During the fourth century, Christianity revolved around five main areas: Constantinople (today’s Turkey), Alexandria (Egypt), Jerusalem (Israel), Antioch (Greece), and Rome (Italy). But when Islam started to flourish, the primary centers of focus became Constantinople and Rome. With this, later on, the powers in these centers started to diminish, leading to the East-West Schism or the Great Schism in 1054 AD. And so came the birth of the Greek Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox), similar to Roman Catholicism in ways largely related to the teachings of the Apostles and Jesus Christ.
As these two religions were nourished, however, certain differences emerged; they are carried by their believers’ faith to this day. The first difference is relates to the Pope. For the Roman Catholics, the Pope is infallible; he can contradict lower ranking church leaders. On the other hand, Greek Orthodox believers consider a ‘highest bishop’, also known as the ‘first among equals’. This bishop is not infallible and does not have supreme authority over the churches.
Another difference between these two is related to the language used during church services. In Roman Catholic churches, services are held in Latin, while in Greek Orthodox churches, native languages are used.
Another difference between the two religions is the concept of original sin. Even though both believe in the so-called ‘original sin’ that can be purified through baptism, they have varying ideas regarding its effects on humanity. They also differ when it comes to how it can be applied to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. For Catholics, Mary was born with no original sin. According to the Greek Orthodox, Mary – just like all other humans – was born and will then die. She was selected to be Christ’s mother due to her righteous life.
Aside from these major differences, there are some minor ones as well. One of these is related to icons and statues. Churches of the Eastern Orthodox pay homage to icons, while Roman Catholic ones have statues.
Additionally, in the Roman Catholic Church, the doctrines, which are changed over time by popes, bishops, and other known instruments of the Holy Spirit, are considered to be more intellectual, bearing the enlightenment provided by the Spirit itself. This is in line with what they call ‘Doctrinal Development’. Meanwhile, for the other religion, the New Testament must not be changed. For Eastern Orthodox believers, the early Church and the Bible must not be altered in any way; for them, this is a way to avoid heresies and false doctrines, and abide by Jesus’s warning that tells them to be cautious of human traditions connected to Christ’s doctrines.
Furthermore, Eastern Orthodox priests are allowed to marry before they are ordinated, while in the Roman Catholic Church, priests cannot marry.
Additionally, Eastern Orthodox believers do not accept the concept of purgatory as well as the Stations of the Cross, as opposed to the Roman Catholics.
In relation to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, while Roman Catholics make use of an unleavened wafer, members of the Greek Orthodox Church use unleavened bread. They also have differences in the calculations of the days pertaining to Easter and Christmas.
The Greek Orthodox is considered to be very mystical and dependent on spiritual practices, while Roman Catholic beliefs tend to be too legalistic and dependent upon intellectual speculation.
1. Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox believers both believe in the same God.
2. Roman Catholics deem the Pope as infallible, while Greek Orthodox believers don’t.
3. Roman Catholics believe that Mary is free from original sin, while Greek Orthodox believers don’t.
4. Roman Catholic priests cannot marry, while priests in the Greek Orthodox can marry before they are ordinated.
5. Latin is the main language used during Roman Catholic services, while Greek Orthodox churches use native languages.
6. Roman Catholics venerate statues as much as Greek Orthodox believers venerate icons.
7. Doctrines can be changed in Roman Catholicism, as opposed to Greek Orthodox.
8. Unlike Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox believers do not accept the concepts of purgatory and Stations of the Cross.