According to the Catholic Church’s First-Ever (in 20 Centuries) Mature Self-Reflection in the Dogmatic Ecclesiology (Doctrine of the Church) in Vatican II, the Church can be Described as the Biblically-Revealed “Profound Mystery” (Ephesians 5:22-32) of the Bride and Body of Jesus Christ, a Mysterious Both-Heavenly-and-Earthly Reality whose Earthly Aspect is Organized on Earth as the Ancient Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox (non-heretical) Christian Sister Churches of East and West (not just the Western Roman Catholic Church Protestants broke away from in the 16th Century, which is currently the largest but only 1/4 of the First Millennium Catholic Church Communion).
What does this mean?
The Catholic (Greek for “Universal”) Church Communion of particular local Churches (gathered around a particular city) and particular regional Churches (gathered around a particular regional culture, such as the ancient Jewish, Syrian, Egyptian, Roman and Greek culture) “Sister Churches” or “Patriarchates,” all gathered around the local city Church (and regional “Sister Church” or Patriarchate) of Rome where both Peter (the primary Apostle to the Jewish culture) and Paul (the primary Apostle to the Gentile cultures) gave the ultimate Apostolic Witness of their lives in martyrdom (following Christ’s example) during the New Testament Era, recognizes that the Church as described in the Bible (using terms like “Bride” and “Body” of Christ, and “Heavenly Jerusalem”) is ultimately primarily a Transcendent or heavenly, MYSTERIOUS reality, containing all those who have already died in Christ, though a heavenly reality united profoundly to the earthly aspect and reality of the visible Church on Earth. In this the Catholic Church Communion of 26 such regional Rites or particular regional “Sister Churches” united under the ultimate head pastorship of the Pope of Rome (though the regional “patriarchs with their synods are the highest authority for all business of the patriarchate” – Vatican II, OE 9) shares similar Biblical conviction with the Eastern Orthodox Communion of such local and regional “Sister Churches” (the oldest and largest body of Christians after the Catholic Church), gathered more loosely around the local city Church (and regional Patriarchate) of Constantinople (where the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch is located); and with the (Protestant) Anglican Communion of local Churches spread worldwide with the former British Empire similarly gathered around the Church of England (where the Archbishop of Canterbury, the first Church in England, functions as the Anglican Communion’s titular head); and with the (generally divided from each other) Protestant/Evangelical Churches (whose 40,000 distinct registered denominations collectively outnumber the Eastern Orthodox Communion but not the Catholic Communion); and with the small but very ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Assyrian Church of the East. All of these currently separated Christian Church Communions were once in full Communion with the earthly ancient Catholic Church Communion gathered around Rome with its ultimate Apostolic Witness of the Martyrdoms of Peter and Paul and around the pope as the successor to Jesus’ 3 unique commissions to Peter in the Gospels (the Anglican Church before the Schism of Henry VIII in 1534; Protestant/Evangelical Churches before Luther in 1517; the Eastern Orthodox Church before the 1054 “Great Schism;” the Oriental Orthodox Churches before 451; and the Assyrian Church before 431 AD); and all of these Churches are currently in some type of formal dialogue with the Catholic Church towards formal reunification or at least towards better ecumenical working together on the basis of huge common faith, in common love for Jesus and and world He loves, for the sake of the effectiveness of the Christian mission to the world which Jesus said would recognize His disciples “by their love for one another” (as in the case of Evangelicals along the lines of the Joint Declaration Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT): The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium).
What is the Catholic Church?
The Ancient Catholic Communion of Orthodox Sister Churches of East and West
Considering just the earthly aspect of the Church: although the Catholic Church on earth is commonly mistakenly understood as the Roman Catholic Church on its own (which is merely currently the largest of its ancient regional-level Particular or “Sister” Churches of “fully equal dignity” since the Muslim conquests of the Catholic East), The Catholic Church is the collective name of the Catholic (Greek for Universal) COMMUNION of (currently 26) Ancient and Younger Orthodox (non-heretical) regional Christian Rites or Sister Churches of East and West which each have their own culturally or spirituality-based responses to and celebrations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and each have their own pastoral leadership structure of the local ordained overseers (bishops or eparchs, translated from New Testament Greek episkopoi) who the Apostles ordained to lead the local Church communities they founded in the New Testament era, and their successors (new overseers/bishops being ordained in this Apostolic succession for each new missionary community which grew into a mature new local Church). As each local Church is headed by an overseer/bishop/eparch, each regional Sister Church is typically headed by a special overseer (bishop or eparch) often called a Patriarch (the original Early Church ‘Pentarchy’ of 5 Patriarchates or Church “Provinces” – all regional Particular or “Sister” Churches – were based in Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Byzantium/Constantinople [the centers of the Jewish, Syrian, Egyptian, Roman and Greek cultures] – fulfilling the many Biblical Prophecies of the Nations to the East, South, West and North of Jerusalem coming to Worship the True God whose Old Covenant Temple was in Jerusalem). This “Pentarchy” of the first five cultures renewed in Jesus Christ, each cultural region centered in the above cities declared a “Patriarchate” under a Patriarch at the early Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of the Christian overseers, together at these same early Ecumenical Councils officially defined, clarified and declared for all time the fundamental Christian doctrines or dogmas of Christianity, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation of of God in Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, against all the many early heretical challenges to this saving Apostolic Christian faith.
