Today in Church History: Pope Initiates “Great Schism.”
16 July 1054 Pope Leo IX excommunicates Michael Cerularius, the Patriarch of Constantinople. Four days later, the Patriarch will respond by excommunicating Pope Leo in return. This is the final initiation of the “Great Schism” between Eastern and Western Christianity. The issues had been broiling for some time: The Eastern Churches were concerned (rightly, it seems to me) with the addition of the filioque to the Nicene Creed. (That is, the addition of the phrase which says that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also “from the Son.” The Western/Catholic Church believed the phrase necessary to preserve the unity of the Trinity. The Eastern/Orthodox Churches believed the addition introduced a dangerous subordinationism into the Godhead. I believe the East had the better argument.) They were also concerned that the filioque was added directly by the pope instead of being decided by an ecumenical council. The Western Church believed that the pope was the head of the church, the Vicar of Christ on earth, whereas the Eastern Church held all the bishops to have equal authority, with the bishop of Rome being, at best, “first among equals.”
As a Free Church Protestant, I am not comfortable with either Catholicism or Orthodoxy in their view of ecclesial authority. But I think blame for the Great Schism clearly lies more with Rome than with Constantinople.
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