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Greek Church from Rome, Separation of

The Byzantine Empire had a troubled relationship with the Papacy in Rome since Emperor Leo III’s controversial prohibition of the worship of icons (iconoclasm) in the middle of the eighth century. Pope Leo III’s appointment of the Frankish emperor Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor more than 60 years after Leo’s iconoclasm only intensified the tensions between them. As far as the rulers of Constantinople were concerned, Italy was still a part of the greater Roman Empire. Constantinople remained the true bastion of Christianity in Europe. A series of events that involved the troublesome Byzantine royal family, a couple of Patriarchs, and the Pope finally severed the cord between the Greek church in Constantinople from the Papacy in Rome in 867 AD. This event is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History during that time.

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Photian Schism 863-867 (or Schism of Nicholas I)

Emperor Michael and the Patriarch Ignatius of Constantinople’s relationship was never great in the first place after the patriarch and Michael’s mother Theodora disapproved of his liaison with his long-time mistress Eudokia Ingerina (he was already married to another woman chosen by his mother at that time). Tensions rose when Michael became displeased with Ignatius after the latter refused the rite of communion to his uncle and regent, Bardas, in 858 AD. Bardas convinced Michael that Ignatius was involved in a plot against his rule, so the emperor ordered the patriarch to be deposed and exiled to the Prince Island. Michael then appointed the layman Photius as the new Patriarch of Constantinople on Christmas Day in 858. Ignatius, nevertheless, refused to abdicate nor acknowledge the appointment of Photius, while the Studion monks even continued to support him and refused to submit to the new Patriarch.

“Pope Saint
Nicholas I”

Photius sent a letter to Pope Nicholas I in Rome in an attempt to inform him of his appointment as Constantinople’s new patriarch and get him to break the insubordination of the Studion monks. When Nicholas heard of the conflict between the former and the newly-appointed Patriarch, he sent his legates (Papal representatives) to Constantinople to determine whether he should recognize Photius as Patriarch or not. The synod in Constantinople reached a decision: the legates recognized Photius’ appointment and confirmed the removal of Ignatius. Ignatius appealed to Nicholas to overturn the decision made by the legates and the pope, unhappy with the turn of events, excommunicated Photius at the Lateran Synod in 863 AD.

In 867 AD, Photius answered the excommunication with an encyclical (a letter of the Patriarch) addressed to the patriarchs of the East. The encyclical contained a list of the Byzantine complaints against the Roman Papacy, as well as an announcement of the deposition and anathematization (powerless as it was) of the Pope. He also announced that he considered the doctrines of the West heretical.

Picture By Artaud de Montor (1772–1849) –, Public Domain,
Bury, J.B. The Cambridge Medieval History: The Eastern Roman Empire (717-1453). Edited by J.R. Tanner, C.W. Previte-Orton, and Z.N. Brooke. Vol. IV. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923.
Karmiris, John N. “THE SCHISM OF THE ROMAN CHURCH.” Ecclesia GR. Accessed August 31, 2016.
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