Rome and the Eastern Churches, by Father Andrew Rogosli

Catholic Faith Practiced in Various Rites

1. To the angels and saints it is given to know the infinite beauty that is in the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Even here on earth there is beauty in variety blending harmoniously. The Mystical Body of Christ has its beauty in the complex variety of its members. And here on earth the visible Church of Christ is beautiful in its catholicity, incorporating on a world-wide basis all Christians who acknowledge the supreme pontificate of Saint Peter and his successors, empowered by Christ with indestructible spiritual deputy-leadership in His stead. The vastness of the Catholic Church embraces also a magnificent variety of ancient rites that in turn exalt her dignity and beauty. Pope Leo XIII expressed it in the Constitution Orientalium Dignitas (1894) in these words:

The august antiquity by which the various rites are ennobled is an illustrious embellishment for the entire Church and affirms the divine unity of the Catholic faith.

2. Rites in themselves do not affect the unity of the Catholic religion which must be one as far as Divine doctrine, commandments and sacramental institutions are concerned. But in many respects the acts of worship and the practical exercise of the Catholic religion admit developments, modifications and differences, according to time, place, and circumstance. Such rites, or modes of living the Catholic religion, go back to apostolic times. Never has there been uniformity. The principle of multiplicity of rites has been upheld by the Holy See at all times. Some of these rites have been lost or absorbed by others. At times, attempts were made to modify and hybridize the ancient rites of Eastern Churches in line with Western observances. But the Holy See has lately taken energetic measures to preserve ancient and legitimate rites in their purity and entirety.

3. All Eastern Churches had once been Catholic and their rites must be regarded as legitimate expressions of the Catholic religion. Those Churches that separated themselves at one time or another did not leave the Catholic Church because they had a different rite, but because they would not accept one or another point of Catholic doctrine itself or because they refused to acknowledge the Bishop of Rome as their Supreme Pontiff. When in due time groups of the dissident Churches returned to Catholic unity, they were greatly encouraged by the Supreme Pontiffs to resume the exercise of the Catholic religion in their own rites as far as they still expressed the unchanged Catholic religion.

4. There are now three groups of Eastern Churches:

1) The Heretical Eastern Churches.

2) The Orthodox Eastern Churches.

3) The Catholic Eastern Churches.

The third group is an integral part of the Catholic Church. The paternal solicitude of the Supreme Pontiffs towards the Catholic Eastern Churches has been expressed in numerous encyclicals, in great spiritual encouragement and material support during the past centuries.

5. The dissident Eastern Churches are either heretical and schismatical, or merely schismatical with no changes of the orthodox doctrine. As centuries have passed since the various schisms, it is not at all surprising to find that the vast majority of the dissidents are more material heretics or material schismatics than formal ones. Excepting the higher dissident clergy and some lay people from the intelligentsia, the common people belonging to dissident Eastern Churches are not aware of the real issue, whether doctrinal or disciplinary, at the base of their being separated from the Catholic Church. Some of them hardly realize that the separation of their own Church from other Churches in the East or West is an actual ecclesiastical schism and think of it more in terms as Catholics sometimes do in speaking of the “Italian” or the “Spanish” Church, meaning simply the Catholic Church in Italy or in Spain.

6. Persons responsible for schisms and those who had an interest in separatism used every available means to justify their misdeeds in the eyes of the people. That is where the difference of rite came in useful; people were told that Rome had changed a liturgical practice and then introduced a doctrinal innovation (e.g., the “Filioque”) “contrary to the Fathers of the Church.” At the same time, careful and firm measures were taken to prevent access to anyone who might contradict and destroy such tales and refute this biased propaganda. If such a state of affairs can keep up long enough, people will invariably be indoctrinated with prejudices extremely difficult to overcome. The dissident people feel convinced that they are members of the Church of Christ and true followers of His doctrines; in other words, Orthodox.

7. As far as these Orientals err in good faith, it would be best that, in our social dealings with them, we avoid as far as possible any names or terms that contain a formal accusation of heresy or schism. After the example of the Holy See, who refers to them as members of the separated or dissident Eastern Churches or as “our separated brethren,” we may safely use these or similar terms, too.

Eastern Dissidents Differ from Protestants

8. The multiplicity of the Eastern Churches is a source of difficulty to anyone in the West approaching the problem of their relation to the Catholic Church, and the temptation is at hand to look upon Eastern Churches in almost the same way as upon the many Protestant sects that are more familiar to the West. Though the elements of heresy and of national Church-formation are sometimes involved, there is no real comparison between these two dissident groups.

9. The Protestant drift into national lines is neither essential nor generally intended; there are far more Protestant sects than national Churches. And as far as there are national Churches among the Protestants, it appears that they have been established artificially, by decree of the state rulers, and fostered by the civil government. The motto “Cuius regio cius religio” was the slogan. The Protestant national Churches are therefore autocephalous rather than autonomous.

10. Autocephaly was not known in early Christianity. On the other hand, the means of communications in the Roman Empire were not sufficient to build a centralized and unified ecclesiastical administration as it is seen in modern times, though they were sufficient and even providential for the rapid expansion of the early Church. A certain limited self-government or autonomy of local Churches was therefore necessary even within the Roman Empire. It was all the more natural that the peoples outside the Roman Empire, with ancient cultural traditions of their own, would tend towards autonomy as soon as they were converted to Christianity. Originally there was not much danger of their becoming autocephalous, for – excepting the Armenians – their rulers were pagans, hostile toward the Church and certainly not inclined to set themselves up as head of the Church within their territory. The element of autocephaly entered into the Eastern Churches only after schism or heresy, which was a wholly insufficient substitute for the supreme pontificate of the Apostolic Roman See, for in most cases they became completely independent of each other. Eastern Catholic Churches retain a certain autonomy within the Catholic Church, under the Roman Pontiff.

11. There is also a fundamental difference between the heretical Eastern Churches and the Protestants. The Protestant Reformation was a reformation only in name; in reality it was a religious revolution. It denied or perverted many Catholic doctrines and it abolished most of the Divinely instituted Sacraments. Any apostolate among Protestants is, therefore, primarily a theological mission – “Go and teach” the full Gospel, all of the Revelation and all the Divine Law.

12. With dissident Eastern Churches, the dogmatic approach is rare. Even the Eastern Churches in heresy have faithfully preserved the Catholic doctrine they held prior to their particular schism and, as far as they have preserved this heritage, they exhibit the genuine Catholic theology of the time before their separation. Of course, the error of their heresy has to be corrected and additional instruction must be given in Catholic doctrine as it developed in the Catholic Church since the schism. The latter point is imperative also for the Orthodox Churches and their members who are not in formal heresy. What they are lacking is the further development of Catholic theology as it was defined after their schism. Otherwise it is very difficult to find among the Orthodox any but insignificant and only occasional changes in doctrine. Their non-profession of Catholic doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, defined long after their schism, is not a direct denial of that truth. Their ancient liturgical books contain an explicit profession of this doctrine. And if the attention of Orthodox people is called to those words in their sacred books, their reaction is one of ready acceptance, with an understandable bewilderment why no one has told them about it before. Sometimes they even wonder why, then, it took the Catholic Church so long to proclaim this dogma. The Orthodox Churches have not had any general council since their schism that could have formulated for them a much needed clarification of certain doctrines; and there just is no voice that could teach them with authority in the name of the Orthodox Churches, or reject a doctrine as unorthodox. Individual Orthodox bishops and lay-theologians have occasionally voiced opinions – that are private – as opposed to the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin; but even that is not so much a rejection of the doctrine itself; at close study it will turn out that it is rather an opposition to the circumstances of its definition.

13. The conservative attitude of the dissident Eastern Churches in regard to the sacred books and rituals has been remarkable. With surprisingly rare exceptions, the validity of their holy Orders, and consequently of the Sacraments, has been preserved to this day. The only criticism is that their conservatism is too rigorous and their official theology, therefore, too stagnant, preventing further development for fear of heresy.

14. Thus, contrary to a frequent and regrettable misunderstanding, it should be understood that dissident Orientals are not to be regarded as Protestants, either as individuals or as ecclesiastical bodies, for they are not at all on the same level with the Protestants.

The Heretical Eastern Churches

15. The major defections from the unity of the Church of Christ occurred at first outside the Roman Empire. Later the peoples living near and within its Eastern boundaries became affected, lapsing into the Nestorian and Monophysite heresies.


16. Christianity, at an early date, had reached beyond the eastern borders of the Roman Empire, far into Persia and countries east, up into India. Historians may not yet be able to furnish undisputed proof whether any of the Apostles – and who in particular – had been there to preach the Gospel. But since the same language was spoken west and east of the “limes Romanus,” it was only natural that early missionaries crossed over into the East, entering the Persian Empire, the formidable rival of Rome.

17. Between the two empires was the autonomous state of Edessa. It may have been from there that Christianity penetrated into Persia. Later, when the persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire took place, Christians from Syria took refuge in Persia where they found ready asylum due to the antagonism of the Persian kings against the Roman emperors. And for some time the Christian religion was tolerated in Persia. Thus the Catholic Church developed in Persia somewhat on its own lines before the end of the Roman persecutions, but the Patriarch of Antioch maintained some supervision. There was a natural tendency to avoid unnecessary contacts with the Christians in the West, since the Roman and Persian Empires were antagonistic. Thus, without the help of the Christians of the Roman Empire, the Persian Christians built up their own ecclesiastical organization, and vigorous, mighty and flourishing it was. In an early period they had their own theological school, with its “Doctor of the Universal Church,” Saint Ephrem. They also had their abundant share in bloody persecutions, after war broke out between Rome and Persia in 340, for despite the efforts of the Persian Christians to the contrary, they were nevertheless suspected of favoring the interests of the Roman Empire.

18. In 410 a synod convened in Seleucia-Ctesiphon, near Baghdad which had become the center of the Persian Church. Its bishop was given the title and dignity of Katholikos. Since then a most remarkable missionary activity set in, which is one of the most glorious chapters of Christian history. Countries like Assyria, Chaldea and Kurdistan became entirely Christian, the most remote provinces of the Empire were penetrated and traces were found reaching into Samarkand, China and Southern India. The whole Southern Asiatic continent was covered. At the peak of the expansion, 200 dioceses had been established.

19. The Persian hierarchy participated in the first Ecumenical Councils, and the Patriarch of Antioch was still regarded as superior to the Katholikos of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. A new Persian Synod, in 424, took an important step, declaring its independence from Antioch and Edessa: “Easterners should not complain of their own Katholikos to the Western Patriarchs. Any case that cannot be settled by him shall await the tribunal of Christ.” At first glance, this might look like schism. However, this decision was largely influenced by the desire to avoid the distrust of the Persian rulers. After all, their relations with the Christians of the Roman Empire had been the source of unpleasant suspicion and subsequent persecution. It should not be overlooked, that the Persian Kings were not Christians and that the Church in Persia never enjoyed the privileges of a state religion, as the Church did in the West after Constantine the Great. Persian Christians had to test and form their own rules to adapt the position of the Church to a state which regarded the Church, if a modern expression may be permitted, as a “Fifth Column” of the Roman Empire. And, under such circumstances, the growth of the Church in Persia and its spread to the East is, to say the least, an outstanding example to show that the Church needs no state privileges to fulfill its mission.

20. The desire of the Persian Christians to disassociate themselves from the policies and interests of the Roman Empire was of course, sincere. As far as political considerations are concerned, they were Persians and, as such, antagonistic to the Roman Empire. This was not without influence, unjustified as it was, when the Persian Church rejected the Council of Ephesus, in 431, which condemned the heresy of Nestorius, and when Nestorians persecuted in Syria found asylum in Persia. Historians are inclined to ascribe the Persian rejection of the Council of Ephesus to political anti-Roman motives rather than to any preference of the Persian Christians for the worth of Nestorius’ teachings. Their antagonism against the Byzantine Emperor who also had set himself up as protector of the Christian Church drove the Persian Church into Nestorianism, gradually though it may have been, but the separation from the Catholic Church and the official profession of the Nestorian heresy was confirmed by the 7th century.

