BY VIVIANE HEWITT IN Romp:
JOHN PAUL II PLANS to change the nature of the Petrine Primacy in the interests of Christian unity, according to a senior Cardinal in Rome.
The Cardinal Secretary of State, Angelo Sodano, suggested this week that the Pope has said that while the mission of Rome cannot be changed, he had taken note of requests from other religious leaders to find a "new form" of exercising the Petrine Primacy which would be open to a "new situation".
The Pope had hinted at this in his encyclical in May 1995 on Christian Unity, Ut Unum Sint. Here he acknowledged that the status of the Bishop of Rome "constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians."
Cardinal Sodano, in an interview with the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica, stressed that though the Petrine Primacy which affirms the primacy of the See of Peter is an "untouchable truth of faith", John Paul II had placed new emphasis on the collegiate nature of the body of bishops. Though critics have spoken of the centralising influence of the papacy under the present Pope, Cardinal Sodano maintained that John Paul II had in fact convened synods of bishops and consistories of Cardinals to keep in close touch with national episcopates all over the world.
Cardinal Sodano pointed out that as far back as 1989, Rome had been the venue
for the theological-historical symposium on approaches to exercising the Petrine Primacy. Delegates had included representatives of Orthodox and Protestant Churches who concluded that the "idea of the Petrine Primacy has always been part of the patrimony of the universal
The Vatican Secretary of State went on to play down a controversial proposal by the Pope that the Church engage in a mea culpa on the occasion of the Jubilee 2000 for past errors.
The proposal would rehabilitate historic figures who had been excommunicated.