The Catholic Church: East and West


#1

There seems to be some confusion over what constitutes the Catholic Church. Because of that, I thought I’d offer this look at the Church, its structure and hierarchy.

The Catholic Church is composed of 22 (or 23) *sui iuris *(Latin for “in their own right”) Churches. Each of these Churches is an independent Church that is in communion with Rome. By virtue of being in communion with Rome the Pope has authority over the Churches, although this is usually exercised through the leadership of the Churches.

The Roman Catholic (or, more accurately, the Latin Rite Catholic) Church is far and away the largest with over 1 billion members. The head of the Roman Catholic Church is the Bishop of Rome who, because he is the Bishop of Rome is also the Patriarch of the West and the Pope. Ranking below a patriarch are the Cardinals of the Catholic Church. This is an honorary title give to certain bishops. It may be because they are the head of a Curial Congregation (Cardinal Deacon), head a major diocese (Cardinal Priest), or are the pastor of one of the six major churches in rome (Cardinal Bishop). Archbishops are the head of major dioceses (Archdiocese) and bishops are the heads of dioceses. All bishops have a diocese for which they are responsible. Auxiliary bishops have a “titular diocese” – that is, a diocese that no longer exists. This is in keeping with the old tradition of "one city, one bishop). Working with the bishops are priests and deacons.

The primary form of worship for Roman Catholics is the Mass which may also be called the Liturgy.

The **Eastern Catholic **Churches comprise the remainder of the Catholic Church. They may be headed by a Patriarch (Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite and Syriac Churches), a Major Archbishop (Syro-Malabar and Ukrainian Churches), or Episcopal Churches (Bulgarian, Albanian, Croatian, Greek, Hungarian, Italo-Albanian, Ruthenian and Slovakian Churches). There are also Eastern Catholic Churches with no hierarchy of their own (Byelorussian, Georgian and Russian). These function directly under the authority of the local Roman Catholic bishop (although, in Los Angeles, the Russian Catholic Church, while technically under Cardinal Roger Mahony, functions under the auspices of the Melkite Eparch, Abp. Cyril).

Eastern Catholic Churches generally came into communion with Rome from an Orthodox Church. The exceptions are the Maronite and Italo-Albanian Churches which have no Orthodox counterpart. Following the dictates of Vatican II, these Churches retain what is authentic to their tradition including worship, vestments, theology and disciplines (for example, Eastern Catholic priests may, in general, be married provided they were married before they were ordained to the diaconate). Bishops are always drawn from celibate clergy, and usually from the ranks of the monastics.

Eastern Catholics are just as Catholic as Roman Catholics. Because of the nature of the relationship with Rome, any Catholic (whether Latin or Eastern) may partake of the sacraments/mysteries at any Catholic church, whether Eastern or Roman.

Deacon Ed


#2

Where do Orthodox Churches (Greek, Russian) fit in the scheme of things. Or are they result of the split from the 10th-11 century?
If they are, what caused the split?

Thanks for posting this.

Sid (Faustina)


#3

Deacon Ed,

Interesting read, apprantly I learn something knew everyday. I never knew there was a Coptic Catholic Church. When I first read your post, I thought it made no sense, and went to research it on my own. Of course to my surprise there is such a thing as a Coptic Catholic Church…who knew!

Do you know any more information about this church? What characteristics are orthodox and which ones are catholic?

Sid,
The Orthodox Churches, both Oriental and Eastern are not in one communion with the Catholic Church. In 451 AD the Oriental and Eastern Churches split because of a debate over the nature of Christ. At this time Rome was still in one communion with the Eastern Church. In 1054AD the Eastern Orthodox Church and Rome split. This split was a result of the addition of the filoque phrase which the Eastern Church did not agree with, and whether the Pope in Rome was the head of all churches, which again the Eastern Church disagreed with. This is my understanding, although I’m sure others may be able to give you more details.

God Bless,
Elizabeth


#4

[quote=Faustina]Where do Orthodox Churches (Greek, Russian) fit in the scheme of things. Or are they result of the split from the 10th-11 century?
If they are, what caused the split?

