The East West Schism

The sack of Constantinople was the ultimate outrage in a series of political and doctrinal disputes that ended in the division of eastern and western Christendom into two separate Christianities—the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The east and the west had been separating since the fall of the western empire in the fifth century. When the west fell to barbarian invaders, the Byzantine Empire had continued to flourish. This political separation was soon strengthened by a linguistic separation: the lingua franca of the east was Greek and that of the west, Latin. In the ninth century, after the pope intervened in a dispute between rival patriarchs in the east, the political schism intensified. In the eleventh century, when Pope Leo IX (1049-1054 c.e.) replaced the eastern bishops ministering in southern Italy with western bishops, Patriarch Cerularius responded by closing all western churches in Constantinople. Pope Leo had also demanded that the patriarch insert the word filioque, "and the son," into the Nicene Creed, to harmonize their discrepant doctrines of the Holy Spirit—the eastern church did not believe that the Holy

Spirit came from the father "and the son" (filioque). By the time a papal legate from Pope Leo excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople in 1054 c.e., the rift had already become irreparable. The indignation caused by the sack of Constantinople was an unforgivable transgression.

Although there have been unsuccessful attempts to reunite the two churches, in the Second Council of Lyon (1274 c.e.) and in the Council of Florence (1439 c.e.), the two sides could not overcome the centuries of ill will and mutual slights. Today, the eastern (Holy Oriental Orthodox Apostolic Church, usually called the Orthodox or Oriental) church and the western (Roman Catholic) church share most doctrinal canons, as well as the Nicene Creed (except for the word filioque). Moreover, the Orthodox Church shares many practices and conventions with the Catholic Church. They have a rich tradition of Mariolatry, "Marian worship," although they do not believe in the Immaculate Conception proclaimed as dogma in 1854 c.e.; they believe in the saints whose images (but not statues) they worship, and they venerate relics; they require good works as a justification of faith; they teach the same Seven Sacraments; they share baptismal regeneration; and they believe in Transubstantiation (that the consecrated bread truly becomes the body and blood of Christ during the Mass) and the efficacy of prayers for dead. However, they do not believe in the universal authority and infallibility of the pope. We have seen that this issue had its origins in the late-fourth-century papacy of Damasus, who claimed apostolic primacy for the see of Rome and, by extension, the papacy. Since that time, in different periods and in various circumstances the authority of the pope has continued to be a source of friction in east-west relations as well as in relations between the pope and secular leaders.

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