"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Orthodox Church -- St. Photius, Ignatius, Pope Nicolas I, Bulgaria, Humbert & More

The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware

The next section of chapter three deals with the Eastern and Western Churches' estrangement becoming a full division.  It began with a new Patriarch of Constantinople being appointed, St. Photius the Great.  A dispute arose quickly between him and Pope Nicolas I.  I then read about a former Patriarch, St.Ignatius being exiled and forced to resign.  The supporters of Ignatius considered Photius "a usurper" and Nicolas decided he would not recognize Photius as the new Patriarch until he looked into the quarrel for himself.  He sent a delegation to Constantinople who came back with the report that Photius was the proper Patriarch, but Nicolas decided to not abide by their decision.    He figured he needed to retry the case himself at Rome and "a council held under his presidency in 863 recognized Ignatius as Patriarch, and proclaimed Photius to be deposed from all priestly dignity."  (pg. 53)  The Byzantines never acknowledged this decision by Nicolas and never replied to his letters on this subject.

The author says "this dispute clearly involved the Papal claims."  Nicolas had already "done much to establish an absolute power over all bishops in the west.  But he believed this absolute power to extend to the east also." 

The East did not agree.

The dispute over the Filioque came to a head in Bulgaria as Greek and German missionaries clashed because of this difference in the Creed.  Patriarch Photius wrote a letter "denouncing the Filioque at length and charging those who used it with heresy."  He called a council to Constantinople which proceeded to excommunicate Nicolas.

Suddenly things changed!

In 867, Photius was out and Ignatius reinstated as the Patriarch of Constantinople.  "Communion with Rome was restored."

Even Photius and Ignatius were reconciled and when Ignatius died, Photius once again became the Patriarch of Constantinople. 

Pope John VIII was not one for Frankish influence nor did he make the Filioque an issue.  Outwardly this was a period of reconciliation between Rome and the East, but no real solution had been made concerning these two divisive issues.

And they cropped up again.

I won't rehash all that happened next, but just note a few things that caught my eye.

Under German influence Rome reformed itself, "and through the rule of men such as Hildebrand (Pope Gregory VII) it gained a position of power in the west such as it had never before achieved.  The reformed Papacy naturally revived the claims to universal jurisdiction which Nicolas had made."  (pg.57)

(It seems Germans are often reformers, huh?)

The "severe quarrel" between Humbert, Bishop of Silva Candida, representing Rome and the Patriarch Michael Cerularius in 1054 contributed more to the divide.  Among the charges against the Patriarch: "Humbert accused the Greeks of omitting the Filioque from the Creed!"  (Recall from past lessons that the Filioque was an addition from the Roman Church acting independently of the council of churches.)

Previously the disagreement had been between the church and government leaders, however the Crusades - sadly - "brought the schism down to the local level."  In Antioch and Jerusalem you had "two rival bishops claim[ing] the same throne and two hostile congregations exist[ing] in the same city."  (pg.60)

"'The Crusaders brought not peace but a sword; and the sword was to sever Christendom.'  The long-standing doctrinal disagreements were now reinforced on the Greek side by an intense national hatred, by a feeling of resentment and indignation against western aggression and sacrilege.  After 1204 there can be no doubt that Christian east and Christian west were divided into two."  (pg. 60)

I did like how the author summed up what both sides need to do.

"Yet each, while believing in the rightness of its own cause, must look back at the past with sorrow and repentance.  Both sides must in honesty acknowledge that they could and should have done more to prevent the schism. Both sides were guilty of mistakes on the human level...The Greek east and the Latin west needed and still need one another. For both parties the great schism has proved a great tragedy." (pg.61)

Thoughts? Corrections? Clarifications?  


Lat said...

Liked the last para which is true.

It's interesting that the division and disagreements of thoughts and ideas between the east and the west(not just religion),is not a recent phenomenon.But one that is inheritaed and continued from our predecessors.

"(It seems Germans are often reformers, huh?)"
Don't quite know about Germans except for the WW1 and 2 and Holocaust.So reformers referring to after this period?

Susanne said...

I think Martin Luther was on my mind when I wrote that part, Lat! :)

Amber said...

We Germans have a strong sense of our own rightness and are pig headed to boot. I assume that these two characteristics have *something* to do with how much trouble we cause. :)

Before reading this book and the Karen Armstrong book of the Crusades I never really realized how much the Crusades devastated the Christians of the Middle East and the European countries they marched through to get there. They really just sort of laid to waste so many things through either stupidity and poor planning or jealousy and spitefulness.

Susanne said...

Amber, I'm laughing at what you said about Germans! :-D

Yeah, I didn't realize that about the Eastern Christians either. I've only ever heard about the Crusades in regards to their horrible treatment of Muslims and never really considered the Orthodox side. I'm glad this book addressed that!

John said...

This book is filled with so many lies, distortions, and convenient omissions of facts. Please do some research and find out how Photius became "Patriarch", how he was ordained, who ordained him, the character of the Byzantine Emperor and his uncle, and what Photius claimed in his first letter to Pope Nicholas I. Photius was not "great". He was a cunning liar, a deceiver, and a bold schismatic; a usurper.

Any other issues such as the filioque, Saturday fasts, etc. are a mere cover. They are used to overshadow and even justify Photius' true character and clear schism.

Susanne said...

Thank you for your comment, John! I appreciate your point of view.