I found this very interesting. The following is an excerpt of the remarks of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Synaxis of the Heads of Orthodox Churches. It is a little long, but stick with me.
And now, beloved brothers in the Lord, let us turn our thought to the internal affairs of our Orthodox Church, whose leadership the Lord’s mercy has entrusted to us. We have been deigned by our Lord to belong to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose faithful continuation and expression in History is our Holy Orthodox Church. We have received and preserve the true faith, as the holy Fathers have transmitted it to us through the Ecumenical Councils of the one undivided Church. We commune of the same Body and Blood of our Lord in the Divine Eucharist, and we participate in the same Sacred Mysteries. We basically keep the same liturgical typikon and are governed by the same Sacred Canons. All these safeguard our unity, granting us fundamental presuppositions for witness in the modern world.
Despite this, we must admit in all honesty that sometimes we present an image of incomplete unity, as if we were not one Church, but rather a confederation or a federation of churches. This is largely a result of the institution of autocephaly, which characterizes the structure of the Orthodox Church. As is known, this institution dates back to the early Church, when the so-called “Pentarchy” of the ancient Apostolic Sees and Churches — namely, of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem — was still valid. The communion or “symphony” of these Sees expressed the unity of the universal Church in the oikoumene. This Pentarchy was severed after the tragic schism of 1054AD between Rome and Constantinople originally, and afterward between Rome and the other Patriarchates. To the four Orthodox Patriarchates that remained after the Schism, from the middle of the second millennium to this day, other autocephalous Churches were added until we have the prevailing organization of the Orthodox Church throughout the world today.
Yet, while the original system of Pentarchy emanated from respect for the apostolicity and particularity of the traditions of these ancient Patriarchates, the autocephaly of later Churches grew out of respect for the cultural identity of nations. Moreover, the overall system of autocephaly was encroached in recent years, through secular influences, by the spirit of ethnophyletism or, still worse, of state nationalism, to the degree that the basis for autocephaly now became the local secular nation, whose boundaries, as we all know, do not remain stable but depend on historical circumstance. So we have reached the perception that Orthodoxy comprises a federation of national Churches, frequently attributing priority to national interests in their relationship with one another. In light of this image, which somewhat recalls the situation in Corinth when the first letter to the Corinthians was written, the Apostle Paul would ask: has Orthodoxy been divided? This question is also posed by many observers of Orthodox affairs in our times.
Of course, the response commonly proffered to this question is that, despite administrational division, Orthodoxy remains united in faith, the Sacraments, etc. But is this sufficient? When before non-Orthodox we sometimes appear divided in theological dialogues and elsewhere; when we are unable to proceed to the realization of the long-heralded Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church; when we lack a unified voice on contemporary issues and, instead, convoke bilateral dialogues with non-Orthodox on these issues; when we fail to constitute a single Orthodox Church in the so-called Diaspora in accordance with the ecclesiological and canonical principles of our Church; how can we avoid the image of division in Orthodoxy, especially on the basis of non-theological, secular criteria?
We need, then, greater unity in order to appear to those outside not as a federation of Churches but as one unified Church. Through the centuries, and especially after the Schism, when the Church of Rome ceased to be in communion with the Orthodox, this Throne was called — according to canonical order — to serve the unity of the Orthodox Church as its first Throne. And it fulfilled this responsibility through the ages by convoking an entire series of Panorthodox Councils on crucial ecclesiastical matters, always prepared, whenever duly approached, to render its assistance and support to troubled Orthodox Churches.
The Ecumenical Patriarch rightly sees the problem. The Church needs to be Visibly unified to the world, not just a federation of independent State churches. That visible unity must come by way of public and open Communion with One See and its Patriarch. The Ecumenical Patriarch even goes so far as to say that this responsibility falls to his see and his person only because of the break with Rome. I think, although I may be reading into this with Roman eyes, that the Ecumenical Patriarch might even agree that were communion with Rome be re-established, the role of being the visible unifier of the Church would no longer fall to him and his See.
Now I know that the Patriarch’s of many of these autocephalous Churches would vehemently disagree with such a notion, whether Rome or Constantinople. With that said, I think that the Ecumenical Patriarch’s pitch to his fellow Orthodox is in an important step in the road to full and visible Unity of the Church as Jesus prayed. If these national Churches come to realize the importance of that visible unity to the world, we will be that much closer to being one, as Jesus and the Father are one.