An Important History Article

The ‘Great Schism’ of the Church

The ‘Great Schism’ of the Church

July 6, 1054 was rapidly approaching, and the Christian world was about to experience a major event on the road to a rupture that continues to our day—the schism or split between the Western and Eastern Christian churches. The central actors in the looming conflict were Michael Cerularius, the patriarch of Constantinople, {The city once called Byzantium was renamed Constantinople after the Roman Emperor Constantine, who moved his capitol to the city in A.D. 330} and Leo IX, the bishop or pope in Rome (left). The Roman part of the Church was known as the "Church of the West". The Eastern and Western Parts of the Church, united together were known and called the "Christian Church" and also the "Catholic Church" and also, by some, the "Catholic Christian Church".

In the months leading up to July 6, 1054, the Orthodox Catholic Patriarch Cerularius had strongly condemned the Western church for some of its religious practices and beliefs. {Perhaps the most notable difference had to do with the issue of the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Western church added what’s called the Filioque clause to the Nicene Creed, affirming the double procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. This was rejected by the Eastern church, which taught that the Spirit proceeded solely from the Father.} In Prior times the Roman West had accepted all things which the Eastern part of the Church had accepted, for all were in agreement. Another issue which was presented was the false idea and understanding that when Jesus Christ founded the Church, that the keys of the kingdom referred to in Mt. 16:18 "...thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.  And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it..".  But, as further proof of the understanding of the saying, the Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church began to change the meaning and understanding so that Matt. 16:19, Jn. 21:15f are errantly used to make a falsehood in the understanding that Peter alone is the true vicar of Christ and that the remainder of the Apostles were but subject to him. 

These were new innovations and ideas never before accepted by the whole Church East and West until the 800's when the Roman branch began its campaign for political and ecclesiastical power which has never abated since.  The very name of "Peter" was "Rock" in the language franca of those times of Jesus Christ and the Apostles.   It was Peter's admitted understanding of who Christ was that the "spiritual" keys of the Kingdom was based.  And it was those spiritual keys that were important only in the realm of spiritual matters as regards Peter, for the remainder of the Apostles began to understand also and to them too they were extended after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as founded in Holy Scripture as regards the "Pentecost".  All Bishops (Apostles) held in common the same spiritual and material or ecclesiastical power as Peter held.  He was the first to gain the spiritual understanding which was the cause for the statement by Jesus christ, and then the remainder of the apostles too gained the same.  But this is not what the Roman Church was teaching and preaching in later times, although it had originally and initially accepted the same understandings up until the 800's A.D. as the Seven Oecumenical Councils attest.  It was these many issues of change that the Roman branch was making and eventually made that the Orthodox Catholic Christian Patriarch Cerularius attacked, although material (earthly) politics entered into the hearts and minds of both the Patriarch and the Pope in those times and has never abated with their successors either.

 As part of his attack, the Orthodox Catholic Christian Patriarch Cerularius excommunicated those bishops of Constantinople who followed or accepted certain rites and false beliefs of the Western (Roman) branch of the church, and he closed down their churches.

Meanwhile, in April 1054, Leo had sent a legation to the Orthodox Catholic Christian Patriarch Cerularius, headed by the Roman Cardinal Humbert, with his own set of demands and accusations against the Eastern patriarch. As it turned out, Leo died in the midst of the mission, but the legation continued with its task. Tragically, the meetings between the Roman Cardinal Humbert and Patriarch Cerularius were acrimonious. Mistrust and a desire to maintain ecclesiastical power ruled the day. No useful dialogue could occur in such a poisoned atmosphere.

Mutual excommunication

Finally, relations between the Orthodox Catholic Christian Patriarch Cerularius and the Roman Cardinal Humbert were strained to the breaking point. The Roman legates marched into Constantinople’s, entering St. Sophia church on horse back, going right up to the sanctuary without getting off his horse, (a tactic to humiliate the sacredness of the sanctuary) and placed a papal bull (decree) on the altar, excommunicating Cerularius. That fateful day of July 6, 1054 had arrived. Remember, the Roman Pope, Leo, had already died which made the bull of excommunication ineffective by his death, even though the Roman Cardinal did not know this at the time.  After being excommunicated, Cerularius convened his Eastern Orthodox Catholic Christian bishops and issued further polemical statements, condemnations and excommunications against the practices of the Western (Roman) church. These also condemned the legation from the papacy and anathematized the Roman Cardinal Humbert. With the mutual excommunications, the possibility of healing and reconciliation became a shattered dream.