21. The Mohammedan conquest of Persia degraded the status of the Persian Church to that of a tolerated religion. However, the life of that Church kept going, though with some difficulties, as a powerful ecclesiastical organization up to the 14th century.

22. Whether the Persian Christians after centuries of schism were still aware of their Nestorianism and of their deviation from orthodoxy is an open question. There is an interesting story in which a Nestorian insists on his perfect orthodoxy: In 1228, the Nestorian Katholikos Mar Yab-Alaha, of Chinese descent, sent from Baghdad an emissary to the Emperor, the Pope and the Western princes to arrange an alliance against Islam. The ambassador, also a Chinese, born in Peking, was the monk Rabban Sauma. When he came to Rome, he met some Cardinals, before the election of Pope Nicholas IV, and they seemed to have taken the orthodoxy of this foreigner for granted and became suspicious only when they found that the Chinese emissary from Baghdad had not the faintest notion of the “Filioque,” quite excusably, for this was not an issue until long after Ephesus. Otherwise the Romans were convinced that he was an orthodox Catholic. The newly elected Pope honored the monk-emissary by giving him Holy Communion with his own hands.

23. There had been hopes at Rome that the Mongols might accept the Christian faith, but they adopted Islam. At the end of the 14th century, the Mongolian hordes coming from the East devastated Persia, as they did to many other countries, including Russia, leaving the Persian Church in utter ruins. A few remnants are gathered in the mountains of Kurdestan. Their spiritual leader is still called Katholikos, an office now inherited from uncle to nephew. The present Nestorian Katholikos has come to the United States of America. Occasionally he gives a press interview at the Hotel Waldorf Astoria in New York City.


24. Another group of unorthodox Churches follows the Monophysite heresy which proclaims that there is only one nature in Christ, whereas the orthodox doctrine upholds two distinct natures, the divine and the human, in Our Saviour. Although it may not always be certain whether all who are called Monophysites are real heretics in the theological sense, there is no harm in considering them as Monophysites at least in an historical sense, that is as members of ecclesiastical bodies who once refused to accept the decisions of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451. To this group belong the Armenian, the Coptic and the Abyssinian, the Syrian Jacobite and one of the two Malabar Churches.

Armenian Church

25. Some, but few, Christians had been in Armenia before the 4th century. But after the Armenian King had been baptized by Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the whole nation accepted the Christian faith. Thus, preceding the conversion of Constantine the Great, Armenia is the first country to have had a Christian ruler.

26. At first, the Church in Armenia was a dependency of Caesarea in Cappadocia where, until the time of Saint Basil the Great, its primate, called Katholikos, was consecrated. Later the Armenians declared themselves independent of Caesarea, and their Katholikos received his dignity from the assembled Armenian bishops. The Armenian Church, then, developed on distinctively national lines with its own Rite. Unlike the Byzantine Rite, shared by many nationalities, the Armenian Rite has become exclusive and is not shared by any other nation. This in itself is not to be regarded as contrary to the universal character of the Church of Christ, for neither the absolute unity of faith nor the hierarchical unity headed by the Roman Pontiff requires ritual uniformity. Despite its national character, the Armenian Church was originally of perfect orthodox faith and devotedly attached to it; and thanks to it, the Church became sufficiently strong to survive the fall of the Armenian Kingdom in 440 after which the country was divided between the Empires of Rome and of Persia.

27. When, after the collapse of the state, Greeks and Persians entered their respective parts of Armenia, these settlers – as far as they were Christians – built their own churches, for they did not feel at home in Armenian churches with their different Rite. They also were provided with their own, Byzantine or Persian, priests and bishops.

28. At the time of the Council of Chalcedon, the Persians had been attacking Armenia. This prevented the Armenian bishops from attending this Council. And since they had not been represented, they felt reluctant to accept its decisions. Later, in the 6th century, encouraged by Monophysite Syrians, they repudiated the Council of Chalcedon definitely. From that time on, the Armenian Church is called Monophysite. But Armenian writers, both Catholic and dissident, maintain that no heresy was intended and that the Council was rejected owing to misunderstandings.

29. There was a brief period of reunion with Rome during the third Crusade, but it did not last any longer than the Crusade itself. The Armenian dissident Church is frequently called the Gregorian Church for its apostle, Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Catholic Armenians do not use this title. The history of the Armenians, whether Catholic or Gregorian, is one of frequent persecutions, at first by the Persians, then by Arabs, Mongolians, Russians and especially by the Turks. After the most shocking massacre during the war of 1914, the Armenians are now living scattered all over the Near East; some have come to America, and a great number are living in that part of Armenia which is incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Armenian S.S.R. The expensive Soviet propaganda trying to persuade Armenian emigrants to return “home” has not had the expected success.

Coptic Church

30. Saint Mark the Evangelist, disciple of Saint Peter, founded the early Egyptian Church. For this reason the patriarchate of Alexandria was always regarded as an apostolic See, next in rank to the sees founded by Saint Peter personally, Rome and Antioch. The outstanding patriarch in Egypt was Saint Cyril who, at the request of the Roman Pontiff, had valiantly defended the Catholic doctrine against Nestorius, an accomplishment for which the Roman Pontiff conferred upon the Patriarch of Alexandria the title “Pope,” still used by both the dissident patriarchs. Saint Cyril’s successor, Dioskoros, went too far in his arguments against the Nestorian heresy and ended up in a new heresy, Monophysism. Although certain successive patriarchs have been orthodox, others were Monophysites. Since 567 there have been two patriarchs of Alexandria, one for the Monophysite Copts, now residing in Cairo, the other in Alexandria for the Orthodox Greeks who remained Catholic until 1054.

31. The Copts constitute the native Egyptian population whereas the Greeks settled only in the larger cities of Egypt. The more numerous natives resented the presence of the Greeks in the time of the Byzantine emperors. Political reasons rather than religious considerations, therefore, seem to have played the preponderant part, when the Copts stubbornly defended Monophysism against the orthodox Greeks. There certainly is no denying the popular resentment against political dependence upon Constantinople. Under such circumstances it was also not surprising that the Copts gave the invading Arabs their support against the Greeks. The Arabs, at first, returned the favor, but later persecuted the Copts equally with the Greeks, with frequent massacres. Though there were many martyrs for the Christian faith, apostasies were also numerous. Today the native population is 90 per cent Mohammedan. Less than one million belong to the Monophysite Coptic Church.

32. The Catholic Coptic patriarchate was established by the Holy See in 1894 for 5,000 Catholic Copts. Since then, their number has increased to 63,000 in 1946. In recent years the Catholic Church in Egypt, comprehending all rites, has shown a vigorous vitality of various apostolates for the “fellahin” of the destitute rural population.

Ethiopian Church

33. The Christian faith came to Ethiopia from Egypt, in the form of the rite of Alexandria, in the 4th century. Until World War II, the Ethiopian Church has always been totally dependent on the Patriarch of Alexandria and followed, after the division of the patriarchal lines, the Coptic Patriarch. Thus the Monophysite heresy was imposed on the Ethiopians and it is difficult to determine the culpability of the natives in those far off days.

In recent years the Church of Ethiopia has earnestly struggled for independence from the Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria. Its membership is estimated as close to four million people. A representative of Ethiopia had been at the Council of Florence and signed the act of union; but, as elsewhere, the union did not take effect. Nevertheless, Ethiopian pilgrims must have shown up in Rome periodically, for when the Negus sent a deputation to Rome in 1481, Pope Sixtus IV opened a hospice for them and a church behind Saint Peter’s Basilica, San Stefano dei Mori. This became later the Pontifical Ethiopian College, the only seminary on the grounds of Vatican City.

34. The Dominicans had once tried to enter Ethiopia, but with very little success. With the arrival of Portuguese military missions, Portuguese Jesuits entered the country and had considerable influence. In a turmoil of civil wars and revolts, it was no easy task to make the necessary reforms in order to raise the moral level of the population. Negus Susneyos (1607-1632) became Catholic, one of the Jesuit priests was made “patriarch” – a dignity that never existed in Ethiopia. To enforce the reforms, there was need to have the help of the rulers, and the Negus cooperated with the missionaries to the fullest extent. But unfortunately the methods of enforcement were of gross cruelty. The late Cardinal Hinsley writing in the Dublin Review of October, 1935 described the coercive measures as “inexcusable in the eyes of the Church and before the court of Christian civilization.” Adding to this the enforcement of wholly unnecessary alterations in the Ethiopian rite to conform with Roman usages, a violent reaction set in which banished all Catholic priests and ruined the cause of church-union for a long time. When in 1637 a new mission of Capuchins was sent to Ethiopia, its members suffered immediate martyrdom.

35. Since 1839 groups of Ethiopians began to return to the Catholic Church. Their strength is more in neighboring Eritrea. An Ordinariate for Northern Ethiopia was erected in 1930.

Syrian Jacobite Church

36. After the Council of Chalcedon, the patriarchate of Antioch suffered a fate similar to that of Alexandria: Catholics and Monophysites changing on the patriarchal throne. The heresy did not affect the Syrian population as deeply as in Egypt. But the motive of some bishops rejecting Chalcedon was the same as in Egypt, a political opposition to Constantinople. The Emperor Justinian I almost extinguished the heresy when he removed all bishops not having a clean bill of orthodoxy. But at the court of Byzantium there was always room for intrigue: the Empress Theodora, favoring the heresy, arranged for the secret consecration of two bishops in 543 who set up a new Monophysite hierarchy. One of these bishops was Jacob Baradai after whom the Monophysite Church is also called the Jacobite Church. The Orthodox Syrians who later followed the schism of Caerularius are called Melkites (“King’s Men”).

37. The Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch took up residence in Mesopotamia. His followers in Syria welcomed the Arab invaders, suffering only intermittent persecutions. In general, the Jacobite Church flourished for a long time, had some outstanding scholars and bishops who sincerely regretted the schism, and at its height in the 13th century the Jacobite Church had some 120 dioceses. The persecutions of the 14th century, coupled with internal dissensions, brought about numerous apostasies to Islam and the ruin of the Church. The present membership is estimated at less than 100,000.

38. After the Council of Florence, a delegation from the Jacobite Metropolitan of Edessa came to Rome and signed, in 1444, an act of union which may not have been worth the paper it was written on, but it helped to pave the way for some kind of better relations. A new impetus was given when Pope Gregory XIII sent a legate to Aleppo who in turn prepared for the entry of Catholic missionaries. In 1626 the Capuchins and Jesuits began their work in Syria, and conversions from the Jacobite Church, particularly in Aleppo, became more and more frequent. After thirty years they were successful in obtaining the election of a Catholic as Bishop of Aleppo who, five years later, became patriarch. When after his death another Catholic was elected to the Patriarchal throne, the Jacobites installed a patriarch of their own. A violent persecution against the Catholic Syrians deprived them of their hierarchy for about 100 years. In 1783 another patriarch, who had turned Catholic just before his election, renewed the Catholic hierarchy and a number of Jacobite bishops joined the Catholic Church at different times. Some conversions may not have been sincere. Political intrigues and internal grievances may have motivated some bishops to renounce the Jacobite schism and then to revert to it again at their own time – a spectacle of grave scandal.

39. During World War I the Syrians suffered the same cruel fate as the Armenians and others from the hands of the Turks.

40. The number of Catholic Syrians is about 71,000. Their present patriarch is Mar Ignatius Gabriel Tappouni, also a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. To distinguish them from the Melkite Syrians, they often are called “Pure” Syrians, or “West” Syrians to distinguish them from the Chaldeans.

Malabar Jacobite Church

41. Isolated on the Southwest coast of India, in the states of Travancore and Cochin, live over a million people of Eastern rites who call themselves “Christians of Saint Thomas,” maintaining that the apostle Thomas brought them the Gospel. They have very dark skin, but belong racially to the Indo-European family and speak a language or dialect called Malayalam. This tongue is used also in certain parts of their Liturgy, but the original and principal liturgical language is Syriac, common to both the East-Syrian or Chaldean and West-Syrian rites, both of which are represented.