Thanks for posting this.

Sid (Faustina)
[/quote]

Here’s a quick response to your question (that probably won’t satisfy everyone).

The Orthodox Churches are indeed the “result” of the various schisms throughout history (the “main” one being in 1054). They have valid Apostolic succession in the same way as the Catholic Church. However, they are not in union with the Pope. The Orthodox consider the Bishop of Rome (and successors) to have primacy of honor (he is first among equals), but they do not believe in the office of Supreme Pontiff (or Ecumenical Pontiff as I believe he is referred to in the Eastern Catholic Churches). In other words, the Orthodox reject the notion that the Pope has any jurisdiction over the various Churches whatsoever (except the Roman Church, of course).

As to what caused the Schism of 1054? Well I’ll let someone else answer that as I really don’t want to open that can of worms :whistle: . My advice would be to research it on the web from both the Catholic and Orthodox points of views, as either alone will undoubtedly provide only one side of the story.


#5

This split was a result of the addition of the filoque phrase which the Eastern Church did not agree with, and whether the Pope in Rome was the head of all churches, which again the Eastern Church disagreed with. This is my understanding, although I’m sure others may be able to give you more details.

Coptic,

This was not really the ultimate reason of the schism of the Eastern Orthodox (though it was not their common title during that time) from the Catholic Church. It was a gradual process that started in the Eastern Churches rift among their ecclesiastical leaders and have to be resolve by the Pope. The unsatisfied party began to hold grudges because of that intervention, though it was not the fault of the Pope at all because they (the Eastern Churches) are the ones who referred the matter to the Pope to resolve the situation for the primary reason that the Pope is the last resort in resolving difficult matters. I’ll end it here because it’s a very long story. But again, I would like to remind that in every schism, there is always sin and pride involve.

It is a wise move if you read the whole story prior to the Great Schism so as not to make judgement base on hearsay. You can find valuable information on the web for free.

God bless,

Pio


#6

[quote=Faustina]Where do Orthodox Churches (Greek, Russian) fit in the scheme of things. Or are they result of the split from the 10th-11 century?
If they are, what caused the split?

Thanks for posting this.

Sid (Faustina)
[/quote]

Hello Sid:

The various “Eastern Orthodox” churches do indeed result from the so-called “Photian Schism” (named after Byzantine Patriarch Photius) of the mid-9th century, which was renewed by the Byzantine Patriarch Michael Cerularius in the mid- 11th century, and resulted in the excommunication of the Patriarch by papal legate Cardinal Humbert in 1054. At that time Rus (the ancient name for what we today call Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus) had a Greek metropolitan at Kiyiv and was ecclesiastically dependent on the Byzantine Patriarch at Constantinople. Thus Rus in its infancy was Catholic, but was pulled away by its obedience to Greek Constantinople.

The Schism was mended briefly a couple of times, but this never took with the people or the secular rulers. It became permanent apparently after the failure of the Reunion Council of Florence in the middle of the 15th century, and the Turks took over Constantinople on the heels of this council. The Greek-born Russian metropolitan, Isadore, had become a cardinal at this council after the reunion was proclaimed, but on his return to Moscow (the Metropolitan of Kiyiv had just taken up residence at Moscow, the capital of the new Russian state) he was forced to flee into exile.

From this time on the schism became more and more hardened over the centuries. I should mention also that also from about this time other national churches (“patriarchates”) began declaring their independence from Constantinople. This explains why there are now at least 16 independent national Eastern Orthodox churches.

The underlying causes of the schism between East and West were principally that (1) the unity of Hellenistic culture that had characterized the Greco-Roman world of the first Christian centuries had disappeared; (2) that on the disappearance (in the West) or the radical shrinking (in the East) of the Empire there had come a rise of “tribalism” not only in the West, but also in the East (this was an underlying cause of the great Eastern heresies), and everywhere this led to thinking in “us” vs. “them” categories; and that (3) the Byzantine East had become captive to Greek nationalism and caesaropapism (i.e., reliance on the Emperor as a guide in ecclesiastical matters) and thus resented the pope as an “foreigner” claiming to regulate Church affairs, a “foreigner” that had even recognized a non-Greek (Charlemagne) as “Emperor” in the West.

