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Jοhn Ν. Karmiris
Professor in the University of Athens

The Schism of the Roman Church
Translated by Z. Xintaras

Theologia review, Athens 1950, 400-587 pp

Chapter V

We have examined briefly and along general lines the separation of the Roman Church from the first Mother of all Christian Churches, the Orthodox Catholic Church of the East. We have tried to show that the Papacy was chiefly responsible
for the outbreak of the schism as it is also responsible for its perpetuation by means of the Crusades and its increasing expansion up to this day at the expense of local Orthodox Churches. Besides the purely human claims of the bishop of Rome, stated earlier, concerning primacy and ecclesiastico-political world rule, the objective and unprejudiced examination and criticism of the events of the schism forces us to recognize that this schism was generally due to many and various other causes, but pre-eminently to the racial, political and economic differences, to the pursuits of individuals and peoples on both sides, to individual differences and the variety of intellectual and psychological inclinations and tendencies, to a different understanding of the Christian faith and life, as well as to the imperfections and deficiencies of human nature, to the lack of Christian love, and to human sin under its various forms and expressions, especially to the arrogance, desire for power and the pursuit for primacy, pre-eminence and precedence etc.

Undoubtedly, that first and great ecclesiastical schism was the most grievous and tragic event of the history of the ancient Church. By this schism the ancient, united and undivided Catholic Church was separated into two Catholic Churches: the Orthodox and the Roman, being, separated by those differences mentioned earlier and certain others of a dogmatic, administrative, and liturgical nature, which were sometimes exaggerated out of misconstruction or lack of good
Will and understanding. However; the common ecclesiastical tradition of eight whole centuries unites them. Both try to maintain and continue this tradition, the Orthodox Church on the one hand without innovating and the Roman Church on the other by making a sufficient number of innovations.

In spite, however, of the historical events of the past, which are stated above, we believe that the understanding and peaceful arrangement by «œconomia» of the differences which separate them is not completely impossible, provided that this is made under the light of the Holy Bible, the ancient and genuine Holy Tradition, and after the long and serious preparation of the minds and hearts of the Clergy and laity of both Churches. We believe that the breach separating the two sister Churches is not completely unbridgeable, but on the contrary, can and must be bridged. Whatever the lack of Christian love and human sin has separated, particularly the desire for power and the different personal, ecclesiastical, political, racial and economic pursuits, Christian love and
brotherhood must reunite.

Fortunately, it seems that on the part of both Churches consciousness of unity between them has not been wanting, just as consciousness of responsibility was not lacking for the division and dissension which each bears in a different
degree and, as a result, the responsibility for the violation of their divine Founder's last commandment about the unity and love between them, which was that «all may be one»(1). Because, they who have sinned, by breaking the bonds of Christian
unity and love, have the sacred obligation, knowing the truth which liberates and being conscious of their great sin toward the unity of the Church, to work together sincerely and humbly for the re-establishment and reunion of the divided Church.

On the other hand, it was not possible: for the two sister Churches to lose the comforting hope of the possibility for their reunion. For this reason almost immediately after the schism of the eleventh century they began making somewhat significant and friendly efforts at reunion(2), which, however, were fruitless. Because, union of the two Churches was not pursued sincerely, and on equal terms and on the basis of the teaching of the Holy Bible and the ancient Church, but Rome sought chiefly by various means to extort the unconditional subjugation and enslavement of the Orthodox Churches to the Papacy by imposing the sovereign papal primacy over them(3). So that, that which became the cause of the outbreak of the schism is censured also as the chief cause for its perpetuation and for the failure of all friendly unionist attempts. Consequently, removal from the centre of this great and important obstacle of unity, i. e. the tyrannical papal supremacy, this stone of scandal for divided Christianity, is able to lead to the reunion of the divided Churches. We believe that if the Popes of Rome wanted to return to the existing «pentarchy» of the Patriarchs(4) of the
ancient Church and to recognise «the five. peaked power of the Church» which the venerable Church Tradition, including the general Synods in Constantinople of 869/70 and 879/80 -when the papal legates also agreed- has handed down(5), the Orthodox Catholic Church will continue firmly on the one hand to recognize the old primates honoris or ordinis .of the bishop of Rome as really primus inter pares(6), on the other hand to reject as she always did in the past the primatus potestatis or jurisdictionis, which was unknown in ecclesiastical antiquity and was contrived in the West after the seven Oecumenical Synods. Thus, would the necessary and favourable presupposition and the good interecclesiastical climate be created for the beginning of unionist conversations(7). «The just cutting off of the Pope of Rome from the Church did not destroy the canonical and good order», according to the correct teaching of Theodore Balsamon(8).

