Orthodox Catholic

Europe and Middle East split (East/West Schism)

The two regions were growing apart after the Roman empire divided into eastern and western regions in the 300’s. Some of the reasons were:

Area Europe
(Roman Catholic)
Middle East
(Eastern Orthodox)
Language: Latin Greek
Culture: Warring tribes, then kings; low education level Emperor, highly civilized
Creed: Added a concept1 Did not agree with adding to creed
Leadership: Bishop of Rome should be over all Christians2 Each bishop has authority in his own district

1 Original wording in the Nicene Creed, adopted by a church council in 381 AD :”Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.”  Europeans added “and the Son” without calling another church council.
2 Jesus had said to Peter “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 16:19.)  Peter later became leader of the church in Rome, and the popes advocated that those who followed in this position after Peter would continue to have that authority. The eastern orthodox were willing to give the pope a place of honor among the bishops, but not to accept the pope as having authority over the other bishops.

Details: A major event occurred in 1054, when representatives from the pope excommunicated the eastern orthodox bishop, (who resided in Constantinople) and vice versa.  However, at the time this was not considered to be a permanent split; the two groups continued to hold meetings. In 1206, in the fourth crusade, the crusaders attacked and occupied Constantinople, which caused the eastern Christians to wonder whether the western church wanted to remain in unity with them. In 1439, eastern representatives agreed to accept the pope, hoping that the Europeans would help them fight the Turks, who were attacking Constantinople. The Europeans did not, the Turks succeeded in 1453, and it was not possible after that to continue discussions.

Note how the positions of the two churches are reflected in their names. The word Catholic contains the letters “hol,” which means “whole.” In its name, the Catholics are saying that they are the church for the “whole” world (sometimes expressed as “the universal church.”) The “ortho” iin “orthodox” is the same as the “ortho” in “orthodontia.” It means straight. In its name, the orthodox are saying “we are the correct ones, the ones who have got it “straight.” In 1965 the catholics and orthodox withdrew the excommunications of 1054, but have not joined back together.

Return to denominations essay