The Pope in Rome, as Successor of Peter the (Greek) protos (“first” or “chief” Apostle in Matthew 10:2) has three offices of ordained overseership or head pastorship in the Catholic Church Communion: local, regional, and universal, represented by the traditional papal triple-crowned bishop’s mitre (hat) which still appears on the Vatican Flag, although popes rarely wear it in modern times, since this headgear originated in a time where all leaders typically wore crowns to denote their office, but crowns are usually regarded as outdated and pretentious today (The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth suggests this headgear be updated to three “bands” of office on the papal mitre, because it is such an important symbol of the structure of the Undivided Early Catholic\Universal Church). The three offices are (using the Biblically-based terms agreed upon by both sides in the official Catholic/Orthodox Dialogue at Ravenna in 2007]: firstly the Pope is the LOCAL-LEVEL overseer or bishop of the City of Rome, the head pastor and (Greek) protos (first or chief) of the ordained Christian presbyters/pastors/priests in the City of Rome and its local area/diocese. Secondly the Pope is also the REGIONAL-LEVEL Patriarch of the Particular Roman Catholic Sister Church within the Catholic (Universal) Church Communion of orthodox Christian Sister Churches of East and West, that is, secondly the Pope is the head pastor and (Greek) protos (first or chief) of all the local overseers/bishops of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church or Roman Catholic Church, that is, of the particularly Roman ancient cultural response to and celebration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as all the Patriarchs are head pastors and (Greek) protoi, first or chiefs of all the local overseers (bishops or eparchs) of their particular usually culturally-based Rite of Christianity organized into a distinct regional Sister Church (this is why the Code of Canon Law’s first Canon specifies the Code’s worship guidelines are for the Latin/Roman Rite only, while the Eastern Catholic Churches have their own Code of Canon Law, since setting guidelines for the particular worship and liturgy of one Rite are Patriarchal or regional-level functions). In his “third crown” and highest office of ordained overseership in the Catholic Church, the Pope in Rome is the UNIVERSAL-LEVEL head pastor and (Greek) protos (first or chief) of all the Patriarchs who themselves are head pastors and chief overseers of other (non-Roman) distinct Patriarchates or Particular Churches/Sister Churches or Rites, since ancient times in deference to Peter (and Paul) the most prominent of the Apostles who died there, particularly since the Bible describes Peter as the (Greek) protos (first or chief) of the Apostles in Matthew 10:2 (and Peter typically in the Bible speaks for all the Apostles or otherwise acts as their chief; Jesus even singles out Peter for 3 specific ministries in Luke 22:31-32, John 21:15-19, and Matthew 16:18-19; and the Angel at the Resurrection singles out Peter by telling the first witnesses of the Resurrection to “go, tell His disciples and Peter“- Mark 16:7). Thus each Orthodox and Catholic regional-level Patriarchate or Sister Church or Rite within the Catholic Communion recognizes the Pope as the Universal-level Chief Overseer and Head Pastor (Successor of Peter “the first” or “the chief” Apostle – Greek Protos in Matthew 10:2) of the entire ancient Universal (Catholic) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches of East and West, which was the structure and form of the Undivided Early Christian Church of the First Millennium, the historic Early Church Communion in which the Sister Churches pooled together their different insights from their different cultural expressions of Christianity and so together (against many heretics) established the basic, fundamental Christian doctrines including the Trinity and Jesus as “fully God and fully man” at the Early Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of this Catholic, Christian Church, in which the universal protoi the popes were very actively involved by letter and legates (representatives) if not actually present.
Sadly, the reason most people today (even Roman Catholic Christians!) commonly confuse the Catholic Church with its Roman Rite only is because for almost 1000 years the ancient Catholic Church Communion of Orthodox Eastern and Western Particular or “Sister” Churches has been made up of a very great majority of Roman Rite Catholic Christians, and lack of contact with the small remaining minority of non-Roman (Eastern) Catholic Christians (after the Muslim conquests of and interference with the Catholic East) made the Catholic Church take on an overly-Roman and single-minded (not Catholic/Universal enough) character, forgetting the mutually enriching unity in diversity among the different Particular or “Sister” Churches of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church of the First Millennium which had so much contributed to the early Worldwide (Ecumenical) Councils. But in the Early Church only about 25% of all Catholic Christians were Roman Catholics and the rest were Eastern Catholics of the other 4 Patriarchates of the ancient Pentarchy, representing not just the Roman culture as renewed in Jesus Christ but also the Syrian, Egyptian, Greek, and, before the pagan Roman scattering of the Jews, Jewish, cultures as renewed in Christ, in fulfilment of the many Biblical prophecies of the nations (that is civilizations, cultures) to the East, South, North and West of Jerusalem coming to worship the True God of the Old (Jewish) Testament. The early Eastern (non-Roman) Catholic majority of the 4 Eastern Patriarchates included the majority of the Early Church Fathers and at least half the Saints and Doctors of the Early Catholic Church who were Eastern not Roman Catholics (even 20 First Millennium popes in Western Rome where Peter died were not Roman Catholics before becoming pope!). After the early schisms from the Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria of those who rejected the 3rd and 4th Ecumenical Councils, those Eastern Catholic Christians who remained in the Catholic Communion started commonly calling themselves “Eastern Orthodox” to distinguish themselves from schismatic “Eastern heretics” [See footnote 1 below on the Pre-Chalcedonian Churches which still held to older forms of orthodox dogma] but they remained entirely Catholic, and the Eastern Byzantine (Greek) Catholic and Orthodox regional-level Patriarchal Church of Constantinople (now also influencing what remained of the Eastern Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria and Jerusalem after their further decimation by Muslim conquest) was still just as large in numbers of Christians as the single Western regional-level Church Patriarchate of Rome at the still-united turn of the First Millennium.
How The Eastern and Western Halves of the Undivided Early Catholic Church Lost Contact For Centuries During Which Both Sides Forgot the Mutually Enriching Differences of the Early Church’s Unity in Diversity Among Different But United Sister Churches Which Made Such Vital Contributions to the Early Ecumenical Councils, and Subconsciously Replaced it with the Prejudiced “Unity Equals Uniformity” Principle Where “Different is Wrong” or at least “Our Way is Superior Where We are Different,” Which Unconscious Prejudice Led to the 1054 Great Schism of the One Catholic Church into a Separated Western Roman Catholic Church and an Eastern Orthodox Church; Which Sabotaged Many Reunion Attempts; and Which Caused Both Rome and Constantinople in History to Practice the “Uniatism” Which Both Sides Together Condemned in 1993 at Balamand, Wherein Smaller Weaker Churches in Union With Rome or Constantinople Were Forced to Abandon or Compromise Their Legitimate Ancient Worship From the Undivided Early Catholic Church So as to Be More Like the Larger, Stronger Sister Church (Violating the True Catholicity/Universality of the One Church)
[Note – After this lengthy discussion of the East/West “Great Schism” Consequences of literally anti-Catholic/anti-Universal “Unity Equals Uniformity” principle, its continuing effects in the later Western Schism of the Protestant Reformation resulting in not just 2 Churches as in the Great Schism but in 40,000 distinct Protestant churches/ecclesial communities, will be considered, and this web page/article will end with the hopeful section Vatican II (1962-5)’s Dogmatic Ecclesiology (Doctrine of the Church), Born in the Official Catholic/Orthodox “Dialogue of Love” Since 1958 and Clarified in the Official Catholic/Orthodox Theological Dialogue Since 1982, Paves the Way for the Restoration of the Catholic Unity in East and West (Healing the First “Great Schism” of 1054 Which Set the Bad Precedent and Bad Tone for the Later Second Millennium Schisms of the Protestant Reformation, and Setting a Good Precedent and Good Tone for Further Christian Reunification).]
