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Pope Francis wants to reform the papacy to allow greater unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, a newly appointed senior adviser has claimed.
Enzo Bianchi, appointed on 22 July as consultor of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the Pope could allow a council of bishops including Orthodox bishops to assist in governing the Church.
Reform of the Synod of Bishops and the growth of synodality within the Catholic Church would greatly enhance the opportunity for union between Rome and the Orthodox Churches, by making the papacy less “monarchical” and the Catholic Church less centralised.
Bianchi, Prior of the Bose monastery in north-east Italy, said: “I believe that the Pope wants to achieve unity by reforming the papacy.” Pope Francis feels that union with the Orthodox Churches in particular is “an urgent goal”, he emphasised. “I believe that the Pope has one particular concern, that unity should not be achieved in the spirituality of unity but rather it is a command by Christ which we must carry out,” he told the Italian daily La Stampa.
Reform would involve a new balance between collegiality and primacy, Bianchi explained. “The Orthodox have synodality, but not primacy. We Catholics have primacy but a lack of synodality.”
“It is conceivable that we could have an episcopal body that helps the Pope in governing the Church without calling into question his primacy,” Bianchi said. “This would help to create a new style of papal primacy and the government of bishops.”
Pope Paul VI’s Nota Praevia, attached to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, ensured that none of the document’s teaching on collegiality or the Synod of Bishops should impact on the rights and privileges of the Pope. The Synod of Bishops therefore remains a solely consultative body and relies on papal endorsement.
Last year Pope Francis suggested strengthening the Synod saying it was a “half-baked” development of the Second Vatican Council.
Above: The central focus of Pope Francis' trip to the Holy Land in May was a prayer service with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholemew at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo: CNS/EPA