Orthodox Eastern Church: Relations with Rome and the West

Relations with Rome and the West

The relations between the Orthodox and the Western Church have been full of misunderstandings, which became grave as political and cultural ties loosened after the 5th cent. There were breaks between Constantinople and Rome in the 9th cent. (see Photius) and in 1054 (see Leo IX, Saint), but the main obstacle to reconciliation was the conduct of the Crusades, especially the Fourth Crusade (when the Crusaders seized Constantinople), since the whole of Western Christendom, most of all the pope, was inevitably blamed. In 1274 there was an attempt at reunion (Second Council of Lyons), and in 1439 another (see Ferrara-Florence, Council of); the second was repudiated (1472) by Constantinople.

In the Middle Ages the points at issue were papal authority, matters of worship and discipline, and the addition of the filioque to the Nicene Creed (see creed (1)). There have been fractional reunions, notably the Union of Brest-Litvosk (1595) of Ukrainians, who retained their hierarchy and rites. A synthetization of Orthodox and Protestant beliefs was unsuccessfully attempted in the 17th cent. by Patriarch Cyril Lucaris. In the 19th cent. began the cultivation of cordial relations between Anglicans and Orthodox, and official exchanges between them have become frequent. In 1962 several observers from the Orthodox churches attended the Second Vatican Council, convened by Pope John XXIII. The following year the Orthodox churches (with the exception of the Greek church) agreed to open a dialogue with Rome on equal terms, and in 1964 Pope Paul VI meet Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople. Contacts between the Orthodox and Rome continued into the 1990s, but opposition to the dialogue has been strong in some Orthodox churches. A 1997 Russian law granting special status to the Orthodox Church was widely deplored by Western religious leaders as contrary to the spirit of the ecumenical movement. Not until 2016 did the Roman Catholic pope and Russian Orthodox patriarch meet.

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