We wrote earlier in these pages that the crisis of the hierarchical institutional Church lies in the absolute concentration of power in the person of the pope, power that is exerted in an absolutist way, distant from any participation of Christians and creating almost insurmountable obstacles to ecumenical dialogue with other denominations.
It wasn’t like that in the beginning. The Church was a fraternal community. The figure of the pope didn’t exist yet. The Church was ruled by the emperor since he was the Supreme Pontiff (Pontifex Maximus), not the bishop of Rome or Constantinople, the two capitals of the Empire. So Emperor Constantine convened the first ecumenical council of Nicea (325) to decide the question of Christ’s divinity. Still in the 6th century, Emperor Justinian, who reunited the two parts of the Empire, the West and the East, claimed for himself the primacy of law and not that of bishop of Rome. However, by virtue of the tombs of Peter and Paul being in Rome, the Roman Church enjoyed special prestige, as did its bishop who, before the others, had the “presidency in love” and “carried out the service of Peter” — that of “strengthening the faith”, not the supremacy of Peter in commanding.
-full commentary at Iglesia Descalza (translated by Rebel Girl)