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Rachel Baer wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have some questions about the Orthodox Church and its beliefs pertaining to its own history, and the history of the Catholic Church.

I've read some information and it appears there are some Orthodox Christians who believe the Orthodox Church came first in history and that the Catholic Church basically horned in on their eastern territory. I believe they think that Catholics are the schismatics and not themselves.

  • What, exactly, is their teaching in regard to their history?
  • From the Church's view, has the Orthodox Church schism-ed from them?

R.B. (Rachel Baer)

  { How does the Church view the Orthodox Church's history and did the Orthodox schism from them? }

Bob replied:

Dear R.B.,

No self-respecting church would admit they are a schismatic church lest they defeat their own credibility. Therefore, don't expect the Orthodox Churches to provide such a characterization of themselves.

Both churches do recognize the authentic Apostolic character of each other, but the Catholic Church claims to hold the seat of Peter, the Papacy, and therefore the charism of primacy and supremacy. Our debate with the Orthodox is chiefly over this point; they concede primacy, but not supremacy, to Peter's seat.

We hold that the Papacy is the critical seat of unity for the Church that Christ built (He only built one.) and therefore the Orthodox are the schematics. The day we work out this issue we will likely restore the unity that Christ desired for His Church. (John 17:21) Our present Pope has made it a priority for his papacy, to unify the lungs of the Body of Christ.

So, in the end, if you come to understand the full significance of the Seat of Peter you will come to see the answer to the dilemma that separates all Christians.


Bob K.

John replied:

Hi Rachel,

Just to add to what my colleague Bob has said:

Before 1054 A.D., the Catholic Church, with minor exceptions, was one. The Eastern and Western Churches developed different traditions which were both equally valid. Eastern and Western doctrines were, in essence (or in substance), the same. However, since in the East, they asked different questions than in the West, the explanations of the same truth varied.

It is also important to note that the schism of 1054 A.D. was about jurisdiction. Prior to 1054,
the Bishop of Rome never really got involved in the administration of the Eastern Churches. Just prior to the schism, at the behest of the Greek faithful, Rome was asked to intervene to settle a dispute over who the Patriarch on Constantinople should be. The Pope, reluctantly intervened.
The Eastern Church didn't like the decision and sought to overturn it.

Now it must be made clear, there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides. This matter wasn't exactly handled with pastoral sensitivity.

The schism could have been and should have been avoided.

The good news is that there is significant dialogue between Rome and the Eastern Churches. There still are stumbling blocks, but both sides want unity from the hierarchy down to the people.

Hence we continue to seek Christ together until the day we are one again.

John DiMascio

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