Great Schism

{siz' - uhm or skiz' - uhm}

General Information

The term Great Schism is used to refer to two major events in the history of Christianity: the division between the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman) churches, and the period (1378 - 1417) during which the Western church had first two, and later three, lines of popes.

Eastern Schism

The schism between the Eastern and Western churches is traditionally dated to 1054, although the precise point at which the split became a fixed and lasting reality is difficult to determine. Many causes contributed to the growing misunderstanding and alienation between the two groups. Partly these were differences of philosophical understanding, liturgical usage, language, and custom, but political rivalries and divisions were also involved. Occasions of friction, hostility, and open division on doctrinal questions as well as matters of discipline and daily practice had occurred long before 1054 - for example, the Photian schism of the 9th century.

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In the West the Latin church and especially the papacy took on many activities and powers in default of other authority, but this action was often regarded as usurpation by the East, where a different relationship existed between emperor and church. The heated disputes over such matters as the ecclesiastical calendar, the use of leavened or unleavened bread, or additions to the Creed (notably the filioque clause) reached a climax in 1054, when Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael Cerularius excommunicated each other. Technically, only a few people were affected by this action, but the tone had been set and the direction fixed.

Later attempts to reunite the churches foundered on local feeling, and mutual hatred grew through selfish acts on both sides during some parts of the Crusades; the low point was the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade. The schism continues to the present, but recently serious attempts at mutual understanding have offered the hope of reconciliation.

Western Schism

The Western Schism began in the events after the death of Pope Gregory XI in March 1378. The people of Rome were determined not to allow the papacy - which had been absent at Avignon for 70 years and dominated by French influence - to leave Rome upon the election of the new pope. The result was a loud and controversial conclave with cries for a Roman or at least an Italian pope. The man chosen, Urban VI, was not a cardinal, but he had served in the curia.

Soon the cardinals realized the mistake that they had made in electing Urban. He disdained the advice of others, could be ruthless if opposed or questioned, and was committed to reform through an extreme reduction of the powers of the cardinals, who for decades had been almost corulers with the popes in Avignon. The result of this clash was tragedy for the church.

Led by the French, the majority of cardinals gradually withdrew from the papal court. They met at Anagni and declared Urban's election null and void because, they alleged, their votes had been made under pressure and fear for their lives. They then elected one of their own as Pope Clement VII. For the next three decades the church was divided along national, political, and religious lines between the papal claimants - the Roman line of Urban VI, Boniface IX, Innocent VII, and Gregory XII, and the Avignon line of Clement VII and Benedict XIII - until, after various proposals and repeated failures, the cardinals from both obediences abandoned their claimants out of despair of getting any cooperation from them toward unity.

The Conciliar Epoch, which led eventually to the healing of the schism, began in 1409 when the cardinals called the Council of Pisa. The council deposed both Gregory XII and Benedict XIII and then elected a third claimant, Alexander V (to be succeeded shortly afterward by the medieval John XXIII). The Pisan claimants received the support of most of Latin Christendom, but the schism continued until the Council of Constance (1414 - 18) removed all three claimants and elected the one pope accepted by just about all - Martin V - on Nov. 11, 1417. At the Council of Basel (1431 - 49) another schism occurred with the election of "Antipope" Felix V. He abdicated, however, in 1449.

Thomas E Morrissey

C H Dawson, The Dividing of Christendom (1971); F Dvornik, The Photian Schism (1948); E F Jacob, Essays in the Conciliar Epoch (1963); S Runciman, The Eastern Schism (1955); J H Smith, The Great Schism (1970); R N Swanson, Universities, Academies, and the Great Schism (1979); W Ullmann, The Origins of the Great Schism (1972).

The Great Schism

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The first permanent severing of the Christian community. Its beginnings lay in the division of the Roman Empire at the end of the third century. Thereafter, the Greek (Eastern) and Latin (Western) sections of the Roman world were administered separately. Their cultural and economic differences intensified. When the political institutions of the Latin empire collapsed in the fifth century, the Greek empire, centered in Constantinople, continued to flourish.

