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 A focused study the "The Great Schism of 1054 AD"

The East-West Schism, or the Great Schism, is the historic sundering of Eucharistic relations between the See of Rome (now the Roman Catholic Church) and the sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem (now the Orthodox Church).

It divided medieval Mediterranean Christendom into Eastern and Western branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively. Relations between East and West had long been embittered by political and ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes.

Pope Leo IX and Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius heightened the conflict by suppressing Greek and Latin in their respective domains. In 1054, Roman legates traveled to Cerularius to deny him the title Ecumenical Patriarch and to insist that he recognize the Church of Rome's claim to be the head and mother of the churches. Cerularius refused.

The Great Schism was a gradual estrangement that has been conventionally dated to the year 1054. The schism actually took centuries to crystallize.

The roots of the Great Schism between the Christian West and the Christian East are extensive. The drifting apart occurred gradually over a period of centuries of time. The Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) used the Greek language. The Western Roman Empire used the Latin language. Not only the languages were different, but also the bases of theological thought were different. While Orthodox Greek theology is based on the Holy Bible and the writings of the early Church fathers, Western Latin theology is largely based on Greek philosophy, in particular Aristotelian philosophy. In addition, the historical development of the West differed greatly from the East. Barbarian invasions and migrations in the Western Roman Empire disrupted the East-West unity of culture and economy, and brought German/Frankish influence on the Western Church.

The Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451, confirming the authority already held by Constantinople, granted its archbishop jurisdiction over the three provinces mentioned by the First Council of Constantinople:

The Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops [i.e., the Second Ecumenical Council], actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her; so that, in the Pontic, the Asian, and the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such bishops also of the Dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be ordained by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople.

The council also ratified an agreement between Antioch and Jerusalem, whereby Jerusalem held jurisdiction over three provinces, numbering it among the five great sees. There were now five patriarchs presiding over the Church within the Byzantine Empire, in the following order of precedence: the Patriarch of Rome, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Patriarch of Alexandria, the Patriarch of Antioch and the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Empires East and West
Disunion in the Roman Empire further contributed to disunion in the Church. Theodosius the Great, who established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, died in 395 and was the last Emperor to rule over a united Roman Empire; following his death, the Empire was divided into western and eastern halves, each under its own Emperor. By the end of the fifth century, the Western Roman Empire had been overrun by the Germanic tribes, while the Eastern Roman Empire (known also as the Byzantine Empire) continued to thrive. Thus, the political unity of the Roman Empire was the first to fall.

In the West, the collapse of civil government left the Church practically in charge in many areas, and bishops took to administering secular cities and domains. When royal and imperial rule reestablished itself, it had to contend with power wielded independently by the Church. In the East, however, imperial and, later, Islamic rule dominated the Eastern bishops.
Papal Supremacy and Pentarchy
Compounding the dogmatic issue was that the Creed was changed without agreement of the whole Christian Church. The Creed had been agreed upon at an Ecumenical Council and revised at another, bearing universal authority within the Church.

For the Pope of Rome to change the Creed unilaterally without reference to an Ecumenical Council was considered by the Eastern bishops to be offensive to other bishops, as it undermined the collegiality and right of the episcopacy.

This led to the primary causes of the Schism - the disputes over conflicting claims of jurisdiction, in particular over papal authority. Pope Leo IX claimed he held authority over the four Eastern patriarchs.

Pope Leo IX allowed the insertion of the Filioque into the Nicene Creed in the West in 1014. Eastern Orthodox today state that the 28th Canon of the [Council of Chalcedon explicitly proclaimed the equality of the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople, and that it established the highest court of ecclesiastical appeal in Constantinople.

The seventh canon of the Council of Ephesus declared:
It is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicea. But those who shall dare to compose a different faith, or to introduce or offer it to persons desiring to turn to the acknowledgment of the truth, whether from Heathenism or from Judaism, or from any heresy whatsoever, shall be deposed, if they be bishops or clergymen; bishops from the episcopate and clergymen from the clergy; and if they be laymen, they shall be anathematized.

Eastern Orthodox today state that this Canon of the Council of Ephesus explicitly prohibited modification of the Nicene Creed drawn up by the First Ecumenical Council in 325, the wording of which but, it is claimed, not the substance, had been modified by the First Council of Constantinople, making additions such as "who proceeds from the Father".

In the Orthodox view, the Bishop of Rome (i.e. the Pope) would have universal primacy in a reunited Christendom, as primus inter pares without power of jurisdiction.

Filioque is a word that changes the Latin version of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed to include the wording [Spiritus Sanctus] qui ex Patre Filioque procedit or "[Holy Spirit] who proceeds from the Father and the Son."

The first appearance of this insertion into the Creed happened in Toledo, Spain, where Latin theologians were trying to refute a brand of the Arian heresy. Those theologians had better access to the writings of Latin theologians, particularly of St. Augustine of Hippo, than to Greek theologians. Augustine used the teaching from John 16:7 to emphasize that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and that neither is subordinate to the other.

So the Creed was changed by the local synod of bishops at Toledo with the justification that it asserts the divinity of Christ (refuting Arianism), and asserts the unity of the Trinity and the equality of each hypostasis of the Trinity.

It should also be noted that St. Leo the Great, Pope of Rome, and many other pre-schism Popes disagreed with the decision of the Toledo Council, one even going so far as to engraving the Creed without the Filioque on the doors of St. Peter's Basilica.

