Two ancient centers
of Christendom - Constantinople and Rome
Estrangement of Eastern and Western Christendom
summer afternoon in the year 1054, as a service was about to begin in
the Church of the Holy Wisdom' (Hagia Sophia) at Constantinople, Cardinal
Humbert and two other legates of the Pope entered the building and made
their way up to the sanctuary. They had not come to pray. They placed
a Bull of Excommunication upon the altar and marched out once more.
As he passed through the western door, the Cardinal shook the dust from
his feet with the words: 'Let God look and judge.' A deacon ran out
after him in great distress and begged him to take back the Bull. Humbert
refused; and it was dropped in the street.
It is this incident
which has conventionally been taken to mark the beginning of the great
schism between the Orthodox east and the Latin west. But the schism,
as historians now generally recognize, is not really an event whose
beginning can be exactly dated. It was something that came about gradually,
as the result of a long and complicated process, starting well before
the eleventh century and not completed until some time after.
In this long and complicated process, many different influences were
at work. The schism was conditioned by cultural, political, and economic
factors; yet its fundamental cause was not secular but theological.
In the last resort it was over matters of doctrine that east and west
quarrelled - two matters in particular: the Papal claims and the Filioque.
But before we look more closely at these two major differences, and
before we consider the actual course of the schism, something must be
said about the wider background. Long before there was an open and formal
schism between east and west, the two sides had become strangers to
one another; and in attempting to understand how and why the communion
of Christendom was broken, we must start with this fact of increasing
When Paul and the other Apostles travelled around the Mediterranean
world, they moved within a closely knit political and cultural unity:
the Roman Empire. This Empire embraced many different national groups,
often with languages and dialects of their own. But all these groups
were governed by the same Emperor; there was a broad Greco-Roman civilization
in which educated people throughout the Empire shared; either Greek
or Latin was understood almost everywhere in the Empire, and many could
speak both languages. These facts greatly assisted the early Church
in its missionary work.
But in the centuries that followed, the unity of the Mediterranean world
gradually disappeared. The political unity was the first to go. From
the end of the third century the Empire, while still theoretically one,
was usually divided into two parts, an eastern and a western, each under
its own Emperor. Constantine furthered this process of separation by
founding a second imperial capital in the east, alongside Old Rome in
Italy. Then came the barbarian invasions at the start of the fifth century:
apart from Italy, much of which remained within the Empire for some
time longer, the west was carved up among barbarian chiefs. The Byzantines
never forgot the ideals of Rome under Augustus and Trajan, and still
regarded their Empire as in theory universal; but Justinian was the
last Emperor who seriously attempted to bridge the gulf between theory
and fact, and his conquests in the west were soon abandoned. The political
unity of the Greek east and the Latin west was destroyed by the barbarian
invasions, and never permanently restored.
During the late sixth and the seventh centuries, east and west were
further isolated from each other by the Avar and Slav invasions of the
Balkan peninsula; lllyricum, which used to serve as a bridge, became
in this way a barrier between Byzantium and the Latin world. The severance
was carried a stage further by the rise of Islam: the Mediterranean,
which the Romans once called mare nostrum, 'our sea', now passed largely
into Arab control. Cultural and economic contacts between the eastern
and western Mediterranean never entirely ceased, but they became far
The Iconoclast controversy contributed still further to the division
between Byzantium and the west. The Popes were firm supporters of the
Iconodule standpoint, and so for many decades they found themselves
out of communion with the Iconoclast Emperor and Patriarch at Constantinople.
Cut off from Byzantium and in need of help, in 754 Pope Stephen turned
northwards and visited the Frankish ruler, Pepin. This marked the first
step in a decisive change of orientation so far as the Papacy was concerned.
Hitherto Rome had continued in many ways to be part of the Byzantine
world, but now it passed increasingly under Frankish influence, although
the effects of this reorientation did not become fully apparent until
the middle of the eleventh century.
Pope Stephen's visit to Pepin was followed half a century later by a
much more dramatic event. On Christmas Day in the year 800 Pope Leo
III crowned Charles the Great, King of the Franks, as Emperor. Charlemagne
sought recognition from the ruler at Byzantium, but without success;
for the Byzantines, still adhering to the principle of imperial unity,
regarded Charlemagne as an intruder and the Papal coronation as an act
of schism within the Empire. The creation of a Holy Roman Empire in
the west, instead of drawing Europe closer together, only served to
alienate east and west more than before.