42. Whatever their ancient history, there were Christians on the Malabar coast before the 6th century. Bishops were sent to them from Baghdad, the center of the Persian Church, and their original Rite is the rite of that Church commonly called Chaldean. The suspicion might arise that they also inherited from their Mother Church the Nestorian heresy, but that is a matter of dispute. Occasionally representatives from Malabar who came to Rome in the Middle Ages claimed to be orthodox Catholics, recognizing the Bishop of Rome as their Supreme Pontiff. When the first Western missionaries arrived with the Portuguese colonizers (1498), including Saint Francis Xavier (1549), the catholicity of the Malabar Christians was taken for granted. In the 16th century, Rome recognized the authority of the Catholic Chaldean patriarch in appointing bishops for Malabar.

43. Papal policies and those of European colonial powers have often been at variance. An outstanding example is the treatment of the Malabar Christians by the Portuguese colonial authorities after they had established themselves firmly in India. In their imperialist policies they looked askance at the dependence of the Malabar Christians on the Chaldean patriarch. Their scheme was to place them under the jurisdiction of their own Latin Archbishop of Goa. And then these natives, with their strange ecclesiastical rite, certainly were an uncommon sight to the Portuguese, even to the Portuguese clergy, who just could not see the possibility of their being Catholic without observing the Roman way of worship and discipline. And soon they began to latinize the Chaldean rite, under the pretense of trying to eliminate traces of the Nestorian heresy. Native bishops were terrorized by methods of the Inquisition. Rome tried to protect the natives. In a letter, dated 1578, Pope Gregory XIII requested the King of Portugal to induce his viceroy in India to refrain from abuses, interceding especially for Mar Abraham, a Chaldean bishop, “whom We hear has been greatly vexed by some.”

44. But the colonial rulers went their own way. They obstructed the appointments of new Chaldean bishops to vacant sees, and when the last bishop had died, the time had come for the Archbishop of Goa to take over. With the help of Portuguese Jesuits he arranged for a synod of the Malabar clergy and people which convened at Diamper in 1599, but was not formally approved by Rome. Whatever good may have come from the acts of this Synod of Diamper, some of the most important acts were imposed under misguided zeal and had the most pernicious consequences. First of all, the authority of the Catholic Chaldean patriarch over Malabar was declared ended and Portuguese bishops were to fill the former Chaldean sees, under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Goa. Obviously there was hardly any use for the Chaldean Pontifical; this and the Chaldean Ritual were substituted by translations from the respective Roman books. The Chaldean Liturgy was revised, holy Communion was to be given in one kind only, Roman vestments and other innovations followed.

45. These reforms caused gravest discontent, for no people with ancient traditions like to accept innovations imposed by domineering foreigners. For half a century the people tried in a lawful manner, but in vain, to have at least the unnecessary changes revoked. The boiling point was reached in 1653 when a Catholic Chaldean bishop arrived in their parts from Baghdad and was immediately seized by the Portuguese. The rumor that he was drowned touched off the spark. The whole Chaldean Church in Malabar went into schism, protesting in a manifesto that their quarrel is not with the Roman Church, but with the Portuguese overlords.

46. Thanks to the intervention of the Carmelites, sent from Rome to deal with the alarming schism, the majority of the Malabar people returned to Catholic unity. These are the Malabar Catholics of the Chaldean Rite who have since remained under Apostolic Vicars of the Roman Rite, until their own hierarchy was reconstituted in 1896. For the past fifty years they have made remarkable progress, numbering now more than half a million faithful.

47. Tragic, however, was the history of the “New Party,” those remaining in schism, numbering now about 400,000, indeed a tremendous loss of souls to the Church for the blundering policies of the European missionaries. After they were denied their own hierarchy, the “New Party” turned to the Patriarch of the Syrian Jacobite Church in Mesopotamia who sent them ordaining prelates from time to time but hesitated for a long time to give them an indigenous hierarchy, for reasons of his own, probably to keep them under his jurisdiction as closely as possible. It is interesting to note that as soon as they had a bishop of their own, he immediately petitioned Rome to receive his flock into the Catholic Church which request, at that time, was not granted for some reason. Frequent attempts at reconciliation were made before and after they had their own bishops, but the Portuguese bishops still opposed any reunion that would grant them native bishops.

48. Apparently the question of formal heresy never entered into the quarrels. It should be noted that the “New Party,” accused by the Portuguese of Nestorianism, did not approach the Nestorian hierarchy to receive bishops, which would have been the logical way for them to act had they had any convictions or inclinations toward that heresy. It may not even have occurred to them that when they befriended the Syrian Jacobite Patriarch they would have to accept the very opposite heresy, Monophysism. But once they placed themselves under his jurisdiction and accepted his bishops, they also received the West Syrian liturgy which gradually replaced their own ancient Chaldean liturgy, with the only distinction of the use of their own Malayalam wherever the Syrian Jacobites in their own countries permit the use of Arabic as a secondary liturgical language.

49. The “New Party” broke up into many new schisms. Internal intrigues were a fertile ground for endless litigations and complex processes of mergers and subdivisions. The arrival of the British in India also brought Anglican missionary societies to add to the confusion of the Malabar people. Such circumstances could only work to the greatest detriment of the Malabar Jacobite Church. The dissident hierarchy made earnest efforts to remedy the desperate situation. Reunion with Rome was considered but somewhat half-heartedly. Only the most courageous saw the root of the evil in schism itself and consequently the remedy of the chaotic condition of their Church in complete reunion with the Apostolic See. That is how in 1930 Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilus entered into communion with Rome. Only a small number followed them at the time, but they have steadily increased, and thus far, in 1947, they have reached 58,000. This movement is one of the most luminous endeavors of the Church on the missionary horizon. These recent Catholics call themselves Malankara Catholics and are under this name distinguished from the other Malabar Catholics of the Chaldean Rite.

The Orthodox Eastern Churches

50. The early Catholic Church had been rent by many heresies; but Nestorian and Monophysism caused the most permanent damage to the material unity, persisting until now. Great importance, therefore, is attached to the Council of Chalcedon in this perspective, for it is the date when the last of the two heresies began to grow into organized ecclesiastical bodies, separated from Catholic unity, causing the heaviest damage in the East. In distinction, those who remained loyal to the Church and professed the correct and defined Catholic doctrine called themselves Orthodox in the best sense of the word.

51. Since 451, and for the following six centuries, the Catholic Church was organized in five major administrative districts: the patriarchate of Rome, that of New-Rome or Constantinople, and the Orthodox patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. In addition, there was the small autonomous Church of Cyprus, once a part of the patriarchate of Antioch. Even more territories were taken away from Antioch by the Fathers of Chalcedon when they created the new patriarchate of Jerusalem in order to honor the Holy City. Each patriarchate enjoyed autonomy in local administration, and all, with the exception perhaps of Jerusalem, had their own forms of liturgical worship and of sacramental ministration and their own standards and regulations in ecclesiastical discipline, except for matters of major importance that had been coordinated at Ecumenical Councils – things we generally comprehend under the term of “rite.” All recognized in the Patriarch of Rome their Supreme Pontiff in matters of doctrine and jurisdiction, and Rome has always been the final court of appeal.

52. The two original Eastern patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch lost much of their pristine importance due to mass defections of the native people to the respective heretical patriarchates. Jerusalem was established as a small-sized patriarchate, and Antioch suffered additional loss through the erection of two autonomous Churches, Cyprus and Jerusalem. Their loss raised the prestige of Constantinople to pre-eminence in the East, adding to the advantage this city already enjoyed as the capital and residence of the Roman emperors. The Orthodox Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem became more and more dependent on Constantinople and were often referred to as “Melkites,” emperor’s men, by the native heretics. Indeed, they favored everything Greek, were opposed to the replacement of the Greek language in their respective Liturgies by either Coptic or Syriac, and in the end abandoned their original Liturgy for that of the Byzantine rite. Gradually they had become uniform.

53. The tremendous task of trying to bring both the Nestorians and Monophysites back to orthodoxy was left to Constantinople, which took more the form of persecution. The Arab invasion in the 7th century of the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem cut them off from Constantinople politically, thus permitting the heresies to develop into strongly organized and intensely nationalistic bodies.

54. The rise of the patriarchate of Constantinople in the East became very noticeable also towards the West. The patriarchate of Rome, by far the largest in territory, had a variety of local Western rites, as yet not uniform, and included also territories of large extent where the Byzantine rite was followed, like “Magna Graecia” and the Illyricum (Greece and the Balkan countries). It is mainly towards these territories that the patriarchs of Constantinople tended to extend their jurisdiction and they never ceased to express their pretensions either to Southern Italy and Sicily or to Albania or Bulgaria, etc. The long jurisdictional contest caused grave frictions and frequent, though temporary, ruptures between Rome and Constantinople, with the imperial court of Constantinople taking heavily the side of its patriarch.

55. The Roman Pontiff had often to face the opposition of both the emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople. The establishment of a new Roman Empire in the West, in 800, under Charlemagne, whom the Greeks regarded as an inferior barbarian, could not but foment new hatreds. And the conflicts became more numerous. Internal intrigues between the imperial and patriarchal throne in Constantinople also were frequent. It is for historians to elucidate the role of Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who was deposed and excommunicated by Pope Saint Nicholas I in 863, but was otherwise, according to the Pope’s own words, a man of great virtue and world-wide knowledge. Reunion was established shortly afterwards, with fluctuating periods, until the time of Michael Caerularius. In support of the main issues in the controversy, charges and countercharges pertaining to the difference in discipline and liturgical customs entered the field and were fought with utmost bitterness, later developing into dogmatic controversy. Just as an example, the insertion of the “Filioque” into the creed, at first a matter of liturgical discipline, became later a dogmatic issue. But matters of a political nature and the struggle for jurisdiction were the more important issues between Rome and New-Rome. In the end, the Patriarch of Constantinople did extend his domain over the Illyricum, whereas Rome retained Southern Italy and Sicily.

The Schisms

56. A particularly vicious renewal of attacks against Rome by Michael Caerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, led to the fulmination of his excommunication by Pope Leo IX in 1054 at the altar of the Hagia Sophia. This dramatic moment set off a chain reaction in an ever wider circle. The Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Peter III, tried to persuade the “Ecumenical Patriarch,” as the Patriarch of Constantinople liked to be called, not to separate himself from Rome, but he persisted. The “Great Church” of Constantinople followed the patriarch, and the dependent Orthodox patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and the Church of Cyprus gradually joined the schism of the Ecumenical Patriarch followed by the numerically powerful Slavic Churches. They form that group of dissident Eastern Churches commonly known as the Orthodox.

57. It would be erroneous, however, to get the impression that after the Caerularian schism the Catholic Church had been restricted to the faithful of the Roman rite only. The Byzantine rite was represented by the population of “Magna Graecia,” later augmented by Albanian refugees. The Byzantine schism succeeded in spreading over the Byzantine empire only, and even that was a rather slow process before it penetrated to all the people, e.g., in the Balkans. And it is often completely overlooked that the young Church of Russia, though of the Byzantine rite, did not join the Caerularian schism. Constantinople had vested many hopes upon Russia, but the Grand-Princes of Kiev kept a very evasive attitude, for they were striving already to become ecclesiastically independent from the Greeks. And it was to some Russian city, probably Kiev, that the Papal Legates departed after they had delivered the bull of excommunication in Constantinople. A frequent exchange of correspondence and envoys between Rome and Kiev continued until the Mongolian invasion of Russia. Historians also demonstrate that in the 11th and 12th centuries the marriage alliances of Russian princes were directed primarily toward the Western European dynasties, whereas at the same time Russian marriages with Byzantines were rare.

58. The history of the pilgrimages of Saint Euphrosinia of Polotsk and her sister Saint Paraskeva, canonized by Pope Gregory X, and of frequent other mutual visits, as late as the first half of the 13th century, demonstrate that the relations between Rome and Russia were far from schism. An interesting indication to the same effect may be seen in the celebration of a feast, the transfer of the relics of Saint Nicholas to Bari, which Pope Urban II in 1089 instituted for May 9; on the same day it appears on the Russian calendar, although the feast was not accepted by the Greeks. Anyway, historians have not yet found any proof that the Church of Russia was ever excommunicated, nor found in separation from Rome until the end of the century-long occupation of Russian lands by the Mongols which effected an even heavier “Iron Curtain” during the 13th century than after World War II. The reason why Russia afterwards turned towards schismatic Constantinople was the aggressive hostility of its Catholic Western neighbors.