The sustaining institution during this period was the Christian church. Its theology dominated all forms of though in both the united East and the disintegrating West. Important issues, even worldly ones, were transposed into theological questions.

Two fundamental differences between the Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox traditions developed during the early Middle Ages. The first was the Petrine Doctrine, absolute in the West, resisted in the East. And the second was a Western addition to the Nicene Creed which provoked the filioque controversy. Other divisive issues such as the celibacy of the priesthood, use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist, episcopal control over the sacrament of confirmation, and priestly beards and monkish tonsures were the source of conflict but not schism.

Of all the institutions that the medieval Christian empire shared, the political was the first to collapse. In the West during the fifth century imperial authority fell before invading barbarian kings. Increasingly the Roman patriarch, the pope, filled the power vacuum left by retreating politicians. The lines between secular and ecclestical authority were hopelessly blurred. On the other hand, in Constantinople, where imperial power was still strong, Christian emperors continued to preside over an integrated Christian society. As heirs of Constantine, Byzantine emperors dominated the administration of church and state in the style still known as caesaropapism.

Theology in the East was speculative, with important decisions submitted to a collegial - concilliar system in which all the patriarchs, the bishops of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Rome, played an important role. It was fully acknowledged that the bishop of Rome had pride of place and certain rights of review over the other four. As early as the pontificate of Leo I (440 - 61), however, Roman patriarchs demanded more power. Matters were made more difficult by the rise of Islam and new barbarian attacks in the seventh and eighth centuries. The West became even more isolated, and when contacts between Rome and Constantinople were resumed the gulf between East and West had widened.

The filioque controversy seems to have originated in sixth century Visigothic Spain where the Arian heresy was endemic. The Arians claimed that the first and second persons of the Trinity were not coeternal and equal. In an effort to enforce traditional theology, Spanish churchmen added a phrase to the Nicene Creed, "ex Patre Filioque," which amended the old form to state that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Son as well as from the Father. However, it had been agreed in the fourth century that no change in the wording of the creed, except by conciliar consent, was possible. To the theologically sophisticated East, the filioque phrase seemed to challenge not only the universal creed, but also the official doctrine of the Trinity. When the issue was raised during the reign of Charlemagne (768 - 814), the papacy seemed to agree. Pope Leo III, while approving the spirit of the filioque, warned against any alteration in the wording of the creed.

It was the fusion of the filioque controversy with the rise of papal power that created the great crisis of 1054. The "reform" papacy of the eleventh century established itself on the right of the pope, as apostolic heir of Peter, to absolute power over all Christian people and institutions. Such claims had been rejected by the early church councils. To Eastern patriarchs Christ's charge to Peter in Matt. 16:18 - 19 was shared by all the apostles and their spiritual heirs, the bishops. In 1054 Pope Leo IX (1048 - 54) sent a delegation headed by Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida to discuss the problems between the papacy and Constantinople. Disaster followed. The Patriarch of Constantinople. Michael Cerularius, rejected both papal claims and the filioque. The Western legates accused Constantinople of having altered the Nicene Creed. In the end, Cardinal Humbert deposited a Bull of Excommunication against Michael Cerularius on the altar of the Hagia Sophia, and the Great Schism was official.

Thereafter, efforts were made at reunion. As the Muslim Turks advanced on the Byzantine Empire in the high Middle Ages, Eastern Christians were in desperate need of relief from their Western brethren. However, all such hopes ceased when, in 1204, an army of crusading knights from the West sacked Constantinople. Eastern Christians never recovered from this outrage. In recent years effort to reconcile the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches have failed. In 1965, Pope Paul VI lifted the ban of excommunication against Michael Cerularius. However, the problem of papal rule has been rendered more difficult by nineteenth century Roman declarations of papal infallibility. The wording of the creed has not been settled.

