I’m trying to understand… Do we say that the Orthodox are a church? I don’t mean - are they in the Church. There’s only one Church, and they’re in schism, (as a group, individual culpability varies) - yet we still call the Orthodox a church? In which sense? Is it the sense of them having the Sacraments?
Would we say they’re a church in schism with the Church, but is hard to understand for me because there’s only one Church? And yet the Orthodox are clearly not like the Protestants and didn’t Pope Benedict say they’re a church, and Protestants aren’t?
The Orthodox fulfill all of these, except being in full Communion with the Pope. Since the Catholic Church recognizes the Orthodox as having these marks, it seems Catholics see the Orthodox as part of the Catholic Church but without full mutual recognition.
CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS
OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH
Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term “Church” in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?
The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. “Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all – because of the apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds”, they merit the title of “particular or local Churches”, and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches.
“It is through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches that the Church of God is built up and grows in stature”. However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches.
On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history.