Regards,
Joannes


#7

Dear Father Deacon Ed,

Many thanks for your timely and concise post regarding the nature of our Catholic Church. Despite the fact that the various points you’ve illustrated have all been hit upon within numerous threads, many times over in fact, it’s refreshing to see that someone (you!) took the time to put them all together in such an easy-to-read “thumbnail.”

We Catholics still have much to learn from each other. Case in point: I recently participated in a thread wherein one of the posters found it impossible to accept the fact that I could be a Catholic, yet not a Roman Catholic. Clear explanations such as the one you’ve provided us with will go a long way toward our mutual understanding of the concept of “unity without uniformity” that is the nature of our Holy Catholic Church!

Mnohaja i blahaja l’ita!

a pilgrim


#8

[quote=Faustina]Where do Orthodox Churches (Greek, Russian) fit in the scheme of things. Or are they result of the split from the 10th-11 century?
If they are, what caused the split?

Thanks for posting this.

Sid (Faustina)
[/quote]

Faustina,

Both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches date back to the very beginning of the Church. Just as the Catholic Church today is composed of multiple Churches, so too was the early Church. Different traditions, especially of worship and theological expression, developed along East/West lines. These lines diverged, especially once Greek ceased being the common language of the empire and Latin became the common language.

Over the course of time, the East and the West drifted in and out of what I would characterize as a loving relationship. The “Great Schism of 1054” is really a misnomer. In that year Cardinal Humbertus and his co-legates excommunicated Patriarch Michael Cerularius (the Patriarch of Constantinople) and the Patriarch responded by excommunicating Humbertus and friends. Of course, Humbertus had no authority to do this since he was on a papal mission and the pope had died during the mission. This left Humbertus “without canonical mission.” Intercommunion between Catholic and Orthodox remained, especially in Russia, until the 16th century.

The Catholic Church chose to retain the title “Catholic” (from the Greek word meaning universal) while the Orthodox Church kept the title “Orthodox” (from the Greek ortho meaning “right” and *doxa *meaning “praise”). Both titles had applied to the early Church.

So, to suggest that the Orthodox Church “came into existence” in 1054 is simply wrong. What happend was communion between the two was damaged to the point where, today, it is nearly completely severed (my own Melkite Church is know to give communion in the Middle East to Antiochian Orthodox and the Antiochian to the Melkites) because they go to the church in there village and, at one time, it was all once Church).

Deacon Ed


#9

Where do Thomas Christians fit in. From what I understand, they are included in the Syro-Malabar rite which, according to your list is in communion with Rome. Is this correct?


#10

[quote=Coptic]Deacon Ed,

Interesting read, apprantly I learn something knew everyday. I never knew there was a Coptic Catholic Church. When I first read your post, I thought it made no sense, and went to research it on my own. Of course to my surprise there is such a thing as a Coptic Catholic Church…who knew!

Do you know any more information about this church? What characteristics are orthodox and which ones are catholic?
[/quote]

Elizabeth,

As I mentioned in my original post, Vatican II has directed that the Eastern Catholic Churches retain their heritage. Thus, the Catholic Copts and the Orthodox Copts are virtually identical except that the Catholic Copts will commemorate Pope John Paul II while the Orthodox will commemorate Pope Shenoda III. There isn’t room here to describe these Churches. There is a book coming out form Paulist Press next year that is in their 101 question series about the Eastern Catholic Churches. You might want to consider getting it when it comes out.

Deacon Ed


#11

[quote=Maranatha]Where do Thomas Christians fit in. From what I understand, they are included in the Syro-Malabar rite which, according to your list is in communion with Rome. Is this correct?
[/quote]

Bump for answer.


#12

Mark,

I’m sorry I didn’t see your question sooner. The St. Thomas Christians find themselves in both the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches. The Syro-Malabar Church is far and away the larger of these two. Both Churches are in communion with Rome.

