What occurred today between the Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches?


Why bother going into the (now lifted) mutual excommunications of 1054 at all?

What this ongoing crisis between the branches of Eastern Orthodoxy serve to show us really is that the human element if schisms may far outstrip any theological ones. There’s no need for the Eastern Orthodox to develop the schism that is developing, and there’s no need for the greater schism between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox to persist. All of the supposed theological disputes can be resolved, to the extent that they have not been already. Keeping them rolling, therefore, is something that we humans choose to do.

The spirit of what the Albanian Patriarch notes in his statement should be considered on a wider level and the greater schism brought to an end. I know that there will be those who insist that this cannot be so. But it can be so, and should be so.


Because it was stated above that “It is unthinkable that the holy Eucharist - the highest sacrament of unlimited love and the deepest humility of Christ - was used as a weapon [by the one Church] against another Church.” I don’t see how it could be unthinkable because many people have thought about the excommunications of 1054.

How is that relevant in this case? The problem is a theological one of a case where His All Holiness the Patriarchate of Constantinople has granted autocephaly to Ukrainian schismatics.


The excommunications have been lifted. The majority of Catholics in the world today may very well descend, in whole or in part, from populations that that had no connection with those who were then Catholic or Orthodox at the time and the vast majority of people have no real connection with the events of 1054. When cited to today, they tend to justify keeping something going that’s largely been solved and could be wholly solved, at which point, they’re arguments that are somewhat tribal in nature, rather than really theological, which takes me to the next points, which are;

That is a subject of theological debate and its one that, from the outside, I won’t participate in. I don’t know who is schismatic and who isn’t.

But at the same time we dare not pretend that there isn’t a strong cultural element to this, with Ukraine and Russia nearly at war at the present time. Would this have come up without the strong cultural and political dispute on its own? It seems rater unlikely.

And that seems to be the nature of schisms on occasion (but certainly not always). The dispute may exist, but the schism breaks out when other factors, often very human ones that aren’t theological, come into play.


Interesting that in 1448 a council of Russian bishops elected a Metropolitan without Constantinople. They became a self-proclaimed autocephalous church. In 1589 Constantinople also considered that Moscow was autocephalous. Constantinople still has jurisdiction of Kiev. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stated:

The Tome proclaiming Moscow as a Patriarchate does not include the region of today’s Metropolis of Kiev in the jurisdiction of Moscow. Moreover, after the well-known manner of proclamation of Moscow as a Patriarchate by Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II (Tranos), the canonical dependence of Kiev to the Mother Church of Constantinople remained constant and uninterrupted. In the year 1686, our predecessor, the late Patriarch Dionysios IV, following great political pressure from the harrowing circumstances and for peace in the local Church, was obliged to issue a letter granting Moscow the license to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev on the inviolable condition that every Metropolitan of Kiev would commemorate the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch as his ecclesiastical superior and authority, but also to demonstrate the canonical jurisdiction of Constantinople over this Metropolis.

As far as we know, no other act changing the canonical state of Kiev or revision of the condition to commemorate Constantinople has ever occurred; nor of course has there been any such change on the part of the Mother Church ceding Kiev completely to Russia. The uncanonical interventions of Moscow from time to time in the affairs of Kiev and the toleration on the part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in previous years do not validate any ecclesiastical violation.


If the excommunications between RC and EO have really been lifted, does that mean that a RC can join the EO church without any sanctions? I read in the news a case where an RC was excommunicated when he joined the EO Church.


No, it doesn’t mean that. The churches are not in communion, which is not the same as there being excommunicated.

In spite of what you read, the Roman Catholic, if he “joined” an Eastern Orthodox church likely wasn’t excommunicated so much as he went into schism. He could just go to confession, I believe, and resume attending a Catholic church.

Generally, the Catholic church requires that a Catholic satisfy his Sunday and Holy Day obligation at a Catholic Church. If he or she is in a location where there’s no Catholic Church he may, but doesn’t have to, attend another church with valid sacraments. Catholic churches will give communion to the Orthodox, but they prefer that the Orthodox, and members of other churches that have valid sacraments but which are not in communion with Rome, go to their own churches if they can, as they do not wish to create trouble for such people. If they approach to receive communion, however, they will be given it.