C T Marshall
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

F Dvornik, Byzantium and the Roman Primacy; J Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600 - 1700); S Runciman, The Eastern Schism; P Sherrad, The Greek East and the Latin West; T Ware, The Orthodox Church.

The "Eastern Church"

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(Editor's Note: The linked article from the Catholic Encyclopedia does not meet the usual standards that BELIEVE sets for included articles. The tone of the article is substantially biased toward the Catholic Church and against the Orthodox Church and all other Churches, which would normally eliminate it from consideration. However, the Great Schism was and is such a large event in the history of Christendom, that we felt the need to present both the Catholic and Orthodox perspectives. Our hope is to enable a reader to be able to read and ponder both sides of this important issue, even though both sides' presentations are very biased.) Eastern Church

The Great Schism of the Ecumenical Church

Advanced Information - Orthodox Perspective

(Editor's Note: The following article does not meet the usual standards that BELIEVE sets for included articles. The tone of the article is substantially biased toward the Orthodox Church and against the Catholic Church, which would normally eliminate it from consideration. However, the Great Schism was and is such a large event in the history of Christendom, that we felt the need to present the Orthodox perspective. As we understand it, any actual scholarly Orthodox works on this subject have never been yet translated into English. Our hope is to enable a reader to be able to read and ponder both sides of this important issue, which will hopefully soon be resolved by the two Churches.)

Unity of the Churches

The movement toward the unity of the Christian Churches today demands a knowledge of the beliefs of others as well as of one's own beliefs, in order to provide a climate for unity through a better understanding of each other's faith. A blind acceptance of the teachings and beliefs of any Church with which unity is sought, or an indifference toward one's own beliefs and teaching will not be a solid basis for unity among the Christian Churches.

A Christian interested in the unity of the Churches should oppose both bigotry and indifference. He ought to study his own faith and the beliefs of others in the past and in the present with humbleness and sympathy; to invoke the grace of God to guide his understanding of both views; to distinguish between divine truths for salvation and the customs and practices of his Church and of the various other Churches.

If a unity is sought between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, it is indispensable that the reasons and causes for separation between these Churches be carefully studied in the light of the circumstances and personalities of the time when the separation took place.

When the Church was One and Undivided, proclaiming the same beliefs and having the same type of administration, the Eastern branch protested against the Western because of the latter's innovations, which were foreign to the beliefs and practices set forth by the Seven Ecumenical Synods of the first eight centuries. The claim of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, which later resulted in the proclaiming of his infallibility, is considered the main cause of separation of the Western branch from the Eastern.

A concise study of the events and incidents of this separation - called the Great Schism - is presented in the following pages in order to furnish facts necessary for a better understanding and eventual answer for the unity of these Churches in the future. Innovations formulated by the Roman Catholic Church after the Schism are innumerated.

The Real Motives of the Great Schism

The Early Period of the Church

Although the Bishops of the undivided Church were (and are) equal to each other in the administration of the liturgical rites and the teaching, they began to differ in rank according to the valuation of the places where their Sees were located. Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were prominent cities, Metropolis, in those days. Their Bishops were Metropolitans, and the Bishop of Rome was given the honorary precedence only because Rome was then the political capital of the world. Later, the Bishops of the capitals of all political Provinces were called Archbishops. When the Emperor moved his Seat from Rome to Constantinople, the Archbishop of latter was given equal reverence with that of Rome "because Constantinople was the 'King's city' "; later in 587, the honorary title of "Ecumenical" was bestowed on him, too. By 451 the Bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem were called Patriarchs, of whom only two remained free after the inroads of the Moslems (7th century): that of Rome in the West, and Constantinople in the East, both equal in rank and reverence. Later, the attempted abolishment of the equal rank status of both Seats was the main cause of the Great Separation.

