The paper outlines the Catholic and the Evangelical standpoint on the primate’s function served by the Bishop of Rome and its origin. The controversy revolves around the key phrase, iure divino and iure humano, which points to the divine or human origin of the primacy. In the Catholic perspective, Jesus Christ brought the Church into existence and provided this institution with permanent structural elements: primacy and apostolate. This thesis, considered an imperative of faith, is based on the texts of the Gospel which underscore the primacy of Saint Peter the Apostle among the Twelve and in the early Church. According to the Catholic ecclesiology, it was not only a private privilege enjoyed by Peter but a permanent element of the structure of the Church, which received the formal status of a dogma at the First Vatican Council. From the outset, the Reformation has assumed that primacy is an element shaped in the course of the historical development of the Church. The ecumenical dialogue between Catholicism and Lutheranism led to the establishment of a standpoint veering towards the consideration of the origin of primacy as a matter of lesser consequence. This step was taken in order to underscore the communal dimension of the Church, with its important function in unifying Christianity and presenting it to the world. The basic premise giving credence to this function is its foundation in the Gospel.
The primacy of the Bishop of Rome is the term for the highest office in the Church. It consists in carrying out a mission appointed to St. Peter and his successors by Christ. The truth about the primacy is a theoretical plane, dogmatically defined at the I Vatican Council in 1870. It also has a practical dimension, which depends on the individual popes and the particular historical context. A characteristic feature of the pontificate of John Paul II was the implementation of the reforms of the II Vatican Council and the Church’s preparation for the Great Jubilee of the third millennium. John Paul II realized the primacy function in accordance with the tradition of the Church, on the grounds of the biblical image of Peter the Apostle, and continuing the line of his predecessors – John XXIII and Paul VI. The leading element of his pontificate was the openness to the world, to man and his dignity, or sensitivity to the signs of the times. The priority at the level of ecclesial unity was a concern for the community at all levels, including the ecumenical field. John Paul II realized the primacy ministry as Servus servorum Dei, in the ancient formula – priority in love .