Deacon Ed


#13

[quote=Deacon Ed]Mark,

I’m sorry I didn’t see your question sooner. The St. Thomas Christians find themselves in both the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Churches. The Syro-Malabar Church is far and away the larger of these two. Both Churches are in communion with Rome.

Deacon Ed
[/quote]

That was really pretty quick. Check our post times.

I could use a little backgroundon the St. Thomas Christians.


#14

Mark,

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to provide a real accurate history of the St. Thomas Christians. They are supposed to have been founded by St. Thomas, although this is highly unlikely. Because of the way in which the Portugese tried to “fix” the St. Thomas Christians (Latinize them) most of the records of the Churches were lost, especially those of the original liturgies.

Deacon Ed


#15

Currently numbering about 8 million plus worldwide, the “Thomas Christians,” from a one and united Church, have been “dispersed” as follows in the following Oriental Churches, according to Fr. Roberson of CNEWA:

Assyrian:

(1) Some 15,000 remain with the Assyrian Church of the East, which was providing some sort of a “supervisory” role since the 3rd or 4th century until the arrival of the Portuguese;

Oriental Orthodox:

(2) the Syriac Orthodox Church, about 1.7 million;

(3) the Malankara Orthodox Syriac Church, about 2.5 million;

Oriental Catholic:

(4) the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, with close to 3.76 million; and

(5) the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church (400,000+).

Fr. Roberson says that another interesting feature of the “Thomas Christians” is the existence of a distinct ethnic community known as the “Southists,” or “Knanaya.”

According to tradition, their origins can be traced to a group of 72 Jewish Christian families who immigrated to India from Mesopotamia in the year 345 AD. There is historical evidence to support this claim. The descendants of these ancient immigrants, who do not intermarry with those outside the community and now number about 300,000, are divided into two ethnic dioceses in Kerala, one belonging to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the other to the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate.

Hope this helps.


#16

I posted this in another thread:

Eastern Catholic Churches

The definition of an Eastern-Rite Catholic is: A Christian of any Eastern rite in union with the pope: i.e. a Catholic who belongs not to the Roman, but to an Eastern rite. They differ from other Eastern Christians in that they are in communion with Rome, and from Latins in that they have other rites.

. . .

It is, in the first place, a mistake (encouraged by Eastern schismatics and Anglicans) to look upon these Catholic Eastern Rites as a sort of compromise between Latin and other rites, or between Catholics and schismatics. . .They represent exactly the state of the Eastern Churches before the schisms. They are entirely and uncompromisingly Catholics in our strictest sense of the word, quite as much as Latins. They accept the whole Catholic Faith and the authority of the pope as visible head of the Catholic Church, as did St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom.

[RIGHT]—Catholic Encyclopedia[/RIGHT]


#17

Did the Thomas Christians split along the same lines as the Orthodox-Catholic split? At the same time?


#18

I was reading this thread, and it is quite confusing to me. I understand what the Deacon explained at the top of the thread, but why would the Catholic church allow the Eastern church, which if I remember by history correctly in the 11th century and has denied the Pope, to come back to the church, keep all of their Orthodox teachings with a Patriarch at the helm, swear allegiance to our Holy Father, which is all nice, but we know that they really dont take any direction from him (they dont have or follow the GIRM, the sacrements are different, the Mass is different, etc etc) but get to be called “Catholic”.

For that matter, what is to stop the Moslems, the Hindus, or some Protestant sects to say that they recognize John Paul II, and want to be “in communion with the Pope” (I guess there is some good to that, maybe monetary, who knows) and be called Catholic but still worship the way they want.

To this Roman Catholic, I dont quite understand why the church would want something like that.

[quote=Vincent]I posted this in another thread:

[right]—Catholic Encyclopedia[/right]

[/quote]


#19

Mark:

The “Thomas Christians,” like all “Orientals,” are also known as non-Chalcedonians, i.e., these Churches split earlier from the main body of Apostolic Christianity after the 3rd Ecumenical Council.

Thus, the Orientals accept only the first 3 Councils as ecumencial while the Eastern Orthodox accept the first 7 as ecumenical. Certain EOs do not even regard the Orientals as Orthodox.