Unfortunately, this (above-described) Eastern half of the First Millennium Catholic Church, gathering around the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople which was the only Eastern Patriarchate not under Muslim domination, and the Western half of the First Millennium Catholic Church gathering around the Latin Patriarchate of Rome (where the universal-level protos or pope resides), mostly loss contact with each other for centuries due to the Fall of the Western Roman Empire to Barbarian Tribes in 476 AD and the growth of the Muslim Empire in between them (since the 600s AD) which cut off traditional sea and land routes uniting Christian East and West. For the most part out of contact, both sides gradually forgot the unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Catholic Church and both sides came to assume those other Christians “over there” which we are in communion with must celebrate their Christian faith exactly the same way as we do. By this innocent enough assumption Satan “the Accuser of the Brethren” (Revelation 12:10) managed to replace the former Godly unity in diversity represented by Galatians 3:28 (“there is neither Jew nor Greek” – and I add “neither Roman nor Greek” – “for you are all one in Christ”) with the Satanic divisive principle of “unity equals uniformity.” With this principle subconsciously entrenched after centuries of lack of contact, when Eastern and Western mission fields overlapped first in the 9th and then in the 1th Century, Christians, shocked to discover that the Christians “over there” turned out not to share their own ways after all, would come to (like Satan, whose name in Hebrew literally means accuser) accuse their Christian brothers of being wrong wherever they were different. Even such trivialities as whether clergy were bearded (the Eastern practice) or clean shaven (the Roman practice) were trumped up as “heresies” (the accusation even “backed up” with Biblical “proof texts”). The brief 9th Century Schism caused by this cultural prejudice in which each side had come to judge “different from us is wrong” and “our ways are superior” was quickly (if not completely satisfactorily) healed. But the 11th Century “Great Schism” of 1054, in which the major burning issue was the triviality of which kind of bread to use for Holy Communion — leavened (the Eastern practice) or unleavened (the Roman practice) — still endures to this day in the separated Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches even though most on both sides no longer see this as a divisive issue. I suggest the various disputes were merely symptoms of the real problem in the underlying prejudice of the “unity equals uniformity” mindset. All the differences concerned had existed in the Early Church unity in diversity without any problem. The same differences between Eastern and Western Rites had existed in the early centuries of Christianity, before the loss of regular contact, and these differences were not any cause for strife in the Church. What had changed was the attitude that differences are wrong or inferior, which made both sides argumentatively inclined to find error in any differences.
This 1054 “Great Schism” was actually not near complete and total however, and both sides, knowing that God desired them to be together in One Catholic (and Orthodox!) Church, continued for centuries more to seek reunion with each other, but (as my research indicates) they never consciously recognized nor dealt with the underlying problem in cultural ignorance and prejudice enforcing a “unity equals uniformity” mindset, and they attempted only to wrangle over misconceptions of each other’s teaching which were only symptoms, not the root, of the problem — so reunions accomplished were not lasting.
At last a very substantial (if still brief thanks to Muslim interference and other factors discussed below) reunion of East and West was joyfully proclaimed at the 1438-9 Council of Ferrara/Florence, the 17th Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church by the usual reckoning (still held to by the Eastern Catholic Churches today), which had an Eastern delegation twice the size of the Western delegation though it was held in the West (originally slated for Constantinople it was moved for security reasons of Muslim threat). Very thorough and lengthy deliberations of the Eastern and Western Council Fathers allowed them to gradually see beyond the limited perspective of their own Rite, and at the end, bringing quick final resolution, a member of the Eastern delegation found in his library (brought on the ship with him) a copy of a 7th Century letter on the filioque dispute written by Saint Maximus the Confessor, an Eastern Saint who lived 25 years in the West and was the premier theologian whose theology was adopted (posthumously) by the 6th Ecumenical Council in order to condemn the Monothelite heresy [Aside: The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth suggests he should be named a “Doctor” of the Catholic Church, as has every other First Millennium theologian whose work played the the part his did in other early Ecumenical Councils. Maximus further backed up his work with his life, suffering (along with his friend Pope Saint Martin I) torture which later killed him for refusing to compromise the truth under the Monothelite heretic Byzantine Emperor’s threats (among other things the Emperor had Maximus’ tongue cut out for refusing to speak the heresy, and his hand cut off for refusing to sign compromise formulas with the heresy)]. This letter of Saint Maximus explaining the equivalence of Eastern and Western theology on this disputed filioque was written 2 whole centuries before Eastern misinterpretation of the filioque had first ignited a brief East/West Schism in the 9th Century! The issue was not forefront in 1054 (the triviality of “type of Communion bread” had precedence!) but the filioque misunderstanding had grown to become the biggest issue to be settled in the 15th Century. This letter, from one of the most revered Saints of both East and West, the hero of an Ecumenical Council, called attention to some language barrier issues causing confusion. Further, Saint Maximus explained to his 7th Century Eastern countrymen who had expressed concern that the Western use of the Latin phrase filioque (“and the Son”) added by Frankish Roman Catholics [but not used in Rome before 1014] to the original Nicene Creed article which (following the Bible) says the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father,” was not interpreted by the West in the possible heretical sense some in the East were concerned about, but rather was equivalent in meaning to the Eastern phrase (from Cappadocian Father Saint Gregory of Nyssa) “through the Son” used in the East to interpret the Creed without actually adding words to it in the liturgy. Thankfully the revered Saint Maximus, having lived so long in East and West, understood both Rites and understood the equivalence of faith in diversity of language and theological expressions and was able to provide a quick final resolution for the Council of Florence to cap off the extended deliberations (it is tragic that without modern searchable computer databases of the Church Fathers, before this very late 15th Century date Maximus’ 7th Century testimony had never entered the on-and-off disputes over the filioque from the 9th-15th Centuries, when it might have prevented the misconception of “large difference between East and West” from getting so out of hand in the East).
