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The Great Schism: Disagreement between East and West

During the Middle ages there were frictions within the Chalcedonian group and ultimately it led to a division of the Chalcedonians in1054; the Church of Rome (Roman Catholic Church) stood against the Eastern Christianity (Churches of the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire).Numerous doctrinal, political, economic, and cultural factors were working to separate the Church into East-west division, two major issues ultimately emerged.


  1. That one man, the Pope of Rome, considered himself the universal bishop of the Church, and
  2. The addition of a novel clause to the Nicene Creed.


  1. Papacy: Among the twelve, St.Peter was early acknowledged as the leader. He was the spokesperson for the twelve before and after Pentecost. He was the first bishop of Antioch and later bishop of Rome. No one challenged his role.


After the death of the apostles, as leadership in the Church developed, the bishop of Rome came to be recognized as first in honor, even though all bishops were equals. But after nearly three hundred years, the bishop of Rome slowly began to assume a role of superiority over the others, ultimately claiming to be the only true successor to Peter. The vast majority of the other bishops of the Church never questioned Rome’s primacy of honour, but they patently rejected the Roman bishop’s claim as the universal head of the Church on earth. This assumption of papal power became one major factor in rending the Roman Church, and all those it could gather with it, from the historic Orthodox Church.


  1. Addition to the Nicene Creed: A disagreement concerning the Holy Spirit also began to develop in the Church. Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father or does He proceed from the Father and the Son?
    Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (St.John 15:26).This is the basic statement in the New Testament about the Holy Spirit “proceeding”, and it is clear : He “proceeds from the Father”. Thus, when the ancient council at Constantinople (A.D 381) reaffirmed the Creed of Nicea (A.D 325), it expanded that Creed to proclaim these familiar words: “And in the one living Holy Spirit, the life giving Lord of all, who proceeds from the Father, and who with the Father and Son is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets and the apostles”.


Centuries later, in the 9th Century, in a politically motivated move, the Pope of Rome unilaterally changed the universal creed of the Church (The Nicene Creed), without an ecumenical Council, regarding Holy Spirit into “Holy spirit proceeds from the Father and Son”. Though this change was initially rejected in both East and West even by some of Rome’s closest neighboring bishops, the Pope managed to eventually get the West to capitulate. The consequence, of course, in the Western Church has been the tendency to relegate the Holy Spirit to a lesser place than God the Father and God the Son. The change may appear small, but the consequences have proven disastrously immense. This is issue, with the Pope departing from the Orthodox doctrine of the Church, became another instrumental cause separating the Roman Church from the historic Orthodox Church, the New Testament Church.


Conflict between the Roman Pope and the East mounted-especially in the Pope’s dealings with the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Pope even went so far as to claim the authority to decide who should be the bishop of Constantinople in marked violation of historical precedent, No longer operating within the government of the New Testament Church, the Pope appeared to be seeking by political means to bring the whole Church under his dominion.


Bizarre intrigues followed, one upon the other, as a series of Roman popes pursued this unswerving goal of attempting to control all Christendom. Perhaps the most incredible incident of these political, religious, and even military schemes occurred in the year 1054.A cardinal, sent by the Pope, slapped a document on the altar of the Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople during the Sunday worship, excommunicating the Patriarch of Constantinople from the Church.


The Pope, of course, had no legitimate right to do this, but the repercussions were staggering. Some dismal chapters of Church history were written during the next decades. The ultimate consequence of the Pope’s action was that the whole Roman Catholic Church ended up divided from the New Testament faith of Orthodox Christianity. The schism has never been healed. As the centuries passed, conflict continued. Attempts at reunion failed, and the Roman Church farther from its historical roots.