The Claims Of The Bishops Of Rome

The Bishop of Rome, even today in the 20th century, insists that he has a primacy of jurisdiction over all Churches, including the Patriarchs of the East. He claims they should be subject to him since "he is not only Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of the West but also the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the successor of St. Peter, and the Supreme Pontiff". Pope Pius XII in 1955 called upon the "Uniat" Church to use its utmost to bring the Orthodox Churches to the "fold". The Eastern Orthodox is told that it would not be necessary to change any of the teachings or customs of the Orthodox Church but to submit himself under the Pope's jurisdiction; that is, to lose every right of freedom and independence. In other words, unconditional surrender under the Pope's yoke is asked. But the principles of the democratic government of the Eastern Orthodox Church is its very foundation. The "Conscience of the Church" is its supreme authority and the infallible guidance to proclaim the truth of Salvation, as was the case for centuries for the Western Church, too. The question as to the supremacy of the Pope was the main cause of the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches. Is it a true claim? How and when did the Popes start to claim such authority?

The Development Of The Pope's Claims To Supremacy

The roots of the claim of supremacy of the Bishop of Rome over the political and ecclesiastical leaders are to be found in the traditions of pagan Rome here the Emperor was the supreme Pontiff.

Millions of early Christians were persecuted and slaughtered because they refused to worship the Emperor as God. Their precious sacrifice did not destroy the super-throne; it was used merely to replace the pagan Emperor with the Christian Pope.

Thus, with that background, some of the bishops of Rome invented and manufactured fictitious theories of the pope's "divine right" to govern the affairs of State as well as of the Church. The claims thereby divided the Church, which by nature and principle was meant to be One; the bishops waged wars, created inquisitions, forced on the West the Great Protest, and finally, developed theories as to infallibility, and all of these in the name of God!

These fictitious theories, which were destined to be accepted as true for some centuries, though later recognized distinctly as the most cleverly manufactured falsehoods are three: The Pseudo-Clementines, the Pseudo-Isidorian Decrees, and the Pseudo-Constantine Donation.

The Pseudo-Clementine Writings

The Attempt To Elevate Peter And The Seat Of Rome To Supremacy.

The Pseudo-Clementine writings are false "Homilies" (discourses) falsely attributed to the Bishop of Rome Clement (93-101), which attempted to restate the life of Apostle Peter. The purpose was one: the elevation of Peter over the other Apostles, especially Apostle Paul, and the elevation of the Seat of Rome over any other Bishop's Seat "Peter", it was claimed, "who was the most able of all (the others)' was called to illuminate the West, the darkest place of the Universe."

The "Homilies" were written to fit the misleading interpretation of Matthew 16:18,19, that "You art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church  and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven ". It is misleading because the word "rock" does not refer to Peter, but to the faith that "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16). There is not one sign of the primacy of Peter over the other Apostles mentioned in the Bible, and if a primacy was intended, a decision of such importance and magnitude certainly would have been mentioned in the Bible in unambiguous language. In many cases the opposite is true; Paul wrote to Galatians, "I withstood him, (Peter) to the face, because he was to be blamed" (2:11); besides, it is well known that Peter thrice denied Christ. Peter did not found the Church of Rome; he actually remained in Antioch for many years before reaching Rome. To say that as Christ reigns in Heaven, Peter and his successors, the popes, govern the Earth, is a statement alien to the spirit of the Gospel and the understanding of the early Church. Christ was and is the cornerstone and the Head of the Church, consisting of all members of His Body. (cf. Col.1:24).

The Pseudo-Isidorian Decrees And The Pseudo-Constantian Donation

The Attempt To Legitimatize the Papacy.

These Decrees are a collection, arranged in the 9th century, consisting of canons of synods as well as the Pope's false decrees, which were added later. For these decrees it is said that "No other illegitimacy in the history of the world was made with such cleverness, and no other forgery has such results", as a great historian wrote. The illegitimacy lies in the skilled counterfeiting of canonical sources in such a way that the supremacy of the Pope was its concrete results. The Priesthood, they concluded, is above political authority; and the head of the Priesthood is the Pope; the Pope then is the "Head of the Universe" (caput totius orbis). This "conclusion" was supported by another clever forgery that Constantine the Great left to the Pope the political power of his position in Rome as a Donation to him!

