A Look at the How the Eastern and Western Churches Differ
Have you ever wondered if Christianity in the West is the same as Christianity in the East? Well, for starters, Western Christianity refers to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Christianity refers to the Greek Orthodox Church. While the practices of the two sects are very similar, there are some major and minor differences that you should take note of. Here are some of those differences:
As you probably already know, the Roman Catholic Church is headed by a Pope. The Pope is considered infallible and can make decisions over smaller sectors of the church, headed by a priest or bishop for example. In the Greek Orthodox Church, however, the power of the Pope is not recognized. Instead, the highest leader, who is the highest bishop, is called the first among equals. He does not have supreme dominion over the other church leaders.
Marriage of Church Leaders
In the Catholic Church, the priests and other clergy cannot marry at all. They believe that they cannot serve the Church efficiently if they do. In the Greek Orthodox Church, on the other hand, the clergy can marry over ordination.
Language Used During Mass
Before Vatican II, the Roman Catholic clergy hold their masses in Latin. The Greek Orthodox churches were already using the native languages of the ones attending the mass. Today, the Roman Catholic masses are held in the different languages of the people who are hearing mass. You can now hear and also understand mass whether you are a Roman Catholic or a Greek Orthodox parishioner.
The Roman Catholic Church follows the Alexandrian calendar, which the rest of the world is familiar with. On the other hand, the Greek Orthodox Church still follows what is already considered the obsolete and inaccurate Julian calendar. Because the two Churches follow different calendars, they do not celebrate Easter and Christmas at the same time.
Statues versus Icons
If you enter a Roman Catholic Church, you will notice the intricately sculpted statues of saints, heavenly beings and even of Jesus Christ. Greek Orthodox churches merely make use of icons. Icons generally refer to religious paintings.
The Idea of Original Sin
You may wonder whether the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church merely differ some of the more apparent characteristics. However, the Eastern and Western churches also differ in terms of some of the religious teachings. For example, they differ in their idea of original sin, at least to some extent. Both Churches believe that there is a need for baptism to erase original sin. The Roman Catholic Church believes that Mary, the mother of Christ, was born without original sin. On the other hand, the Greek Orthodox Church believes that Mary is just like any other person but one who has lived a virtuous life.
Other Beliefs and Practices
There are also some differences in other beliefs and practices. The Roman Catholics may believe in purgatory or in practicing the Stations of the Cross but the Greek Orthodox believers do not. Unleavened wafer is used in a Catholic mass compared to the leavened bread in an Orthodox mass.