Eastern Schism: A Thing of the Past?

Interview With Father Marko Rupnik, of Aletti Center

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ROME, JULY 18, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Great Eastern Schism occurred in July 1054, marking the start of a now 950-year-old rift in the Church.

Papal legates placed on the altar of St. Sophia in Byzantium the excommunication against Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople, who, in turn, four days later, excommunicated the papal envoys.

How did this all happen? Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, director of the Aletti Center of Studies in Rome for dialogue between the East and West, answered the question in this interview with Vatican Radio.

Father Rupnik is the painter behind the Byzantine-inspired mosaics that decorate John Paul II’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican.

Q: What happened on July 16, 1054?

Father Rupnik: Spiritually speaking, we can say that a «sin» was committed, as happens in all separations, in all schisms. It was not the only schism; there were many others before.

The question was of jurisdiction over some areas in dispute, but dogmatic and theological reasons were given. It was about questions that affected the discipline of the Church, a question on the Eucharist, the subject of the «Filioque,» etc. After 950 years, none of those issues are of any consequence!

Q: What happened, then, to those disputed issues? For example, the most famous, the «Filioque.»

Father Rupnik: On the question of the «Filioque,» namely, the fact that the Holy Spirit does not proceed only from the Father, but also from the Son, there is nothing left, as the Catholic Church, in a declaration a few years ago, totally resolved the question, which today does not represent any difficulty with the East.

Q: So there is agreement on points of view on the question of the Holy Spirit?

Father Rupnik: From a dogmatic point of view, there is agreement on points of view, as the Holy Father says. That is, there are no things that separate us irremediably.

Today also, given the events that take place in the world, the very rapid evolution of culture, I think that it is really difficult to find reasons to remain divided.

As the Pope said in «Orientale Lumen,» we are now under the pressure of the charity of God to take steps toward a meeting, as only together can we point to Christ, Savior of the men and women of today.

This is a pressure before which there can be no excuses. We must do everything possible to find points in common. Today it is about attaining, as the Second Vatican Council announced, full recognition of one another. It is about two great apostolic traditions.

Q: In fact, the Pope also says in «Orientale Lumen» that the words of the West have need of the words of the East so that the Word of God will better manifest its unfathomable riches.

Father Rupnik: Exactly. Today we feel the need of one another and this is the sign of a new Pentecost. Today we know that we must arrive at an exchange of gifts to be able to be recognized as disciples of Christ.

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