These highly skilled pieces of forgery only awaited a master to enforce them - Pope Nicholas I. Pope Nicholas I (858-867), a strong-willed personality, called them "ancient monuments" and imposed them upon the bishops and political authorities of the West. It was said of him that "Nicholas made himself Emperor of all the world." After the period of ill fame of the popes and clergy these forgeries became the official rules for the new reform and moral uprightness of the clergy. Thus the Pseudo-Isidorian decrees had prevailed and established the "primacy" of the Pope. Historians as well as Catholic scholars recognize that these "Decrees" have been proven as forgeries; but nevertheless they were used as the foundation for the supremacy of the Pope. How long will the popes themselves continue to believe in the strength of their house without a solid foundation? The popes continue attempting to conquer all churches and especially the Eastern Orthodox Church by using a new instrument: the Uniat Church. "Return back to the fold" is a plea which is heard time and again. Possibly it results from a religious inferiority complex as far as the trust and historical facts are concerned. The Eastern Church is "the pillar and bulwark of the truth " which has been preserved by it "everywhere, anytime" against the undue claims or encroachments by the See of the West. The "fold" is where the "truth" is taught; where the One only Shepherd is recognized as its Head, Jesus Christ. To that "fold" the Western Church is called to join by abolishing the "innovations" and the pretext of supremacy of the Pope at the expense of the "fold".

Actual Events that led to the Schism

Synopsis Of The Events Of The Great Schism

Four separations between the Eastern and Western parts of the Undivided Church took place without an official statement of schism, and they lasted from 15 to 50 years until the churches resumed their union again. The great and last schism resulted from a chain of events between the Western and Eastern parts of the Church which lasted for approximately two hundred years (863-1054). At the beginning and the end there were some acts of excommunications on both sides. During this period of silence, indifference and hatred dominated both sides, ruining the last fortress of the Union.

The Election Of Patriarch Of Constantinople Photius

Photius, a prominent layman, the chief Secretary of State, whose "virtue, wisdom and competence were universally acknowledged", was appointed and elected (875) as Patriarch of Constantinople straight from the rank of layman, replacing Patriarch Ignatius. Pope Nicholas, seeing a favorable opportunity for interfering in Eastern affairs, appointed himself as judge over two conflicting parties by his own authority and rejected the election of Photius. He asserted on the one hand that Photius had been made Patriarch without his approval, an unprecedented claim, and on the other hand that he had been raised within a single week from a mere layman, to the rank of Archbishop. Of course, Pope Nicholas had no right to interfere in such an affair; therefore, the election was valid, as was the case with Ambrose, a bishop of Milan, and many other laymen who had been raised to high rank in the Church.

Synod Repudiates Pope's Claim

Four years later, in 861, at a Synod in Constantinople both parties, Photians and Ignatians, decided in favor of Photius in the presence of the Pope's delegates. Pope Nicholas, who was furious because the Eastern Church did not submit slavishly to his arbitrary demands, convened a Synod of his own in Rome in 863 and "excommunicated" Photius, the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Church ignored this additional provocation.

Photius' Encyclical Against The Pope's Innovations

Pope Nicholas, by the same arbitrary authority, attempted to detach the young Church of Bulgaria, which was founded by the Church of Constantinople and by Photius himself, from its allegiance to its Mother Church. Because of this anti-canonical activity of Pope Nicholas, Photius sent out in 867 his famous encyclical to the Patriarchs of the East accusing the Pope:

  1. of inserting into the Creed the word "filoque", meaning that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father but "and from the Son" as well;
  2. for intervening in the newly founded Church of Bulgaria by repeating the sacrament of Chrismation, to the Bulgarian Christians on the pretext that they had previously been baptized by married priests from Constantinople;
  3. for dominating the churches of the West; and
  4. for interfering in disputes outside his own jurisdiction.