The cultural unity lingered on, but in a greatly attenuated form. Both
in east and west, people of learning still lived within the classical
tradition which the Church had taken over and made its own; but as time
went on they began to interpret this tradition in increasingly divergent
ways. Matters were made more difficult by problems of language. The
days when educated people were bilingual were over. By the year 450
there were very few in western Europe who could read Greek, and after
600, although Byzantium still called itself the Roman Empire, it was
rare for a Byzantine to speak Latin, the language of the Romans. Photius,
the greatest scholar in ninth-century Constantinople, could not read
Latin; and in 864 a 'Roman' Emperor at Byzantium, Michael III, even
called the language in which Virgil once wrote 'a barbarian and Scythic
tongue'. If Greeks wished to read Latin works or vice versa, they could
do so only in translation, and usually they did not trouble to do even
that: Psellus, an eminent Greek savant of the eleventh century, had
so sketchy a knowledge of Latin literature that he confused Caesar with
Cicero. Because they no longer drew upon the same sources nor read the
same books, Greek east and Latin west drifted more and more apart.
It was an ominous but significant precedent that the cultural renaissance
in Charlemagne's Court should have been marked at its outset by a strong
anti-Greek prejudice. In fourth-century Europe there had been one Christian
civilization, in thirteenth century Europe there were two. Perhaps it
is in the reign of Charlemagne that the schism of civilizations first
becomes clearly apparent. The Byzantines for their part remained enclosed
in their own world of ideas, and did little to meet the west half way.
Alike in the ninth and in later centuries they usually failed to take
western learning as seriously as it deserved. They dismissed all Franks
as barbarians and nothing more.
These political and cultural factors could not but affect the life of
the Church, and make it harder to maintain religious unity. Cultural
and political estrangement can lead only too easily to ecclesiastical
disputes, as may be seen from the case of Charlemagne. Refused recognition
in the political sphere by the Byzantine Emperor, he was quick to retaliate
with a charge of heresy against the Byzantine Church: he denounced the
Greeks for not using the Filioque in the Creed (of this we shall say
more in a moment) and he declined to accept the decisions of the seventh
Ecumenical Council. It is true that Charlemagne only knew of these decisions
through a faulty translation which seriously distorted their true meaning;
but he seems in any case to have been semi-lconoclast in his views.
The different political situations in east and west made the Church
assume different outward forms, so that people came gradually to think
of Church order in conflicting ways. From the start there had been a
certain difference of emphasis here between east and west. In the east
there were many Churches whose foundation went back to the Apostles;
there was a strong sense of the equality of all bishops, of the collegial
and conciliar nature of the Church. The east acknowledged the Pope as
the first bishop in the Church, but saw him as the first among equals.
In the west, on the other hand, there was only one great see claiming
Apostolic foundation - Rome - so that Rome came to be regarded as the
Apostolic see. The west, while it accepted the decisions of the Ecumenical
Councils, did not play a very active part in the Councils themselves;
the Church was seen less as a college and more as a monarchy- the monarchy
of the Pope.
This initial divergence in outlook was made more acute by political
developments. As was only natural, the barbarian invasions and the consequent
breakdown of the Empire in the west served greatly to strengthen the
autocratic structure of the western Church. In the east there was a
strong secular head, the Emperor, to uphold the civilized order and
to enforce law. In the west, after the advent of the barbarians, there
was only a plurality of warring chiefs, all more or less usurpers. For
the most part it was the Papacy alone which could act as a centre of
unity, as an element of continuity and stability in the spiritual and
political life of western Europe. By force of circumstances, the Pope
assumed a part which the Greek Patriarchs were not called to play, issuing
commands not only to his ecclesiastical subordinates but to secular
rulers as well. The western Church gradually became centralized to a
degree unknown anywhere in the four Patriarchates of the east (except
possibly in Egypt). Monarchy in the west; in the east collegiality.
Nor was this the only effect which the barbarian invasions had upon
the life of the Church. In Byzantium there were many educated laymen
who took an active interest in theology. The 'lay theologian' has always
been an accepted figure in Orthodoxy: some of the most learned Byzantine
Patriarch Photius, for example - were laymen before their appointment
to the Patriarchate. But in the west the only effective education which
survived through the Dark Ages was provided by the Church for its clergy.
