The Great (East-West) Schism

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This page forms part of a brief outline of some of the aspects of Christianity about which some readers of AWE may want to know more. It is written in a sequence that you may want to follow. The best place to start, if you want to follow the whole course, is Principal Christian Denominations. Many users of AWE will come to this group of articles only wanting to know more about one of the denominations mentioned, or by way of links from other places. You should of course read a larger book if you are taking a serious interest in the Christian religion - our articles are the merest sketches of what is a vast array of complex ideas.

The Great (East-West) Schism of the tenth century was the first great formal breach between large groups of people professing to be Christians.

Over the centuries there had often been disagreements and tension between the Pope (the bishop of Rome) and the Patriarch of Constantinople, and in 1054 differences over points of doctrine and a dispute about the extent of papal authority led to a formal break and mutual excommunication between the Eastern Church and the Western Church. This break, known as the Great Schism, is responsible for the existence of two of the principal denominations or communions within the Christian Church:

  • the Roman Catholic Church - the word 'catholic' comes from the Greek καθολικός (katholikos), and means 'universal'.
See also Great Schism, for clarification of the term.
This page is included in AWE's category:essentially contested concepts. This is designed to draw the reader's attention to the fact that there are some ideas that will always cause disagreement among the people who use them. For a fuller explanation, read the text at the head of the category.