Unfortunately, the filioque dispute so sensibly resolved in 1439 had also previously been very sensibly resolved (even without Maximus’ testimony) at the (14th Ecumenical) 1274 Council of Lyons, and neither time did the reunion last because the theological wrangling was not the problem but only a symptom of the unrecognized deeper problem of cultural prejudice against the different and the “unity equals uniformity” mindset. But it is important to note that although lasting reunion was always sabotaged by this underlying factor, still the separated Eastern and Western halves of the Church kept seeking reunion until an outside, anti-Christian force interfered in 1453 to make the 1054 Great Schism finally total and permanent — and reunion was never sought again for 500 years. The Eastern (and Western) Council Fathers at Ferrara and Florence had taken well over a year of painstaking deliberations to break through their own prejudice enough to see the other point of view and joyfully sign the union. Unfortunately, while the populace in the West accepted the Union (though still sadly holding onto prejudiced airs of Roman superiority) the populace in the East had not gone through this lengthy ecumenical process it took for their leaders to dismantle the more virulent Eastern prejudice rooted in an understandable grudge for the 4th Crusade and so there was great popular resistance to the union. Still, all of the Patriarchs of Constantinople held to the union, and one can hope that they eventually would have been able to educate and sway their flock to accept it as they had — had it not been for Muslim conquest and interference. In 1453, just 14 years after the Union of Florence, the Muslims conquered Constantinople (despite an army the West sent to help, soundly defeated by the Muslims, and a Western fleet assisting at Constantinople’s last stand) and the new reigning Muslim Sultan Mohammad II chose the most anti-Roman person he could find among his conquered slaves – the one who had been the leader of the opposition to the union, the hand-picked successor of the only Eastern leader of the large delegation at Florence to not sign the union – and made him the new Patriarch of Constantinople, knowing he would abandon the union, which served Muslim purposes because they did not want their conquered Eastern Christian subjects on friendly terms with the Christian West, whose Crusades invaded Muslim-held territory (the 1st Crusade had actually successfully protected Constantinople from falling to Muslim conquest centuries earlier). The Muslim-hand-picked new Patriarch of Constantinople, unlike his Christian-chosen predecessors who supported the union, fanned into a flame the already considerable anti-Roman prejudice of the Eastern populace so that the Eastern Orthodox Churches now at last totally separated from the Catholic Church thanks to Muslim interference no longer sought reconciliation and reunion until 1958.
It should be noted that this strong anti-Roman prejudice in the East which was the very fertile soil for the Muslim manipulation to foil the union did not come not out of nowhere, and nor was it simply a continuation of the prejudice against the different which both sides had manifested since the loss of most contact with each other for centuries in the second half of the First Millennium. If this was all it had been, perhaps the Union of Florence, which, unlike the previous reunion attempts had taken so much time to hash out all the misunderstandings and wade through the language barriers and concluded that both sides were “aiming at the same meaning in different words” and joyfully proclaimed reunion, would not have failed. But this was a renewed and enhanced prejudice, an “old grudge” reaction of hatred for the ultimate example of Roman anti-Byzantine prejudice which led the 4th Crusade in 1204 to (instead of following the anti-Muslim itinerary approved of by the pope) actually sack the Christian city of Constantinople and set up a Latin, Roman Rite Patriarch in the city for almost sixty years replacing the legitimate Greek, Byzantine Rite Patriarch, making Roman Rite worship the norm in the city which birthed the legitimate and very beautiful Byzantine Rite worship beloved by its people. Even though the horrible sin of the brutal and bloody conquest of fellow Christians (in the same city the 1st Crusade had protected) was NOT an action of the Roman Church, and Pope Innocent III excommunicated the ringleaders of the 4th Crusade for it, still it was perpetrated by Roman Catholics and it showed concretely how little respect prejudiced Roman Catholics had for Byzantine/Greek Rite worship (the same worship which had been Eastern Catholic in the First Millennium). If the sacking was not bad enough, the Latin, Roman Patriarchate the Crusaders set up to replace traditional Byzantine worship (because they thought Roman Rite worship was “better” than Byzantine Rite worship) reminded the Byzantines for decades later that Roman Catholics apparently hated them and certainly had little or no respect for their legitimate ancient Eastern Christian ways. After about 60 years the Greeks reconquered Constantinople from the Crusader conquest and re-established Byzantine worship, but the hatred left in the hearts of bulk of the Byzantine/Greek people for the Roman Catholics who had done this to them (and who had never repented of it but the Latin Patriarchate at Constantinople had to be forcibly and militarily removed) was more powerful than the sensible clearing up of East/West misunderstandings and disputes done by their leaders and the formal re-establishment of Catholic Union accomplished in good faith by them at the 1274 and 1438-9 Ecumenical Reunion Councils. Both East and West had been subconsciously prejudiced against the different and regarded their own distinct ways as superior since the loss of contact in the second half of the First Millennium, but the raw Roman anti-Byzantine/Greek bigotry of the 4th Crusade (though not by any majority of Roman Catholics) understandably begat a vengeful raw Byzantine anti-Roman bigotry in the Eastern Orthodox majority (whose capital long suffered under the Latin Patriarchate) which sabotaged the initially successful truly CATHOLIC (NOT ROMAN NOR BYZANTINE) Reunion of East AND West at Florence – with Muslim help. It is also very significant to note, as my Doctoral research does, that the language of the 1439 “Decree of Union,” which for Catholics has the highest level of magisterial authority as a formal Decree of the 17th Ecumenical Council, distinguishes “Mother Catholic Church” FROM “her children hitherto in disagreement.” That is to say, the Catholic Church’s 17th Ecumenical Council differentiates the primarily Heavenly “Mother Catholic Church” FROM both the earthly particular Roman Catholic Church and the earthly particular Eastern Orthodox Church which had been “hitherto in disagreement” before both earthly Western Roman and earthly Eastern Byzantine Churches formally (and with very explicit JOY) reunited in 1439, although this reunion was soon sabotaged by the Muslim conquerors of the East only 14 years later in 1453, the Muslims manipulating the strong lingering Eastern prejudice against the West for the 4th Crusade and the enforced Latin Patriarchate of Constantinople 2 centuries earlier).