Theology became the preserve of the priests, since most of the laity
could not even read, much less comprehend the technicalities of theological
discussion. Orthodoxy, while assigning to the episcopate a special teaching
office, has never known this sharp division between clergy and laity
which arose in the western Middle Ages.
Relations between eastern and western Christendom were also made more
difficult by the lack of a common language. Because the two sides could
no longer communicate easily with one another, and each could no longer
read what the other wrote, misunderstandings arose much more easily.
The shared 'universe of discourse' was progressively lost.
East and west were becoming strangers to one another, and this was something
from which both were likely to suffer. In the early Church there had
been unity in the faith, but a diversity of theological schools. From
the start Greeks and Latins had each approached the Christian Mystery
in their own way. At the risk of some oversimplification, it can be
said that the Latin approach was more practical, the Greek more speculative;
Latin thought was influenced by juridical ideas, by the concepts of
Roman law, while the Greeks understood theology in the context of worship
and in the light of the Holy Liturgy. When thinking about the Trinity,
Latins started with the unity of the Godhead, Greeks with the threeness
of the persons; when reflecting on the Crucifixion, Latins thought primarily
of Christ the Victim, Greeks of Christ the Victor; Latins talked more
of redemption, Greeks of deification; and so on. Like the schools of
Antioch and Alexandria within the east, these two distinctive approaches
were not in themselves contradictory; each served to supplement the
other, and each had its place in the fullness of Catholic tradition.
But now that the two sides were becoming strangers to one another -
with no political and little cultural unity, with no common language
- there was a danger that each side would follow its own approach in
isolation and push it to extremes, forgetting the value in the other
point of view.
We have spoken of the different doctrinal approaches in east and west;
but there were two points of doctrine where the two sides no longer
supplemented one another, but entered into direct conflict - the Papal
claims and the Filioque. The factors which we have mentioned in previous
paragraphs were sufficient in themselves to place a serious strain upon
the unity of Christendom. Yet for all that, unity might still have been
maintained, had there not been these two further points of difficulty.
To them we must now turn. It was not until the middle of the ninth century
that the full extent of the disagreement first came properly into the
open, but the two differences themselves date back considerably earlier.
We have already had occasion to mention the Papacy when speaking of
the different political situations in east and west; and we have seen
how the centralized and monarchical structure of the western Church
was reinforced by the barbarian invasions. Now so long as the Pope claimed
an absolute power only in the west, Byzantium raised no objections.
The Byzantines did not mind if the western Church was centralized, so
long as the Papacy did not interfere in the east. The Pope, however,
believed his immediate power of jurisdiction to extend to the east as
well as to the west; and as soon as he tried to enforce this claim within
the eastern Patriarchates, trouble was bound to arise. The Greeks assigned
to the Pope a primacy of honour, but not the universal supremacy which
he regarded as his due. The Pope viewed infallibility as his own prerogative;
the Greeks held that in matters of the faith the final decision rested
not with the Pope alone, but with a Council representing all the bishops
of the Church. Here we have two different conceptions of the visible
organization of the Church.
The interior of
the great church of Holy Wisdom - Agia Sofia
The Orthodox attitude to the Papacy is admirably expressed by a twelfth-century
writer, Nicetas, Archbishop of Nicomedia:
My dearest brother, we do not deny to the Roman Church the primacy
amongst the five sister Patriarchates; and we recognize her right to
the most honourable seat at an Ecumenical Council. But she has separated
herself from us by her own deeds, when through pride she assumed a monarchy
which does not belong to her office . . . How shall we accept decrees
from her that have been issued without consulting us and even without
our knowledge? If the Roman Pontiff, seated on the lofty throne of his
glory wishes to thunder at us and, so to speak, hurl his mandates at
us from on high, and if he wishes to judge us and even to rule us and
our Churches, not by taking counsel with us but at his own arbitrary
pleasure, what kind of brotherhood, or even what kind of parenthood
can this be? We should be the slaves, not the sons, of such a Church,
and the Roman See would not be the pious mother of sons but a hard and
imperious mistress of slaves.'
That was how an Orthodox felt in the twelfth century, when the whole
question had come out into the open. In earlier centuries the Greek
attitude to the Papacy was basically the same, although not yet sharpened
by controversy. Up to 850, Rome and the east avoided an open conflict
over the Papal claims, but the divergence of views was not the less
serious for being partially concealed.
