Those Who Have a True Apostolic Succession -
Without the Fullness of Faith
Photius (815-897) is considered the founder of the great schism between the East and
West. Ignatius, rightful patriarch of Constantinople, was replaced by Photius, after Ignatius
had been banished for trying to correct the vices of the young emperor, Michael the
Drunkard. Pope Nicholas I declared Photius' election illegal, but Photius arrogantly responded
by claiming to excommunicate the pope for agreeing to add the word
filioque1 to the Creed. When Michael III died, Photius was deposed
and Ignatius restored to the Patriarchate, but Photius flattered his way in with the new
Emperor Basil I, organized a strong party, and these demanded Photius' appointment on the
death of Ignatius. Pope John XIII agreed and absolved him from all censure. Photius
greatfully responded by renewing his old arguement over filioque, and was again
excommunicated after a council he had persuaded the pope to call.
The Eastern Churches today, originally under the jurisdiction of one of the four great Eastern patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Jerusalem. They are divided into Uniats (q.v.) of which there are nine groups, all united to Rome, and non-Uniats (q.v.) consisting of eight groups of churches which have long been separated from Rome as a result of the Eastern schism and heresies.2
Today, the Greek Orthodox Church comprises about nine million members, located mainly in Greece.
The Russian Orthodox, located principly in Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, numbers about 50 million.
Other Orthodox denominations include the Church of Serbia - 8 million, Romania - about 20 million, Bulgaria - about 8 million, Georgia - about 3 million, Cyprus - less than 500,000, Poland - about 1 million, Albania - less than 200,000, and America - about 1 million.3
Unfortunately, one cannot write about schismatic churches without relaying the following from the Old Testament. Core, or Korah, rebelled from the true authority established by God, and was punished for doing so. (Emphasis added to Scripture text)
Korah, son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, (and Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, son of Pallu, son of Reuben) took two hundred and fifty Israelites who were leaders in the community, members of the council and men of note. They stood before Moses, and held an assembly against Moses and Aaron, to whom they said, "Enough from you! The whole community, all of them, are holy; the Lord is in their midst. Why then should you set yourselves over the Lord's congregation?" When Moses heard this, he fell prostrate. Then he said to Korah and to all his band, "May the Lord make known tomorrow morning who belongs to him and who is the holy one and whom he will have draw near to him! Whom he chooses, he will have draw near him. Do this: take your censers (Korah and all his band) and put fire in them and place incense in them before the Lord tomorrow. He whom the Lord then chooses is the holy one. Enough from you Levites!" Moses also said to Korah, "Listen to me, you Levites! Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has singled you out from the community of Israel, to have you draw near him for the service of the Lord's Dwelling and to stand before the community to minister for them? He has allowed you and your kinsmen, the descendants of Levi, to approach him, and yet you now seek the priesthood too. It is therefore against the Lord that you and all your band are conspiring. For what has Aaron done that you should grumble against him? Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, but they answered "we will not go. Are you not satisfied with having led us here away from a land flowing with milk and honey, to make us perish in the desert, that you must now lord it over us? Far from bringing us to a land flowing with milk and honey, or giving us fields and vineyards for our inheritance, will you also gouge out our eyes? No, we will not go." Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, "Pay no heed to their offering. I have never taken a single ass from them, nor have I wronged any one of them." Moses said to Korah, "You and all your band shall appear before the Lord tomorrow - you and they and Aaron too. Then each of your two hundred and fifty followers shall take his own censor, put incense in it, and offer it to the Lord; and you and Aaron, each with his own censer, shall do the same. So they all took their censers, and laying incense on the fire they had put in them, they took their stand by the entrance of the meeting tent along with Moses and Aaron. Then, when Korah had assembled all his band against them at the entrance of the meeting tent, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire community, and the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Stand apart from this band, that I may consume them at once." But they fell prostrate and cried out, "O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will one man's sin make you angry with the whole community?" The Lord answered Moses, "Speak to the community and tell them: Withdraw from the space around the Dwelling". Moses, followed by the elders of Israel, arose and went to Dathan and Abiram. Then he warned the community, "Keep away from teh tents of these wicked men and do not touch anything that is theirs: otherwise you too will be swept away because of all their sins." When Dathan and Abiram and come out and were standing at the entrances of their tents with their wives and sons and little ones, Moses said, "This is how you shall know that it was the Lord who sent me to do all I have done, and that it was not I who planned it: if these men die an ordinary death, merely suffering the fate common to all mankind, then it was not the Lord who sent me. But if the Lord does something entirely new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them alive down into hell, with all belonging to them, then you will know that these men have defied the Lord." No sooner had he finished saying all this than the ground beneath them split open, an the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their families (and all of Korah's men) and all their possessions. They went down alive to hell with all belonging to them; the earth closed over them, and they perished from the community.
