The Orthodox Pages

email: pater@christopherklitou.com 

 TALK ON THE HISTORY OF

MANKIND AND THE CHURCH
PART 9

31st January 2008

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 THE GREAT SCHISM OF 1054

 
Last week’s talk finished with a brief mention of the Ignatian – Photian and Papal dispute in the second half of the Ninth Century. The dispute was over who was the official Patriarch of Constantinople. Today we will look at the Great Schism between the East and west, which this dispute played a major factor because we see that the Pope at that time, Nicholas I, tried to apply the papal claims for authority over all the Church and sanctioned the use of the Filioque in Bulgaria. The Papal claims for authority and the Filioque are the two main issues that brought about the Schism, but there were other issues that contributed to the estrangement of East and West. The Church split along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographic lines, but this was not something that happened overnight. The official date of the Schism is 1054 but in reality it was not an event that we can put a precise date on. The Great Schism came about gradually and started well before the Eleventh Century and became decisive in 1204 with the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade. After this we can say that the Christian East and Christian West were truly divided into two, even though there were later attempts to reconcile the two Churches at a Council held at Lyons in 1274 and again at the council of Florence held in 1438-1439.
So what were the factors that caused the final Schism of the Church?
The Papal claims reach back as far as the Second Ecumenical Council 381. Up to that time the church recognized the unique positions of three bishops, who were known as Patriarchs: the Bishop of Rome, the Bishop of Alexandria, and the Bishop of Antioch. The third canon of this council recognized the bishops of Constantinople and Jerusalem also as Patriarchs, and because Constantinople was the new capital of the empire, it gave it equal ranking with Rome which until then had the primacy of honour. The decision was reaffirmed at the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 451. The Patriarch of Rome strongly disputed that point, arguing that the reason for Rome’s Primacy had always been that it was the position of the Successor of St. Peter, the first-ranking among the Apostles.
Another factor was the political disunion of the Roman Empire. The last Emperor to rule over a united Roman Empire was Theodosius the Great who died in 395. After his death, his territory was divided into western and eastern halves, each under its own Emperor. By the end of the 5th century, the Western Roman Empire had been overrun by the Germanic tribes, while the Eastern Roman Empire, that is the Byzantine Empire, continued to thrive.
Another factor that caused the East and West to drift further apart was Language. The dominant language of the West was Latin, whilst that of the East was Greek. Soon after the fall of the Western Empire, the number of individuals who spoke both Latin and Greek began to dwindle, and communication between East and West grew much more difficult. With linguistic unity gone, cultural unity began to crumble as well. As a result each side developed different liturgical rites and had different approaches to religious doctrines.
We saw when we covered the first six Ecumenical Councils that the Pope did not accept the canons of the Quinisect Council because it ruled against the Church of Rome which practiced celibacy among the clergy and even if someone was married, if he wished to enter holy orders then he had to promise that he would not enter into intercourse with his wife after ordination. The Quinisect Council disagreed with this practice and stated that marriage ties should continue and remain solid and inseverable. Other canons also were contrary to established practices in the West and the Roman See did not wish to change on directives from the Quinisext Council.
Still other factors that contributed to the estrangement of East and West were the disputes between the Western or Eastern Churches over who had the ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the Balkans, Southern Italy, and Sicily.
The Western Church’s use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist was also seen by the Eastern Church as an innovation and a breaking away from the Apostolic traditions. The Church had always used leavened bread in the Eucharist and it had nothing to do with whether or not Christ used leaven or unleavened bread at the Mystical supper. The Jewish Passover is not in any sense a feast or celebration, but rather a remembrance of that night the Lord passed over and smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt. The “Passover” meal was the lamb which had to be eaten on that night with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. There was no time to wait for the dough to rise, they had to eat it quickly and be dressed and ready to go. Unleavened bread is referred to as the ‘bread of affliction’, recalling the affliction they suffered in the land of the Egyptians and the haste in which Israel fled Egypt.
