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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Demetrios Constantelos

Greek Orthodoxy - From Apostolic Times to the Present Day













Page 11

When disputes arose among the clergy of the Eastern Church, the ultimate authority was Constantinople, not Rome. The ninth Canon of the fourth ecumenical synod (451) clearly prescribes:
If any clergyman has a dispute with another…let him first submit his case to his own bishop, or let it be tried by referees chosen by both parties and approved by the bishop. Let anyone who acts contrary be liable to canonical penalties. If, on the other hand, a clergyman has a dispute with his own bishop or with some other bishop, let it be tried by the synod of the province. But if any bishop or clergyman has a dispute with the metropolitan of the same province, let him apply either to the exarch of the diocese or to the throne of the imperial capital Constantinople, and let it be tried before him.
The Eastern Church, whether in the past or in the present, has never accepted a patriarch or a pope as infallible. In fact, she has condemned some as heretics. For example, the third ecumenical synod (431) condemned Patriarch Nestorios for heresy, and the sixth ecumenical synod (681) condemned Pope Honorius for heresy.
In any case, after several confrontations between the Eastern and Western, or Greek and Latin, churches, there came a crisis in the year 1054, which is the traditional date of the great schism. The major problem in the dispute was the Roman claim to primacy in arbitrating all matters of faith, morals, and administration. The Greek East, which knew of no precedent for this claim, had refused to accept it. The Orthodox position toward the Roman claims can be found in the answer of Niketas, archbishop of Nikomedia, to Anselm, bishop of Havelberg, in the twelfth century. To several accusations of Anselm’s, Niketas responded as follows:
My dearest brother, we do not deny to the Roman Church the primacy amongst the five sister patriarchates [Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem], and we recognize her right to the most honorable seat at an ecumenical synod. But, she has separated herself from us by her own deeds, when through pride she assumed a monarchy which does not belong to her office…How shall we accept decrees from her that have been issued without consulting us and even without our knowledge? If the Roman pontiff, seated on the lofty throne of his glory, wishes to thunder at us and, so to speak, hurl his mandates at us and our churches not by taking counsel with us but at his own arbitrary pleasure, what kind of brotherhood or even what kind of parenthood can this be? We would be the slaves not the sons of such a church, and the Roman see would not the pious mother of sons but a hard and imperious mistress of slaves… In such a case what could have been the use of the scriptures? The writings and the teachings of the Fathers would be useless. The authority of the Roman pontiff would nullify the value of all because he would be the only bishop, the sole teacher and master.
The two worlds were further divided as a result of the barbarism of the Crusades and the brutalities they inflicted upon the Greek East. The Crusader’ "macabre expression of a pagan death-wish," in the words of a modern Western historian, brought the final rupture between Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy. The fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders in 1204 marked the beginning of the end of the medieval period of the Greek Church, which then entered into her darkest centuries.

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