This contrasts with Orthodox churches which vary in their positions. Some churches will give communion to a Catholic if the Catholic approaches, some will not.

Conversely, various churches treat their members who do that differently. As noted, Catholics are required to go to a Catholic church on Sunday if they can. However, if they were somewhere on Sunday and there was no Catholic church, and they went to an Orthodox church, they don’t have to say anything to anyone about it. For some Orthodox churches this is also all true. In some places in the troubled region of the globe the amount of intercommunion is very high. However, some Orthodox Churches (perhaps Oriental Orthodox, I can’t recall) will regard a member who receives communion at a Catholic church as placing themselves outside of communion in their Orthodox church and no longer freely receive them for communion.

Interesting things, I’ll note, happen with baptism. Catholics regard any baptism done in the proper form with the proper intent as valid. At least some Orthodox, however, will require a Catholic entering the Orthodox as requiring a new baptism.

Note: Not a canon lawyer so all this is subject to correction.


The idea that I am contesting is that the present disagreement between the Greek Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox Church is unthinkable. Throughout its history, there have been many schisms between Christian Churches. In view of the many schisms in the past, for a schism to arise in the present day is not unthinkable.


No, a Catholic cannot join an Eastern Orthodox church…

A person who is an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic (#1364); or one who procures a “successful abortion (#1398) is automatically excommunicated. In these cases, the local ordinary or a delegated priest can remit the penalty.”


There are different norms for eastern Catholics given in CCEO.


Well rather obviously, its thinkable. Any manner of terrible acts are thinkable, and as schism has arisen before, further schism can arise now.

I don’t think that was the point of the original Orthodox commentor, however. He was commenting on the theological nature of the action of the Russian Orthodox Church.


This is different, of course, from the blanket 1054 excommunications.

But now, a Catholic cannot simply decide to start attending an Orthodox Church in lieu of a Catholic one. I was unaware that this resulted in formal excommunication in the full canonical sense, however, and required more than simply a full confession. Quite interesting.

I wonder to what extent that has been delegated to the locals priests in North America?


The Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia is and will stick to mother Church in Moscow and back her up 100%… Trust me when I say they will , I should know I am one of them , I am baptized Russian Orthodox Christian. I use to be in Roman Catholic religion a very long time ago.


Thank you for clarifying. Your testimony is more valuable than my attempt to guess.

Often I guess, hoping someone better informed will step in and confirm or correct.


That is not correct.

It is certainly questionable, but it exists.

The EP visited Moscow, and ran out of funds to return home.

He received the funds, and issued the tomos.

I hardly qualify as a partisan or even fan of the TOC. This, though, is a bit much, and very much overstates their position.

Given the non-commutative nature of Orthodox communion, as well as the retroactive nature of re-establishment of communion, breaking communion with one church is not a statement that every one else is in heresy.

As communion between through churches is through their patriarchs (or other head), excommunication of another patriarch is excommunication of an the other church.

In this respect, there Albanian church has cut to the quick . . .

To be clear: every Christian in the Ukraine who is not UCC is schismatic: the Ukrainian church entered communion with Rome centuries ago, resulting in the other Orthodox peaking communion. The current UOC churches come either from the Soviet NKV arresting the Ukrainian bishops and purporting to hold a synod with captive Ukrainian priests and Russian bishops, or from attempting to establish a later church.

hawk, utterly astounded to find himself defending the ROC . .


Why would Rome be interested in “preventing that”? And what exactly is “that”?

I’m really sorry, I don’t understand anything about these issues.


Hey @Vico I’m really sorry to be bothering. But I’m trying to read through this thread and I don’t understand one single thing !! Could you please recommend a PDF book that would allow me to understand the context of this? Preferably something that you yourself read and liked. Something not exaggeratedly academic or rigorous but that gives a good overview of the different Orhtodox/Eastern churches, also by country, and illustrated with historical/political/geographical and light theological background. Because if I try to understand any of this from wikipedia I’ll be going nowhere in my understanding.

