Re: Why did Orthodox separate from Catholics?


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Posted by Tinsel on April 18, 2001 at 14:07:42:

In Reply to: Re: Why did Orthodox separate from Catholics? posted by Panayiota on April 17, 2001 at 20:14:44:

Iíd say that those in the Eastern Orthodox church have a somewhat different take on the schism. It's considered a very significant event that defines much of what the Church believes and stands for. What follows is what I understand to be the Church's position on what happened -- I've tried to omit what *I* think of the situation, so please don't yell at me if you don't like the POV!

Initially, when the church was unified, there were many bishops in different lands, and they were all considered equal to each other in terms of power (political, religious, etc.) Eventually, however, the Bishop of Rome claimed his supremacy over the political and religious leaders. This didnít sit well with the Orthodox for many reasons. The Roman Bishopís claim for supremacy had its roots in the traditions of pagan Rome, where the Emperor was the supreme religious figure. Millions of Christians were persecuted and killed because they refused to worship the Emperor as their God. Orthodox people felt that the idea of Emperor-as-God was merely being replaced by the idea of Pope-as-God. In addition, the idea that one religious leader had so much more power than the others went against the ideals of democracy that had its roots in the societies of the Eastern Orthodox peoples.

The bishops of Rome apparently claimed that the pope had divine right to govern both the church and the state. This was unfounded in the eyes of the Eastern Church which, remember, had been around for years and years before the bishops of Rome made this claim. This was the biggest cause of the schism in the end. The Orthodox felt that the church should be one of unity and equality, and believed they were being railroaded into subservience to one set of rulers. The theory of the popeís infallibility, I get the sense, didnít sit well with the Orthodox church, which felt that the theory attributes too much god-like perfection to someone who is only a man. While we revere our Archbishop, we do not consider him as god-like as Catholics seem to consider the Pope. That's a huge difference between the religions.

The Western Church began to issue writings that interpreted the Bible in ways that were completely different from the interpretations the Eastern Church had believed in for almost a thousand years, for example, by elevating Peter to a position above the other apostles (a move that went against centuries of religious belief, as well as against the sense of democracy/equality I mentioned above).

The schism didnít happen quickly. Over a thousand years the Eastern and Western Churches separated 4 times. They reunited each time, but (obviously) never came together after 1054.

Things really got bad when Photius, a layman, was elected as Patriarch of Constantinople. Pope Nicholas rejected the election of Photius. He said that Photius had been made Patriarch without his approval, an entirely unprecedented claim. He also had major issues with the fact that Photius became an Archbishop straight from being a layman. Some think he saw such a move as a threat to his position (ie, if you can make any commoner a patriarch without controlling the system, then the Pope is in danger of being replaced). The Eastern Church didnít think that Pope Nicholas had any right to interfere in this matter. When the parties involved decided that Photius had been rightfully elected, Pope Nicholas was furious -- the Eastern Church had not submitted to his decree, so he "excommunicated" Photius (now the Patriarch of Constantinople), an act that the Eastern Church ignored.

Meanwhile, Photius and the Church of Constantinople had founded the Church of Bulgaria, and Pope Nicholas attempted to detach the Bulgarian Church from the Church of Const. The Eastern Church felt that the Pope was wrongfully dominating the churches, interfering in disputes where he didnít belong, was wrong to intervene in the Bulgarian Church-situation by chrismating the Bulgarians (who had already been baptized by the Church of Const. Ė you canít just repeat a sacrament!), and inserting words in the Creed that the Church had never before believed in.

There were 200 years (879-1054) where there was silence between the east and west churches, although no official schism was announced until 1054.

In addition to the differences between the religions mentioned in the previous post, add the following: Eastern Orthodox donít believe in purgatory, the idea that the Virgin Mary was born without original sin or the assumption of the Virgin Mary. These were ideas invented by the Western Church and rejected by the Eastern Church as having no basis in the religion theyíd been practicing for thousands of years. In addition, the Eastern Church never changed its method of baptism to ďsprinklingĒ as the Catholics now do. And, as Eastern Orthodox people know, we still go by the old calendar in determining when Easter is. . . we actually still determine the date of Easter in the way that the once-unified church had originally decided to determine the date of Easter. . . but the Western Church changed its calendar and its method of determining the date of Easter over the years.

Hope that's helpful. It's a fascinating topic.


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