St. Peter spoke about lay people becoming a holy priesthood - but not in the sense that every man becomes his own priest - only "to offer up spiritual sacrifices". An example of this is during the Catholic Mass, where the non-ordained offer themselves (their own body, soul, joys, sufferings, actions and sacrifices) to God, at the same time the priest offers up the Body of Christ.
Schisms were certainly a concern in the formation of the new Christian Churches, as St. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:20-25,
"But now there are many members, indeed, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, I don't need your help, nor the head to the feet: I don't need you. Yes, much more those that seem to be the more feeble members of the body, are more necessary: And those that we think to be the less honorable members of the body, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and those that are our less attractive parts, have more attractiveness. Our attractive parts have no need, but God has tempered the body together, giving the more abundant honor to that which needed it, so there might be no schism in the body, but the members might be mutually careful for one another."
In regard to present-day schismatic Churches: God shows His mercy and patience in the New Testament, and no longer "opens the ground" to every schismatic group. Dialogue between them and the Vatican continues on a regular basis, in the hope of unity under one shephard. An example of this can be seen in the following quote:
Common Declaration Signed in the Vatican
By Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew I
June 29, 1995
"2. This dialogue - through the Joint International Commission - has proved fruitful and has made substantial progress. A com-mon sacramental conception of the Church has emerged, sustain-ed and passed on in time by the apostolic succession. In our Churches, the apostolic succession is fundamental to the sanctification and unity of the People of God. Considering that in every local Church the mystery of divine love is realized and that this is how the Church of Christ shows forth its active presence in each one of them, the Joint Commission has been able to declare that our Churches recognize one another as Sister Churches, responsible together for safeguarding the one Church of God, in fidelity to the divine plan, and in an altogether special way with regard to unity."
Melkite, a word from the Syriac and Arabic meaning "king", was originally used to refer to
those within the ancient Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, who accepted the
professed by the Byzantine Emperor after the Council of Chalcedon (451). Now the term more
refers to Byzantine Catholics originating within those three Patriarchates.4
A schism took place within the Patriarchate of Antioch in the early 1724 on the death of Patriach Athanasios III Debbas. He had designated as his successor Sylvester, a Cypriot monk, who was supported by the Aleppo party and the Patriarch of Constantinople. In the mean time, the Damascene party had elected as patriarch a strongly pro-Catholic named Cyril to be Patriarch of Antioch. Sylvester was ordained by the Patriarch of Constantinople and was recognized by the Ottoman government. Cyril was deposed and excommunicated. In 1729, Cyril's election was recog-nized as valid by Pope Benedict XIII, but he was not given the pallium until 1744.5
The main cause of friction between the Vatican and this Eastern Rite group in the 1800's was not so much the definition of papal infallibility, but the fear of losing their Byzantine identity as they became more integrated into the Latin-styled Roman Catholic Church.6 This in fact did occur with the Maronite Catholic Church, but with seemingly little angst from their patriarchs.
1. The word expresses the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as from one principle, and by one act of love. The Greeks first objected to its' insertion in the Nicene Creed. However, the filioque expresses the ancient Christian tradition of the Greek Fathers of the Church. - The New Catholic Dictionary.
2. New Catholic Dictionary, quoting Fr. Adrian Fortescue's book, The Orthodox Eastern Churches.
3. Compiled from The Eastern Christian Churches, A Brief Survey (1993 edition). some of the figures have been rounded or generalized to account for the six year lapse in time.