59. Long before Russia turned away, other Orientals had already returned to Catholic unity. Thus, at no time in the history of the Catholic Church has the Roman rite been the exclusive rite of the Church. But the vast majority of Christians of Eastern rites was in schism.

60. The ancient Orthodox patriarchates suffered after their schism from its ill-effects. During the vicissitudes of the Turkish invasion and occupation of Eastern Europe, the different Slavic Churches in the Balkans declared their independence from Constantinople, formed autocephalous Churches, lost their independence again and with the cessation of the Turkish rule regained autocephaly and formed patriarchates on national lines. The Church of Russia had set up its own patriarchate already in 1589, recognized on an equal status by the patriarchate of Constantinople and its dependencies. Gradually the Russian Church became the most powerful among all Orthodox Churches and the czars of Russia were always proud to act as protectors of the Orthodox anywhere. The “Great Church” of Constantinople, headed by its once proud “Ecumenical” patriarch, suffered the calamitous consequences of its own momentous schism in 1054, wasting away like one stricken by a horrible disease. The patriarchate itself has now less than 100,000 faithful in Turkey, the most influential ones living within a few blocks in the city of Istanbul. However, a certain primacy of honor is still given to the Ecumenical Patriarch by the other Orthodox Churches, a mere semblance of the former prestige.

61. In the different Orthodox Churches there had been at different times outstanding bishops and theologians who detested the folly of schism and made earnest efforts towards reunion. Although a few of these efforts succeeded in bringing back multitudes of good people, some of them failed to mend the already hardened schism.

The Crusades

62. One great obstacle to reunion with the Orthodox is the memory of the Crusades, primarily military expeditions to check the onslaught of Islam against Christianity, to recapture the Holy Land and to defend it. Originally the Crusaders were fired by the highest ideals, later their expeditions turned more into grotesque adventures. The Fourth Crusade seems to have left the most unforgettable memories of cruelty among the Orthodox. Pope Innocent III prepared this Crusade, but specified in the ratification of the treaty made between Venice and the Crusaders that no harm should be done to any Christian nation, and his attitude never wavered in this respect. He sharply condemned the criminal excesses of the Crusaders in a letter to Cardinal Peter of Capua: “The Latins have given an example only of perversity and works of darkness. It is natural that they (the Greeks) should regard them as curs. These soldiers of Christ * * * are drenched in Christian blood.” Indeed, the Greeks have never forgiven the Western powers for the abominable sacking of Constantinople in 1204, for murdering their emperor and setting up a Latin emperor, for driving out their bishops and replacing them with Latin bishops and setting up a Latin patriarch in the person of a Venetian priest. Pope Innocent III could do nothing but sanction what he could not remedy and was obliged to bow before the accomplished facts. The callous attitude of unruly Crusaders, of course, was responsible for the atrocities, but in the eyes of the Greeks the blame reflects strongly on the Roman Pontiff.

Attempts for Reunion

63. Nevertheless, seventy years later there was an attempt at reunion, prompted by political considerations. Michael VIII, the Emperor of Constantinople, hoped to encourage the Roman Pontiff to gather another Crusade which in his calculations should draw off the Normans and Englishmen from Constantinople towards their real goal in Palestine. He sent his patriarch who opposed reunion into a monastery – a time-honored procedure in Constantinople – and had a new one elected. Then the emperor sent the patriarch and other delegates to Lyons with strict orders to conclude a union. Little did it matter what this Union of Lyons in 1274 decided, it was doomed to failure. The Greek people were totally opposed to it. Eight years later, another emperor repudiated the union.

64. Under somewhat similar circumstances another union was concluded at the Ecumenical Council of Florence in 1439. The Greek Emperor John VII needed help against the Turks who were already nearing the gates of Constantinople. The emperor himself was present at the council, his patriarch and representatives of the other three patriarchates, the metropolitan of all Russia, even the Armenians and other Monophysite Churches attended. For the Orthodox, the union was signed by the emperor and by seventeen metropolitans and other bishops; the Ecumenical Patriarch (Rome formally recognized this title at Florence) had died during the sessions of the council. One Greek metropolitan, Mark of Ephesus, was vehemently opposed to reunion and had left the council prematurely. Thus he had a chance to warn the people and instigate them against a union, before the emperor and the other prelates returned home. Although the people, still mindful of the Crusades, opposed any union with the West, the last Roman Emperor of Constantinople, Constantine XII, killed in action at the fall of Constantinople in 1453, died a Catholic. And the last Christian services held at the Hagia Sophia were acts of Catholic worship.

65. The Union of Florence was not ratified in some countries; in others it was repudiated formally after a short time. Historians indicate that the main reason for its failure was the lack of purely religious motives on the part of the East.

66. After the decline of Constantinople, most of the Orthodox Churches developed into national Churches, new ones formed along national lines; others broke off and were reabsorbed by their Mother-Church as national boundaries changed during wars and invasions. In theory there is supposed to be unity among the autocephalous Orthodox Churches and the Ecumenical Patriarch is their “primus inter pares”; but in practice his position is ignored unless it serves the purpose of some particular Orthodox prelates to become independent and to form another autocephalous Church. In general, the Orthodox Church can hardly be considered more than a very loose federation of national Churches without any visible bond, disintegrating here and there in currents tending toward modernism and reform of Church-constitution and discipline.

The Catholic Eastern Churches

67. All Supreme Pontiffs in the history of the Church of Christ have been bishops and patriarchs of Rome. It is not at all difficult to differentiate papal actions regarding the Universal Church and those concerning only the city or diocese of Rome. Yet, it is equally important to realize that the same august person may and does act in his capacity as Patriarch of Rome, though it is bound to mean practically very little to Catholics of the Roman rite as they are directly subject to his patriarchal jurisdiction.

68. Catholics of Eastern rites are all subject to the Roman Pontiff as the Supreme Pontiff and Supreme Teacher of the Church of Christ, whether he exercises his supreme authority personally or through duly constituted organs of administration, as, in our days, the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office and the Sacred Oriental Congregation. But in many matters of administration and discipline Eastern Catholics, generally speaking, are subject to the jurisdiction of their respective patriarchs or – if such office is in abeyance – of a prelate recognized as the highest-ranking in a particular rite. Patriarchal authority has developed historically, and has therefore been different at various times. Even today patriarchal jurisdiction may vary in different rites, according to its antiquity or constitution. Some Catholic patriarchs are elected by the hierarchy of the particular rite, but the patriarch for the Catholic Copts is appointed by the Supreme Pontiff. Some Catholic patriarchs appoint their own bishops, others may not. And the question also enters whether a patriarchate has defined territorial limits or the jurisdiction of a patriarch extends over the followers of his rite wherever they migrate. Not considering titular patriarchs in the West whose dignity is only in title but not exceeding ordinary episcopal jurisdiction, the dignity of a real patriarch carries a power of jurisdiction on a far higher level than that of an ordinary archbishop and may best be compared to the relation between the Roman Pontiff and all his bishops of the Roman rite, at least in principle. True, not all Eastern Catholic Churches are headed by patriarchs, mostly for the reason that their small number does not warrant it. In such cases the patriarchal power rests with the Supreme Pontiff or his Sacred Oriental Congregation; but usually the highest dignitary of a given rite exercises a certain restricted power of supervision, especially in matters of ritual discipline, e.g., the metropolitans of Lvov, Ernakulam, Trivandrum, etc., for their respective rites.


69. An honored place in the history of the Catholic Church falls to the Greeks of Sicily and Southern Italy, who can claim to be of apostolic origin – which is more than Byzantium can do – and who remained in communion with Rome when the Byzantines did not. Although they are of the Byzantine rite, they are immediately subject to the Roman Pontiff as their patriarch. As such they are the exception to the rule and have no patriarch or quasi-patriarch of their own rite, except perhaps for the time when the Roman Pontiffs were Greeks, like Pope Saint Agatho (7th century) and Pope Saint Zacharias (8th century) who both were from “Magna Graecia.”

70. At one time, however, when Emperor Leo III incorporated “Magna Graecia” into the Eastern Empire (8th century), the patriarch of Constantinople erected metropolitan sees at Naples and Syracuse which the Roman Pontiff had to tolerate. But the Norman invasion ended the power of Byzantium in these parts.

71. After the Roman and Byzantine rites had existed there side by side, of course not without difficulties, the Norman invasion increased the Latin influence considerably, to the ruin of the Greek parishes and especially the once flourishing monastic life. Their only monastery now is that of Grottaferrata, not far from Rome, founded in the 10th century by monks from Calabria fleeing from the Saracens. Their dioceses were suppressed and all Greeks became subjects of Latin ordinaries who encouraged them to turn to the Roman rite if they did not wish to remain suspect of favoring schism. A little force here and there helped persuasion. Thus the Greek rite became almost extinct in the 15th century, but they were reinforced by refugees from Albania. Under prevailing local conditions the Byzantine rite became strongly modified by Roman peculiarities.

72. However, the Roman Pontiff did not lose sight of his Greek subjects. The Constitution Etsi Pastoralis of Pope Benedict XIV in 1742 was the turning point which checked the latinizing tendencies of local ordinaries and preserved the lawful Greek usages. The tendency now is to correct some of the mistakes made in the past.

73. The number of these Catholics is estimated at 60,000. Since 1919 they have a bishop of their own rite in Lungro, Calabria. A second diocese, for those in Sicily, was established in 1936 near Palermo, “Piana degli Albanesi.” Both sees are immediately subject to the Holy See, as of old.


74. At the times of the Crusades, two groups joined the Catholic Church, the Maronites in Lebanon and the Armenian Church. Originally the Maronites were subject to the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and opposed the Monophysite Syrians. They became affected by Monothelism, a compromise system invented to win the Monophysites. When the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch moved to Constantinople and stayed there in exile, the Maronites proceeded to elect patriarchs of their own. In 1182 they submitted to Rome, although later professions of the Catholic faith are recorded in 1215 and an abjuration of Monothelism by the Maronites of Cyprus in 1445. Despite great sufferings and persecutions, the Maronites have been outstandingly loyal to the Supreme Pontiff, and there are no dissident Maronites, neither schismatics nor heretics.

75. Their number has been severely reduced by multiple persecutions and massacres and by famine, so that there are now only 366,000 of them. Western influence during and after the Crusades has been unduly strong towards their ancient liturgical usages. Evidence is still seen in the use of Roman vestments, of unleavened bread and in the fact that Holy Communion is given under one species. The Maronites and the Armenians, both converted during the Crusades, are the only ones in the East to show such radical reforms, still persisting.


76. Oppressed by Mohammedans, many Armenians had fled to Cilicia. They welcomed the Crusaders and submitted to the Holy See, renouncing Monophysism, in 1198. For a hundred years this union lasted, but became weaker when the position of the Crusaders was waning. But those returning into schism have kept many Western ritual practices. Another union concluded at the Council of Florence did not become effective. Some small groups of Armenians have remained Catholic. The Armenians even elected a Catholic as their patriarch at one time. Despite constant persecutions, the number of Catholics increased. In 1742 the Holy See established a separate Catholic patriarchate and Turkey recognized the Catholic Armenians as a separate nation in 1830. The residence of the patriarch is in the Lebanon, except for a brief period when it was in Constantinople. His subjects number about 40,000.

77. There are, however, other Armenian Catholics who are not subject to the patriarch. It is impossible to say how many there are in the Armenian Soviet Republic. Western Europe and America have small colonies of emigrants. About 3,000 Catholic Armenians in Greece have their own ordinary. Since the 14th century a large colony settled in Galacia, a province in the Ukraine. They became Catholic in the middle of the 17th century and had their own Armenian Archbishop of Lvov (Lemberg). Gradually they became absorbed by the Polish people, but about 5,000 still follow their rite. After World War II, Soviet Russia liquidated their remnants. Another Catholic Armenian colony exists in Romania where they number about 20,000 faithful, under an Apostolic Administrator.