The second great difficulty was the Filioque. The dispute involved the
words about the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed.
Originally the Creed ran: 'I believe . . . in the Holy Spirit, the Lord,
the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father
and the Son together is worshipped and together glorified.' This, the
original form, is recited unchanged by the east to this day. But the
west inserted an extra phrase 'and from the Son' (in Latin, Filioque),
so that the Creed now reads 'who proceeds from the Father and the Son'.
It is not certain when and where this addition was first made, but it
seems to have originated in Spain, as a safeguard against Arianism.
At any rate the Spanish Church interpolated the Filioque at the third
Council of Toledo (589), if not before. From Spain the addition spread
to France and thence to Germany, where it was welcomed by Charlemagne
and adopted at the semi-lconoclast Council of Frankfort (794). It was
writers at Charlemagne's court who first made the Filioque into an issue
of controversy, accusing the Greeks of heresy because they recited the
Creed in its original form. But Rome, with typical conservatism, continued
to use the Creed without the Filioque until the start of the eleventh
century. In 808 Pope Leo 111 wrote in a letter to Charlemagne that,
although he himself believed the Filioque to be doctrinally sound, yet
he considered it a mistake to tamper with the wording of the Creed.
Leo deliberately had the Creed, without the Filioque, inscribed on silver
plaques and set up in St Peter's. For the time being Rome acted as a
mediator between the Franks and Byzantium.
It was not until 860 that the Greeks paid much attention to the Filioque,
but once they did so, their reaction was sharply critical. The Orthodox
objected (and still object) to this addition to the Creed, for two reasons.
First, the Creed is the common possession of the whole Church, and if
any change is to be made in it, this can only be done by an Ecumenical
Council. The west, in altering the Creed without consulting the east,
is guilty (as Khomiakov put it) of moral fratricide, of a sin against
the unity of the Church. In the second place, most Orthodox believe
the Filioque to be theologically untrue. They hold that the Spirit proceeds
from the Father alone, and consider it a heresy to say that He proceeds
from the Son as well. There are, however, some Orthodox who consider
that the Filioque is not in itself heretical,. and is indeed admissible
as a theological opinion - not a dogma - provided that it is properly
explained. But even those who take this more moderate view still regard
it as an unauthorized addition.
Besides these two major issues, the Papacy and the Filioque, there were
certain lesser matters of Church worship and discipline which caused
trouble between east and west: the Greeks allowed married clergy, the
Latins insisted on priestly celibacy; the two sides had different rules
of fasting; the Greeks used leavened bread in the Eucharist, the Latins
unleavened bread Around 850 east and west were still in full communion
with one another and still formed one Church. Cultural and political
divisions had combined to bring about an increasing estrangement, but
there was no open schism. The to sides had different conceptions of
Papal authority and recited the Creed in different forms, but these
questions had not yet been brought fully into the open.
But in 1190 Theodore Balsamon, Patriarch of Antioch and a great authority
on Canon Law, looked at matters very differently:
For many years [he does not say how many] the western Church has
been divided in spiritual communion from the other four Patriarchates
and has become alien to the Orthodox . . . So no Latin should be given
communion unless he first declares that he will abstain from the doctrines
and customs that separate him from us, and that he will be subject to
the Canons of the Church, in union with the Orthodox.'
In Balsamon's eyes, communion had been broken; there was a definite
schism between east and west. The two no longer formed one visible Church.
In this transition from estrangement to schism, four incidents are of
particular importance: the quarrel between Photius and Pope Nicolas
I (usually known as the 'Photian schism': the east would prefer to call
it the 'schism of Nicolas'); the incident of the Diptychs in 1009; the
attempt at reconciliation in 1053-4 and its disastrous sequel; and the
of San Vitale - Ravenna
From Estrangement to Schism (8581204)
In 858, fifteen
years after the triumph of icons under Theodora, a new Patriarch of
Constantinople was appointed - Photius, known to the Orthodox Church
as St Photius the Great. He has been termed 'the most distinguished
thinker, the most outstanding politician, and the most skillful diplomat
ever to hold office as Patriarch of Constantinople.' Soon after his
accession he became involved in a dispute with Pope Nicolas I (858-67).
