This video from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly shows twenty-first century church leaders from both sides of the Great Schism discussing the errors of the past ...
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In 325 CE, at Nicaea, an ancient city in what is modern-day Turkey, early Christian leaders gathered to discuss and finalize church rituals, practices and theological expressions of the faith. The meeting, known as the Council of Nicaea, resulted in the Nicene Creed, which put forth the formal beliefs of the Christian faith.
After the meeting, Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor, advanced the Christian church in several ways. He made Christianity the official religion of Rome and moved the seat of the Roman Empire to Turkey, establishing the city of Constantinople as its capital. This last move split the empire in two, with one emperor in Constantinople in the East, and one in Rome in the West.
In 410, the Western empire in Rome fell to the Visigoths, who destroyed the city. With the fall of Rome, the Western and Eastern churches developed in isolation, each evolving in accordance with its own geography, language (Greek in the East, Latin in the West), culture and traditions.
These differences led to a divisive debate over a number of theological principles. Rome, for example, looked to the pope as the official leader of the Christian faith. While the Eastern Church continued to value the pope, it believed strongly in a democratic model that held the ecumenical councils as the ultimate authority.
The ecumenical differences between the two regions climaxed in the 11th century. The Western Church added to the Nicene Creed the term "Filioque", a Latin word meaning “and from the son," thus asserting that the Holy Spirit emerged from the Father and the Son. For church followers in the East who believed that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father only, this change was radical. It provided further fuel for the Great Schism of 1054 when each church excommunicated the other.
In 1204, at the height of the crusades, Western European Christian soldiers embarked on a misguided journey East to expel non-Christians from holy cities in the Middle East. While en route, the crusaders besieged and sacked the Eastern Christian city of Constantinople. They slaughtered the people and desecrated holy sites, destroying the largest and wealthiest European city of its day. The brutal actions of the crusaders would cement the East-West divide for a millennium.
Over the years, efforts have been made on both sides to mend the division. Great strides were made during the Second Vatican Council, also known as Vatican II (1962-1965). The years of separation, however, have resulted in two faiths based on many of the same beliefs yet divided in their religious observances and theological thinking.
- Why is the pope a core issue in the dialogue?
- Why are questions around leadership so divisive in many religious traditions?
- What strikes you about believers and worshippers as they work to reunite, even though they follow significantly different doctrines, creeds, and traditions?
Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: "Feature: Roman Catholic-Eastern Orthodox Dialogue"
Learn more about the Religion & Ethics segment "Feature: Roman Catholic-Eastern Orthodox Dialogue."
Production of Thirteen.
Production of Thirteen.