Unleavened bread is connected with mourning and fasting, something totally inappropriate in connection with the Lord’s Day. The Eucharist is about the Resurrection as much as the Crucifixion, which is why fasting is forbidden on Sundays and liturgies are festive. Unleavened bread is a fast. Leavened bread is a feast. The Church has always considered Sunday to be a feast day, not a fast day. On this account the Church used leavened bread in the Eucharist.
We saw last week the Seventh Ecumenical Council which dealt with the Iconoclast Controversy and which was rejected by Charlemagne and his court. Charlemagne is also responsible for introducing the Filioque in the Frankish kingdom and his first objection to the acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council was that it did not read the Creed with the Filioque and also denounced the Greeks for not using it in the Creed. For many years, there were bad feelings between the Franks and the Greeks and when Charlemagne was crowned as Emperor of the Roman Empire in the West, Constantinople justifiably refused to recognize Charlemagne’s crowning and denounced it. His crowning as Emperor was seen by the East as an act of treason by Pope Leo III. Who was Charlemagne? He was the king of the Franks who had become the dominant group of the Germanic tribes that had overrun the Roman Empire in the West from the 5th century. By the 8th Century the Franks reached their peak of power under Charlemagne. When the Pope crowned Charlemagne as emperor of the Roman Empire he completely ignored that the Roman Empire already had a ruler in the city of New Rome (Constantinople). Constantinople regarded Charlemagne as an intruder and the Papal coronation as an act of schism within the Empire. The creation of a Holy Roman Empire in the West, instead of drawing Europe closer together, only served to alienate East and West more than before.
We can see then that the problems between East and West began long before the Great Schism of 1054. Of the many problems that existed many existed without actually being reasons for a schism. The liturgical differences for example were not doctrinal reasons, and existed side by side without them interfering in the unity of the Church. The question of the Filioque on the other hand was something else; it came into conflict with the Church’s doctrine on the Holy Trinity. The Papal claims were also a serious matter and no bishop in the East was going to accept being subordinate to a Pope who put himself above all the others as some kind of Monarchy or World Bishop. The Filioque therefore, and the Papal claims for universal authority are considered as the two main reasons for causing the Great Schism of 1054. Let take a look at these two factors which caused the division of the Church into the Churches we now know as the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
The “Filioque” is an addition to the Nicene - Constantinopolitan Creed [Statement of Faith] made by the Roman Catholic Church. In its original form, preserved by the Orthodox Church, the Creed states: “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified.” The Roman Catholic Church added the words: “And from the Son” so that it now reads: “Who proceedeth from the Father and from the Son” “ex Patre Filioque procedens”. The Filioque was the primordial cause, the only dogmatic cause, of the breach between East and West. Other dogmatic issues have certainly arisen since the separation, but the Filioque was the only dogmatic difference at the time of the schism.

To understand the dispute over the Filioque we must first understand how the Fathers of the first two Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea – Constantinople formulated the Creed. The first Ecumenical Council was faced with the Arian heresy so they had to find terminology that would safeguard the Orthodox beliefs. The creed couldn’t be too long, so each word had to be carefully selected. It was preferably to use terminology already available in Holy Scripture, and only use other words when Scripture was not adequate or strong enough to explain the Trinitarian and Christological Dogmas. Thus we see for the first time the word homoousios is adapted by the Council to show that Jesus Christ the Son of God is of the same essence as the Father. They rejected an alternative word with only an iota of difference: homoiousios meaning similar essence, because the Arians could interpret it as meaning Christ was similar to the Father in essence but not the same. The Fathers would not compromise to any word that was not consistent with the true teaching of the Church.