Since the Catholic doctrine of Papal Infallibility applies only in a very limited and very rigidly defined set of circumstances and has only been used a handful of times in history (since even when the pope does so he is not acting purely on his own but as the Head as well as a Member of the College of Bishops in Apostolic Succession — See “Tell His Disciples and Peter”), Catholics understand that popes in the past have made some glaring mistakes – not only in the personal sins of the several “wayward popes,” especially in the sad eras where popes were invested by secular rulers, but also in the errors in judgement of even otherwise good popes, and one such mistake was Pope Innocent III’s foolishly recognizing and having ecclesial relations with the Latin Patriarchate of Constantinople set up by the 4th Crusade after the brutal conquest even though he had condemned the sacking of the city and excommunicated the ringleaders. Thus it was the Latin Patriarch in Constantinople who was invited to and attended the 1215 4th Lateran Council under Innocent III. In the East all of this appeared to give the papal stamp of approval to the brutal conquest and the replacement of Byzantine worship with Roman worship as superior. Thus some of the resisters to the Union, under threat of soon Muslim domination, boldly declared, “better the (Muslim) Turban to the (Papal) Tiara” – since at least the Muslims had no interest in interfering with their ancient, legitimate, and exceptionally beautiful Byzantine Christian worship. Pope Innocent III unfortunately did not have the good sense regarding the Christian (and long-Catholic) East of his later successor Pope Benedict XIV in the 1700s, who actually prescribed punishments for Roman Catholic missionaries working in separated Eastern Orthodox territories who, disrespecting the Catholic legitimacy of the ancient Eastern Rites/forms of worship, made the Eastern Orthodox who became Catholic practice the Latin, Roman Rite/form of worship — since, as the pope said, “the point is to make them Catholics, not Romans.” Although Pope Innocent could not have uprooted the occupying Latin, Roman military presence in Constantinople nor could he have forced the Latin Patriarchate the occupation had set up to step down, ideally he should have at least either not recognized the Latin Patriarchate in the center of an Eastern Patriarchate as inappropriate or at the very least lodged some kind of formal complaint against it, standing up in defence of the legitimacy of the Eastern Rites against Roman Catholic prejudice, as Pope Benedict XIV later did (and as Pope Pius XII later did in 1944, noting that “All these [Western and Eastern Rites] are to be held in equal esteem and equal honour, for they adorn the common Mother Church with a royal garment of many colours” – Pope Pius XII, Orientalis Ecclesiae 27). Pope Innocent III’s mishandling of the East’s legitimate concerns, resulting in the entrenchment of the East/West Great Schism, goes down in history with that of Pope Leo X who mishandled Martin Luther’s legitimate concerns with famous consequences in the Protestant Reformation (I note neither Innocent III nor Leo X are “sainted” popes, though these too can make errors in judgement).
I cannot stress enough how much that cultural prejudice against the different on both sides which set in after centuries of little contact between East and West (enhanced in the East by the supremely regrettable debacle of the 1204 4th Crusade) was behind the failure of the Union of Florence, and also behind the forced “Romanization” or forced “Byzantinization” (“uniatism”) practised by both Rome and Byzantium/Constantinople before and afterwards, wherein other Christian Churches which came within the Roman or Byzantine sphere of influence (notably what was left of the ancient Christian Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria coming under Byzantine influence — the Alexandrian Patriarch and First “Doctor” of the Catholic Church Saint Athanasius had even been the first to give the Church the New Testament Canon all Christians recognize today) were pressured or forced to abandon their ancient traditional worship from the Undivided Early Church, because both Roman Catholics and (Byzantine) Eastern Orthodox had subconsciously replaced Biblical “unity in diversity” (cf. Galatians 3:28) with “unity equals uniformity.” The prejudiced perceived “superiority” of their own Rite to others where they differed meant little respect was given to other Christian ways even when the differences weren’t so overblown as to be misnamed as heretical. Gone was all sense of the mutually-enriching Undivided Early Catholic Church Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches wherein Roman Catholic, Byzantine Catholic, Alexandrian Catholic, and Antiochian Catholic bishops (together with representatives of the small Patriarchate of Jerusalem) gathered together in Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils and together pooled their resources and shared their different insights which came precisely from their different liturgy, theology, and devotional customs, so as to together (with the Holy Spirit’s aid) come up with the best solution to the crisis or controversy the latest Ecumenical Council was called to resolve.
The Council of Florence probably accomplished the best that could possibly be accomplished without consciously recognizing and dealing with the underlying un-Christian attitudes of cultural superiority and prejudice against the different (on both sides), and it articulated some principles and doctrine which remain helpful to the cause of unity today, despite these imperfections. They provided a basis for the small-scale later reunions of portions of all of the separated Eastern Daughter Churches of all of the Eastern Patriarchates (over 20!) with the Catholic Church Communion – which makes the Catholic (Universal) Church Communion actually, visibly universal and not merely Roman. The later circumstances of these small-scale reunions were flawed, however. Unlike Florence, at which Council the Roman Catholics had negotiated more or less as equals with the Eastern Orthodox, most of the over 20 current Eastern Catholic Churches reunified one at a time as small groups from different Eastern Rites negotiating terms with the massive Roman Catholic Church – which dictated the terms without the mature sense of the Catholic Church today which since Vatican II officially recognizes the fully “equal dignity” of all of the Rites of the Catholic Church including the Roman Rite (rather than with cultural prejudice assuming the particular Roman way is better). Thus the portions of all of the Eastern Churches (in most cases a minority, but the dominant half of Ukraine) which sought reunion with Rome BECAUSE they (more than any other Christians) had BEST PRESERVED the Undivided Early Church’s sense of the fully “equal dignity” of all of the different Eastern and Western Rites or regional-level Sister Churches united under the Successor of Peter in Rome as universal-level protos, were often inappropriately treated as “second class Catholics” by the still great Roman Catholic majority after their small individual Rite reunions with Rome, just because they (of course!) did not practice their ancient Christian and Catholic faith the same way members of the particularly Roman Church did. The failure of the Union of Florence meant that the huge majority of Roman Catholics never had to get used to once again (as in the First Millennium) being only a portion of all Catholics, so the confusion wherein the terms “Catholic” and “Roman Catholic” are treated as wholly synonymous (leaving no “fully equal” place for non-Roman Catholics) became entrenched in the huge (but mostly isolated from the East) Roman Catholic Church.