78. Special mention must be made of the Mekhitarist Order, founded in 1701 on the Benedictine model. As war drove them from the Near East, the monks settled in two now famous monasteries, one in Venice, Italy, the other in Vienna, Austria. They have given most valuable service to the Armenian nation as a whole, and Catholic and non-Catholic Armenians alike hold them in highest esteem for their scholarship and great work in printing Armenian literature.

Later Reunions

79. In the 16th century, when Catholic missionaries went into newly discovered countries, other groups of dissident Orientals returned to the Catholic Church. In 1551 a Nestorian bishop, John Sulaka, became Catholic. Pope Julius III appointed him to be Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldeans, a name used to distinguish the converts from the Nestorians. The number of the Catholics is now close to 100,000. Their late patriarch, Mar Emmanuel Thomas, who gloriously reigned from 1900 till 1947, was most prominent as a Catholic prelate and as a leader of his people in very difficult times. The story of the Chaldeans in Malabar has been mentioned in another chapter.

80. A somewhat belated sequel of the Union of Florence is the Union of Brest-Litovsk in 1595, when some bishops of Southwest Russia entered the Catholic Church, followed later by other Ruthenians. The word Ruthenian is an ecclesiastical term and designates the people living in White-Russia (Bielorussia), the Ukraine, Carpatho-Russia, Hungary and Transsylvania as far as they follow the terms of the Union of Brest-Litovsk or later Unions patterned on it. Although most Ruthenians have suffered heavily in different wars between Russia and Poland and large districts have been incorporated into Russia at various times and forcibly brought back into the Russian Orthodox Church, they have shown a strong vitality and form the largest body of Eastern Catholics, estimated at almost 6,000,000. There are a little over 1,000,000 of them living on the American continent, with two dioceses in the U. S. A. and one diocese in Canada, and smaller colonies in South America. Their home countries have largely been occupied by Soviet Russia which in 1946 declared the Union of Brest-Litovsk abolished. This Soviet act was protested by the Holy See as illegal and void. The Ruthenians now under Soviet Russia are showing valiant resistance, though they have to suffer greatly for their Catholic faith in martyrdom, deportation and other forms of “liquidation.” Their loyalty to the Church of Christ is most admirable and much more will be known of it when the “Iron Curtain” is lifted.

81. Other groups, though perhaps less in number, have joined the unity of the Catholic Church from various dissident Churches. In chronological order, the Ruthenians were followed in 1656 by the Syrians coming from Monophysism, in 1701 by some Romanians, in 1724 by Syrians from the Orthodox or Melkite patriarchate, in 1741 by a small number of Copts from the Monophysite Coptic patriarchate. The next year some Armenians, after a relapse into schism as mentioned above, began to organize as a Catholic body. Small Catholic groups appeared in Ethiopia (1839), Bulgaria and Greece (1860) and among Russians living abroad (1905). All these groups have shown slow but steady progress. New hope and impetus in the work for reunion was given by the conversion of Mar Ivanios of the Malankara-Syrian rite in 1930 and the fast progress of the Malankara Catholics.

82. All dissident Churches pray for the union of all churches, and the yearning for it is by no means dormant. Sincere dissident theologians do not hesitate to express an intense desire for reunion. Even the ordinary lay people are wondering why there is such a thing as separation and they feel that the will of Christ “that all may be one” is not quite fulfilled. Keeping in mind that a great deal of misinformation about the schism and its causes has been spread by those who had an interest in schism, we must not be surprised that prejudices against the unity of the Catholic Church are still rampant and prevent the clear view of the faults or outside cause of their particular Church now being separate. If it were not for the misunderstandings and prejudices, accumulated through the centuries of separation, the schisms could be abolished without any great efforts. In distinction from Protestant schisms, the breaches of constitutional Church-unity on the part of Eastern Churches have hardly ever touched the supernatural bond, still active in the Sacraments and the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the dissident Eastern Churches, nor have they destroyed the fundamental unity of faith and morals.

83. It was not a controversy over any essential dogmatic truth or moral principle that broke East and West; it was rather an accumulation of cultural diversities and a tragic lack of mutual understanding, helped and stimulated by political and personal ambitions, great and small jealousies. Only by our own good will toward mutual understanding can we hope to break down the wall of distrust and dislike. The situation is the same as in the 13th century when Saint Bernard of Clairvaux wrote to Pope Eugene III: “There is a union as far as religious questions are concerned excepting perhaps unimportant questions, but we are separated in love. Both these Churches venerate one God in the Trinity, they have the same Creed, the same Sacraments and the same priesthood.” The Supreme Pontiffs have emphasized in clear directness that their first desire is for a sympathetic understanding of the Christian East by the West; they beg that the dissident Orientals will strive, in return, to understand the West.

Obstacles To Reunion

84. Schism should not be compared to a simple illness that could be cured easily. It is rather to be considered as an evil affliction with frightful consequences, as a disease with tendencies of spreading out further and breeding new schisms, subdivisions, and internal intrigues, causing endless and costly litigations. This process can readily be observed among the schismatic factions that have formed recently in the United States. Schism is like a disease that consumes the energy of an ecclesiastical body and brings about inertness and stagnancy. It saps the strength that otherwise would be used for its outward growth in the field of missionary activities, for further internal development and spiritual advancement, especially in the field of education. This state of affairs invariably manifests itself in the gradual lowering of the educational level of the dissident clergy, consequently in the lack of religious instruction among the laity, until it reaches despairing proportions and approaches the danger of complete exhaustion and collapse of the afflicted ecclesiastical body.

85. Reunions sought and concluded at this eleventh hour have been among the most successful ones, for they are based on religious motives. Other attempts at reunion that were primarily based on political considerations, like those during the Crusades or at Lyons and Florence, were much less effective. Although a reunion like the Union of Brest-Litovsk may not have been unmixed with some political considerations, the primary motives were definitely religious, as described above, brought about by the earnest efforts of the dissident hierarchy to safeguard their Christian heritage from ruin. It would make an interesting historical study to investigate other reunions in this respect. The latest outstanding example of an eleventh hour reunion is that of Mar Ivanios to save the religion of his people.


86. The deterioration of schismatic Churches has been held up or slowed up whenever such Churches developed into national Churches, with the rulers of the State assuming not only the protection, but the supreme direction of that Church, perhaps in a more or less limited degree, but effectively replacing the position and influence the Supreme Pontiff held before the schism. This phenomenon is called Caesaropapism. It appeared first in Constantinople and spread, after the Caerularian schism, to other Churches.

87. The Roman emperor before Constantine the Great was also the Pontifex Maximus and he gradually assumed the role of a divine monarch, a character which he enjoyed especially in the Eastern provinces. The sacred monarchy of ancient Persia may have helped to shape the ideology and the ceremonial of emperor worship. The Christian emperors after Constantine could not completely eradicate it, at least not in the Eastern Empire, wherefore it has been called “le mal byzantin.” At one time or another, the whole of Christianity has suffered from attempts by secular rulers to usurp spiritual leadership in the Church. The West has had its Caesaropapism abortive in Gallicanism, and successful in Anglicanism. Rome, in counteracting appearances of Caesaropapism, may have at one time (Canossa) overstepped a little into what might be called “Church-Imperialism.” However, such appearances were short in the West. The mutual distinctness of the spiritual and the temporal power was already proclaimed by Christ, our Lord: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And these words are the basis on which the relationship of Church and State is to be worked out.

88. The problem of Caesaropapism is often discussed among Russians, who inherited it from Byzantium. It became very acute after Czar Peter the Great replaced the patriarchal administration by a synodical form in which the czar or his “Procurator,” a military or civilian man, had the weightiest influence in the affairs of the Russian Church. It may be of interest to quote from a gifted Russian thinker and a convert to the Catholic faith concerning his attitude on this problem:

The fundamental truth and the special idea of Christianity is the perfect union of the Divine and the human fulfilled individually in Christ and fulfilling itself socially in Christian humanity, where the Divine is represented by the Church, concentrated in the supreme pontificate, and the human by the state. This intimate connection of state and Church presupposes the latter’s primacy because the Divine is anterior and superior to the human . . . We are told that the emperor of Russia is a son of the Church. So he should be as the head of a Christian state. To be more effectively such, however, the Church must exercise authority over him and have power independent of, and superior to, the power of the state. With the best intentions in the world, a secular monarch will never be truly a son of the Church if he is its head and governs it through his functionaries. The Church of Russia, deprived of all support from a center of unity outside the national state, was fated to become enslaved at last by the secular power. That power, with nothing left in the world superior to itself, with no one from whom to receive religious sanction, was equally fated to degenerate into anti-Christian absolutism.

This sounds ominously prophetical, considering that it was written in 1889.

89. Is the Russian Church still afflicted by Caesaropapism since the Soviet revolution and the following persecutions of the Church? As far as we may speak of an Orthodox Church under the Soviet regime, the alacrity with which it transferred its allegiance to the Soviet state as soon as it was invited and the recent demonstrations of ecclesiastical servility in Moscow indicate how thoroughly the ideology of Caesaropapism has perverted the very concept of Church-constitution in the separate Russian Church. If the Byzantines once preferred the Sultan’s turban to the Pope’s tiara, how much farther have the poor and pious people of Russia been carried off by the defiance of church-unity on the part of a few irresponsible prelates! Indeed, to refuse obedience to the divinely appointed Supreme Pontiff is to court grave disaster.

90. Caesaropapism, of course, is a great obstacle to reunion. It gives a Church in schism the doubtful benefit of only delaying the process of general deterioration, and nothing more. The real and only remedy for the ill-effects caused by schism is to get at the root of the evil and to eradicate schism itself through complete reunion with the Church of Christ.

Nationalistic Animosities

91. Closely related to the above, but much more common, is another obstacle to reunion which is a mixture of national passions and secular politics. Just as the struggles between the Irish and the English have often been seen in terms of Catholic and Protestant, so have the Polish people looked upon “Orthodoxy” as the Russian religion and almost all Russians dislike the Catholic Church because to them it is the “Polish” religion. In the same way many Serbian dissidents despise Catholicism as the “Croatian” religion. This attitude can be observed wherever Catholic and dissident nations live next to each other. Shrewd secular governments use these dissensions and prejudices for their own ends.

92. Nobody knows the difficulties and obstacles to reunion better than the Holy See. If the whole Catholic Church were to follow the directives of the Holy See, the dissident Churches would not be so antagonistic either. The least to be expected is that Catholics should not act contrary to the directions of the Holy See, as happened in the most striking manner during the Crusades.

93. Lack of contact and mutual opposition have produced a mass of misunderstandings and prejudices on both sides, in the East and in the West. It is hardly possible to get anywhere near reunion in an atmosphere of hostility and ignorance, and especially of arrogance which is all too often manifested in an attitude of “we are always wholly right, and the others are all wrong.”

Past Errors of the West

94. An attitude of good will and profound respect towards Eastern Churches has always been the outstanding characteristic of the Holy See. And lately the Supreme Pontiffs have made vigorous efforts to promote the spiritual and intellectual rapprochement between East and West, directing the faithful toward the study of the general background of the Oriental dissension. Errors, based on ignorance of things Oriental, have happened, but must never be repeated.

95. The absence of a sufficient number of men familiar with the Christian East has in the past limited the endeavors of Rome. Despite the constant expressions of approval and admiration for the venerable rites of the East on the part of the Holy See, obvious facts prove conclusively that there was a strong tendency of what is called latinization and that certain attempts have been made to impose usages of the Roman rite on Eastern rites. A number of these attempts are ascribed, but not always correctly, to some Supreme Pontiffs.

96. One of the accused Roman Pontiffs was Pope Nicholas I, before the Caerularian schism. His opponents claimed that he was holding the theory that sacraments conferred by married priests were invalid. However, a close study of the Pope’s letter to the Bulgarians will reveal that he simply meant to express his preference of the celibate state of priests.