The Second Ecumenical Council had the Macedonion heresy to deal with which taught that the Holy Spirit was not a person ("hypostasis"), of the Holy Trinity but simply a power or energy of God. Faced with this new heresy, the Council used the Scriptural description of the Holy Ghost as found in the Gospel of St. John: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father.” (John 15:26) Thus they added to the Nicene Creed the teaching of the Divinity of the Holy Spirit with the following words: “And (I believe) in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.” The Creed - Symbol of Faith of the Second Ecumenical Synod was consistently endorsed by subsequent Ecumenical Synods who specifically forbade any changes to be introduced into the Creed and even issued anathemas against any who would alter the Symbol of the Second Ecumenical Synod. The Creed was and is the common possession of the whole Church, and no one in the Church had a right to tamper with it. The Orthodox Church has maintained the Creed without change for over seventeen centuries, but the Roman Catholic Church did tamper with the Creed against the directives of the Ecumenical Councils and without consulting the East and added the words “ and from the Son. By doing so they are guilty of sinning against the unity of the Church.
Now to many this addition might seem trivial, but in Trinitarian theology it has enormous consequences. This is not going to be easy to explain, but I will try and keep it as simple as possible and if anyone doesn’t understand we can look at it again at the end of the talk. In the passage we already quoted from St. John’s Gospel, it uses two words to describe the action of the Holy Spirit – Proceeds and send: “when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father”. The two words are referring to two different actions. The word Proceeds is in reference to the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the word send refers to the sending of the Holy Spirit in time by the Son. In a similar manner when talking of Jesus Christ we say he was begotten of the Father before all eternity, but was born in time as a human being. Thus when explaining about the Trinity we must distinguish in our minds two things: first that God is not a created being, he exists from all eternity before all creation. This of course is something we will never fully understand because we do not belong to that eternity: it is beyond the experience of us mere mortals. The second thing to remember is how God has revealed himself to us after creation. Thus the Fathers distinguished between the eternal existence of the Holy Trinity outside of creation and time and the economy of the Holy Trinity, in other words, the work of the Holy Trinity in time for the salvation of mankind.
The Holy Trinity is one in essence but three in persons. To distinguish one person from another, the Fathers identified characteristics unique to each of the Divine Persons. The Father is neither begotten nor proceeds, but he begets and gives procession. He is the source or cause of the Godhead. The Son neither proceeds nor gives procession; He does not beget, but is eternally begotten. In the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), the Son became perfect Man whilst remaining perfect God. The Holy Spirit neither begets nor is begotten; He does not give procession, but eternally proceeds from the Father and was sent in the fullness of time (Pentecost) to the Church.
If this is confusing then let’s use an analogy to illustrate the difference between the sending of the Holy Spirit in time from the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit. Let’s say I gave my son a Rolex watch; he then tells others that he received the watch from me, which would be true, but I didn’t make the watch, it originally came from the Rolex company. Similarly, we can say we receive the Holy Spirit from the Son (because the Son sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost), but the Holy Spirit's ultimate origin is the Father.

Now with the addition of the Filioque the relationship between the three Persons of the Holy Trinity become confused and clearly subordinates the Holy Spirit making him less that the other two persons. As already mentioned, the Father is unbegotten, He is the source and cause of the Godhead, the Son is Begotten of the father and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. If now the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son then that makes the Son also the source and cause. The Father and the Son would have the same characteristics and the Holy Spirit is left out there on his own depending on his procession on both of them making Him less than the others. Let’s see this from another angle. If by teaching that the Father is the Cause of Himself because He is unbegotten and the Cause of the Son because He is begotten of the Father and the Cause of the Holy Spirit because he proceeds from the Father, then say that the Son is also the Cause of the Holy Spirit because he proceeds from the Son then this clearly is saying that the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the other two because it makes him the only Divine Person who is not a Cause of another Divine Person. I think we need our analogy to help us understand what this means. Previously we saw that the Rolex watch that I gave my son originally came from the Rolex Company, but now I have become the maker of the watch so that makes me the Rolex company. Now that would be something, but of course that is absurd in the same way the Filioque is absurd in its indirect suggestion that the Son is a cause of the Holy Spirit. What we have said so far is only part of the confusion to the Persons of the Holy Trinity caused by the Filioque. There are other objections which have to do with the essence of the Divinity, but I think this is more than enough to digest for now. St, Gregory the Theologian once said: “You ask what is the procession of the Holy Spirit? Do you tell me first what is the un begottenness of the Father, and I will then explain to you the physiology of the generation of the Son, and the procession of the Spirit, and we shall both of us be stricken with madness for prying into the mystery of God. (Oration 32:8)
Before leaving the meaning of the Filioque it should be said that some modern translations of the Bible into English, approved by the Vatican, have replaced the word “proceeds” with “comes” from the Father and “issuses” from the Father and even in the footnotes mention that they refer to the sending of the Spirit into the world rather than the "eternal" proceeding from the Father. They clearly and deliberately distort the original Greek text and would have the readers believe that Holy Scripture says nothing about the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit.