Thus even though the rights of the Eastern Catholic Churches reunifying with the Roman Catholic Church to maintain their fully universally Catholic (though not particularly Roman) ancient, legitimate, and beautiful Eastern Rites were usually enshrined in the terms of reunion, in practice the huge majority of Roman Catholic Christians in various places at various times in history in fact pressured the reunified Eastern Catholics to in greater or lesser degree “Romanize” their practices in one way or the other, in order to “prove” to the Roman Catholic majority which had completely forgotten the “unity in diversity” of the Early Catholic Church that they were “really Catholic” (by which they meant Roman, and by which they violated the truly Catholic/Universal nature of the Catholic Church which is not merely Roman). Even the Eastern (Antiochian Patriarchate “daughter” Churches) the Maronite and Syro-Malabar Churches, which were never out of communion with the Catholic Church and the Pope in Rome as universal-level protos of all the Patriarchs, as a wonderful testimony to the ancient First Millennium primacy of the pope always recognized in the East before the later schisms, had been out of communication with Rome for centuries, and by the time they re-established contact in the Second Millennium (and quickly reaffirmed their ancient Eastern Tradition of recognizing the Pope in Rome as Peter’s Successor and thus the universal-level primate), majority Roman Catholics had become so used to the Roman Catholic Church and its particularly Roman Rite ways being all they knew, that they often pressured even these Eastern Catholics – who (together with those who had been separated from the Catholic Communion but returned) were the ones who literally made the Catholic Church truly, visibly Catholic/Universal and not just Roman – to Romanize themselves (which actually made the Church less Catholic/Universal). This sad history of not always respecting the ancient, legitimate, and very beautiful Eastern Catholic (and Orthodox) Rites which are already in full communion with Rome is still a barrier to the separated Eastern Orthodox coming back into the Catholic Communion today, since, even though the Roman Catholic side joined the Eastern Orthodox side in condemning the practice of such “uniatism” in the Joint Document produced at Balamand in 1993, both sides rejecting past “uniatism” as a model for the proper East/West reunification they are currently seeking, the Eastern Catholic Churches generally still bear lesser or greater marks of past “Romanization” (though this is now slowly improving).
Meanwhile, on the Byzantine side, the Eastern Orthodox (still also Catholic in the First Millennium) centered in Byzantium/Constantinople, after coming to influence what was left of the ancient Antiochian and Alexandrian Catholic Patriarchates (and the always-small Jerusalem Patriarchate) after the 5th Century “Pre-Chalcedonian” schisms [see Footnote 1 below] and the 1st Millennium Muslim conquests, decided that the easiest way to guard the rest against heresy was to impose the (very beautiful) orthodox Byzantine Rite of Constantinople upon them – in un-Catholic (un-Universal) replacement of their ancient legitimate Christian Rites which had enabled them to contribute so much to the early Ecumenical Councils. Indeed, the ancient Rites of Antioch (where Jesus’ disciples were “first called Christians” – Acts 11:26) and Alexandria had each made incalculable contributions to the Church Universal or Catholic: the ancient School of Antioch developed the scholarly study of the literal sense of the Scriptures, and the theology of the true humanity of Jesus; the School of Alexandria developed the scholarly study of the spiritual senses of the Scriptures, and the theology of the true Divinity of Jesus, and the Alexandrian Patriarchate also originated Christian monasticism and its Patriarch Saint Athanasius (the first “Doctor” of the Catholic Church) in 367 AD first put together the 27-book Canon of the New Testament which all Christians recognize today. But the rich Christian ritual and liturgical traditions which had nurtured the Christians who produced such universal treasures for the Church were suppressed in favour of the now dominant Byzantine Rite in the East. By the Second Millennium, after the Great Schism with the Roman Catholic Church (which was ultimately due to both sides after centuries of loss of contact coming to think their distinct ways [Roman or Byzantine] were best), the Byzantine Liturgy now practised by all the regional Sister Churches in the Orthodox Communion gathering around the Patriarchate of Constantinople amazingly actually came to be considered part of the “signs of the true church” by which Orthodox Christians recognized which Christians they were in communion with, totally forgetting the unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Church. Ironically, although the Eastern Orthodox side at Balamand in 1993 joined the Roman Catholic side in condemning “uniatism” (that is, forcing the weaker Church in a reunion to adopt the ways of the stronger) as a form of Church reunification (it is a form both sides recognize as inappropriate in the current efforts to re-establish the Church unity Jesus prayed for), the Balamand document only mentioned the (more recent) past Roman use of condemned “uniatism” to “Romanize” the non-Roman, Eastern Catholic Churches within the Catholic Communion in smaller or larger ways, even though the (admittedly much older) Byzantine use of “uniatism” to “Byzantinize” the non-Byzantine Churches within the Eastern Orthodox Communion was so much more thorough that today the entire Orthodox Communion uses only the one Rite and Liturgy, the Byzantine. As beautiful as the Byzantine Liturgy is (I say so with deep personal affection because it is my Rite as a Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Christian), it is supposed to be a wonderful part of a bouquet of liturgies of the different cultures glorifying God in fulfilment of Biblical prophecy, each Rite a jewel in Jesus’ crown which is all the more resplendent because of their variety. But the inappropriate “unity equals uniformity” principle led the Byzantine Patrarchate (in the far past) to actually obliterate and not just Byzantinize the non-Byzantine Rites in the more superficial way the Roman Patriarchate Romanized the non-Roman Rites.
Continued “Unity Equals Uniformity” Instead of “Unity in Diversity” Principle Results in a Plethora of 40,000 Western Protestant Schisms
Later the Protestant Reformers, in impatient (though not unprovoked) response to various not-yet-solved problems and not-yet-reformed abuses within the 16th Century Roman Rite of the Catholic Church only (the Eastern Catholic Rites – e.g. the Maronite Catholic Rite which was never out of Catholic Communion and had already re-established communication with Rome – never had the Western problems which caused the Western, Protestant Reformation), split away from the Roman Rite of the Catholic Communion. This rupture happened centuries after the Catholic Church had become so over-Romanized and accustomed to only its one valid style of worship because of centuries of separation from most of the previously Catholic East and because of the set-in “unity equals uniformity” principle. This meant that the Protestant Reformers “inherited” the Roman Catholic ignorance of the time and so also no longer had any concept of the Undivided Early Church’s mutually enriching unity in diversity and so each new Protestant church also believed there was only one proper way to love and serve God – theirs (most of the Protestant Reformers hated each other and wrote letters condemning each other, calling each other “sons of Satan” and the like for being different). This attitude by today has resulted in 40,000 distinct Protestant denominations even though most of those which have not gone “doctrinally liberal” (doubting or denying the historic essentials of Christianity) still maintain about 90% of the faith in what God has revealed of the Catholic Communion they left and just express and celebrate it differently – similar to the unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Catholic Church Communion, if only the divisive “one proper way” attitude can be abandoned!