97. Another favorite accusation concerns the use of the Old-Slavic language. Pope Hadrian II approved its use in 868 for Saint Cyril and Methodius. But it is true that his successor, Pope John III, suppressed it, though he approved it again when better informed by Methodius. Six years later the practice of using Old-Slavic for liturgical services was suppressed by Pope Stephen V, who was misinformed or rather deceived by a German bishop named Wiching, an opponent of Methodius’ activity. When the fraud was cleared up in the 13th century, Pope Innocent IV made another decision in favor of the use of Old-Slavic in 1248. It is only fair to say that the Roman Pontiffs who suppressed the use of Old-Slavic were misinformed and led to believe wrongly they were acting within the real tradition. In reality they approved its use.

98. But let us look at some articles of the Decretal given in 1254 by the above mentioned Pope Innocent IV. The 4th article reserves to the bishops the power to administer the sacrament of Confirmation. Since that time Rome has tried to impose this Western practice on those Orientals who are living in the West, like the Italo-Greeks, or have come to the West and on some Eastern Churches like the Malabar Catholics and Ethiopians. Except for the last two groups, the Eastern practice had been restored some time ago.

99. In this connection it may be mentioned that there is still a little discontent in the East about the explanation often given by Roman canonists on the origin of the power by which Eastern priests commonly administer the sacrament of Confirmation. It is true, when Roman priests may administer this Sacrament, they do so by delegation which can only be given by the Roman Pontiff. Eastern priests confirm and always have confirmed without any expressed delegation besides the ordinary powers given at Ordination. Some canonists explain that Eastern priests confirm by virtue of an old historic custom, which is very true, but they conceived the theory of an at least “tacit” delegation from the Supreme Pontiff. This may be an explanation, to be sure, but it seems that one based on history might be more satisfactory. Could it be that the power to delegate or to restrict the administration of Confirmation belongs in the domain of patriarchal jurisdiction? Eastern patriarchs, then, might either have wanted, at least implicitly, that their priests administer Confirmation, or might never have wanted to take this power away from their priests if they received it with their Ordination. And might it be said that the Roman Pontiff, delegating priests of the Roman rite, is in this instance acting not so much as the Supreme Pontiff of the whole Catholic Church, but as the Patriarch of the West? Some canonists may spread more light on this point.

100. The above mentioned Decretal of Innocent IV, in its 10th article, forbids the celebration of Mass after three in the afternoon. Eastern Liturgies celebrated in connection with Vespers on the eve of Christmas and Epiphany may have been a surprising sight to Western people during the Middle Ages. Needless to say, ideas have changed greatly since then.

101. Article 19 prescribes that bishops of the Byzantine rite confer seven Orders instead of the traditional four. This is another example of the lack of understanding of Eastern usages on the part of those who surround the Roman Pontiff, or perhaps the theological studies of those days were not in an advanced state, generally. When in the 17th century a Commission for the revision of Greek liturgical books was meeting, its members deemed it necessary to maintain the prescription of Innocent IV and had the Roman pontifical translated into Greek with the intention of imposing its use upon the Greeks. But, then, Pope Urban VIII invited the Oratorian Jean Morin to take part in the Commission. He was an authority on the ancient rite of Ordination and vindicated the Greek practice of Ordination, whereupon Pope Urban VIII annulled the reforms of the Commission.

102. Another accusation regarding the rite of Ordination has been raised by some against a predecessor of Pope Innocent IV, Pope Innocent III who reigned during the ill-fated 4th Crusade. In the Byzantine rite, Ordinations are given by simple imposition of hands, whereas the Roman rite has additional essential elements, the Tradition of Instruments and the Annointing with holy Chrism. After more than a century of schism, it was new to the Romans to find that the Greeks had not added the additional ceremonies. On this point, Pope Innocent III adopted the opinion of his day and prescribed that Greek priests converted from schism be anointed on their hands with holy Chrism, and their bishops upon being received into the Catholic Church in a like manner on their head.

103. The obligation of inserting the “Filioque” in the Greek had been imposed on the Italo-Greeks by Pope Clement VIII. Benedict XIV made it clear that this order applied to Italy only. But as happens often, Western missionaries in the East went further than the orders of the Pope required and exerted all their influence to have that “Filioque” inserted into other Eastern liturgies. Today the Byzantine Catholics are left free to use the “Filioque” in their liturgies or to omit it.

104. That some, but comparatively very few Supreme Pontiffs have lent themselves to “latinizations” is not to be denied. One would have liked them to have taken a broader view in matters Oriental; but that was not the spirit of the day. Even Supreme Pontiffs, when not speaking ex cathedra, are men of their age.

105. With the exception of these and similar errors in particular points, due to lack of information or to misinformation, pronouncements of the Supreme Pontiffs and Ecumenical Councils show a striking consistency in the fundamental attitude of reverence and approval with regard to the various rites and customs of Eastern Churches. This fundamental position of the Holy See has never changed. The official mind of the Church regarding Eastern rites is clearly expressed in Papal documents from the time of Pope Nicholas I and Patriarch Photius all through the ages, especially in the last half century, when the desires of the Supreme Pontiffs found expression in numerous forms of apostolate for the East.

106. The year 1862 may be regarded as a turning point in the methods of dealing with Eastern Churches and their problems on the part of the Holy See. In the past centuries, special Pontifical Commissions had been established whenever a need called for it and on a temporary basis. The new policy was to concentrate and coordinate all the efforts of the Holy See in regard to the Eastern Churches, and thus to avoid errors and overlapping competence and to insure immediate expert attendance to arising problems and greater efficiency.

The Modern Apostolate in The Near East

The Sacred Oriental Congregation

107. A permanent organ for dealing with the affairs and rites of Eastern Churches came into existence in 1862 under the official title of “Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide pro Negotiis Ritus Orientalis.” This was a separate Congregation from the “Propaganda.” Though the Prefect of the one was also Prefect of the other, the staff of Officials and Consultors was different. Pope Benedict XV, after long and careful consultations, made the Oriental Congregation completely independent of the “Propaganda” and established it, in 1917, as the Sacred Congregation “Pro Ecclesia Orientali,” augmenting its authority to coordinate and direct the affairs of Eastern Catholics and concentrating in it the powers of all the other Sacred Congregations except that of the Holy Office. According to the new constitution, the Supreme Pontiff himself is always its Prefect, which points to the great importance the Holy See attaches to this branch.

108. Rather recently, in 1938, Pope Pius XI made some additional changes in order to clarify its territorial authority. Since then the Sacred Oriental Congregation has exclusive power over all Catholics of any rite (including the Roman) in the following countries: Egypt and Sinai, Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia, Southern Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and the Dodecanese, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Transjordan and Turkey. Beyond these countries, it retains all jurisdiction over all dioceses, parishes, missions and persons of Eastern rites anywhere in the world and problems arising from mixed relations of Roman rite Catholics with those of Eastern rite are also subject to the Sacred Oriental Congregation.

Pontifical Oriental Institute

109. The same Pope Benedict XV, who created the independent Oriental Congregation with jurisdiction in all matters regarding the administration and discipline of Eastern Churches, established in the same year 1917 an institute for higher Oriental studies, known as the Pontifical Oriental Institute, and placed under the new Oriental Congregation. Its program covers Catholic theology compared with the doctrines of the dissident Orient, Eastern Canon Law, the forms of Eastern worship, history, archeology and ethnology of Eastern peoples, linguistic and literary studies. The school is open also to dissident students. It opened in December, 1918 under the direction of a White Father. Then the Benedictines took over with Abbot Ildefonse Schuster, later Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. In 1922 the direction was given to the Jesuits. This Institute, together with the Pontifical Biblical Institute, form now parts of the Pontifical Gregorian University. According to the Constitution Deus Scientiarum Dominus of 1931, the course of studies covers three years. The Library of the Oriental Institute has grown from modest beginnings to an excellent collection of specialized works. It also publishes two scientific periodicals: Orientalia Christiana Periodica, a quarterly, and Orientalia Christiana Analecta, an annual reserved for longer studies. These carry the work of the Institute beyond its walls.

110. The scope of the Institute is to propagate the knowledge of the Christian East and to explain the attitude of the Catholic Church towards Eastern Churches. Pope Pius XI had in mind to form cadres of seminary and university professors for faculties of Oriental studies and he repeated this thought in his Encyclical Rerum Orientalium when he wrote:

Indeed it should not be too difficult for each theological seminary to have one professor who, together with the study of history or liturgy or canon law, may at the same time explain at least the elements of those things which concern the Near East. In this way now a little profit may be expected for the Church, since from young priests’ consciousness of Eastern doctrines and rites profit will accrue not only to Orientals, but also to the Western Clergy who will thus naturally understand Catholic theology and Latin discipline. They may therefore be more adequately excited to a warmer love for the true Bride of Christ whose bewitching beauty in the diversity of her various rites they would be enabled to see more clearly and impressively.

111. It is the wish of the Holy Father that there should be a student from every diocese who is to specialize in Oriental matters. How many students from the United States have graduated from the Pontifical Oriental Institute? The archdioceses of New York and Boston, the Ukrainian exarchate (centered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), and two Religious Orders have each one Doctor of Oriental Sciences, who now are either teaching in seminaries or otherwise active in the field of reunion. The field is wide and open for many more candidates from this country.

Liturgical Books

112. When Eastern communities returned to the unity of the Catholic Church, they continued the use of their ancient liturgical books. The problem of certain revisions arose whenever a trace of heresy was detected, like the commemoration of a heretic in the list of saints. However, due to prejudices held by Western missionaries, such revisions were not always made in the sense the Holy See would have wished. In certain Eastern rites some liturgical books were completely suppressed and a translation from the Roman ritual was imposed as a substitute. The Holy See has always been concerned about proper liturgical books for those in need. Pope Clement XI had already established a special Commission for the correction of Eastern liturgical books in 1719 which functioned intermittently until 1840. Later it has been the concern of the Sacred Oriental Congregation.

113. A full set of books for the Byzantine rite in Greek and for the Coptic rite have been published by the above-mentioned Commission. Between 1873 and 1901 a new edition for the Greeks was published, for the earlier Roman editions had failed to preserve the purity of the rite. The Holy See has always proclaimed the principle that Eastern rites must be maintained in their integrity, but that principle proved difficult in its application. In previous times those in charge of the revision found it difficult to admit that Confirmation could be administered by a priest, or that the wording of the Transsubstantiation could differ even slightly from that of the Roman Missal, etc. And then there was sometimes a lack of coordination between the different books of a rite.

114. Pope Pius XI set up a new Liturgical Commission within the Sacred Oriental Congregation in 1930. At its disposal were the Vatican Library with its treasures in manuscripts and early editions, enriched by numerous Slavic and Romanian books gathered in 1924 by Monsignor Tisserant, later the Cardinal Secretary of the Oriental Congregation, on a mission arranged by Pope Pius XI. Supplied with abundant materials, the Commission could begin its work. And working in Rome, it enjoyed the advantage of being free from pressure of petty local passions that often obstruct legitimate reforms towards the restoration of a ritual in its pristine purity.

115. A Greek Horologium was the first edition of the new Commission. It was printed in the Greek Monastery of Grottaferrata near Rome. Another section of that Commission revised the Pontificial of the Chaldean rite in 1936, and the material was sent to Mosul to be printed at the patriarchal press, originally founded by the Dominicans. The Malabar Catholics in India will also profit from this reform, for they have been using translations from the Roman rite since the Portuguese bishops had taken over. The Sacred Oriental Congregation has decided to restore the pristine rite of this branch of the Chaldean rite.

116. Another section of the Commission began in 1938 the revision of the Syrian Pontifical which has been virtually completed. A Commission appointed by Patriarch Ignatius Cardinal Tappouni is now working on it. And from their common efforts the definitive text will emerge.

117. The Maronite liturgical books had also undergone considerable modifications during the Middle Ages due to erroneous standards then in vogue. Lately the more enlightened Maronite clergy have begun a movement to restore the purity of their rite.

118. Great difficulties were encountered in printing an Ethiopian Pontificial, for even the dissident Ethiopians never had one of their own as the primate has always been a Copt from Alexandria who used his Coptic Pontifical. Only recently when the Negus Haile Selassie obtained from The Coptic patriarch the concession for a native hierarchy has a translation into Geeze been made. Catholics in Ethiopia used the Roman Pontifical. Now a provisional Catholic edition of the Pontificial has been prepared and was published in 1939. Recently the Commission finished the Ethiopian Missal, after long years of research. Since printing did not come to Ethiopia until recently, manuscripts were available in many parts, but showed a great variety of readings. Cardinal Tisserant has had a very special interest in the Ethiopian editions, for when he worked at the Vatican Library he had compiled a catalogue of Ethiopian manuscripts and had done other important preliminary work.

