East and West

What is the defining line or border that distiguishes itself between the Eastern and Western rites? I know that there can be Eastern rite churches anywhere in the world, but when the Church talks about the East, where does the East exactly start?

Also is this border true to distinguish the Early Church Fathers of the East and West? If not, where can they be distinguished from?

Borders have changed over time. However generally Turkey, Iraq, India, Russa, Ukraine, Poland, Lebanon, Syria, and a few others were considered the East.

Thank you for the information.

If you look at a map of the Roman Empire after being divided by Diocletian, then you can have a good idea by where east begins. Generally anywhere east of the Western Empire is the east.

The Ukraine is East, Poland is split. The Caucuses are mixed.

Egypt, Ethiopia, and Eritrea are East, Algeria is West… in between is mixed.

China is West, as are most of SE asia… But India is East.

The US and Canada are mixed, tho properly West. Mexico and SAm are west, but have some slight eastern presence.

Wow, by what I am seeing, it isnt a matter of geography or location then. Thanks for the info.

It really is a matter of geography… but of socio-religious geography. Which areas are dominantly Roman vs Eastern Christian (Catholic, EO, OO, ACE, Syrian Orthodox, Jacobite). Essentially, the East ends in india, and runs from greece to russia, and from greece to egypt, over to india. Southern Italy was at one point Greek Speaking, and at the time was dominantly Byzantine Rite, despite union with Rome; it still holds many Italo-Albanian Greek Catholics.

But sociopolitical concerns have brought many of the EC faithful to places traditionally west (North America, South America) and Romans to places Eastern (India, Ethiopia, southern Italy), and the borders are fuzzy and changed back and forth over time.

Geography definitely did have something to do with the designation originally, although with Christianity now having a worldwide exposure and many places where the populations are mixed, it just seems to be a misnomer now.

Originally (as stated previously), the Roman empire had been divided into eastern and western “halves” for organizational purposes. It really was not a true half-split in any sense.

I believe the western portion was slightly larger in land mass, but much smaller in population. Also the western half had a less developed economy, being largely frontier land open for colonization. The road network was extensive in the west, but not really as comprehensive because the cities were so far apart and the woods (over much of western Europe) were thick virgin forest.

Rome was close to the center of the combined empire, but what really mattered was where the emperor called home and for each one that could be different. This situation lasted over a long succession of emperors. After the formal division there was one Roman Senate (for both halves) and that remained in the city of Rome.

With Diocletian’s new system there were four emperors and each set up housekeeping in a different city. Constantine eventually gained control of the entire government through a series of civil wars and moved the Roman Senate to his new capital further east.



Basically, the Apostles worked in the eastern half for the most part, with Rome being about as far west as any went. There was also activity across the border further east and south. From the perspective of a churchman in the city of Rome, everything was ‘east’. But ‘eastern’ and oriental’ are not good descriptions of the non-Roman churches. It is a catch-all phrase which lumps everyone together based upon nothing more than historical chance, or coincidence.

there is also the issue of Eastern and Oriental having come to mean different things in the context of the Orthodox… the Oriental Orthodox are the Syriac Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (India) and Armenian Apostolic Orthodox, the so-called “Non-Chalcedonians.”

The Eastern Orthodox, Byzantines all, are Chalcedonians… as are Catholics.

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