Here is a fascinating interview with Ioannis Zizioulas, the Bishop of Pergamum (a church to whose angel, it may be recalled, one of the letters in Revelation was addressed) on the possibilities and difficulties on the ground regarding reunion between the Western and Eastern churches. In particular, he talks about papal primacy.
There is some pretty heady theology here, but it has very practical implications. I particularly like this:
Primacy is not a legalistic notion implying the investment of a certain individual with power, but a form of diakonia. It implies also that this ministry reaches the entire community through the communion of the local Churches manifested through the bishops that constitute the council or synod. It is for this reason that the primate himself should be the head of a local Church, that is, a bishop. As head of a local Church and not as an individual, this will serve the unity of the Church as a koinonia of full Churches and not as a “collage” of incomplete parts of a universal Church. Primacy in this way will not undermine the integrity of any local Church.
If only all Popes had approached the exercise of their office with that in mind.
I'm not entirely convinced that biblical exegesis is such a dead-end as the Metropolitan claims (although presumably he knows the ecclesiastical terrain better). It was, after all, on such grounds that Pope Damasus defended, not simply the primacy of Rome (which actually wasn't under discussion at the time- Constantinople wanted to be counted as second most primal patriarchate) but the position of Alexandria and Antioch as holding second and third place after Rome respectively, based on Scripture and the biblical primacy of Peter, and on the subsequent association of those two cities' bishoprics with Peter (Antioch having been Peter's initial see before he moved to Rome, and because Alexandria's first patriarch was Mark, Peter's disciple). Thus Damasus answered precisely the argument of the first group of Orthodox theologians the Metropolitan mentions - that the primacy is a result of ecclesiastical politics and not of the essence of the Church as Christ instituted it. And that was in the fourth century. Surely the same argument could be offered now?
Anyway, there is great food for thought here, and reason for hope. The Metropolitan even speaks of putting off reunion for another thousand years as though it were something at once unthinkable and unlikely. What with this and the overtures the Pope has made to the Anglicans, the next couple of centuries could be very interesting indeed (a pity I won't be around to see the whole show)! May we continue to pray that our divisions may be healed and the vision of John 17 become a reality.