Schism Of 1054 Essay Writing

On Saturday, July 16, 1054, as afternoon prayers were about to begin, Cardinal Humbert, legate of Pope Leo IX, strode into the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, right up to the main altar, and placed on it a parchment that declared the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, to be excommunicated. He then marched out of the church, shook its dust from his feet, and left the city. A week later the patriarch solemnly condemned the cardinal.

Centuries later, this dramatic incident was thought to mark the beginning of the schism between the Latin and the Greek churches, a division that still separates Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox (Greek, Russian, and other). Today, however, no serious scholar maintains that the schism began in 1054. The process leading to the definitive break was much more complicated, and no single cause or event can be said to have precipitated it.

Immediate Causes of the Break

In 1048 a French bishop was elected as Pope Leo IX. He and the clerics who accompanied him to Rome were intent on reforming the papacy and the entire church. Five years earlier in Constantinople, the rigid and ambitious Michael Cerularius was named patriarch.

Problems arose in Southern Italy (then under Byzantine rule) in the 1040s, when Norman warriors conquered the region and replaced Greek [Eastern] bishops with Latin [Western] ones. People were confused, and they argued about the proper form of the liturgy and other external matters. Differences over clerical marriage, the bread used for the Eucharist, days of fasting, and other usages assumed an unprecedented importance.

When Cerularius heard that the Normans were forbidding Greek customs in Southern Italy, he retaliated, in 1052, by closing the Latin churches in Constantinople. ...

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The division of the church between East and West is rooted deep in church history.  First of all, early on leaders noticed the difference and discrepancies that language brought.  The Eastern Church spoke and wrote Greek, while the West began to speak and write in Latin.  This was perhaps the first sign that there was division within the church.  Several additional developments enhanced the linguistic and geographical separation.  First, when Pepin made his donation of land in central Italy to the papacy in 756, he caused the pope to fix his attention more to the West and basically ignore the East.  The pope was now the largest landholder in Italy, with an annual income of over one million dollars, and a recognized secular as well as religious leader.  Second, Pepin’s son, Charlemagne, came to Rome and on Christmas Day, 800, was formally crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III.  This act symbolized the division of East and West.

A doctrinal development further intensified the obvious East-West division.  The issue centered on the question of who sent the Holy Spirit–the Father or the Father and Son?  The great 5th century theologian Augustine (354-430) argued strongly that the Spirit was sent (“proceeded from”) both the Father and the Son.  In 589, at Western council that met in Toledo, Spain, Western theologians added to the Nicene Creed of 381 the language that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son (in Latin, filioque, “and from the Son”).  This controversy is hence called the filioque controversy.  The Eastern theologians strongly protested this addition.  Another theological controversy separating East and West was the dating of Easter.  During the first several centuries of the church, Eastern Christians celebrated Easter on Passover.  The West always celebrated Easter on a Sunday.  At the 325 Council of Nicea, the Eastern practice was condemned, thereby marking another divergence.  By the 4th century, Easter was being celebrated on different Sundays all over Christendom.  During the 6th century, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus, worked out a formula for dating Easter and created the B.C.-A.D. system for numbering years.  The West accepted his system; the East did not.  For Western Christians, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after 21 March (vernal equinox).  In the East, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon after vernal equinox, but also the Sunday following Passover.  For that reason the East normally celebrates Easter about a week later.  The final break came in 1054 in what is known as the Great Schism.  On 16 June of that year, Pope Leo IX excommunicated Orthodox Patriarch Michael Cerularius for “trying to humiliate and crush the holy catholic and apostolic church.”  The Patriarch then excommunicated Pope Leo.  This mutual excommunication marks the formal break between Eastern and Western Christianity.  That break has never been healed.  The hostility and split were intensified when, during the 1204 Crusade, the crusaders sacked and pillaged Constantinople on Good Friday.  So horrific and inexcusable was this event that the break between Eastern and Western Christianity was final and complete.  Islam also had a devastating effect on the Eastern Church.  Major centers of the Eastern Church, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria, fell into Muslim hands and after the 8th century theological development in these areas ceased.  Therefore, leadership of the Eastern Church gravitated to Constantinople’s patriarch.  When that city fell to the Muslim Ottoman Turks in 1453, leadership passed to the Russian Orthodox patriarch, who declared that Moscow would be the “Third Rome,” after historic Rome and Constantinople.  Today, in effect, there are thirteen self-governing and independent churches in Eastern Orthodoxy, each with its own head, a patriarch, archbishop or metropolitan. PRINT PDF

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