We see then that the addition of the Filioque into the Creed is not something minor or trivial: it has many repercussions. But where did it originally come from?
The history of the Filioque can be traced back to St. Augustine of Hippo who died in 430 AD. Before converting to Christianity Augustine had worked as a Neoplatonist philosopher which influenced his writings on the Holy Trinity. Augustine’s knowledge of Greek was very limited so he couldn’t study the Greek Fathers whose theology was adapted on the Cappadocian school of thought. He suspected that the Greek texts contained the correct understanding of the Holy Trinity, but lacking translations and unfamiliar with their teaching, he did what he knew best using the Greek philosophers to explain Christian teachings. He believed Neoplatonism and Christianity were compatible and not knowing how to theologise in the manner of the Apostles, he theologised in the manner of Aristotle and Plotinus. His writings put forth the teaching of the double procession of the Holy Spirit and regardless of the fact that others before him may have invented the double procession, it is his influence that made known the Filioque in the west. In fact Augustine is regarded as the father of western theology and it is said that every new crisis or new way of thinking in the West can be traced back to Augustine.

The insertion of the Filioque into the creed seems to have happen as early as 400 at a council of Toledo in Spain. By the Third Council of Toledo in 589 it became the accepted form for Spain and they even believed that this was the original form of the Creed. The Council went as far as to anathematize those who did not profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Again ironically, they also anathematized all those who did not accept the decrees of the first Four Ecumenical Councils. Without being aware they were anathematizing themselves. From Spain the introduction of the Filioque spread fairly rapidly through the West and before long it was received practically everywhere, except at Rome, who still recited the Creed in its original form until the start of the 11th Century. The Filioque first became an issue of controversy by Charlemagne and the Council of Frankfurt in 794. They accused the Greeks of heresy because they reciting the Creed without the Filioque. We saw last week that when the Pope received the Caroline Books and the acts of the Frankfurt Synod, he rejected the condemnation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. He correctly believed that it was a mistake to tamper with the wording of the Creed and deliberately had the Creed, without the Filioque, inscribed in Greek and Latin on two silver plaques and set them up in Saint Peter’s at Rome.
The Greeks didn’t pay too much attention to the Filioque until the time of the Patriarch Photius. A quarrel arose between the Patriarch and Pope Nicholas I which is known in the West as the Photian schism although the East prefers to call it the schism of Nicholas
We mentioned the conflict at the end of our talk last week, but today we will take a closer look because it involved not only the Filioque, but also the first official Papal claims for universal authority.
In 857, fourteen years after the Triumph of Orthodoxy over the Iconoclasts, the Patriarch Ignatius was exiled by the Emperor and while in exile had resigned under pressure. In his place was enthroned the New Patriarch of Constantinople Photius. Supporters of Ignatius declined to accept this resignation as valid and when Photius sent a letter to the Pope announcing his accession, Nicholas decided not to recognize Photius until he examined the dispute between the two Patriarchs. He sent legates to Constantinople who were invited at a Council to examine the issue. He also instructed his delegates to support Photius only if Illyricon and southern Italy were returned to his control. The legates and the Council all agreed that Photius was the legitimate Patriarch. Whether the question of Illyricon and southern Italy was mentioned is not clear as the records of the Synod were destroyed, but they remained in the jurisdiction of New Rome. The Pope was not happy with the results and excommunicated his delegates upon their return. He then proceeded to retry the case himself at Rome: and recognized Ignatius as Patriarch, and proclaimed Photius to be deposed. Nicholas was overstepping his authority. Under canon law bishops under condemnation were allowed to appeal to Rome and Rome had the authority to order a retrial if there was enough cause, but this retrial was not to be conducted by the Pope himself, but by the bishops of the provinces adjacent to that of the condemned bishop. His retrial of the Photian – Ignatian dispute was clearly an attempt by the Pope to impose his absolute power and authority in the East as he had already done in the West. This is also seen in a letter he wrote in 865 where he states the Pope is endowed with authority over all the earth, that is, over every Church. The Byzantines were not prepared to grant him such authority and regarded his behaviour as an uncanonical interference in the affairs of another Patriarchate.
