A joint commission working to heal the 1,000-year split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches has agreed that the Pope has primacy over all bishops. This is a very good thing. There are still come disagreements over just what that authority permits him to do but this is great groundwork for continued conversations.

The Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue reached the agreement during talks last month in Ravenna, Italy, according to a document being published Thursday.

The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches were united until the Great Schism of 1054, which was precipitated largely by disagreements over the primacy of the Pope.

This from javno.com:

After a meeting in Ravenna, representatives of the two Churches signed a document setting grounds for the unification.

A document containing 46 articles that sets the foundations for the unification of the Catholic and Orthodox churches after their separation in 1054 was signed by the delegations of the two churches in Ravenna after a meeting in October, Italian daily Repubblica reported on Wednesday.

The Vatican representatives at the lengthy consultations were headed by Cardinal Walter Casper, president of the Papal council for Christian unity, while Metropolitan Joannis Zizioulas led a delegation of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church walked out of the summit in Ravenna because representatives of the Estonian Orthodox Church were present, who, during the former Soviet Union, were under the Moscow Patriarchate, but separated with the blessing of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. The Moscow Patriarch, Alexei II, does not recognise the primacy of the patriarch of Constantinople.

The document signed in Ravenna establishes that the Pope is “the primary among patriarchs” and Rome the “first seat”. These two items were among the chief ones that led to the separation of Catholics and Orthodox Christians in 1054. Now they could be the foundation for a reunification. So, the recognition of the Roman bishop’s primacy has been established and local bishops are autonomous.

At local levels, the authority is in the hands of bishops, at the regional levels, groups of churches recognise one protos and at the universal level, “those who are protos in various regions, together with all bishops, cooperate in issues relating to the totality of the Church”.

In that context, “protos must recognise the primate among them”. Republicca assesses that this document brings guidelines, a “road map” towards the unification of Christian churches.