This is in response to the thread “Orthodox and Protestant Stumbling Block”. I would’ve posted this there, but the thread seems to be fading out, and I wanted to make sure that this was read.
Joseph Raya is a retired Melkite Archbishop, currently residing, as far as I know, at the Madonna House in Canada. He penned a splendiferous book on Eastern Christianity, titled The Face of God. In the other thread, there was much debate as to what the Melkite stance is on the papacy. Raya clearly presents it as it is. Hopefully this can help to clear up any misconceptions.
As the local church manifests its reality and union with Christ by the presence of a bishop at the Eucharistic action, so also the different bishops express their unity and identity with Christ by their union in love, and by their cooperation with each other. Christ himself established a center and a symbol of this cohesion and harmony in his Church. He made Peter the head of his college of Apostles. He clearly wanted him to be the leader and perfect example of his own love for his brothers and peers. “Feed my lambs…feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). The primacy of Peter is, therefore, of divine institution, willed by Christ as the link and manifestation of union in his Body.
The Pope is the brother who confirms others in the faith, who runs to the aid of his brothers the bishops when they need his intervention and service. He is not the arbitrary dictator above and beyond the law of Christ who lives in the Church. At the Second Vatican Council Patriarch Maximos IV Sayeg explained clearly and unequivocally the meaning of this primacy according to Byzantine theology:
It should be clear to all of us that the only head of the Church, the only head of the Body of Christ which is the Church, is our Lord Jesus Christ and he alone. The Roman Pontiff is the head of the College of bishops, just as Peter was the head of the College of Apostles. The successor has no more power than the one whom he succeeds. For this reason it is not appropriate to say of the Roman Pontiff as we say of Christ—in the same way and without distinction—that he is the head of the Church, caput Ecclesiae.
The foundation of the Church is made up not of Peter alone, but of all the other Apostles as well, as is proven by a number of texts in the New Testament. This truth is in no way opposed to the primacy of Peter and his successors, but sheds new light on it. Peter is one of the Apostles, and at the same time head of the College of Apostles. Similarly the Roman Pontiff is a member of the College of bishops and at the same time head of the College. The head is the link for the whole body. It is not separated from it.
It should be clear that the power of the Roman Pontiff over the whole Church does not take away from the power of the College of bishops as a whole over the Church as a whole…a College which always includes the Pope as its primate…nor does the Pope’s power take the place of the power of each bishop in his diocese. Every canonical delegation of authority within the limits of a diocese comes from the bishop of the diocese and from him alone.