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The cover of the study document by the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, released yesterday (CNS)

The reason why the 2024 edition of the Vatican yearbook has re-inserted “Patriarch of the West” as one of the Pope’s historical titles appears to be a response to concerns expressed by Orthodox leaders and theologians. Source: OSV News.

For months after the yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio, was released, the Vatican press office said it had no explanation for the reappearance of the title, which Pope Benedict XVI had dropped in 2006.

But new documents from the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity place the change squarely in the middle of a broad discussion among all mainline Christian churches on the papacy and the potential role of the Bishop of Rome in a more united Christian community.

Members of the dicastery proposed that “a clearer distinction be made between the different responsibilities of the Pope, especially between his ministry as head of the Catholic Church and his ministry of unity among all Christians”.

For the Orthodox, the papal title of “Patriarch of the West” is an acknowledgement that his direct jurisdiction does not extend to their traditional territories in the historical efforts toward ecumenical reflection

In 1995, St John Paul II called for an ecumenical reflection on how the Pope as Bishop of Rome could exercise his ministry “as a service of love recognised by all concerned.”

Since then, the Church’s ecumenical partners responded to St John Paul’s request by questioning things like papal infallibility and claims of universal jurisdiction, yet many also expressed support for trying to find an acceptable way for the Bishop of Rome to serve as a point of unity for all Christians.

Staff of the dicastery have spent years summarising the reflections and released their work yesterday as a “study document” titled, The Bishop of Rome. Primacy and Synodality in the Ecumenical Dialogues and in the Responses to the Encyclical “Ut unum sint”. 


Ecumenism and papal primacy: Vatican releases status report on dialogues (By Cindy Wooden, CNS via OSV News)