Photius Dethroned And Later Vindicated

Pope Adrian II, possessed by the same pride and ambition as his predecessor, exploited a psychological moment in Eastern affairs to achieve what Pope Nicholas could not. Emperor Basil, who was refused Holy Communion by Photius because he murdered his foster father, Emperor Michael, in 867 deposed Photius from his throne and brought back Ignatius. Pope Adrian II took advantage of this situation and demanded from Basil the condemnation of Photius, the common enemy. Emperor Basil convened a synod in 869, and by coersion brought the bishops to condemn Photius. Adrian's delegates and Basil forcibly and falsely obtained the acknowledgment that the Pope is the "supreme and absolute head of all the Churches, superior even to ecumenical synods". This so-called eighth ecumenical synod (by the Western Church) has never been recognized by the Eastern Church, but after 10 years it was unanimously denounced by a great Synod in Constantinople, in 879, by Ignatians as well as Photians. This synod acknowledged the full justification of Photius and his manly stand against the Roman despotism. Photius is considered the unmovable rock against which all the heavy waves of slavery and domination have been broken. The Church thanks the Lord, its Head, for the inspiration of this great man by "whom the Eastern Church has managed to preserve intact both faith and freedom".

Period Of Cold Silence (879-1054)

Nevertheless, no official schism was pronounced by either Church until 1054. During this period of approximately two hundred years a chill of silence prevailed. Six generations were not sufficient to expel this evil element from the Church. The arbitrariness of human administration dominated fellowship and love, which are considered the substance and fruit of Christ's divine work and message.

The Final Break (1054)

The seal of separation which was placed on paper in 1054, dividing the Church into East and West, was brought to a head by an innocent act by the Patriarch Michael Cerularius. He wrote a letter to Bishop John of Trania in Italy enumerating the innovations which had been introduced by the Roman Church, and he begged him to give this letter a wide hearing in order that the truth might prevail. This act apparently witnesses the fact that the Patriarch did not accept any sort of schism yet. Pope Leo IX sent a sharp reply, severely rebuking the author of the letter.

The Emperor of Constantinople, Constantine Monomathus, facing a threat of his political interest in Italy, had need of the Pope's help, and he sent a conciliatory reply asking him to send delegates to restore friendly relations. The Pope sent Cardinal Humbert with a different mission, which he fully executed. Humbert did not meet the Emperor or the Patriarch, but he laid on the altar of the Church of Saint Sophia in Constantinople a bull of excommunication against the Eastern Church, attempting to stigmatize it as "the repository of all the heresies of the past", and then hastily disappeared. The Patriarch in turn drew up a sentence of excommunication against the Western Church, signed jointly by the other Patriarchs. And thus the black seal kept closed the gates of the bridges between East and West.

The Main Cause Of Separation

The ambition of the Popes (as we respectfully call the Bishops of Rome) was to subordinate the Eastern Church under their supremacy. The See of Rome was ancient and apostolic. Its bishops could, without any more interference from the Emperor, exercise a kind of political authority, too. They began very early to appear as a court of appeal, in the West, to which all problems should be submitted for solution. They found a pretext for their intrusion in the domestic quarrels at Constantinople during the 9th century in order to invade and dominate the entire Eastern Church.

A Catholic scholar states that:

" the Papacy, from and after the ninth century, attempted to impose, in the name of God, upon the universal Church a yoke unknown to the first eight centuries".

The same attempt is in process today with the letter issued (1955) by Pope Pius XII, urging the Uniates to convert the Orthodox people and bring them under the Pope's rule.

Reunion Sought

The Crusades and Forced "Reunion"

Later, the Crusaders from the West forced the Greek Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem to abandon their Sees and for sixty years imposed their cruel government on Constantinople (1204-1261), pillaging its resources and causing its eventual downfall. An effort at "reunion" was really an attempt to enslave the Eastern Church at the Pseudo-Synod of Ferrara-Florence (1438) where the representatives of the Eastern Church, by force, signed a statement of reunion. Although it was proclaimed on July 6, 1439, it was never approved by the Church as a whole and was later denounced by a synod in Constantinople in 1451. Orthodoxy has suffered more from the Christian West than from the Moslem East. The downfall of Constantinople in 1453 put a tragic end to any effort at reunion.

