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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

Social and political developments. Church affairs 


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Church affairs. The major event in the church life of the Byzantine Empire in the time of the Macedonian dynasty was the final separation of the Christian church into the eastern Orthodox and the western Catholic, which took place in the middle of the eleventh century after long disputes which lasted for almost two centuries.

The first act of Basil I in the realm of church affairs was the deposition of Patriarch Photius and the reinstatement of Ignatius, who had been deposed in the time of Michael III. By this measure Basil hoped to strengthen his position on a throne which did not rightfully belong to him. He felt that by raising Ignatius he was accomplishing the double purpose of maintaining peaceful relations with the pope and gaining the support of the Byzantine people, many of whom, as he knew very well, were partisans of the deposed Ignatius. In their letters to the pope both Basil and Ignatius acknowledged his authority and influence in the affairs of the eastern church. The Emperor, for example, wrote, Spiritual Father and divinely reverend Pontiff! Hasten the improvement of our church and through your interference with injustice give us an abundance of goods, namely, pure unity and spiritual joining free from any contention and schism, a church one in Christ, and a flock obedient to one shepherd. Ignatius sent the pope a letter full of humility, requesting that the Roman patriarch send vicars to Constantinople. In the concluding statement he wrote, With them (the vicars) we should well and suitably arrange our church, which we have received by the providence of God manifested in the intercession of the sublime Peter and at your instance and intervention. These letters indicate a moment of apparent triumph for the papacy in the East, but Pope Nicholas I did not live to witness this victory, because the letters sent to him from Byzantium came after his death and were received by his successor, Hadrian II.

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