During these unionist conversations the entire question of the union of the Orthodox and the Roman Church must be put on a new basis. As we stressed at another time, «from the standpoint of an Orthodox the meeting and union of the two Catholic Churches is possible only on the grounds of the ancient and united Church of the seven Oecumenical Synods of the eight first centuries and upon equal terms. Both have to oust every posterior element which was unknown and is irreconcilable with the ancient and common
ecclesiastical tradition. The Roman Church particularly has to renounce all her later innovations in faith, worship and ecclesiastical administration which are opposed to the Holy Bible, to the decisions of the Oecumenical Synods and in general to the genuine Orthodox Tradition of the ancient, united and undivided Church(9). Above all, both Churches must seek true dogmatic and internal unity, full unity in the faith, to include all the fundamental truths of divine Revelation and especially those concerning the head and the infallibility of the Church and to exclude only the liturgical and administrative differences and peculiarities of each which are not connected with dogma. According to Photius, «whenever that which is violated is not the faith, nor is a fall from the common and catholic decree, because other customs and laws are kept by others, he who knows how to judge rightly should not think that they who keep these fall into injustices, or that they who do not accept them violate the law»(10).

Personally we believe that under these presuppositions and conditions our own Orthodox Catholic Church of the East would not deny co-operating sincerely with the Roman in order to adjust by «œconomia» the existing differences and to re-establish the harmony, love and unity between the two sister Churches, so that the last Hierarchical prayer, to the Heavenly Father
of the divine Founder, and unique Leader- and Governor of the Church may be realized: that again, «they may be one»(11)

Translated by Z. Xintaras


1. - John 17, 21.

2. - See J. Karmiris, Unionist attempts and relations of the Churches, article in «Religious Encyclopaedia», (Greek) vol. III p. 106 seq. Also, The Division of the Church and unionist efforts» by the same author, p. 7 seq. In fact, the Orthodox Catholic Church from the time of Saint Photius has in no way ceased admonishing the Latins to abandon their heterodox teachings and innovations and to return to the unity of the Church and to her dogmas, which were transmitted from antiquity, but they, however, according to the Patriarch of Constantinople Joseph, «did not hear, were not taught, did not accept the reminder of the offences: yet from all the land came forth the voice of them who admonished them by discourses, by letters, by ecclesiastical and synodical tomes, by many and different charters, which were confirmed by the synodical decisions of Patriarchs, hierarchs, monastic and Kings, whose eagerness aimed at nothing else but to correct them and turn them back to piety ; but they did not accept; did not hear, were not convinced, did not perceive, did not understand». (A. Demetrakopoulos, op. cit, p: 131).

3. - For this reason it is necessary that «non-Roman Catholic Christians continue to pray in order that the Church of Rome be persuaded to acquire a broader and deeper conception of Christian unity» and the way of its attainment. (W. Visser t'Hooft, in «Ecclesia» 27 (1950) 322).

4. - See Chrys. Papadopoulos, op. cit. p. 93 seq. The peacemaker Patriarch of Antioch, Peter III, who was characterized by M. Jugie (op. cit. p. 219.232) as «unionist» (?), was in favour of the ecclesiastical pentarchy during the time of the schism, as he writes in the well-known letter to the Metropolitan of Gradensa: «By divine grace five patriarchs were ordained to be in all the world, one of Rome, one of Constantinople, one of Alexandria, one of Antioch and one of Jerusalem. Yet, not even each of these is properly called patriarch, but abusively. The body of man is led by one head, and in it there are many parts, all ordered by five senses only. These are, sight, scent, hearing, taste and touch. The body again of Christ, the Church, I say, of the faithful, which is joined by different parts like nations and ordered by five senses of the aforesaid great thrones, is led by one head, Christ himself. As there is no other sense than the five. in this way will no other patriarch be accepted the above five patriarchs. At any rate, under these five thrones, being as senses in the body of Christ, are all the parts, namely all the peoples of the nations and the local bishoprics throughout the land ordered and divinely conducted, as in one head, in Christ the true God, joined by one Orthodox faith and led by him» (C. Will, op. cit. p. 211/2).

5. - Chrys. Papadopoulos, op. cit. p. 152 seq. See also A. Demetrakopoulos, op. cit. p. 174.

6. - Chrys. Papadopoulos, op. cit. p. XI seq.

7. - See «Reply of a certain Orthodox» etc. p. 65/6. Chrys Papadopoulos, The presuppositions of union, in «Ecclesia» 4 (1926i) 2 0/1.

8. - Chrys. Papadopoulos, op. cit. p. 543.

9. - J. Karmiris, The Orthodox Catholic Church and her relation with the heterodox Churches and the «World Council of Churches», Athens 1949, p. 23/4 (in Greek). See: Encyclical letter of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to the Orthodox everywhere, Constantinople 1848, § 17 p. 37 seq. Answer of the Oecumenical Patriarch Gregory VI to the papal invitation to the Vatican Council, in «Evangelical Herald» 1 (1869) 223 seq. (both in Greek). -Answer of the great Church: of Constantinople to the papal encyclical on union, Oxford 1896, by F. Metallenos.

10. - Photius' letter to Pope -Nicholas I, by J. Valettas. op. cit. p. 156.

11. - An Orthodox theologian who believes in the possibility of the reunion of the two Catholic Churches is able to repeat the words of Balsamon: «And yet, as the ivy of an oak tree I want to maintain concord with the Pope of Rome, and for his separation I tear my heart to pieces, and daily I eagerly expect the good return» (op. cit. p. 547).

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