Orthodox Eastern Church, community of Christian churches whose chief strength is in the Middle East and E Europe. Their members number some 300 million worldwide. The Orthodox agree doctrinally in accepting as ecumenical the first seven councils (see council, ecumenical) and in rejecting the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome (the pope). This repudiation of the papal claims is the principal point dividing the Orthodox from Roman Catholics. Eastern Christians who have returned to communion with the pope are called Eastern Catholics, or Uniates; in every respect apart from this obedience to Rome, they resemble their Orthodox counterparts. This use of the terms Catholic (obeying the pope) and Orthodox (belonging to one of the Orthodox churches) is not technical, for both groups call themselves both Catholic and Orthodox (see catholic church). The word Orthodox became current at the time of the defeat (753) of iconoclasm in Constantinople. Orthodox acceptance of the seven councils resulted in the exclusion from their communion, on grounds of heresy, of the Nestorian, Jacobite, Coptic, and Armenian churches; it also involves holding a sacramental doctrine of grace ex opere operato (see grace) and of veneration of the Virgin Mary, two points differentiating the Orthodox from Protestants.
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