119. The Slavic liturgical books presented a peculiar problem. Russian Catholic priests used the editions of the Orthodox Russian Church. But the supply became very scarce for them and the Orthodox alike after the Soviet revolution when the printing of religious books in Russia was suppressed. On the other hand, the liturgical books of the Ruthenians, though fundamentally the same, were not quite suitable because of certain original variations and trends toward Western practices that had crept in later. The Ruthenians themselves had expressed the desirability for a purification of their rite in a synod of the Ruthenian hierarchy held at Lvov in 1927. Thus it was hoped that a single edition for the Ruthenians and for the Russians could be compiled. But this was abandoned as it became apparent that there were two separate traditions. The Ruthenian books were based on the reform of Peter Mogila, Orthodox Metropolitan of Kiev, which was preserved after the Union of Brest-Litovsk. In the Russian Orthodox Church, however, another reform took place in the 17th century when Patriarch Nikon revised the books according to Greek texts. And since it is not the policy of the Catholic Church to deprive any Eastern Church of its particular liturgical traditions if they are based on a certain antiquity, two parallel Commissions were nominated, one to prepare the Ruthenian books, the other to compile a “vulgate” edition for the Russians, Bulgarians and Serbs.

120. The two editions were to be published concurrently as far as that would be possible and the printing was assigned to the Monastery in Grottaferrata. No serious corrections were needed for the Russian books, as the entire Liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church is Catholic, with the exception of the commemoration of certain persons whose sanctity the Catholic Church does not recognize. But a carefully chosen number of Russian saints, about thirty, retained their place on the liturgical calendar. Various Slavic books, like the Gospels, the Missal, etc., have already been printed during the war. The Grottaferrata Press itself escaped almost certain destruction when a bomb fell right into the center of the printing works, but did not explode. Other books are still to be published. It is not only that there was a great need for these books, but they are real masterpieces of scholarship and of printing. In their clarity of text and rubrics and in the arrangement of certain services, eminently in the Liturgy of the Presanctified, they are superior to any edition printed by the dissidents, who thus may witness the sincere attitude of the Catholic Church and her respect for the rites of the East.

Codification of Canon Law

121. The same solicitude for the ancient traditions of the East prompted the Holy See to bring more clarity and system into the field of Eastern Church Law with all its varieties and often uncertainties. This problem is as serious as it is dangerous. So the initial move was taken with great caution. Pope Pius XI appointed a Committee for study preparatory to a codification in 1929. Outstanding canonists like the late Cardinal Gasparri and the present Apostolic Delegate to the United States, Archbishop Cicognani, took part in it. Then, in 1935, the Pontifical Commission for the Codification of Oriental Canon Law was established. A year later, two prelates of great merit and prestige in the Christian East joined the ranks of the Cardinals of that Commission, Cardinals Mercati and Tisserant. Two patriarchs, Cardinals Tappouni and Agagianian, are also members of the Commission. This was received with joy by Eastern Catholics who once more saw in it the proof of paternal care and interest on the part of the Supreme Pontiff. The codification will bring nothing revolutionary, for it is not the intention of the Holy See to impose Western discipline, unless a particular Eastern Church freely desires it of her own accord. Each of the Eastern Catholic Churches has been consulted and given ample opportunity for amendments. The final redaction of the Code will have a section of general law and other sections for the particular law of each rite.

Pontifical Seminaries

122. Rome has always been a center of attraction for young priests to pursue higher studies or for candidates from all over the world to prepare themselves for the holy priesthood at the Pontifical Universities. Numerous colleges have been founded to accommodate these students according to their nationality. The second oldest among them is the Pontifical Greek College, founded in 1577; Russians, Romanians and other seminarians of the Byzantine rite also studied there, before they had colleges of their own. In 1584 the Maronite College was founded. For the next 300 years these two were the only Eastern rite seminaries in Rome. After 1862 new seminaries of Eastern rites were established: the Armenian College in 1883, the Ruthenian College in 1897, the Ethiopian College in 1919, the Russian College in 1929 and the Romanian College in 1930. So that there are now seven colleges of Eastern rites in Rome itself.

123. Outside of Rome, ten other seminaries are in some way under the direct supervision of the Holy See, not counting the diocesan seminaries. Six of them are for one single rite:

1) The Pontifical Italo-Greek Seminary at Grottaferrata under the direction of the monks of Saint Basil the Great.

2) The Italo-Greek Seminary at Palermo.

3) The Chaldean Seminary at Rizaiyeh under the Vincentian Fathers.

4) The Melkite Seminary of Saint Anne at Jerusalem under the White Fathers.

5) The Syrian Catholic Seminary at Jerusalem-Charfe under the Benedictines.

6) The Coptic Seminary at Cairo.

Four other seminaries are inter-ritual or for students of various rites:

7) Saint Francis Xavier Seminary at Beirut under the Jesuits.

8) Saint Louis Seminary at Constantinople under the Capuchins.

9) The Syro-Chaldean Seminary at Mosul under the Dominicans.

10) The Apostolic Seminary at Puthenpally, India, under the Discalced Carmelites.

Monks in Eastern Apostolate

124. Monasticism in Eastern Churches prevails in the form of the ancient monastic rule and in the contemplative type. When the Eastern dissident Churches returned to Catholic unity, it became apparent that there was a shortage of diocesan clergy and a general lack of theological education among them. Anxious to alleviate this fundamental need, the Holy See tried to help the newly reunited Churches, from the earliest times, by sending them representatives of Western Orders and Congregations to work as missionaries and as teachers. Their apostolic labors among the people of Eastern rites was indeed very wholesome. The Benedictines, Carmelites, the three Franciscan Orders, the Dominicans, Augustinians, Redemptorists, Jesuits, etc., have formed branches of Eastern rites, which were greatly encouraged and facilitated especially after World War I. In other instances they were instrumental in serving as models for the formation of native religious communities that included in their respective constitution missionary activities. There are now twenty-eight Religious Orders or congregations of Eastern rites for men and forty-one for women, some originally Eastern, some branching from Western Orders, and about half of them recent foundations on Western models.

125. Most Eastern Catholic Churches still need the help of the missionaries of the Roman rite, represented by eleven Orders and Congregations for men, including School Brothers, and thirty-two communities of Sisters. They give valuable help in the running of schools, colleges, hospitals and dispensaries, to support the Eastern Catholics and to spread the light of the Catholic faith among the dissidents and pagans. They have labored far and wide with great success. However, with great regret, but it must be said, disciplinary mistakes have been made. The desire of the Holy See has always been “that all men should be Catholics, but not that all should become Latins.” The Supreme Pontiffs have exhorted, time and again, under threat of severe penalties, that missionary priests “shall not dare to persuade anyone * * * to pass from the Greek to the Latin rite, or even allow them to do so if they wish it, without having first consulted the Apostolic See.” Some prelates and local superiors have acted against the expressed desires of the Supreme Pontiffs, either from ignorance or from prejudice. The nature of such mistakes can best be seen from the text of the new directives and regulations, issued by the Sacred Oriental Congregation in 1945 to correct this situation. It also shows clearly the present attitude of the Holy See towards Eastern Churches:

This Sacred Congregation is aware of the apostolic work which this order exerts in the Near East through its sons who consecrate themselves to various activities, with the very noble aim of bringing to Christ those souls who do not know Him yet, or to bring back to the true Church those who have been separated from her.

Among the numerous works, the most important – especially if one looks towards the future – are those which are concerned with youth, and before everything, the schools: it is here in fact that future generations are being prepared.

We wish, therefore, to call your attention precisely to the schools held by your Order in Eastern lands, so that the directives issued by the Holy See on this matter may produce still greater fruit than in the past. It is known, in fact, that in such schools, side by side, with children of Latin rite there are those of Oriental rite, both Catholic and dissident, and sometimes the numerical proportion of the Orientals is superior to that of the Latins.

If one bears in mind the fact that the apostolic work is being exercised in an Eastern country and for the benefit of Eastern populations, it should be clear that such an apostolate will be fruitful only if one takes into account the requirements of place, language and rite, and adapts oneself to the mentality, psychology and just needs of the local population. And, just as in a Latin country, it is necessary to know and love the Latin rite and mentality and to adopt oneself to them, a similar thing should apply in an Eastern country to the rites and mentality of the local Christian people.

This is not understood by many in its practical importance, and consequently is not observed, sometimes even the contrary, doubtless with the best intention.

The Sacred Congregation which has an equal care of the Eastern faithful and of the Latins from the Near East, has been able to ascertain these facts from private reports which it has received from both sides.

I, therefore, ask you, Reverend Father, to communicate the above to your confreres who live and work in the East, and the Sacred Congregation would be grateful, if you would exhort them to draw nearer to the Eastern peoples, considering as the true and efficacious means of apostolate the knowledge, the love and, if possible, the practice of the Eastern rite. It is above everything necessary that in the schools one should not hinder or make difficult for the young Eastern students the use and the practice of their rite.

Why, for example, should not one teach or have taught to the young Orientals the prayers in their respective language? Why not instruct them in the Holy Mass, the ceremonies and the Sacraments of their rite and explain to them how they should take part in them? Why on Sundays and other feast days should they not be sent or conducted to their respective churches, or assist at their liturgy celebrated in the college or local school by a Catholic priest of Eastern rite? If one teaches the Latin rite regularly to the Latin faithful, it seems just and right that similar teaching be given to young people of Oriental rite, whether they be Catholics or not. Directives in this matter had been given by Pope Leo XIII in Orientalium Dignitas.

126. A number of Western Orders did have branches of Eastern rites for a long time, but they were for native Easterners only. Changes from the Roman to an Eastern rite were difficult and rare, until Pope Pius XI facilitated and encouraged such transfer of qualified monastics. In a letter he addressed in 1924 to the Abbot Primate of the Benedictines, the Holy Father pointed out the special qualifications of the Order for the reunion work and asked that one abbey in each Benedictine Congregation should be especially concerned with the affairs of the East and that the monks entrusted with this work should be carefully chosen men who will prepare themselves by special study of the languages, history, customs, mentality and especially the theology and liturgy of Eastern peoples.

127. It came about that arrangements were made for an exceptional monastery, that of Amay-sur-Meuse in Belgium, later transferred to Chevetogne. The Holy Father exempted those who wished to enter the new monastery from the general rule that they should be attached to the monastery where they entered the Order. The Benedictine Priory of Amay is composed of monks of the Roman and the Byzantine rite; they have two churches, one for each rite; and the monks may after a specified time change from one rite to another. Dissident visitors who are interested may study there in an atmosphere of friendliness and understanding, and their number is growing. The monks publish a quarterly in French Irenikon and also print very artistic and popular copies of Russian Ikons, the latter being in great demand among seminarians for Ordination-cards.

128. Another Benedictine monastery has taken an active interest in Eastern rites, Saint Procopius Abbey in Lisle, Illinois. This was initiated by the late Abbot Procopius Neuzil. The number of monks of Eastern rite has steadily increased to eighteen in 1947. Plans are being made to establish a separate monastery for them.

129. The Dominicans, who had done great work in the Near East, also took advantage of the facilities to transfer to an Eastern rite, along with the Capuchins, Redemptorists, Jesuits and Marian Fathers. The latter is a congregation working among Lithuanians, Polish and White-Russian people; a good number of them are doing parochial work among Lithuanian immigrants in America.

Their Superior General happens to be a bishop of the pure Russian rite, who spent his successful priestly years in the Roman rite. These Marian Fathers maintained schools in pre-war Poland and in Manchuria. The houses East of the Curzon line are now lost, and the fate of their College and other educational and printing establishments in Manchuria during the present Soviet occupation is not yet known. Before World War II they published valuable books and pamphlets in Russian, translations of papal encyclicals, prayer books and other religious literature for Russian emigrants.