Relations with Nicholas became even more estranged when missionaries became involved with the baptism of the Slavs. Two missionaries were at work at the same time, one from the Greeks and the other from the West by Germans. A clash between the two arose over the Filioque, which the Germans used in Bulgaria. At Rome itself the Filioque was still not in use, but Nicholas gave full support to the Germans when they insisted upon its insertion in Bulgaria. Photius was concerned by the German influence in the Balkans, on the very borders of the Byzantine Empire and even more concerned by the question of the Filioque. In 867 he wrote an a letter to the other Patriarchs of the East, denouncing the Filioque. In it he accused the Pope of inserting the Filioque into the Symbol of Faith; of improperly interfering in the Church of Bulgaria and attempting to dominate churches outside his jurisdiction; of endorsing an improper repetition of the sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation) on the pretext that Chrismation done by married priests from New Rome was invalid and of improperly interfering in disputes outside his jurisdiction. He then summoned a council at Constantinople which was attended by about 1000 representatives from throughout the East, including the Patriarchates of New Rome (Constantinople), Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. Pope Nicholas refused to participate, thinking himself above any council. The synod condemned various Latin practises, condemned the Filioque, and excommunicated Pope Nicholas from the Church, terming him a heretic who ravages the vineyard of the Lord. Nicholas died before learning of his excommunication and was replaced by Hadrian II, but not before writing to various Franks asking them to defend the Filioque.
There was now an open schism between Constantinople and Rome, but it was short-lived because in the same year Photius was deposed from the Patriarchate by the Emperor and communion with Rome was restored with Ignatius once more as Patriarch. Two years after, in 869 another Council was held at Constantinople, known as the Anti-Photian Council, which condemned and anathematized Photius. This Council was for a time considered by the West to be the Eighth of the Ecumenical Synods. The Council also requested the Emperor to resolve the status of the Bulgarian Church, and not surprisingly he decided that it should be assigned to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The German missionaries were expelled from Bulgaria and with them the Filioque. Ignatius and Photius in the meantime were reconciled to one another, and when Ignatius died in 877, Photius once more succeeded him as Patriarch. In 879, another council was held in Constantinople which withdrew the anathema of the previous Council against Photius. This was officially accepted and recognized by Rome without protest and communion between Constantinople and the Papacy remained unbroken.
The problem with the Filioque again came to the forefront when in 1014 it was sanctioned by the Pope to be used during the coronation of Emperor Henry II at Rome. At this time we also see the two silver plaques inscribed with the original Creed disappearing from St. Peter’s. Five years earlier in 1009, the newly-elected Pope Sergius IV sent a letter to Constantinople which may have contained the Filioque. If this is true then it would account for the Pope’s name being dropped from the Constantinopolitan Diptychs. The Diptychs are lists, kept by Patriarchs, containing the names of other Patriarchs living or departed whom he recognizes as Orthodox. These lists of names are commemorated during the office of Oblation which is the preparation service before the Liturgy. The Diptychs are therefore a visible sign of the unity of the Church, and to deliberately omit someone’s name from them is considered as breaking off communion with him. Of course Diptychs were often incomplete and the omission of the Pope’s name could have been an oversight, but after 1009 the Pope’s name did not appear again in the Diptychs of Constantinople.
