman Empire, presides in love as first hierarch, neither replacing, nor repressing, his brother hierarchs. This is the Orthodox way.

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