Why didn’t the mutual lifting of the 1054 Great Schism excommunications automatically mean reunification?

In the video, Epic - A Journey Through Church History DVD, I learned that the Pope, St. Leo IX (1049-54), was actually dead at the time when both excommunications of the Great Schism of 1054 AD took place. So, it seems to me that one can question whether the excommunications even ever took place. How can a dead Pope Leo IX excommunicate Michael Cærularius, Patriarch of Constantinople? And how could the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicate a dead pope?

His letters were conveyed by two distinguished cardinals, Humbert and Frederick, but he [Pope Leo IX] had departed this life before the momentous issue of his embassy was known in Rome. On 16 July, 1054, the two cardinals excommunicated Cærularius, and the East was finally cut off from the body of the Church. (Source)

So, when both sides lifted their excommunications in 1965 shouldn’t that have meant that both sides were automatically reunited?

“It is for me a source of great reassurance to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, the fruit of a grace-filled journey along which the Lord has guided our Churches since the historic encounter in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras,” the Pope’s message said, referencing the momentous event of 1965 in which the leaders of the two churches lifted the excommunications that had been placed on each other in 1054. (Source)

Doesn’t the reason there is still a schism come down to the simple unwillingness by the Eastern Orthodox to submit to the authority of the Pope for the simple reason that they don’t want to?

The following is about what the Early Church fathers had done and said regarding recognition of the Primacy of Rome:

The majority of conservative scholars—Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant—throughout Christian history have accepted that the author of the following letter was the bishop of Rome, probably the fourth, with Saint Peter being the first. The significance of this particular quote, therefore: What is the bishop of Rome, Italy, doing expecting obedience of a church in Corinth, Greece? Though Greece at this time was under Roman control, still there was no reason to expect a leader of a religious sect in Rome to have any clout over a similar group of religious sectarians in Greece, unless that leader was a bishop with authority over them.
[INDENT]“Owing to the sudden and repeated calamities and misfortunes which have befallen us, we must acknowledge that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the matters in dispute among you, beloved … Accept our counsel, and you will have nothing to regret… If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger…You will afford us joy and gladness if, being obedient to the things which we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will root out the wicked passion of jealousy.”

—St. Clement of Rome
Letter to the Corinthians, 1: 58–59, 63, A.D. 80[/INDENT]

Ignatius, who was from the East, wrote seven letters in all to seven churches, but it was only in his letter to the church in Rome, quoted below, that he expressed such exalted praise of the bishop!

[INDENT]“Ignatius… to the church also which holds the presidency in the place of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father.”

—St. Ignatius of Antioch
Letter to the Romans, 1:1, A.D. 110[/INDENT]

Irenaeus, a bishop from the region of France, who learned his faith from Polycarp, who learned his faith from John, demonstrates below the assumption of his day: that all churches must agree with the Church of Rome. How would a Protestant have to re-write this?

[INDENT]“It is possible, then, for every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times… But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition.”

—St. Irenaeus
Against Heresies, 3, 3, 1-2, c. AD 190[/INDENT]

What most impressed me about the next quote is that, as John Henry Cardinal Newman pointed out in his Essay on the Development of Doctrine, this defense of the primacy of the bishop of Rome, expressed rhetorically not defensively, predates by nearly a hundred years the conciliar definitions of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ!
[INDENT]“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’…On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?”

—St. Cyprian of Carthage
The Unity of the Catholic Church, 1st edition, A.D. 251[/INDENT]

"The Early Church Fathers I Never Saw" by Marcus Grodi

In all fairness, I’m sure the Eastern Orthodox would ask the same question of us, i.e., “Doesn’t the reason there is still a schism come down to the simple unwillingness of the Catholic Church to reconsider its position on the universal jurisdiction of the Pope for the simple reason that they don’t want to?”

We would respond, “the Church cannot reconsider its position because the universal jurisdiction of the Pope and his charism of infallibility when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals are part of the Deposit of Faith, which the Church has no authority to change.”

They would respond, “the Orthodox Church cannot reconsider its position because it is part of the Deposit of Faith, which the Church has no authority to change, that the charism of infallibility can only be exercised by an eccumenical council, approved by the bishops and accepted by the whole Church.”

They could ask that question to us, but on what basis? Catholics have the words of Christ in the gospels giving Peter the keys to the kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19) and saying “feed my sheep” (Jn. 21:15-17) and “strengthen your brethren” (Lk. 22:32). The Christians of today’s world are Christ’s sheep just as much as the early Christians were. So, for Peter to carry out this universal directive given to him by Christ Peter would have to have successors (the popes) who would have the same authority to do what Peter did in feeding Christ’s sheep and strengthening his brethren. Plus, see my second post about where the Early Church fathers stood on the issue. And further, the EO would have to argue against apostolic succession if they try to say that the successor to Peter doesn’t have all the same authority that Peter had since it is essential to the doctrine of apostolic succession that the bishops have all the same authority as that of the apostles with none of it lost in the laying on of hands from a bishop to his successor. And the EO churches are divided along lines of nationality.

As a practical matter, most of the National Orthodox Churches might go along if the Patriarch of Istanbul ended the Great Schism.
Unfortunately, the Russian Church would not go along with it and would break away from the body of the Orthodox Church and become independant. Considering that they are the largest of all the Orthodox Churches and against the Roman Church - largely because of the Uniate Orthodox Church in the Ukraine and all of the Church property they took back from the Russians when the Ukraine became independant. The Patriarch of Istanbul does not want the break-up of Orthodoxy on his hands

Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here. I agree with you whole heartedly. However, I don’t think the question can be phrased in terms as simple as “they don’t want to.” It might seem that simple from our perspective, but you have to understand that the Orthodox perspective is very different from ours on this issue. While there is much we agree on, the issue of the pope 's authority is one we do not. The Orthodox perspective is that the early church was governed in a conciliar manner with no patriarch having authority over another. They recognize the primacy of the chair of Peter as honorary only. It had no practical effect. Thus, from their perspective, the Pope 's claim of universal authority was a usurpation of power, whereas we see it as simply his rightful exercise of the authority given by Christ.