Among the Assyrians and the Orientals, the divide is also between Oriental Catholics and Oriental Orthodox but the respective splits happened in various times.

The counterpart of the Assyrians in the Catholic wing would the Chaldeans. The other Orientals would be the Copts, the Ehtiopians/Eritreans, and the Armenians.


#20

I was doing some research and found this which is quite interesting. If Pope Gregory, a Saint and a Doctor of the church demanded the following, how come now there is “reunion” with no real fanfare, with compromising terms from prior Popes and Saints to boot? Confused here

POPE GREGORY I

Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church
A.K.A. Saint Gregory the Great

Pope from 3 September 590 to 12 March 604 A.D.
New Catholic Encyclopedia - Page. 767

    **Gregory and the East.** The synodical letter to the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem indicates that Gregory accepted the precedence of the sees, ranking Constantinople first. From at least the 4th century, ecclesiastical union was achieved among the sees by the acceptance of such letters, and each patriarch ruled in his own jurisdiction. Gregory continued this custom and would not directly contact the bishop of another patriarchate without going through the patriarch. **However, the right of appeal over the patriarch to Rome was generally recognized, and Gregory did reverse the decision against two priests handed down at Constantinople.**

    Friction between Rome and Constantinople was occasioned by ***John IV the Faster’s use of the title ecumenical patriarch. Pelagius II had refused to acknowledge a council held at Constantinople in 587 since it was held without his authorization and because in the acts of the council the patriarch was called ecumenical. Great import was attached to the title since the council had cited the patriarch of Antioch to appear before it. Actually, the title was not new. It had been used by the Constantinopolitan patriarchs during the *Acacian Schism (484—519) and the reign of *Justinian I (527— 565).**

    **In 595 Gregory received an appeal from two priests condemned at Constantinople. In the acts he saw that “practically on every page the patriarch of Constantinople was designated as ecumenical.” His opposition to the term was not mere ecclesiastical sensitiveness; “in reality the prestige of the Pope in the East was involved” (Fliche-Martin *5:65). *In his counterclaim he asserted the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome** but made it clear that this should be used with humility, and he referred to himself constantly as the Servant of the Servants of God. Though not new, this title was typically Gregorian and was incorporated into the list of titles of the popes.

    As Servant of the Servants of God, **Gregory taught that the Apostolic See is “the head of all the churches.” It is the See of Peter “to whom was committed the care and primacy of the whole Church”**; as such it is the *caput fidei. ***Gregory asserted that “the See of Constantinople is subject to the Apostolic See,” and that there was no bishop who was not subject to the See of Rome, “which is set over all the churches.”** He also recognized the fact that other churches had their own accepted territories of jurisdiction. If he defended his own rights, he was careful “to observe the rights of the different churches.” The jurisdiction of each of his brother bishops had to be safeguarded, otherwise “the ecclesiastical order is destroyed by us through whom it ought to be preserved.” Gregory further contended (and has been quoted with satisfaction by Pope Paul VI): “My honor is the honor of the universal Church. It is also the solid authority of my brothers. I am truly honored only when the honor due to each and every one of them is not denied to them.”

    **Gregory and the West. **As Patriarch of the West, Gregory’s jurisdiction embraced the three prefectures of Italy, the two Gauls, and Eastern Illyricum. In this vast territory, his jurisdiction was complicated by the civil rule of the Byzantine exarch in Africa and by the independent kingdoms resulting from the *barbarian nations who invaded Gaul and elsewhere. He met this challenge generally by acting through the metropolitans, whom he recognized as adequate in their proper jurisdictions.

    *Italy and Africa. *As Bishop of Rome and metropolitan of the suburban regions, Gregory had immediate ecclesiastical control of all Italy from Tuscany south. He looked to the canonical regularity of the election of bishops, who were then consecrated in Rome; he supervised their lives, championed their rights, and helped them in need. Charges against bishops were judged in Rome by the pope, usually during their annual assembly in Rome on the feast of St. Peter. The bishops from Sicily came every 3 years; aware of the difficulties of traveling such a distance, Gregory changed this to every *5 *years.

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