Some Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church

 

Sometime around the fourth century, Christianity was considered to be concentrated in five primary centers: Alexandria (now Egypt), Antioch (now Greece), Constantinople (now Turkey), Jerusalem (now Israel), and Rome (now Italy). As Islam grew and competed with some of the these centers, Rome and Constantinople became the main Christian centers and, for political, cultural, linguistic and religious reasons, the powers in Rome and Constantinople formally separated in 1054 AD. This separation is also referred to as the Great Schism or East-West Schism there were earlier, lesser schisms. Despite the break, many of the belief structures between the two are largely similar as they both are based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. In fact, since the 19th century, there have been continued conversations about reuniting the two churches.

The Pope

A main difference between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics has to do with the recognition of the Pope. Roman Catholics recognize the Pope as the infallible. Moreover, the Pope has supreme authority over all churches and can, for example, contradict or usurp the power of a lower ranking church leader (e.g., a priest, bishop or cardinal). The Eastern Orthodox, also have various bishops with one being the highest bishop, also called the first among equals, but the Eastern Orthodox do not believe the highest ranking bishop, or archbishop, to be infallible, nor do they grant him with supreme authority over all churches.

As people-centered forms of government become more common, papal authority extends far less than it did in the previous millennium. Today, the Pope may still advise leaders of countries, but has no power to make them change. The governments of predominantly Catholic countries, are rarely influenced by the Pope alone. In fact, many predominantly Catholic countries are lead in a way different to what the Catholic Church may desire.

Language of Church Services

Another difference between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches notable until the mid 20th century was that Roman Catholic services were conducted in Latin, rather than in native languages. The early Eastern Orthodox Church rejected the language of Rome and celebrated mass in native languages from its onset. Since Vatican II, the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Roman Catholic services are often conducted in the native tongue. Members of Opus Dei, a section within the Roman Catholic Church, continues to consistently celebrate the Latin mass.

Original Sin

There are also many complex dogmatic distinctions that have arisen since the two churches separated. These are often difficult to understand, but include a few straightforward differences in belief. One is the concept of original sin which has its roots in Adam's sins in the Garden of Eden. Both Churches believe in the concept of original sin but hold it to have different consequences on humanity. Still, both Churches hold baptism as the way to cleanse the soul of sin.

 

The Churches diverge in how original sin applies to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Catholics believe Mary was born without original sin, and thus was the appropriate vessel for the Son of God. The Eastern Orthodox Church believes this distinction matters little. Like all people, Mary was born and would die. She was chosen to be Jesus' mother because of her virtuous life.

A few other minor differences

*    Eastern Orthodox Churches often have icons while Catholic churches have statues.

*    Catholic Priests may not be married whereas Eastern Orthodox priests may marry prior to ordination.

*    There are no separate religious orders of Eastern Orthodox monks or nuns whereas the Roman Catholics belong to these associations which are devoted to a specific   form of service.

*    The Eastern Orthodox Church does not believe in purgatory and does not observe the Stations of the Cross.

*    The Roman Catholic Eucharist is an unleavened wafer while the Eastern Orthodox Church uses leavened bread.

*    Easter is calculated differently by the Orthodox and the Catholic but the two celebrate Christmas on the same day.