Similarities and Differences of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church

We have seen recently Pope Francis meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Krill in a meeting declaring a brotherhood between the two. Since then, many have asked, “What IS the difference between Orthodox and Roman Catholics?” When we investigate the two we find that there are great similarities such as both have valid orders, apostolic succession through the episcopacy, both celebrate the same sacraments, both believe almost exactly the same theology, and both proclaim the same faith in Christ. So, why the division? What caused the division?

Well the answer is not as cut and dry as the division is deeply rooted in history (since 1054 AD!) however there are differences between the two are in many ways almost impossible to reconcile without God’s intervention. Both Orthodox and Roman Catholic claim to be the Church Christ founded but have taken separate roads that has caused a schism (schism meaning a breaking apart) between the two faiths. Some of the differences include specific teachings such as the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady in which the Orthodox Church does not accept however the Roman Catholic Church proclaims as infallible (in other words, there cannot be debate among Roman Catholics regarding this matter). Another example and most likely the greatest reason for the division between the two is the Primacy of the Pope. The Orthodox Church does recognize the Roman Catholic Pope but only in the “Primacy of Honor” and not in the Primacy of Honor and Authority” which the Roman Catholic Church proclaims. Let me explain…

The Orthodox Church believes that the Pope of the Rome has the Primacy of Honor among bishops and not over the Church which would be the Primacy of Authority. Although, this assessment of the Pope’s primacy in just of honor alone is actually not substantiated in holy scripture. In every juncture, Christ related absolute authority to St. Peter regarding His Church [1]. Even though our Lord does give particular authority to the other disciples [2], Jesus actually points out St. Peter and entitles him with a special authority over the disciples [3]. And even when Christ resurrected, in front of the other disciples once more Our Lord took particular time out to give St. Peter specific directives to take care of His Church [4].

Even though the issue over the primacy of the Pope is a serious matter there is still reason for hope that the two will one day reunite as it is Christ’s will that all be made one [5]. Among the two faiths, there is a devout love for Our Lady and Her intercession as well as Christ as head of the Church and with these two shared beliefs and in continual prayers for unification these issues may yet be solved. As Roman Catholics, we must pray for this unification everyday but we must remember that compromise on defined doctrines/dogmas of the Church is not the route we should travel as we would lose what Christ ordained and what was past down from St. Peter and other the disciples. So let us take special time out to consider what is at stake. Is it humanitarian peace we want or is it true unification under what Christ established? Therefore, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest,” so that we come to the knowledge of the truth together. Amen.

  1. Matthew 16:19 [18] Thou art Peter: As St. Peter, by divine revelation, here made a solemn profession of his faith of the divinity of Christ; so in recompense of this faith and profession, our Lord here declares to him the dignity to which he is pleased to raise him: viz., that he to whom he had already given the name of Peter, signifying a rock, St. John 1. 42, should be a rock indeed, of invincible strength, for the support of the building of the church; in which building he should be, next to Christ himself, the chief foundation stone, in quality of chief pastor, ruler, and governor; and should have accordingly all fullness of ecclesiastical power, signified by the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Luke 22:28–30
  3. Luke 22:31-32
  4. John 21: 15-17 [17] Feed my sheep: Our Lord had promised the spiritual supremacy to St. Peter; St. Matt. 16. 19; and here he fulfills that promise, by charging him with the superintendency of all his sheep, without exception; and consequently of his whole flock, that is, of his own church.
  5. John 17:11

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