As the Eleventh Century progressed, Rome gained a position of power in the West such as it had never before achieved: the Western Church became centralized to a degree unknown anywhere in the four Patriarchates of the East. Pope Leo IX revived the papal claims to universal jurisdiction, which Nicholas had made before in the ninth century. The Byzantines had no problem with the Pope claiming absolute power in the West, but they were not prepared to let him interfere with the Church in the East. The Pope, however, believed he had the power to be a kind of Monarch over the entire world with Rome as the centre of the Christian kingdom. This was uncanonical and the Pope was now disregarding the Seven Ecumenical Councils and placing himself above their authority. The Eastern Churches had always assigned to the Pope a primacy of honour, but not the universal supremacy which he regarded as his due. The Church had always been founded on the collegial system where all bishops sat as equals and where a primacy of honour was given, it did not mean that that Bishop was above the others.
Things became worse with the military aggression of the Normans in Byzantine Italy. The Normans began imposing Latin customs on the Greeks of Byzantine Italy, including the use of unleavened bread—with papal approval.
The Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, in return demanded that the Latin churches at Constantinople should adopt Greek practices, and in 1052, when they refused, he closed them. Among the practices to which Michael and his supporters particularly objected was the Latin use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist. A letter was sent to bishops in the West attacking the Judaistic practices of the West. The Pope in response ordered a reply to each charge and also a defence of the papal supremacy. In 1053 Michael tries to patch up the differences with the Pope and writes to him offering to restore him name to the Diptychs. Its probable that he was convinced to cool the situation by the Emperor who was on good terms with the Pope. In response to this offer, and to settle the disputed questions of Greek and Latin usages, Leo in 1054 sent three legates to Constantinople, the chief of them being Humbert, Bishop of Silva Candida. They arrived in Constantinople in April 1054 and when they called on the Patriarch they rudely thrust a letter to him from the Pope. Their attitude was not received favourably by the Patriarch who in return did not give them the welcome they would have liked. They stormed out without giving the usual salutations. The letter although signed by Leo had in fact been drafted by Humbert and was far from friendly. On receiving the letter the Patriarch noticed that the seals had already been tampered with. The Patriarch determined that the legates were worse than mere barbarous Westerners, they were liars and crooks. He refused to recognise their authority or, practically, their existence.
Pope Leo died on April 19, 1054, and legally the legates' authority should also have ceased, but they did not seem to notice. Humbert and his companions remained in Constantinople waiting for a reply from the Patriarch, but the Patriarch refused to address the issue at hand. Eventually Humbert lost patience, and without papal authority decided to carry out an action that has become to be known ever since as the Great Schism. On the 16th July the papal legates entered the Church of Hagia Sophia and, while the clergy were preparing for the service at the third hour of the day on Saturday, they laid a Bull of excommunication on the main altar in full view of the clergy and people present. Going out thence, Humbert shook off the dust from his feet as a testimony against them, according to the words of the Gospel (Mathew 10: 14), exclaiming: "Let God see and judge." A deacon ran out after him in great distress and begged him to take back the Bull. Humbert refused; and it was dropped in the street.
The Bull of excommunication did not directly excommunicate everyone, but only the Patriarch and his followers. In it was written the following: “As for the pillars of the Empire and the honourable, wise citizens, Constantinople is most Christian and Orthodox. But as for Michael, who is unlawfully called patriarch, and the champions of his stupidity, innumerable weeds of heresies are scattered in it... Let them be anathema, let them be anathema ­ maranatha (I Corinthians 16:22). Amen.” In the document Humbert also accused the Greeks of omitting the Filioque from the Creed something which is now common knowledge that the Eastern Church did not delete anything; it was the Western Church that added this word to the original Nicene Creed. The legates left for Rome two days later, leaving behind a city near riots. On returning to Rome Humbert presented the whole incident as a great victory for the See of Rome, but back at Constantinople the Patriarch retaliated with a synod which anathematized Humbert and the other two legates. They did not anathematize the Roman Church, but from that time the Pope ceased to be commemorated in all the Eastern Churches during the Divine Liturgy. Thus the Great Schism had begun, but it was not until many years after that it became final. Relations between East and West continued and the majority of ordinary Christians remained unaware of the Schism.