The mutual excommunications of 1054 were but a dramatic interlude in a centuries-long period of growing estrangement between the two areas of the church, East and West, despite the fact that in earlier centuries they had been solidly united against a number of heresies, including Arianism. {In the later Patristic period (ended about A.D. 450) theologians from areas that in 1054 became the original Eastern Orthodox Catholic Christian church had an integral part in fighting heresies and in giving authentic expression to the New Testament understanding of God’s nature through their theological leadership and participation in the first seven ecumenical councils. One of the biggest threats confronting the church had been the ideas of Arias, who claimed that Jesus Christ was not true God of true God, but a created being. Churchmen from the East were instrumental in combating this heresy. The Second Council of Nicea, in 787, was the seventh and last council accepted by the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholic Christian Church. These councils reaffirmed the stand of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Christian Church, known today as "Orthodox" by various national names.}

The split between the Eastern and Western halves of the church also had much more to do with the political and geographical reality of the Roman Empire. The political disunion in the Roman Empire was replicated in the Roman Western church. The last Roman emperor to rule over a united empire was Theodosius the Great, who died in A.D. 395. The empire was then divided into eastern and western halves, with each having its own emperor. The Western Roman Empire was torn apart by barbarian invasions at the end of the fifth century, while the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire, continued, with its capital at Constantinople, the modern Istanbul, Turkey.

The churches of Rome and Constantinople grew in power and became rivals more for their political status rather than for any spiritual or religious reasons. In earlier centuries, ecclesiastical authority in the church had become concentrated in five bishops in the main Christian centers of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Rome. Rome was the only branch of the Church which had begun creating alterations and making additions to the doctrines and dogmas which the other four centers of the Church rejected as evidenced through the various councils. This had occurred as early as the fourth century A.D.

The Roman part of the Church began its psychological manipulation on the world to encourage a false belief that the Rome was the seat and power of the "Catholic" Church and that the Eastern part was something else.  That attitude has carried forward for centuries to the present time whereby many have errantly believed that the sum and total of what is "Catholic" rests in the Roman jurisdiction of the Catholic Church.  Even many of the Popes after Leo, carried on a strong campaign to disenfranchise the Eastern Orthodox Catholic (national) Churches from being considered by the remainder of the world as being "Catholic" which has led up to the present times.

A growing reconciliation?

For hundreds of years after the tragic events of July 1054, the Eastern and Western churches essentially went their separate ways, though there were contacts between them and periodic attempts at reconciliation. Meanwhile, the Western church expanded into the Americas and experienced even further splits within the Roman branch of the church, which created the Protestant Christian world with all its errors and false beliefs in the faith and understandings of historical truth. The Eastern church pushed northward, making many converts in the Balkans, in Slavic Eastern Europe and in Russia.

A significant step toward reconciliation began in March 1991, when the Eastern Orthodox Church and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches reached a consensus on the Filioque Clause disagreement. Theologian Thomas F. Torrance was instrumental in the dialogue.

Overtures have also been made by the leadership in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Catholic churches to build relations between them. On Dec. 7, 1965, the Roman Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Catholic Patriarch Athenagoras issued a joint text that mutually nullified the joint excommunications of 1054. The declaration was read simultaneously at a public meeting of the ecumenical council in Rome and at a ceremony in Istanbul. The declaration showed a desire for reconciliation between the two churches. However, many other branches of the Orthodox Catholic Church rejected Athenagoras' actions because of his failure or refusal to redress the Roman branch on its theological errors against the Seven Oecumenical Councils that caused the split.

In June 1995, Patriarch Bartholomew {Bartholomew, whose seat is in Istanbul, the former Constantinople, is given the honor of primacy in the broader Orthodox faith. Self-governing national Orthodox churches choose their own patriarchs.} met with Pope John Paul II in a series of meetings intended to pull the two churches closer together. The patriarch, along with other leaders of Eastern churches, attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II on April 8, 2005. This provided a hopeful symbol—an olive branch extended to the Roman Catholic Church for reconciliation. The new pope, Benedict XVI, has said that he, too, wants to find reconciliation and dialogue with other Christians. However, because of the Roman Jurisdiction's continuance in its errors of faith that were condemned by previous Councils of the WHOLE Church prior to the 1054 A.D. Schism, many branches of the Orthodox Catholic Christian Churches will continue to dialogue, but not enter into full union with Rome because they believe that the time as become ripe and the fulfillment of prophecy has begun (Apocalypse as portrayed in the Book of Revelation [St. John, the Apostle]).

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