Benedict's call will increase divisions
- 8 June 2006
Benedict's call on papacy will increase divisions, says Italian Protestant
Rome (ENI). An appeal by Pope Benedict XVI for non-Catholic Christians to recognise papal primacy risks reinforcing divisions between churches, says an Italian Protestant theologian.
Speaking at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square on 7 June, Pope Benedict asserted that Jesus himself had entrusted the leadership of the Church to his apostle Peter.
"Peter's responsibility thus consists of guaranteeing the communion with Christ," said Pope Benedict. "Let us pray so that the primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, may always be exercised in this original sense desired by the Lord, so that it will be increasingly recognised in its true meaning by brothers who are still not in communion with us."
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Pope has a leading role among Christians because as bishop of Rome he is successor to the apostle Peter who held this office. However, Professor Fulvio Ferrario of the Protestant Waldensian theological faculty in Rome insisted the idea of such a "Petrine succession" was "completely alien" to the New Testament.
"Recent biblical research acknowledges that Peter had a special role among the group of disciples," Ferrario told the Italian Protestant news agency NEV. "But this concerns Peter, not Benedict XVI." He added, "The papacy risks becoming a factor of division more than of unity, something that ecumenical dialogue has to take into account."
Pope Benedict said after his election in 2005 that promoting Christian unity would be his "primary task".
The First Vatican Council in 1870 proclaimed the dogmas of the papal primacy and of the infallibility of the Pope when he speaks "ex cathedra", or solemnly declares a definitive and binding decision on faith or morals.
The role of the Roman Catholic papacy remains a source of controversy, not only for Protestant denominations but also for Eastern Orthodox churches which do not accept the dogmas of the First Vatican Council.
The issue of papal primacy is to be discussed at a meeting of an international Orthodox-Catholic dialogue commission to take place in Serbia in September.
Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical "Ut unum sint" (That they may be one) reaffirmed the 1870 dogmas but said he was ready to change the way in which primacy was exercised to better promote unity between churches.
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