The Schism between East and West became final with the Fourth Crusade in 1204. It brought about so much hatred and bitterness that even today the monks of Athos distrust the Christian West. It is a story of disgrace which should bring tears to those hearing how Christian brothers killed and raped fellow Christian brothers and then looted everything they could lay their hands on. The Fourth Crusade was between 1198-1204, but we’ll pick up the story towards the end. They were originally bound for Egypt, but were persuaded by Alexius, son of Isaac Angelus, the deposed Emperor of Byzantium, to turn aside to Constantinople in order to restore him and his father to the throne. The crusaders succeeded in restoring Isaac, to his Empire, but the reward which they required was extravagant, and Isaac’s efforts to comply with the stipulations provoked such resentment, that he was deposed by his subjects, and put to death, together with his son.

The Crusaders in the meantime owed a great deal to the Venetians. An agreement had been made for the Venetians to supply the food and transport to carry the so-called Christian army to Egypt. The service did not come cheap and the crusaders fell heavy into dept. They knew that Constantinople, the richest city of all Europe, was a richer prize than all the Holy Land and that it could be taken more easily. On the night of 12th to 13th April they entered Constantinople and sacked and pillaged the Great City. Nobody controlled the troops. Thousands of defenceless civilians were killed. Women, even nuns, were raped by the crusading army and churches, monasteries and convents were looted. The very altars of churches were smashed and torn to pieces for their gold and marble by warriors who had sworn to fight in service of the Christian faith. Even the magnificent Santa Sophia was ransacked by the crusaders. Works of tremendous value were destroyed merely for their material value. Many of its priceless treasures were carried off to Europe. But the greatest prize of all were the relics, bones, heads and arms of saints, the crown of thorns, St. Thomas’ finger, and the Shroud. The knights showed no respect for anything sacred; Communion cups and sacred vessels were used as drinking cups in drunken revels. Prostitutes danced on the altar. Icons, even portraits of Christ were used as gaming tables. This systematic sacrilege is what shocked the Greeks more than anything else. How could men who had specially dedicated themselves to God’s service and bearing the Cross on their armour, treat the things of God in such a way? Tuesday the 13th of April was indeed a black day for the Christian world and even to this day the Greeks superstitiously regard Tuesday the 13th as unlucky in the same way the West regards Friday the 13th as unlucky.
The pillaging went on for three days and they are three days that Eastern Christendom has never forgotten. After 1204 the Greeks could no longer consider the Latins as their Christian brothers. Their actions were unholy in all respects and even the Saracens who were Muslim were more merciful that the crusader Knights. Christians in the West still do not realize how deep is the disgust and how lasting the horror with which Orthodox regard actions such as the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders. After 1204 there can be no doubt that Christian East and Christian West were divided into two.
Eight hundred years after the Fourth Crusade, Pope John Paul II twice expressed sorrow for the events of the Fourth Crusade. In 2001, he wrote to Blessed Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens, who was buried today, saying, “It is tragic that the assailants, who set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret.” In 2004, while Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, was visiting the Vatican, John Paul II asked, “How can we not share, at a distance of eight centuries, the pain and disgust.” This has been regarded as an apology to the Greek Orthodox Church for the terrible slaughter perpetrated by the warriors of the Fourth Crusade.
In April 2004, in a speech on the 800th anniversary of the city’s capture, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I formally accepted the apology. During a Liturgy attended by Roman Catholic Archbishop Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, he said: “The spirit of reconciliation is stronger than hatred,” “We receive with gratitude and respect your cordial gesture for the tragic events of the Fourth Crusade. It is a fact that a crime was committed here in the city 800 years ago.” Bartholomew said his acceptance came in the spirit of Pascha. “The spirit of reconciliation of the Resurrection... incites us toward reconciliation of our churches.”