The previous Patriarch, St Ignatius, had been exiled by the Emperor
and while in exile had resigned under pressure. The supporters of Ignatius,
declining to regard this resignation as valid, considered Photius a
usurper. When Photius sent a letter to the Pope announcing his accession,
Nicolas decided that before recognizing Photius he would look further
Into the quarrel between the new Patriarch and the Ignatian party. Accordingly
in 861 he sent legates to Constantinople.
Photius had no desire to start a dispute with the Papacy. He treated
the legates with great deference, inviting them to preside at a council
in Constantinople, which was to settle the issue between Ignatius and
himself. The legates agreed, and together with the rest of the council
they decided that Photius was the legitimate Patriarch. But when his
legates returned to Rome, Nicolas declared that they had exceeded their
powers, and he disowned their decision. He then proceeded to retry the
case himself at Rome: a council held under his presidency In 863 recognized
Ignatius as Patriarch, and proclaimed Photius to be deposed from all
priestly dignity. The Byzantines took no notice of this condemnation,
and sent no answer to the Pope's letters. Thus an open breach existed
between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople.
The dispute clearly involved the Papal claims. Nicolas was a great reforming
Pope, with an exalted idea of the prerogatives of his see, and he had
already done much to establish an absolute power over all bishops in
the west. But he believed this absolute power to extend to the east
also: as he put it in a letter of 865, the Pope is endowed with authority
'over all the earth, that is, over every Church'. This was precisely
what the Byzantines were not prepared to grant. Confronted with the
dispute between Photius and Ignatius, Nicolas thought that he saw a
golden opportunity to enforce his claim to universal jurisdiction: he
would make both parties submit to his arbitration. But he realized that
Photius had submitted voluntarily to the inquiry by the Papal legates,
and that his action could not be taken as a recognition of Papal supremacy.
This (among other reasons) was why Nicolas had cancelled his legates'
decisions. The Byzantines for their part were willing to allow appeals
to Rome, but only under the specific conditions laid down on of the
Council of Sardica (343). This Canon states that a bishop, if under
sentence of condemnation, can appeal to Rome, and the Pope, if he sees
cause, can order a retrial; this retrial, however, is not to be conducted
by the Pope himself at Rome, but by the bishops of the provinces adjacent
to that of the condemned bishop. Nicolas, so the Byzantines felt, in
reversing the decisions of his legates and demanding a retrial at Rome
itself, was going far beyond the terms of this.Canon. They regarded
his behaviour as an unwarrantable and uncanonical interference in the
affairs of another Patriarchate.
Soon not only the Papal claims but the Filioque became involved in the
dispute. Byzantium and the west (chiefly the Germans) were both launching
great missionary ventures among the Slavs.' The two lines of missionary
advance, from the east and from the west, soon converged; and when Greek
and German missionaries found themselves at work in the same land, it
was difficult to avoid a conflict, since the two missions were run on
widely different principles. The clash naturally brought to the fore
the question of the Filioque, used by the Germans in the Creed, but
not used by the Greeks. The chief point of trouble was Bulgaria, a country
which Rome and Constantinople alike were anxious to add to their sphere
of jurisdiction. The Khan Boris was at first inclined to ask the German
missionaries for baptism: threatened, however, with a Byzantine invasion,
he changed his policy and around 865 accepted baptism from Greek clergy.
But Boris wanted the Church in Bulgaria to be independent, and when
Constantinople refused to grant autonomy, he turned to the west in hope
of better terms. Given a free hand in Bulgaria, the Latin missionaries
promptly launched a violent attack on the Greeks, singling out the points
where Byzantine practice differed from their own: married clergy, rules
of fasting, and above all the Filioque. At Rome itself the Filioque
was still not in use, but Nicolas gave full support to the Germans when
they insisted upon its insertion in Bulgaria. The Papacy, which in 808
had mediated between the Franks and the Greeks, was now neutral no longer.
Photius was naturally alarmed by the extension of German influence in
the Balkans, on the very borders of the Byzantine Empire; but he was
much more alarmed by the question of the Filioque, now brought forcibly
to his attention. In 867 he took action. He wrote an Encyclical Letter
to the other Patriarchs of the east, denouncing the Filioque at length
and charging those who used it with heresy. Photius has often been blamed
for writing this letter: even the great Roman Catholic historian Francis
Dvornik who is in general highly sympathetic to Photius, calls his action
on this occasion a futile attack, and says 'the lapse was inconsiderate,
hasty, and big with fatal consequences'. But if Photius really considered
the Filioque heretical, what else could he do except speak his mind?