Vatican II (1962-5)’s Dogmatic Ecclesiology (Doctrine of the Church), Born in the Official Catholic/Orthodox “Dialogue of Love” Since 1958 and Clarified in the Official Catholic/Orthodox Theological Dialogue Since 1982, Paves the Way for the Restoration of the Catholic Unity in East and West (Healing the First “Great Schism” of 1054 Which Set the Bad Precedent and Bad Tone for the Later Second Millennium Schisms of the Protestant Reformation)
Fortunately, as the Early Catholic Church’s early Ecumenical Councils did away with the satanic mischief of many heresies and other problems within the Church by officially and precisely defining the Church’s previously more implicitly held faith, the modern Catholic Church’s 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) has similarly laid the foundation for doing away with the satanic mischief of prolific 2nd Millennium divisions within the Church by officially and precisely defining the Church’s previously more implicitly held unity in the 1st Millennium. After centuries of being overly-Romanized and single-minded in forms of worship (even to the point of some Roman Catholics occasionally pressuring minority Eastern Catholics to “Romanize,” which just motivated the Eastern Orthodox Churches which had in the end been manipulated out the Catholic Communion by their Muslim conquerors to stay out of the Catholic Communion), the Catholic Church today since its 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) (and its official Dialogue of Love with the Eastern Orthodox Communion) is in the process of rediscovering itself as the Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches, a reality it has never lost, but which has been much harder to see since non-Roman Rite (Eastern) Catholic Christians became a small minority. As Vatican Council II’s dogmatic ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church) based on the lived reality of the unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Church gradually sinks into the minds and hearts of the “average Catholic” (even while the majority remain Roman Rite Catholic Christians), and as more non-Catholic Christians come to know it and explore it, and as the couple dozen existing non-Roman Rite (Eastern) Catholic Sister Churches continue to be built up and grow and reach out, having been officially reminded by Vatican II of their fully “equal dignity” with the current majority Roman Rite to counteract past instances of being pressured to “Romanize,” there are many ecumenical implications towards the eventual fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer for the unity of all His disciples “so that the world may believe” (John 17:23).
One recent foretaste of this is the Traditional Anglican Communion being invited back into the Catholic Church Communion continuing to use their distinct Anglican Rite (distinctly English cultural response to and celebration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ). This is a big first step towards the eventual re-establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s structure wherein the Anglican Church was the Anglican ‘Daughter Church’ of the Ancient Roman Patriarchate of the Catholic Church, which was initially founded by the missionary Saint Augustine of Canterbury at the request of Pope Saint Gregory the Great (the Archbishops of Canterbury since functioning as the ‘Patriarchs’ of the Anglican Sister Church within the Catholic Communion, until the 16th Century Schism of King Henry VIII).
Already continuing the Undivided Early Church’s structure my own Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (also known as the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church) is specifically the Ukrainian ‘Daughter’ Church of the ancient Byzantine (Greek) Patriarchate of the Catholic Church (and it is currently the largest non-Roman Rite or Sister Church of the Catholic Church Communion, followed by the Antiochian daughter Churches of Maronites and Syro-Malabars which were never out of the Catholic Communion). In the Undivided First Millennium Catholic Church it was Greek missionaries of the Byzantine Patriarchate in Constantinople who (at King Saint Vladimir’s request) brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Church then developed its own distinctly Ukrainian variation of the Byzantine Rite (a distinctly Ukrainian cultural response to and celebration of the Gospel) within the Catholic Communion. Ukraine, with all of the Byzantine Patriarchate, was manipulated into separation from the Catholic Communion by the 1453 Muslim conquerors of Constantinople (Byzantium) fanning the flame of anti-Roman grudge for the 1204 Roman sacking of Contstintinople (see above), and since then the majority of the population of the Eastern Churches has remained Eastern Orthodox but no longer Eastern Catholic (though portions, sometimes large portions, of all of the Sister Churches separated from the Catholic Communion since came back – my own Byzantine Ukrainian Rite of the Catholic Church was only out of the Catholic Communion from the 1453 Muslim conquest until 1595).
Thankfully, Vatican Council II’s ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church) (and how it has been beautifully clarified and developed so far within the official Catholic/Orthodox dialogue) has now officially dealt with the roots of the Eastern Orthodox Schism (and its long continuance) in cultural prejudice on both sides, members of each Rite (Roman and Byzantine) sadly coming to think their particular cultural response to and celebration of the Gospel was “superior” to the other’s and forgetting the “fully equal dignity” and mutually enriching unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Sister Churches of East and West which has at last been formally defined by the 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) (and further beautifully clarified by the ongoing official Catholic/Orthodox Dialogue). It will still take some time to completely implement Vatican II’s ecclesiology and the more developed “ecclesiology of communion” of the Catholic/Orthodox Dialogue deeply into the minds and hearts of the “average” Roman Catholic Christian and the “average” Eastern Orthodox Christian so as to completely remove all vestiges of the past ignorance and prejudice from them at the “grassroots” level so that the demonic temptation to judge other Christians as “wrong” or “inferior” for being “different” no longer hampers attempts at Christian reunion as it has for 1000 years. Still, because of this official teaching from the highest level, there have already been major milestones towards the re-establishment of the Undivided First Millennium Church’s unity in diversity between East and West in the the 1965 and 2006 Common Declarations of Catholic Popes and Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchs, wherein the leaders of both sides of the Schism confirm together that their Churches are actively working towards
“the full communion of faith, of brotherly concord and of a sacramental life which existed between them throughout the first millennium of the life of the Church” (1965). “The Holy Spirit will help us to prepare the great day of the re-establishment of full unity, whenever and however God wills it. Then we shall truly be able to rejoice and be glad” (2006).
This rapprochement carried out in love and respect between the two oldest and largest Christian Church Communions formed from the first “Great Schism” of Christianity has contributed to other important milestones towards the re-establishment of the “complete unity” Jesus prayed for “so that the world may believe,” such as the Evangelicals & Catholics Together (ECT) Accord, The Gift of Salvation (ECT 2), The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and The Manhattan Declaration.