Thank you and God bless.


To begin, you could read about the eastern particular churches and eastern Catholic churches at CNEWA, from Ronald Roberson’s book The Eastern Christian Churches – A Brief Survey (7th edition), 2010:


It’s been a while , and I tried to thread through up there . . .

The Melkites would very much like to be in communion with both Rome and Orthodoxy.

Add to that that the only reason Rome has not recognized the UCC as a patriarchy is not. to annoy Moscow, and note the rejection of the request for communion from the Albanian Orthodox Church for the same reason.

The three Orthodox (or at least two of them) churches in the Ukraine and the UCC joining into a single entity is an intriguing one. Neither Rome nor Constantinople would want to break communion,.

With this in play, the Melkites would likely approach Constantinople again.

Rome does not want to stop communion between east and west, and would probably be privately giddy about it. But it has to juggle things to keep the existing communion–so it probably wouldn’t mind being thrown in the briar patch . . .

At the moment, Rome & Moscow in communion is the least likely outcome . . .



I will read this book this Christmas, thank you for the recommendation I really appreciate it :slight_smile: !!!


@dochawk, IMHO pope Francis knows exactly what he is doing !! The pope has met with patriarch Bartholomew, with Putin, and probably with every other patriarch and head of state.

Currently there is war and strife in many of those countries, if the pope hasn’t done more it’s because it simply wasn’t possible to do more.

And if anything, I think pope Francis mediates for peace and ecumenism.

God bless.


Interesting thoughts of Nickolas Dinnisenko:
A handful of commentators are wondering what issues might be discussed and resolved at the Ukrainian Council coming in December. My guess is that the council will elect a primate and establish an episcopate, with an All-Church council to follow later in 2019 to continue the unification process. A few items to keep in mind:

  1. Unification can be complicated. When a newlywed couple moves into their first home, they have to negotiate their personal items and the configuration of the home. For Churches that have existed concurrently and are now merged, there is the matter of episcopal assignments, seminaries and their faculty, curricula, and students, and establishing an initial pastoral agenda. It will take time for the leaders of the Church to smooth out this process as assignments are shuffled and everyone adjusts to changes in their roles.
  2. Liturgical language. This is a serious issue, because the struggle for autocephaly in the Ukrainian Church originated over disputes on vernacular Ukrainian and Church Slavonic. Will the new Church continue the Ukrainization that is now native to adherents of the KP and UAOC? Liturgical translations are also a serious matter - there are numerous extant translations, and all parties favor their version. (From the very beginning, there were serious criticisms of the 1921 UAOC’s hasty liturgical translation). Will there be discrepancies among the Menaia? My own hope is that the new leaders will aim for stability and refrain from pushing too much change initially. Perhaps the Church could adopt both Ukrainian and Church Slavonic as the official liturgical languages while they create a new commission for the translation of all new texts into Ukrainian (please include musicians!). The commission should also consider adopting extant translations of Russian for Russophone parishes.
  3. Internal Culture. The 97-year schism will carry scar tissue from one nasty wound: defining autocephaly as separatism. I hope the new Church will prioritize two components of one mission: creating peace within the Church, and reaching out to their Sister Orthodox Churches in the world. It is necessary for the sister Churches to see Christ in the faces of Orthodox Ukrainians to overcome the popular notion that autocephaly is separatism, or the most recent idea that autocephaly is unnecessary. Ukrainians have a chance to demonstrate the gift of autocephaly: Eucharistic unity in an all-Orthodox submission to Christ, without political or ecclesial subordination to the leadership of another Church or nation. Statements are not enough to heal a schism: action will be needed.
  4. A Policy on Relations with the State. The fate of the new Church will be sealed if it becomes too cozy with a particular party, figure, or idea. The Church needs to disavow all forms of political Orthodoxy, including Ukrainian nationalism, and follow through with action.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.