It is an important verity of the Orthodox Faith that the Holy Church is led not by any earthly Pontifex Maximus, but by our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, and that all Bishops are essentially equal. The distinctions among them, that set some as Patriarchs, some as Metropolitans, etc., are distinctions of honour, not of jurisdiction. Thus, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna (ROC-MP), reiterates this fundamental truth in an age where the neo-Papal aspirations and self-promotion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople seek to cast the occupant of that episcopal throne as "the Spiritual Leader of the Orthodox World".
Constantinople Patriarch does not lead Orthodox world, Russian prelate insists
Nov. 08 (CWNews.com) - The meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I on November 28 should not be seen as a summit meeting between the leaders of Eastern and Western Christianity, according to a leading official of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Repeating an argument that he had emphasized during the October meeting of a joint Catholic-Orthodox theological commission, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna said it is "misleading" to see the Ecumenical Patriarch as the world leader of the Orthodox faith.
The Patriarch of Constantinople is traditionally regarded by other Eastern prelates is traditionally recognized as the "first among equals" in the world's Orthodox leadership. But Bishop Hilarion, in an interview with the Zenit news agency, stresses that this distinction is one "of honor, not of jurisdiction."
Bishop Hilarion, in upholding the claims of the Russian Orthodox Church, accepted the argument that the Bishop of Rome enjoyed primacy in the undivided Christian world before 1054. The See of Constantinople, he said, always held second place, and was never accorded any authority over the other prelates of the Orthodox world.
While he voiced his hope that the Pope's visit to Turkey will help to improve relations between Rome and Constantinople, Bishop Hilarion said that "it is equally important for the Roman Catholic Church to develop bilateral relations with other Orthodox churches, notably with the Russian Orthodox Church." The Russian Church is by far the largest, in terms of population, of the Eastern churches, with 160 million faithful.