What does Schism Stand for?

The Greek term schísma, which can be translated as “separation”, came to Latin as schisma. This Latin word, in turn, led to our language in schism. The concept is used with reference to a secession, a break, a rift or a split.

For example: “The words of the president of the club generated a schism in the establishment”, “The government has the obligation to avoid the schism and to work to achieve the unity of the people”, “The manager’s complaint caused a schism within of the company ”.

The idea of ​​schism is often used within the framework of religion to refer to the separation of a community of the faithful into two or more sectors. The East-West Schism occurred in 1054 and marked the break between the Pope (leader of the Roman Catholic Church) and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (leader of the Orthodox Church).

This moment in history is also known as the Great Schism, sometimes also appending the year in which it took place to distinguish it from other events. The two aforementioned leaders, as well as the hierarchs of the Orthodox Church who shared powers with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, separated and a mutual excommunication occurred. The disagreement that led to such a rift included mockery in writing and the questioning of the legitimacy of certain appointments, something that in current governments seems commonplace.

If we go back almost five centuries, when in 589 the Third Council of Toledo took place, in which the Visigoths converted to Catholicism, the term Filioque was coined, which can be translated as “and of the Son.” This caused an alteration in the way in which the Creed was interpreted, since the Holy Spirit happened to proceed from the Father and also from the Son.

Continuing with the background of the Eastern Schism, twenty years before that council the name of the pope had been removed from the diptychs of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate, although even today scholars have not understood the reason for such a decision. One possibility is that the patriarchy had not correctly understood a profession of faith sent by Pope Sergius IV in which the term Filioque was present.

It is worth mentioning that the insertion of this term in the Latin Creed had already been carried out in several liturgies on the European continent for two centuries, and that later it would especially occur in the Carolingian, but this did not make the Roman one follow the same path. It took several hundred years for the recitation of the Creed to include the word Filioque, already shortly before the schism: in the year 1014, Henry II asked Pope Benedict VIII to recite this prayer during his coronation as emperor, and it was there that changed everything.

The reason the pope agreed to break the tradition of the Roman liturgy, which had lasted for approximately seven centuries, was his need for the future emperor to provide military support to the Church.

The Schism of the West, on the other hand, took place between 1378 and 1417. In that period, there were different bishops who clashed to exercise the pontifical authority of the Catholic Church. The dispute broke out in the conclave of 1378, which led to the election of Urban VI as pope. The French cardinals, however, did not agree with the development of the election and met again elsewhere, appointing Clement VII as pope. Urban VI and Clement VII. Meanwhile, they decided to excommunicate each other, leaving Catholics without a clear leader: they both proclaimed themselves as God’s representatives on Earth.