The Possibility Of Reunion And The Honorary Position Of The Pope

For approximately one thousand years the Eastern and Western Churches were united, without at least any open attempt of one to subordinate the other. The Eastern Church never has raised such a demand. It has always respected the Holy See of Rome and its Bishop, who was considered to be "the first among equals". He abolished this brotherly relation with the other leaders of the Church and separated himself and the Western Church from the Eastern. The Eastern Orthodox Church did not accept the claim of the Pope and his attempt at supremacy because for hundreds of years the undivided Church never considered such a claim. There is hope and a possibility of reunion. It depends upon the Leaders rather than the people of both Churches and especially upon the Holy Father of Rome. The Separation took place in 1054 not because of a false dogma as was the case with heretics. Both Sees and Churches exist up till today. That which has made the situation more difficult after the separation is that besides the stronger ambition of the Popes for their supremacy, the Western Church has created a new type of government and many "innovations" and dogmas, some of which can be considered as local customs. Both Churches should accept the principles of affiliation and the Truths of faith which the one undivided Church knew in the first thousand years of our Lord.

The Innovations

Although the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church are closer to the beliefs of the Orthodox Church than are those of any other churches, it is necessary to list a few of the innovations added by the Roman Church after the separation of the Western from the Eastern Church. Also, it is necessary to mention that the attitude of the Western section of the One Church, even before the Schism, was not free from arbitrariness. The Western branch tended to centralize administrative power, a characteristic inherited from the early Roman political tendencies toward a totalitarian government. Following is the list of innovations.


The supreme episcopal jurisdiction of the Pope, who is called the Vicar of Christ (a title of the Roman pontiff dating from the 8th century) expresses his claim to universal jurisdiction and implies that the other bishops are not equal to him, but subordinate to him as his representatives - a claim that is foreign to the ancient Church.


In 1870 the Roman Catholic Church, at the Vatican Council, declared that infallibility (the inability to err in teaching the revealed truth) was attached to the definition of the Pope in matters of faith and morals, apart from the consent of the Church. The Vatican Council declared:

"Jesus Christ has three existences. His personal existence, which Arius denied; His mystical existence in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which Calvin denied; and His other existence, which completes the first two and through which He lives constantly, namely His authority in the person of His Vicar on Earth. The Council, maintaining this third existence, assures the world that it possesses Jesus Christ."

Herein, the Synods were abolished.

The Procession of the Holy Spirit

The insertion of the phrase filoque, meaning "and the son", in the eighth article of the Nicene Creed, to read that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father but also from the Son as well, perverts the theological teaching of the Gospel and the Undivided Church (John 15,26; Acts 2,33).

Purgatory and indulgences

Purgatory is an intermediate state where souls are made clean for paradise by expiatory suffering, according to the Roman Church. It is a place or state for penitent souls departing this life cleansed from venial sins and temporal punishment due to remitted mortal sins. In the Roman Church, indulgences are a remission by those authorized of the temporary punishment still due to sin after sacramental absolution either in this world or in purgatory.

The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary

In 1854 a council of the Vatican pronounced the new teaching that the Virgin Mary was born without original sin, a statement not found either in the Holy Scriptures or in Sacrad Tradition. (The Undivided Church taught and teaches the virgin birth of Jesus Christ only) The Orthodox Church honors highly the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos, the unique personality chosen by God to serve the highest mission toward the salvation of mankind in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Assumption of the Virgin Mary

The assumption (bodily ascension) of the Virgin Mary was pronounced as a dogma in 1952 by the Pope of the Rome Church. This belief is not found in the Scriptures nor is it found in the Sacred Tradition.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: that date might actually be 1950.)