It must also be remembered that it was not Photius who first made the
Filioque a matter of controversy, but Charlernagne and his scholars
seventy years before: the west was the original aggressor, not the east.
Photius followed up his letter by summoning a council to Constantinople,
which declared Pope Nicolas excommunicate, terming him 'a heretic who
ravages the vineyard of the Lord'.
At this critical point in the dispute, the whole situation suddenly
changed. In this same year (867) Photius was deposed from the Patriarchate
by the Emperor. Ignatius became Patriarch once more, and communion with
Rome was restored. In 869-70 another council was held at Constantinople,
known as the 'Anti-Photian Council', which condemned and anathematized
Photius, reversing the decisions of 867. This council, later reckoned
in the west as the eighth Ecumenical Council, opened with the unimpressive
total of 12 bishops, although numbers at subsequent sessions rose to
But there were further changes to come. The 869-70 council requested
the Emperor to resolve the status of the Bulgarian Church, and not surprisingly
he decided that it should be assigned to the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Realizing that Rome would allow him less independence than Byzantium,
Boris accepted this decision. From 870, then, the German missionaries
were expelled and the Filioque was heard no more in the confines of
Bulgaria. Nor was this all. At Constantinople, Ignatius and Photius
were reconciled to one another, and when Ignatius died in 877, Photius
once more succeeded him as Patriarch. In 879 yet another council was
held in Constantinople, attended by 383 bishops - a notable contrast
with the meagre total at the anti-Photian gathering ten years previously.
The council of 869 was anathematized and all condemnations of Photius
were withdrawn; these decisions were accepted without protest at Rome.
So Photius ended victorious, recognized by Rome and ecclesiastically
master of Bulgaria. Until recently it was thought -hat there was a second
'Photian schism', but Dr Dvornik has proved with devastating conclusiveness
that this second schism is a myth: in Photius' later period of office
(877-86) communion between Constantinople and the Papacy remained unbroken.
The Pope at this time, John VIII (872-82), was no friend to the Franks
and did not press the question of the Filioque, nor did he attempt to
enforce the Papal claims in the east. Perhaps he recognized how seriously
the policy of Nicolas had endangered the unity of Christendom.
Thus the schism was outwardly healed, but no real solution had been
reached concerning the two great points of difference which the dispute
between Nicolas and Photius had forced into the open. Matters had been
patched up, and that was all.
Photius, always honoured in the east as a saint, a leader of the Church,
and a theologian, has in the past been regarded by the west with less
enthusiasm, as the author of a schism and little else. His good qualities
are now more widely appreciated. 'If I am right in my conclusions,'
so Dr Dvornik ends his monumental study, 'we shall be free once more
to recognize in Photius a great Churchman, a learned humanist, and a
genuine Christian, generous enough to forgive his enemies, and to take
the first step towards reconciliation.
At the beginning of the eleventh century there was fresh trouble over
the Filioque. The Papacy at last adopted the addition: at the coronation
of Emperor Henry 11 at Rome in 1014, the Creed was sung in its interpolated
form. Five years earlier, in 1009, the newly-elected Pope Sergius IV
sent a letter to Constantinople which may have contained the Filioque,
although this is not certain. Whatever the reason, the Patriarch of
Constantinople, also called Sergius, did not include the new Pope's
name in the Diptychs: these are lists, kept by each Patriarch, which
contain the names of the other Patriarchs, living and departed, whom
he recognizes as orthodox. The Diptychs are a visible sign of the unity
of the Church, and deliberately to omit a person's name from them is
tantamount to a declaration that one is not in communion with him. After
1009 the Pope's name did not appear again in the Diptychs of Constantinople;
technically, therefore, the Churches of Rome and Constantinople were
out of communion from that date. But it would be unwise to press this
technicality too far. Diptychs were frequently incomplete, and so do
not form an infallible guide to Church relations. The Constantinopolitan
lists before 1009 often lacked the Pope's name, simply because new Popes
at their accession failed to notify the east. The omission in 1009 aroused
no comment at Rome, and even at Constantinople people quickly forgot
why and when the Pope's name had first been dropped from the Diptychs.