130. Dominicans going to the Russian rite operated in Lille, France, a small seminary for Russian Catholic candidates to the priesthood, which was closed with the opening of the Pontifical Russian College in Rome. The Dominicans of the Russian rite continued their work for Russian emigrants in Paris. They also publish books in Russian and French, eagerly read by the Russian intelligentsia, Catholic and dissident alike; their periodical Russie et Chretiente has survived the war and its consequences.

131. The Society of Jesus, in charge of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Pontifical Russian College in Rome, has a number of its members in various Eastern rites, mainly by adoption. They opened a novitiate near Albertyn in Eastern Poland in 1926 which had in the following ten years eighty-four novices. They were also given charge of the Pontifical Oriental Seminary in Dubno. But both establishments have been completely abolished during the two Soviet invasions of World War II. In 1934 the Jesuits opened a minor seminary in Bulgaria for the Roman and Bulgarian rite and in the same year a novitiate of the Romanian rite.

132. Special mention must be made of a College for Russian boys, founded in 1921 in Constantinople and transferred to Namur, Belgium in 1923. There the boy refugees from the Soviet revolution boarded in pleasant circumstances and everything possible was done to help them retain their cultural traditions while they attended the Jesuit college nearby. Some 500 boys had been at “Saint Georges,” almost all of them Orthodox. But the value of this college has been tremendous and its effects reaching as far as America. The boys who entered “Saint Georges” with the usual anti-Catholic feelings and prejudices have left with a genuine respect for the Catholic Church and their teachers. A similar change of attitude was noticeable among their Orthodox parents. Now many of these young men are exerting great influence in Russian Orthodox circles, and whenever an occasion arises they help to break down wrongful prejudices and to build a more sympathetic disposition towards the Catholic Church.

133. Since 1937 the Jesuits have taken care of the Russian Catholic parish in Shanghai, China. They also operate a school for Russians, helped by the Columban Sisters who also adopted the Russian rite, just like the one American and the two English Jesuit priests.

134. Many more instances of changes to Eastern rites on the part of Western Religious could be enumerated. It is inspiring to witness these answers to the call of the Supreme Pontiff, tasks undertaken no doubt with extraordinary sacrifices; but these in themselves are bound to bear fruit in the Oriental apostolate.

Pontifical Aid and Relief

135. It is natural that the Supreme Pontiff should also see to it that proper support and assistance is given to those in need. As many Eastern Churches have to live under circumstances of severe hardship, the Holy See has been generous in extending aid to their ecclesiastical and educational institutions. In addition to the ordinary needs, there are extraordinary needs caused by wars and other disasters.

136. Conditions in the Near East have changed considerably since the first World War. The dissident Eastern Churches lost their principal political and financial support with the abdication of the Russian czar. The great Russian Orthodox Church was rent by internal dissensions and by the restrictive and coercive actions of the atheistic Soviet regime, culminating in periods of violent persecution. The great calamities that befell the Christian East were alleviated through the untiring efforts of the Catholic Church. In the Balkans and in Russia, peoples of all creeds were saved from ruin and starvation by organized Catholic assistance, especially by the Papal Relief Mission to Russia during the years of great famine, 1922 to 1924, directed by Father Edmund A. Walsh, S.J.

137. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association came to life in America at about that same time and was, in its original form, a Catholic relief organization for the suffering peoples of the Near East. Later it assumed a broader scope. In 1931 it was duly reorganized by the Holy See and the American hierarchy to operate as the mission aid of the Sacred Oriental Congregation. Since then, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association is by far the principal support of the Holy Father and his Sacred Oriental Congregation for the maintenance of Catholic institutions in the Near East and as far as the jurisdiction of the Sacred Oriental Congregation extends, including regular missionary work among the non-Christians in those lands. In the latter sense, therefore, its scope is similar to that of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith under the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide, and, in the United States, its national office as well as the diocesan offices are sources of substantial aid to the Catholic Near East.

138. The inspiring leadership of its president Francis Cardinal Spellman has made possible the rapid strides of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in recent years. The Sacred Oriental Congregation has thus been enabled to give constant support to the current needs of the Catholic institutions under its care, and that with great effectiveness, despite the increased demands. Furthermore, emergencies will always arise and these demand immediate attention. The greatest ruins were left by World War II and its wounds are still to be healed. But through the generosity of the American members of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, the Holy See has been able to rebuild some of the ruins and to tackle the tremendous tasks of organizing relief for refugees and displaced Eastern Catholics.

139. In the last years, the Association extended its endeavors also to promote more and better knowledge of the Christian East – so ardently desired by the Supreme Pontiff – through lectures and pamphlets, recommending books and periodicals, and helping to arrange Oriental Days in schools and churches, especially through its very active cooperation in the “Annual Fordham Conferences on Eastern Rites and Liturgies.”

General Catholic Interest

140. In many countries we now find societies, either on a national or local basis, that aim at an enlightened understanding between the East and the West. Italy has its Association of Saint Nicholas of Bari. The “Catholica Union” promotes knowledge and good will towards Eastern Christians in Switzerland, Germany and France. Catholic Universities, seminaries and colleges have taken up the directives of the Holy See and enlarged their programs of study in this regard. Greater vitality is given, wherever possible, by the celebration of an Eastern Liturgy. The growing interest is abundantly manifested by the advance in the number of studies, researches and publications in this field. Recent authoritative books are available in many languages. The most remarkable and popular author for the English-speaking world has been Donald Attwater. Specialized periodicals appear in English, French and German, and high among them is the Eastern Churches Quarterly. Numerous articles, notes and reviews on the subject can be found on the pages of the Catholic Press. Oriental Christianity gradually ceases to be a distant, exotic domain, interesting only to specialists.

141. Even a superficial survey cannot fail to fill with joy the heart of anyone to whom the cause of reunion is dear. The intellectual classes of our separated brethren, too, are showing signs of a steadily increasing understanding and of a spiritual rapprochement that seems very promising. May they only become convinced that the Catholic Church is absolutely sincere in its attitude towards the Christian East. It is important to realize also that the Church does not desire a reunion, whether individual or corporate, motivated by earthly considerations of expediency or by political calculations. An honest and sincere reunion will be a union free of any outside or political pressure, in an atmosphere free of religious prejudices and nationalistic animosities, based solely on faith, humility and charity. May that glorious day be speeded by Divine Providence!

Editor’s Note

At this point the book included a chart of the number of worshippers in each of the rites. The authors admitted that much of their data was badly out of date then, and some is over 100 years old. It contributed nothing to the casual reader at this point, and I have omitted it from the version.

Study Outline

by Gerald C. Treacy, S.J.

Part 1. Paragraphs 1-66

There are three groups of Eastern Churches, the Heretical, the Orthodox and the Catholic. The dissident Eastern Churches are either heretical and schismatical or merely schismatical. The vast majority of the dissidents are not formal heretics or schismatics. In no way do they resemble Protestants.

Armenia became Catholic in the fourth century and is the first country to have had a Christian ruler. Today the Armenian, the Coptic, the Abyssinian, the Syrian Jacobite and one of the two Malabar churches follow the Monophysite heresy. This heresy as well as Nestorianism has caused the most permanent damage to Catholic unity. In 1054 Michael Caerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, broke with Rome. The dependent patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Cyprus, as well as the Slavic churches joined the schism. They form the group of dissident Eastern churches commonly known as the Orthodox. Most of these churches have developed into national churches. The Orthodox Church is really a loose federation of national churches.


Do rites affect the unity of the Catholic Faith?

What are the three groups of Eastern Churches?

Are the majority of dissidents formal heretics or schismatics?

How do the Eastern dissidents differ from Protestants?

Have the Easterns kept the validity of their Orders?

What Council condemned the heresy of Nestorius?

How did the Mohammedan conquest affect the Persian Church?

What churches followed the Great Church of Constantinople into schism?

Was the Church of Russia ever excommunicated?

Has the Holy See always upheld multiplicity of rites?

Part 2. Paragraphs 67-111

Catholics of Eastern rites are all subject to the Pope, but in many matters of discipline they are subject to their respective patriarchs. The dignity of a patriarch carries with it a jurisdictional power higher than that of an archbishop.

The Greeks of Sicily and southern Italy are of the Byzantine rite. Their patriarch is the Pope. The Maronites, and Armenians with their own rites are united to Rome. All dissident churches pray for the union of all churches. If it were not for the misunderstandings and prejudices accumulated during centuries the wounds of schism could easily be healed. It was not dogmatic differences as much as cultural diversities that caused the break between East and West.

The year 1862 marked a turning point in Rome’s dealing with the Eastern Churches for it witnessed the establishment of the Sacred Oriental Congregation, a permanent organ for handling Eastern questions. In 1917 the Pontifical Oriental Institute was established by Benedict XV, an institute of higher Oriental studies. It is the Pope’s wish that there should be a student from every diocese specializing in Oriental studies.


Has a patriarch the same jurisdictional power as an archbishop?

What title of honor have the Greeks of Sicily and southern Italy?

Is the desire for union dormant in the Eastern Churches?

What is the distinction between Eastern schisms and Protestantism?

What effect has schism on an ecclesiastical body?

What is Caesaropapism?

What has been the constant attitude of the Holy See toward the Eastern Churches?

What limited the endeavors of Rome for reunion in the past?

Who is the ordinary minister of Confirmation in the Eastern Churches?

What is the function of the Sacred Oriental Congregation?

Part 3. Paragraphs 112-141

Pope Pius XI set up a Liturgical Commission for the revising and editing of Eastern liturgical books. This was in 1930. The same Pontiff set up a commission for the codification of Eastern Church Law. The solicitude of the Holy See for the Eastern Churches is shown also in the establishment of Pontifical seminaries.

Many Religious Orders as a part of their missionary apostolate have formed branches of Eastern rites. They now number twenty-eight for men and forty-one for women. Missionaries of the Latin rite are directed by the Holy See to allow no one to pass from the Eastern to the Roman rite without permission of the Pope, whose desire is “that all men should be Catholics but not that all should become Latins.” The Holy See has likewise shown its interest by generous assistance to the peoples of the East. The Papal Relief Mission to Russia in 1922, and The Catholic Near East Welfare Association are instances in point.


What is the problem of revision of liturgical books?

How is it dealt with at present?

Explain the purpose of the codification of Eastern Church Law.

Why do the Eastern Churches need missionaries of the Latin rite?

Summarize the directives of the Sacred Oriental Congregation.

Describe the purpose of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

How does it promote better knowledge of the Christian East?

Indicate the signs of Catholic interest in the Christian East.

What type of reunion does the Church desire?

Who is the best-known English author on Eastern rites?

About This Book and the Authors

Father Andrew Rogosh was a priest of the Byzantine-Russian rite, under the immediate jurisdiction of the Sacred Oriental Congregation.

For two years of philosophical studies he attended the Seminary “Saint Georgen,” attached to the University of Frankfurt on Main, Germany. For his four years of theology he lived at the Pontifical Russian College in Rome, attending the Gregorian University. On Christmas Day, 1934 he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas Czarnecky, C.SS.R., in the Russian Catholic Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot in Rome.

Upon the request of the Archbishop of New York, the late Patrick Cardinal Hayes, the Sacred Oriental Congregation released Father Rogosh to attend to the spiritual needs of a small colony of Russian Catholics in New York, where he arrived in 1936. Immediately he established the small Russian Chapel of Saint Michael, next to Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where the Byzantine Liturgy is celebrated according to the pure Russian tradition.

Beginning in 1944, Father Rogosh also served as Assistant Secretary in the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

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The study outline and questions for “Rome and the Eastern Churches,” were formulated by Gerald C. Treacy, S.J., who has prepared study club editions of various encyclicals.

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The Authors of the various studies of the Missionary Academia express their own views, which are necessarily independent of the National Council of The Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

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The text of this article is taken from the book Rome and the Eastern Churches: A Study of the Eastern Churches – Heretical, Orthodox and Catholic, by Father Andrew Rogosli, S.T.L. The edition used was published in January 1948 by The Society for The Propagation of the Faith and The Missionary Union of the Clergy; a scan of the original is available at It has the Imprimatur of Cardinal Francis Joseph Spellman, D.D. Archdiocese of New York, New York, 3 December 1947.