After Christianity became the official religion with Emperor Constantine’s act in 313 AD, four large Christian centers, so-called patriarchates, developed throughout the Christian world. There were three in the East, Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and one on the West – Rome. Rome always had the largest influence among all of the churches because there was a belief that Rome was especially honored by St. Peter, who was the first chairman of the Christian Church, and after him by Saint Paul. Rome was home of their martyrdom and their graves. Old Eastern patriarchs in time lost their significance, but after the Western Roman Empire collapsed and Rome was won by barbarians, Constantinople became the center of the Roman Empire. The emperor made his area also a center of Christianity, but as the Western Roman Empire disappeared, the role of pope became more significant and he became less dependent on the emperor’s political influence. Parallel with that, the role of Constantinople’s patriarch became more and more connected with the emperor’s political rule.
The Council of Chalcedonheld in 451 AD equaled the pope with the Constantinople patriarch with an explanation that Constantinople is the capitol of an empire. The pope couldn’t allow the significance and importance of Peter’s service in the church to be related to the political influences and change of the capitol. This is when political differences started to create theological differences as well.
Definite split/schism in 1054
There were occasional splits between the East and West in previous centuries,the most famous of which occurring in 867 AD. Pope Nicholas I refused to acknowledge and accept patriarch Fotius, who came to position after his predecessor Ignatius was forced to resign. Furious for this, Fotius expelled Pope Nicholas from the Church. That conflict was later solved, but consequences remained.
The final split happened on 16th July 1054. This was yet another try to unite in time of danger from Islam, but this try quickly failed. The Western Church kept its name “catholic” (from Greek “katholikos” meaning “all-encompassing”), and the Eastern Church named itself Orthodox, i.e. righteous ” (Greek”ortodoksos” meaning “of right religion”) trying to implicate that the Western Church isn’t of the right religion. The separation of 1054 was deepened when crusaders after conquering Constantinople showed great savagery.
What both Christian religions share
Basically, Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity are the same in the theological sense of the word. Both of the churches have seven holy sacraments,apostolic successionof bishops, glorification of saints lead by the Virgin Mary, and glorification of holy paintings (icons); there are numerous similarities in liturgy (service), similar church positions, many of the same saints, etc.
What is the difference between the two Christian religions?
The differences are not so much in the faith or understanding of God’s word, but in different Eastern and Western traditions, different customs and folk tales. The differences are evident in the exterior, and these are basically the only differences: different ceremonies, different priest outfits and church interior, different artistic approach in the presentation of saints, non-mandatory celibacy for Orthodox priests (nuns and monks are in celibacy in both churches), different calendars and holidays. Orthodox Christians worship only paintings, while Catholic Christians worship both paintings and statues.