As the eleventh century proceeded, new factors brought relations between
the Papacy and the eastern Patriarchates to a further crisis. The previous
century had been a period of grave instability and confusion for the
see of Rome, a century which Cardinal Baronius justly termed an age
of iron and lead in the history of the Papacy. But under German influence
Rome now reformed itself, and through the rule of men such as Hildebrand
(Pope Gregory VII) it gained a position of power in the west such as
it had never before achieved. The reformed Papacy naturally revived
the claims to universal jurisdiction which Nicolas had made. The Byzantines
on their side had grown accustomed to dealing with a Papacy that was
for the most part weak and disorganized, and so they found it difficult
to adapt themselves to the new situation. Matters were made worse by
political factors, such as the military aggression of the Normans in
Byzantine Italy, and the commercial encroachments of the Italian maritime
cities in the eastern Mediterranean during the eleventh and twelfth
In 1054 there was a severe quarrel. The Normans had been forcing the
Greeks in Byzantine Italy to conform to Latin usages; the Patriarch
of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, in return demanded that the Latin
churches at Constantinople should adopt Greek practices, and in 1052,
when they refused, he closed them. This was perhaps harsh, but as Patriarch
he was fully entitled to act in this manner. Among the practices to
which Michael and his supporters particularly objected was the Latin
use of 'azymes' or unleavened bread in the Eucharist, an issue which
had not figured in the dispute of the ninth century. In 1053, however,
Cerularius took up a more conciliatory attitude and wrote to Pope Leo
IX, offering to restore the Pope's name to the Diptychs. In response
to this offer, and to settle the disputed questions of Greek and Latin
usages, Leo in 1054 sent three legates to Constantinople, the chief
of them being Humbert, Bishop of Silva Candida. The choice of Cardinal
Humbert was unfortunate, for both he and Cerularius were men of stiff
and intransigent temper, whose mutual encounter was not likely to promote
good will among Christians. The legates, when they called on Cerularius,
did not create a favourable impression. Thrusting a letter from the
Pope at him, they retired without giving the usual salutations; the
letter itself, although signed by Leo, had in fact been drafted by Humbert,
and was distinctly unfriendly in tone. After this the Patriarch refused
to have further dealings with the legates. Eventually Humbert lost patience,
and laid a Bull of Excommunication against Cerularius on the altar of
the Church of the Holy Wisdom: among other ill-founded charges in this
document, Humbert accused the Greeks of omitting the Filioque from the
Creed! Humbert promptly left Constantinople without offering any further
explanation of his act, and on returning to Italy he represented the
whole incident as a great victory for the see of Rome. Cerularius and
his synod retaliated by anathematizing Humbert (but not the Roman Church
as such). The attempt at reconciliation left matters worse than before.
But even after 1054 friendly relations between east and west continued.
The two parts of Christendom were not yet conscious of a great gulf
of separation between them, and people on both sides still hoped that
the misunderstandings could be cleared up without too much difficulty.
The dispute remained something of which ordinary Christians in east
and west were largely unaware. It was the Crusades which made the schism
definitive: they introduced a new spirit of hatred and bitterness, and
they brought the whole issue down to the popular level.
From the military point of view, however, the Crusades began with great
éclat. Antioch was captured from the Turks in 1098, Jerusalem
in 1099: the first Crusade was a brilliant, if bloody,' success. At
both Antioch and Jerusalem the Crusaders proceeded to set up Latin Patriarchs.
At Jerusalem this was reasonable, since the see was vacant at the time;
and although in the years that followed there existed a succession of
Greek Patriarchs of Jerusalem, living exiled in Cyprus, yet within Palestine
itself the whole population, Greek as well as Latin, at first accepted
the Latin Patriarch as their head. A Russian pilgrim at Jerusalem in
1106-7, Abbot Daniel of Tchernigov, found Greeks and Latins worshipping
together in harmony at the Holy Places, though he noted with satisfaction
that at the ceremony of the Holy Fire the Greek lamps were lit miraculously
while the Latin had to be lit from the Greek. But at Antioch the Crusaders
found a Greek Patriarch actually in residence: shortly afterwards, it
is true, he withdrew to Constantinople, but the local Greek population
was unwilling to recognize the Latin Patriarch whom the Crusaders set
up in his place. Thus from 11000 there existed in effect a local schism
at Antioch. After I 187, when Saladin captured Jerusalem, the situation
in the Holy land deteriorated: two rivals, resident within Palestine
itself, now divided the Christian population between them - a Latin
Patriarch at Acre, a Greek at Jerusalem. These local schisms at Antioch
and Jerusalem were a sinister development. Rome was very far away, and
if Rome and Constantinople quarrelled, what practical difference did
it make to the average Christian in Syria or Palestine? But when two
rival bishops claimed the same throne and two hostile congregations
existed in the same city, the division became an immediate reality in
which simple believers were directly implicated. It was the Crusades
that turned the dispute into something that involved whole Christian
congregations, and not just church leaders; the Crusaders brought the
schism down to the local level.
