The West may not use the term Patriarch anymore, but that's in part because of the development of the RC understanding of the Papacy. In the West, the See of Rome was the sole see with an apostolic origin. We see the beginnings of Rome's assertion of "papal supremacy" as early as the reign of Pope Leo I, but it really takes off after the Great Schism. I don't believe this is accurate, at least not for the first millennium in the case of most popes. Rather, they saw the See of Rome as the distinct Petrine succession, but acknowledged the apostolicity of other sees.
Perhaps you've already read it, but if not, I recommend Francis Dvornik's Byzantium and the Roman Primacy
. It's been several years since I've read it, and if there's newer scholarship to the contrary, I'd be interested in hearing about it, but there was no concept of the See of Rome holding "the
distinct Petrine succession" (emphasis mine). Pope Leo I begins to assert the Petrine origins of the sees of Rome, Alexandria (via St Mark, the disciple of St Peter), and Antioch in order to reduce the influence of Constantinople. Prior to this, the influence of each see was related to its connection with the civil structure of the Roman Empire; with the capital's shift from Rome to Constantinople, and the consequent elevation of C'ple over Alexandria and Antioch, "apostolicity" became more important to Leo than accommodation to the civil structure. Apostolicity becomes an especially big thing in the West because Rome was the only apostolic see. In the East by comparison, you can spit in any direction and hit one.
Leo's approach becomes influential in the West, whereas the East seems to have had a love-hate relationship with it. When it was convenient to their purposes, the Greeks "seem" to go along with it, and when it steps on their toes, they are just as comfortable telling Rome to back off. One could argue that the "non-Chalcedonians" were the first to protest the exercise of "papal supremacy" to the extent that Leo's intervention at Chalcedon was influential in solidifying the two camps; for us, it was more of a "hate" relationship.
Even the very idea of a "distinct Petrine succession" is anachronistic, a later development read into the patristic era. The three Petrine sees in Leo's model were to be taken together, not as separate, distinct successions. The order they fell in was the order of the civil structure, otherwise there's no reason why Antioch should be subordinate to Alexandria. But the three were taken as one "Petrine" see. In order to combat this, C'ple begins to emphasize its connection to St Andrew, who was not only the first-called, but the brother of St Peter; but the real struggle here is power, not apostolic origins. After all, St Cyprian teaches that every bishop who holds and teaches the faith of Peter is the successor of Peter. Every see has apostolicity in the sense that the bishop occupying it is a legitimate successor of the apostles and a teacher of their teachings.
Eventually, popes become secular rulers as well as spiritual leaders; when the former fades, the latter gets accentuated by the various teachings on the office of the Papacy (e.g., that formulated at Vatican I). When a pope has all that "going on", a patriarch looks like nothing. And, in the history of the Latin West, patriarchs were basically an honorific title: Lisbon, Venice, Goa, Jerusalem all have or had patriarchs, and they're nothing but archbishops with extra tassels on their green galeros. If Rome returned to the use of the office of Patriarch, if it decentralized in that direction, that would've been a more convincing witness to the Orthodox: the office of Patriarch is "centralizing" in the context of the local or particular Church, but "decentralizing" in the context of the universal Church. Even if that couldn't be implemented immediately, keeping that title in place was important because it was the last real vestige of the older, Orthodox ecclesiology. How did Ratzinger not see that? I don't think it's because he's stupid--he's brilliant, one of the best minds of our time. And yet, the teaching on the Papacy is so "self-evident" to faithful RC's that it's really difficult for them, even the best of them, to conceive of anything else (I think I've mentioned here in the past my recent encounter with an Eastern Catholic priest from India who told me I was going to go to hell because I wasn't in communion with the Pope...I may very well go to hell, but I promise you the Pope will be the least of the reasons why I'm there!). I agree with you that popes after the schism asserted that those churches out of communion with Rome did not have apostolicity, but I believe that the Orthodox Church said the same about Rome and still to my knowledge does. Historical studies have shown that the term 'patriarch of Rome' was never widely used in the West really at any point, though that is how the East referred to the pope. Rather, the terms bishop of Rome, See of Rome, the Pope were most common.
Still, again, since the East has traditionally viewed us in this light, and it is not wrong, Benedict seems to have just made an error in his judgment about how his Eastern brethren would receive his gesture. It may sound incredulous but I have seen this saintly, theological titan make similar moves that have provoked similar reactions.
If Rome once said that Churches out of communion with Rome lacked apostolicity, and if the Orthodox say that today, it's not because of a lack of historic connection to the apostles. It's because apostolic succession is about more than just the physical laying on of hands in ordination going back to the apostles in an unbroken line. It's not just the unbroken line of ordination, but the unbroken maintenance of the same apostolic faith and fellowship.
I can appreciate the intent behind Ratzinger's gesture, if it is indeed what you say it is (and I'm aware of how he's often confounded others by his initiatives or statements). But after decades of dialogue, esp. after Vatican II, if there's still that much "ignorance" (not the best word, but I can't do better at this hour) about how it would be received by the Orthodox, I'm not sure what we're doing in the dialogues. He has made other gestures which, though they had nothing to do with the Orthodox, were very well received by the Orthodox (e.g., Summorum Pontificum
) because of what they stood for. Clearly, there is an ability to connect the dots, but sometimes not in order.
Regarding what titles the East used for the Pope, it seems that there was no issue with calling him "the Pope of Rome" even if that's a later title (that's how all the canonized Roman Popes are referred to among us), but it was understood that he was Bishop of Rome and functioned as a Patriarch within his own sphere. When Rome begins to assign all sorts of things to the office of Pope that weren't there in the first place, Rome redefines what it means to be a Pope, which is why "bishop" and "patriarch" just don't cut it anymore. If the East likes "Patriarch of the West", it's not because Patriarch is an Eastern title that we're more comfortable with, it's because it describes the proper function he exercises within the episcopate of the universal Church.
I must say that I was warmed by your brotherly remarks and you and I are of the same mind here. Let me go through your post and make some notes :-).
You mean that wasn't it??