It calls to mind a post last May at Orthodoxy Today on the role of the Patriachate of the West and its relationship to the episcopal conferences. The post quotes Ratzinger's essay 'Primacy and Episcopacy':
The image of a centralized state which the Catholic church presented right up to the council does not flow only from the Petrine office, but from its strict amalgamation with the patriarchal function which grew ever stronger in the course of history and which fell to the bishop of Rome for the whole of Latin Christendom. The uniform canon law, the uniform liturgy, the uniform appointment of bishops by the Roman center: all these are things which are not necessarily part of the primacy but result from the close union of the two offices. For that reason, the task to consider for the future will be to distinguish again and more clearly between the proper function of the successor of Peter and the patriarchal office and, where necessary, to create new patriarchates and to detach them from the Latin church. To embrace unity with the pope would then no longer mean being incorporated into a uniform administration, but only being inserted into a unity of faith and communio, in which the pope is acknowledged to have the power to give binding interpretations of the revelation given in Christ whose authority is accepted whenever it is given in definitive form.
Finally, in the not too distant future one could consider whether the churches of Asia and Africa, like those of the East, should not present their own forms as autonomous `patriarchates’ or `great churches’ or whatever such ecclesiae in the Ecclesia might be called in the future.
So essentially, the hubbub is a bit unwarranted. Pope Benedict XVI is just laying the groundwork for carrying through the ideas he had as Cardinal Ratzinger.