Friendly Orthodox-Catholic Interactions Between 1054 and 1962

I’m trying to do some research on the history of ecumenism and thought it might be wise to look at examples involving the Eastern Orthodox. But I’m not aware of many documents before 1962 that shed light on friendly interactions between the two communions. That’s not to say there weren’t any, because I know of some examples, but I just would like to find documents from these times that give evidence of Orthodox-Catholic friendliness.

A couple of examples that come to mind, and I would like to find documents about these items from the time periods concerned:

First, I wonder if there was any friendly communication between the Catholics and the Orthodox during the Crusades. I am aware that some of the Crusaders were very evil to the Orthodox, and it might be an understatement to say that our relationship soured during that period. But on the other hand, it is my understanding that the First Crusade was called in part to defend the Eastern Orthodox from oppression by terrorists, and I believe there was at least one pope in that time who excommunicated the knights of the Fourth Crusade in part because their actions harmed efforts at reconciliation. The desire for reconciliation seems very ecumenical, and I wonder if ecumenical language can be found in some documents of that time. Anybody know any examples?

Second, the Fourteenth and Seventeenth Ecumenical Councils involved attempts at reunion between the Catholics and the Orthodox. It appears to me that the reunion broke up again and our relationship got worse, with harsh language on both sides. But in the midst of that, I can’t help but suppose that some people on both sides were very sorrowful about all this harshness, and tried to use more friendly language and not break chances at future reunion. Anybody know examples of writers from that time who spoke in a friendly and warm way with the Orthodox?

Third, there are the Uniate churches. I believe that some of the Uniate churches were created by Catholic missionaries who went into Orthodox territory and tried to convince individual groups of Orthodox to reunite. Assuming these missionaries did this, I wonder if there are any surviving records of what they did, what they said, dialogs they had, and stuff like that. I don’t imagine they convinced large groups to reunite by insulting them. At least some of their interactions had to be friendly, right? And I would guess that these missionaries, assuming they existed, kept records of what they did. The Jesuits, for example, required ongoing written records of the North American missionaries and the missionaries to Asia. Does anybody know if the missionaries to the Orthodox kept records too, and any examples from that time, or summaries of their activities?

Fourth, there is the Greek College founded by Pope Gregory XIII. It did lots of ecumenical stuff, including assisting with the formation and preservation of Eastern Catholic monasteries and helping Eastern Orthodox groups reunite the Church. Similar to #3, I would imagine that some of its records have survived, and included friendly interactions with Eastern Orthodox. Anybody know of any examples?

Fifth, I have seen evidence that there was much positive and friendly interaction between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church between the reign of Peter the Great and the end of the Napoleonic era. I believe the Russian Orthodox Czar was even made the head of a Catholic military order at one point, and one of the popes begged him to rescue him from Napoleon, leading to Russian participation in the Battle of Waterloo. Is any of that correct? And if so, do we have any surviving records giving examples of this friendly and cooperative attitude?

Sixth, after the Bolshevik revolution and leading up to Vatican 2, I believe the Catholic Church sent secret missionaries into Communist Russia because the existing Catholic and Orthodox priests were largely captured and killed. One example of a secret missionary was Fr. Walter Ciszek, and he spoke of the friendly interactions there were between himself and some secret Orthodox missionaries who also made it into the country. Besides his writings, are there any other records of positive interactions between Catholics and Orthodox from this period?

Thanks, and God bless!

If you can get your hands on it, Met. Kallistos Ware’s book Eustratios Argenti gives a good description of the relatively cordial relations between the Orthodox and the “Latins” in the Near East, as well as the rather spectacular souring of relations during the mid-18th century.

Despite the Schism of 1054, there were many efforts at reunion in the following centuries. The Fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottomans in 1453 marked the final end of the Byzantine, Eastern Roman, Empire. It also meant that the Patriarch of Constantinople fell under Muslim rule. The Muslims, of course, were violently anti-Western and required the Patriarchs to be the same. 1453 was thus the real beginning of the hard schism.

Thank you, I think that sounds like a good idea. Met. Kallistos Ware seems very scholarly from what I hear, and I would guess he would give examples, name some names, and maybe quote some selections. And I was able to request it from the library, it should arrive in about a week I think.

The book is mostly a study of the life, as you might have guessed, of Eustratios Argenti, but the first few chapters give some crucial historical background of Greek-Latin relations before the mid-18th century, to give the reader of some idea of the situation which motivated his intellectual activity.

Ah. Perhaps it is not what I am looking for then. Do you have any other suggestions?

Not off the top of my head. But the first few chapters do at least give a glimpse at how the two sides related to each other at that time (which is why I initially thought of it), so it might still be worth your while.

Perhaps Runciman would go more into detail, though not having read his works on the history of the Orthodox Church after the fall of Constantinople, I cannot be sure.

That would be from 1682 to 1815. This might be relevant:

“On the activities of the Jesuits in the Ottoman Empire, see Charles A. Frazee, Catholics and Sultans: The Church and the Ottoman Empire 1453-1923 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 72-74, 81-83, 114-18, 123-24. For much of the seventeenth century many Orthodox metropolitans welcomed Jesuits into their churches to preach and hear confessions. For some well-documented cases, see Ware, Eustratios Argenti, 16-29; also Ware, ‘Orthodox and Catholics in the Seventeenth Century: Schism or Intercommunion?’ in Schism, Heresy and Religious Protest, ed. D. Baker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 259-76.” source

I would recommend the Balamand document, Uniatism, method of union of the past, and the present search for full communion.

Yes, thank you. I was unaware that the authors of the Balamand Declaration saw so many negative elements about the history of the Uniate churches, and the disconnect they see between the attitudes that created them and the modern ecumenical outreach. But I’m confident these efforts still reflected some imperfect ray of the Church’s desire for union. The negative elements don’t stop these efforts from containing some precursors to the modern ecumenical movement, and I would like to look for them.

Here’s some of the resources I’ve found so far: Chapters 5 and 6 of this book: are excellent. They discuss Catholic missions in Turkey, both to Muslims, to Orthodox, and to the remaining Catholic population.

This book: is a firsthand account of a Catholic counter-reformer who spent time in the mission field in Moscow

This book: is a firsthand account of a Catholic missionary to Turkey and apparently Persia

This book: contains a summary of the life of Servant of God Fr. Giulio Mancinelli, who headed a mission to Constantinople in 1583. He wrote a report called Concerning the Mission of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus Sent by Gregory XIII to Constantinople 1583-1586.

Unfortunately, out of all those documents, I can only find the first one in English. But I would like to look into those documents, maybe get them machine translated in order to find out more info.

You’re not alone. In fact, prior to Vatican II seeing the “Union of Brest” et al in a negative light was pretty much an Orthodox thing to do – on the Catholic side such “unions” were seen as a feather in our cap.

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