This made me laugh. You’d have a hard time finding a phrase more offensive to everyone in the East even if you tried.

That said, I don’t buy that the OP actually wants the question answered, and is only looking to confirm his present view that we are a bunch of schismatics who can’t be reasoned with.

Actually, I would like Christendom, East and West, to be reunited and not divided. And I would appreciate it if you would address the points I made. The schism is the reason why Europe is no longer Christian, and I think that’s a big deal. And, perhaps if Christendom had not been weakened by the schism there would still be a Constantinople. Which is better? Weak and divided, or strong and united?

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome.” (Acts 23:11)

In truth what happened in 1054 AD was not just a momentary thing. It came as a result of a long period of what I would say terrible misunderstandings and judgments that each Church accused the other of. In truth, you cannot excommunicate anyone that is as high in office as a Pope or Patriarch unless it is done properly in an Ecumenical Council. So in effect these excommunications were never valid from an Ecumenical Council point of view. Since the Churches of Rome and Constantinople were not very good neighbors for the past 2 to 3 centuries prior to 1054 AD, this “feud” came out right in the open with this clash in 1054 AD. However what happened in 1054 AD is really not as important as those past 2 to 3 centuries before it that had caused the two Churches to be more alienated from each other. Now remember we are talking about two Churches that even though they have the same apostolic teaching and sacraments have different manners of approaches that were more misunderstood by both than ever before. Since the two Churches were developing these approaches without hardly consultation from each other that is why the two sides found themselves misunderstood and even questioning each other. It can be said that the two Churches needed time to be apart so that their differences in approaches will be better understood and appreciated.

This is why I think the two needed space. I think it was good that the two Churches had to separate until there will come a time when indifferences to misunderstandings will be replaced by people who will appreciate what each other can give to each other. In other words what the Pope and Patriarch did back in the 1960’s is to give us the permission to look at each other with a different eye. When Christians on both sides begin to see in each other their respective gifts and talents as God has given to them then this unity will begin even if it will be slow. I do not think we will in our present time come to unity but I believe it will come eventually as we begin to know each other even more and with more appreciation to what God has given to each Church.

I know you do, you made that clear in your post. You believe we need to submit to Rome like good and obedient thralls.

So much anger.

If you would have lived in the Old Testament times would you have had a problem submitting to Moses? The Pope’s role is a lot like his was which is to lead God’s people. God would get very angry if his people would talk bad about Moses (Num 12). I think if Jesus wouldn’t have appointed a Pope he would have stuck around himself for all these centuries to answer all our questions because he promised that he would not leave us as orphans (Jn 14:18). But rather than be a micro-manager, Jesus gave us a Pope to be his direct spokesman on earth.

That is what all this debate is about. What exactly is the role of the Pope for the whole Church? The question by Roman Catholics seem to imply no input from the East in regards to what role the Pope should be. The question from the Orthodox is they should have some say in the matter. In other words the role of the Pope is not a one way street. Perhaps the struggle from 1054 AD onward was on this particular question of what exactly is the Pope’s role. It is to my understanding that this definition of the Pope’s role cannot be determined only by the Roman Catholic Church. Our history has proven that it must involve the Eastern Orthodox as well to better define the Pope’s role that will be acceptable to all.

There shouldn’t be a debate since Jesus made it crystal clear what Peter’s role is vis-à-vis the other apostles. And since the authority passed down from bishop to bishop doesn’t diminish with each succession, the essential hierarchical structure should remain intact and the same. The reason for this is because every validly ordained bishop is in the line of succession with one of the apostles. And Pope Francis’ line goes back to Peter.

Firstly, the Bull of excommunication produced by Cardinal Humbert only excommunicated Patriarch Michael and those who followed him, and the Council called by Patriarch Michael only excommunicated Cardinal Humbert and the others with him, one of whom would later become Pope, but that is beside the point. So both were excommunications of individuals. However it did cause a pretty major severing of ties for a while but it really wasn’t until the 4th crusade and the sacking of Constantinople that the breach was set in cement.

So, when both sides lifted their excommunications in 1965 shouldn’t that have meant that both sides were automatically reunited?

No, because that was not the cause of the division. It runs far deeper than that.

Doesn’t the reason there is still a schism come down to the simple unwillingness by the Eastern Orthodox to submit to the authority of the Pope for the simple reason that they don’t want to?

Submission to the Pope is unknown in Holy Tradition. Why would we want to do something which simply does not fit into Orthodox ecclesiology?

Rome needs to see the east as younger brothers. Rather than children.

According to St Cyprian, all bishops are successors to St Peter.

And the EO churches are divided along lines of nationality.

And the Catholic Church isn’t? I’ve seen plenty written about parishes in the United States where the Irish Catholics built their church and the Polish Catholics built theirs within a couple of blocks away and the two congregations never mixed.

So much misinterpretation :rolleyes:

Christ didn’t leave us orphans, He sent His Holy Spirit.

Which writing was that? If that were true then Jesus putting Peter in charge as he did would have been pointless. But I’d have to see what St. Cyprian wrote and read it in context because I know he was a great defender of the Papacy. He defended the Papacy against an anti-pope. And he did it with great zeal. Why would he do that if he didn’t think there was something special about Rome? St. Cyprian is one of my favorite saints, so I know a little something about him.

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.