Baptism, which originally was an immersion of the body of the faithful in the water, was replaced during the 14th century in the Roman Church by sprinkling.


The invocation, or epiklesis, which is a prayer offered at the time of the change of the Holy Gifts (bread and wine), is omitted by the Roman Church, which uses only the scriptural words, "Take, eat " and "Drink ye all of it "

Unleavened Bread

Unleavened bread is used by the Roman Church instead of leavened bread, which was the tradition of the Undivided Church.

Holy Communion

Holy Communion in the Roman Church is given to the layman only from the sanctified bread and not from the sanctified wine, which now is restricted to the clergy.

Holy Unction

Holy Unction is offered as last rites to the sick, an innovation of the eleventh century.


Divorce is not granted to the faithful in the Roman Church, which the Undivided Church issued.

Clergy's Marital Status

Marriage of the clergy is prohibited, a restriction imposed in the later centuries against the decision of the First Ecumenical Synod (325 A.D.).


An historic event of great magnitude took place on Jan. 5, 1964, when Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI met in Jerusalem. Their "embrace of peace" and declaration of reconciliation was the first official act by the two churches since the Schism in 1054. Then in 1965 both churches lifted the anathemas and excommunications placed against one another in 1054. These great events however have not changed the actual status of each church, for the Schism still remains. In addition, the unprecedented journeys of the Patriarch and the Pope to one another's See were the result of the lifting of historical obstacles. This has led to dialogue between the two churches for the first time in 900 years. These historical events are hopeful signs to resolving the problems of the Great Schism.

Hope For Unity Of The Christian Churches

Pure Faith is a living faith for all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. It is not the Faith of the technical theologian nor of the narrow minded faithful. The Christian Faith does not require knowledge of geometry as was the case with Plato's philosophy. The theologian who is supposed to be more versed in the Divine Revelation is not a teacher of his original theories but rather an instructor of Truths, which have already been revealed and can be accepted by all people on faith.

The Christian faith is not a theory or erudition but a living element working in every sincere Christian. The technical theological controversies are only for the "pleasure of knowledge" of a very few people, but not for the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. They are rather the personal presuppositions of learned men, who have become entangled in the net they have woven, from which they Cannot set themselves free. Some technical theologians and others with a talented and dynamic personality, on occasions of strong disagreement or in an assumption of a new movement, have separated themselves or led their followers out of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Undivided and Ecumenical Church.

Their followers have never understood the, deep theological arguments involved; they never have followed such a leader with a sound conviction of keeping the venerable Faith intact. They have followed him because of human motives and superficial justifications. Neither the leaders nor the followers have stood united in the very Mystical Body of Christ to fight, if necessary, for the restoration of any faulty direction or corruption of the other fellow members of the one Body. Instead they left and are disunited, constituting what they believe to be a "new" faith. But from such new groups others have left also for a more "pure" faith, and so on.

All the churches of Christ today first must return to the Truths of the Undivided Church, the Ecumenical Church, with humbleness and repentance to restore the pure faith - "the unity of faith"; without a rigid conformity as far as customs and rites are concerned.

The first five centuries of the Christian era was the period during which the foundation of the Church was established by the blood of its martyrs and the teaching and works of its great Fathers. By the end of the 10th century the separation of the One Church took place because of the human weakness of the Church leaders in the administration and customs rather than from its disagreement over the redemptive Truths of the Church. By the end of the 15th century the movement began against the discrepancies of the current leaders of the Western Church, but it went far beyond the anticipations of its leaders. Can we hope that at least by the close of the 20th century we will complete the Hegelian trilogy of synthesis, i.e. the unity of all churches? For the Church of Christ was meant to be one:

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and in all" (Eph. 4:5-6).

We pray and we hope.

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

(Editor's Note: Other branches of the Orthodox Church hold differing views on many of these issues. In some cases, they even consider the date of the Great Schism to not be 1054 AD but 1204 AD when the Catholic Crusades sacked Constantinople.)

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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