There were other less significant catalysts for the Schism however, including variance over liturgical practices.

Other points of conflict
Many other issues increased tensions.
Emperor Leo III the Isaurian outlawed the veneration of icons in the eighth century. This policy, which came to be called Iconoclasm, was rejected by the West. The Western Church's insertion of "Filioque" into the Latin version of the Nicene Creed. Disputes in the Balkans, Southern Italy, and Sicily over whether Rome or Constantinople had ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

In the East, endorsement of Caesaropapism, subordination of the church to the religious claims of the dominant political order, was most fully evident in the Byzantine Empire at the end of the first millennium, while in the West, where the decline of imperial authority left the Church relatively independent, there was growth of the power of the Papacy.
As a result of the Muslim conquests of the territories of the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, only two rival powerful centres of ecclesiastical authority, Constantinople and Rome, remained. Certain liturgical practices in the West that the East believed represented illegitimate innovation such as the use of unleavened bread for the Eucharist. Clerical celibacy of Western priests (both monastic and parish), as opposed to the Eastern discipline whereby parish priests could be married men.

Previous schisms
Some scholars have argued that the Schism between East and West has very ancient roots, and that sporadic schisms in the common unions took place under Pope Victor I (second century), Pope Stephen I (third century) and Pope Damasus I (fourth and fifth century). Later on, disputes about theological and other questions led to schisms between the Churches in Rome and Constantinople for 37 years from 482 to 519 (the Acacian Schism), and for 13 years from 866-879, Patriarch Photios the Great. And eventually, the Mutual excommunication of each other in the year 1054AD.

Most of the direct causes of the Great Schism, however, are far less grandiose than the famous filioque. The relations between the papacy and the Byzantine court were good in the years leading up to 1054. The emperor Constantine IX and the Pope Leo IX were allied through the mediation of the Lombard catepan of Italy, Argyrus, who had spent years in Constantinople, originally as a political prisoner. Leo and Argyrus led armies against the ravaging Normans, but the papal forces were defeated at the Battle of Civitate in 1053, which resulted in the pope being imprisoned at Benevento, where he took it upon himself to learn Greek. Argyrus had not arrived at Civitate and his absence caused a rift in papal-imperial relations.

Meanwhile, the Normans were busy imposing Latin customs, including the unleavened bread—with papal approval. Patriarch Michael I then ordered Leo of Ochrid, to write a letter to the bishop of Trani, John, an Easterner, in which he attacked the "Judaistic" practices of the West, namely the use of unleavened bread. The letter was to be sent by John to all the bishops of the West, Pope included. John promptly complied and the letter was passed to one Humbert of Mourmoutiers, the cardinal-bishop of Silva Candida, who was then in John's diocese. Humbert translated the letter into Latin and brought it to the pope, who ordered a reply to be made to each charge and a defence of papal supremacy to be laid out in a response.

Although he was hot-headed, Michael was convinced, probably by the Emperor and the bishop of Trani, to cool the debate and prevent the impending breach. However, Humbert and the pope made no concessions and the former was sent with legatine powers to the imperial capital to solve the questions raised once and for all. Humbert, Pope Stephen IX, and Peter, Archbishop of Amalfi set out in early spring and arrived in April 1054. Their welcome was not to their liking, however, and they stormed out of the palace, leaving the papal response with Michael, whose anger exceeded even theirs. The seals on the letter had been tampered with and the legates had published, in Greek, an earlier, far less civil, draft of the letter for the entire populace to read. The patriarch determined that the legates were worse than mere barbarous Westerners, they were liars and crooks. He refused to recognize their authority or, practically, their existence.

When Pope Leo died on April 19, 1054, the legates' authority legally ceased, but they did not seem to notice. The patriarch's refusal to address the issues at hand drove the legatine mission to extremes: on July 16, the three legates entered the church of the Hagia Sophia during the divine liturgy on a Saturday afternoon and placed a papal bull of excommunication on the altar. The legates left for Rome two days later, leaving behind a city near riots. The patriarch had the immense support of the people against the Emperor, who had supported the legates to his own detriment, and Argyrus, who was seen still as a papal ally. To assuage popular anger, Argyrus' family in Constantinople was arrested, the bull was burnt, and the legates were anathematised—the Great Schism had begun.

Orthodox bishop Metropolitan Kallistos writes, that the choice of cardinal Humbert was unfortunate, for both he and Patriarch Michael I were men of stiff and intransigent temper... . After an initial, unfriendly encounter, the patriarch refused to have further dealings with the legates. Eventually Humbert lost patience, and laid a bull of excommunication against Patriarch Michael I on the altar of the Church of the Holy Wisdom... . Michael and his synod retaliated by anathematizing Humbert.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia says, "The consummation of the schism is generally dated from the year 1054, when this unfortunate sequence of events took place. This conclusion, however, is not correct, because in the bull composed by Humbert, only Patriarch Michael I was excommunicated. The validity of the bull is questioned because Pope Leo IX was already dead at that time. On the other side, the Byzantine synod excommunicated only the legates.

It should be noted that the bull of excommunication issued against Patriarch Michael stated as one of its reasons for the excommunication the Eastern Church's deletion of "filioque" from the original Nicene Creed. It is now common knowledge that the Eastern Church did not delete anything, it was the Western Church that added this word to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

A Summary of the History of MAJOR CHRISTIAN SCHISMS

Great Schism

The Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies ^ | May 8-10, 1998 | Vincent Rossi



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