But worse was to follow in 1204, with the taking of Constantinople during
the Fourth Crusade. The Crusaders were originally bound for Egypt, but
were persuaded by Alexius, son of Isaac Angelus, the dispossessed Emperor
of Byzantium, to turn aside to Constantinople in order to restore him
and his father to the throne. This western intervention in Byzantine
politics did not go happily, and eventually the Crusaders, disgusted
by what they regarded as Greek duplicity, lost patience and sacked the
city. Eastern Christendom has never forgotten those three appalling
days of pillage. 'Even the Saracens are merciful and kind,' protested
Nicetas Choniates, 'compared with these men who bear the Cross of Christ
on their shoulders.' In the words of Sir Steven Runciman, 'The Crusaders
brought not peace but a sword; and the sword was to sever Christendom.
The long-standing doctrinal disagreements were now reinforced on the
Greek side by an intense national hatred, by a feeling of resentment
and indignation against western aggression and sacrilege. After 1204
there can be no doubt that Christian east and Christian west were divided
Orthodoxy and Rome each believes itself to have been right and its opponent
wrong upon the points of doctrine that arose between them; and so Rome
and Orthodoxy since the schism have each claimed to be the true Church.
Yet each, while believing in the rightness of its own cause, must look
back at the past with sorrow and repentance. Both sides must in honesty
acknowledge that they could and should have done more to prevent the
schism. Both sides were guilty of mistakes on the human level. Orthodox,
for example, must blame themselves for the pride and contempt with which
during the Byzantine period they regarded the west; they must blame
themselves for incidents such as the riot of 1182, when many Latin residents
at Constantinople were massacred by the Byzantine populace. (None the
less there is no action on the Byzantine side which can be compared
to the sack of 1204.) And each side, while claiming to be the one true
Church, must admit that on the human level it has been grievously impoverished
by the separation. The Greek east and the Latin west needed and still
need one another. For both parties the great schism has proved a great
Bishop Kallistos Ware
"The Orthodox Church",
Books by Dr. Alexandros Kalomiros
Against False Union - River of Fire
Kalomiros is known as one of the most traditional contemporary
Orthodox writers who has expressed the Tradition of the Fathers in the
language of our modern time. HIs book "AGAINST FALSE UNION"
is one of the most
cricical approaches to the issue of Ecumenism in our time.
By Thomas Ross Valentine - Traditional Orthodox
Objections on Filioque issue
FILIOQUE - View from the Vatican
At a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople,
Pope John Paul II called for clarification of the filioque clause of
the Creed--'proceeds from the Father and the Son.' Text from the Pontifical
Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
SINGLE SOURCE - An Orthodox Commentary of the Vatican Clarification
of Filioque By
Metropolitan John of Pergamos (Zizioulas)
FILIOQUE Page - Philokalia Webzine
A collection of Orthodox commentaries on FILIOQUE
Abbe, The Papacy: Its Historic Origin and Primitive Relations with the
Eastern Church New York: Minos Publishing Company, 1866.
Though this is an old book, it has seen numerous reprints and can still
be found with a little searching. It is the most thorough and reliable
treatment of the Papacy from an Orthodox position.
OF ECUMENISM - a page reflecting traditional Orthodox view of
Ecumenism as heresy of heresies
Peace of Assisi and the Peace of Christ: Internal and External
Peace and the Loss of the Organic Unity of Worship, Ethos, and Dogma.
Awareness - Orthodox Christian Info Center
a collection of numerous articles comparing and contrasting Orthodox
with the heterodox Christian confessions
About Western Christianity
Collection of Articles, Orthodox Christian Information
Collection of Articles, Orthodox Christian Information
The Great Divorce of East and West -
an article by Mark Galli from Christian