© 2011, 2014 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
Footnote 1 on the Pre-Chalcedonian Churches: Large (majority) portions of the Eastern Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria (notably the portions which did not speak either Greek or Latin, the languages the Ecumenical Councils were conducted in, and whose territories extended outside of the Roman Empire in which the Ecumenical Councils were conducted) went into schism from their Greek Patriarchs and the Catholic Church when they rejected either the 431 AD 3rd Ecumenical Council at Ephesus (which defined that Jesus is 1 Person with 2 Natures, Divine and human) or the 451 AD 4th Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (which completed the Early Church’s Christology by defining that Jesus is fully God and fully man). Until modern times when it became clear their past rejection of these Councils was mostly due to non-theological factors (including language barriers and political factors) interfering with their “reception” of the 3rd or 4th Ecumenical Councils, and in fact these schismatic groups held on faithfully to older, less precise forms of Catholic dogma (which did not yet clearly exclude these heresies), these “Pre-Chalcedonian” Churches were simply regarded as either Nestorian or Monophysite heretics by Chalcedonian Christians, that is, by the great majority of Christians (Catholic AND Orthodox Christians who were the same group until the Great Schism of 1054) under the 5 Patriarchs of the Pentarchy including the Pope, their Petrine protos (first or chief). At the time of Chalcedon the universal protos/pope, the Successor of Peter, was Pope Saint Leo the Great, whose articulate Biblical and Sacred Traditional resolution to the Monophysite controversy (encapsulated in the phrase “Jesus is fully God and fully man”) was spontaneously hailed in 451 AD by all the Eastern and Western overeers/bishops/eparchs gathered at the Council of Chalcedon: “this is the faith of the Church! Peter has spoken through Leo.”
While the Nestorian and Monophysite heresies as classicly defined and condemned at Ephesus and Chalcedon were and are indeed major Christological heresies, the “Pre-Chalcedonian” Churches (the Assyrian Church of the East and the “Oriental Orthodox Family of Churches”) did not so much embrace these heresies as, not understanding the more precise subtleties of the 3rd and 4th Ecumenical Councils due to language barriers or other non-theological factors, instead of accepting the Councils’ greater precision they (though doing it in schism) held on faithfully to earlier, less precise forms of orthodox Catholic dogma. However, their subsequent separated Christological development has been on a line of convergence with that of the Chalcedonian (Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) Churches, such that in modern times both the Assyrian Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox Family of Churches have signed documents of common Christology with the Catholic and/or Eastern Orthodox Churches, agreeing clearly that Nestorianism and Monophysitism as classicly defined and condemned are heretical, but clarifying that their separated Churches do not believe those heresies and (even when they still use formulas the heretics used) they have developed more subtle understanding which is compatible with the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon which at the time their Churches rejected (due mostly to non-theological factors). On this basis of essentially common Christology both the Assyrian Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox Churches are today in formal dialogue with the Catholic Church towards reunification (and the Oriental Orthodox Churches are in a parallel dialogue towards reunion with the Chalcedonian, Eastern Orthodox Church Communion gathered around the Patriarchate of Constantinople). It is because they were not really heretics but better described as “Pre-Chalcedonian” Christians mostly outside of the Christian Roman Empire adhering faithfully to more primitive forms of Catholic orthodoxy that, unlike the very many early heretical Christian churches which died out, the Pre-Chalcedonian Churches SURVIVED UNTIL THIS DAY, HEROICALLY WITNESSING TO JESUS CHRIST EVEN UNDER MUSLIM PERSECUTION FOR MOST OF THE LAST 1500 YEARS, and thus they will enhance the Catholic Communion when the current negotiations towards reunion are finally successful. Chalcedonian (Catholic and Orthodox and conservative/evangelical Protestant) Christians should pray for these Christians, mostly living in the Middle East, who at the time of writing are suffering tremendously in the political instability of Syria and Egypt, wherein the Muslim majority often vents their anti-Christian prejudice against them (in this current suffering they are already unified with their Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox counterparts living in the same regions, who, for the same nearly 1500 years suffering the same persecutions together with them, have often demonstrated particular desire to be fully reunited with them). For more details concerning the Pre-Chalcedonian Churches, click here to see the article The “Lesser Eastern Churches” are Historically Associated with Major Heresies But are Not (Or No Longer) Heretical, and Courageously Live for Christ in Muslim Lands, Leaving Hope for Reunion Among the Catholic and Orthodox Eastern Churches.
Go To “Tell His Disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7): Christian Unity with One College of Apostles (Later Bishops), With Peter (Later his Successor) at Their Head — The Intertwined Development of the Papacy and the Ecumenical Councils to Safeguard Christian Orthodoxy and Unity in the First Millennium Points the Way to Overcome Past East/West Prejudice and Restore Christian Unity Today
Go To The Magisterium (Teaching Office)-the Apostolic Authority to Settle Christian Disputes over Interpretation Passed on in the Living Body of Christ the Church in Order to Preserve Orthodoxy Throughout History
Go To the 3-Volume
A Call to Christian Unity
Jesus Prayed Christians “Be Brought to Complete Unity … So That the World May Believe” (John 17:23,21)
Teaching Christians How to Restore the Lost Unity in Diversity of the Undivided Early Church Through Lovingly Seeking to Truly Understand Each Other’s Differences While Celebrating Our Vast Common Saving Christian Faith and Learning from Our Different Strengths, “So That the World May Believe”
Today’s Divided Christians Who Share the Traditional Fundamental Beliefs of Orthodox Christianity Are Already Much Closer to the Undivided First Millennium Church’s Unity in Diversity than We Usually Realize – We Already Enrich Each Other with Our Many Different Areas of Strength in Preserving, Living and Proclaiming Christianity as Did the Undivided Early Church’s United but Different yet Mutually Enriching ‘Sister Churches’
Linking Christ the Head to His Body the Church Through Mary, First Believer in Jesus and First Member of the Body, in Ways Which Protect the Traditional Christian Fundamental Truths about Her Fully Divine Yet Fully Human Son Jesus from Heresies Ancient and Modern
The Pope Was the Historic Guarantor of Christian Unity and Orthodoxy in the First Christian Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: The Ancient Eastern Orthodox Tradition from the Beginning Recognized the Papacy and Was Through it Part of the Undivided Early Church’s Universal (Catholic) Communion of Different Orthodox Eastern and Western Christian Sister Churches Collectively Known as the Catholic Church, Celebrating Christianity Differently while Unified in Orthodox Christian Faith Against Many Early Christian Heretics
© 2005, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
See Vatican II on the Nature and Structure of the Church as the Mystery of the Body of Christ: The Catholic Church’s Official Understanding of the Nature and Structure of the Church as the Mystery of the Body of Christ (see Ephesians 5:22-32) organized in the World as a Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Eastern and Western Christian Rites or Particular (Sister) Churches Pastorally Guided by the (Universal) Pope and the (Particular) Patriarchs, in the Words of Vatican II (the 21st Ecumenical Council)
Go To “Catholic at Heart” – What Fundamentally Orthodox Protestant/Evangelical/Pentecostal Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians and Catholic Christians (of the Eastern and Western Rites) Are Already United in Is Precisely the Catholic Faith of the Undivided Early Catholic Church
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