July 21, 2014

The Days of the Schism of 1054 (3 of 6)

Pope John XVI the Benevolent

2. The Stages of the Schism

The Schism was in fact gradual. However, influenced by papal propaganda for many centuries, historians often refer to "schisms" of the 5th, 7th and especially of the 9th (under Photios) centuries, which never happened. Nowadays, thanks to the extensive research of Francis Dvornik and Fr. John Romanides, the truth is gradually being restored. So the stages that led to the Schism of 1054 are not the iconoclastic stance of Constantinople in the 8th century, nor some mythical excommunication of Photios in the 9th century. All these, as well as prior disputes, were resolved over time and validated formally in Synods with the participation of the Eastern Patriarchates and the Pope.

The actual stages that led to 1054 were the following four:

The first step took place in 794 when the Franks under Charlemagne convened the Synod of Frankfurt which rejected the Seventh Ecumenical Synod of 787. Thus the Frankish Church differed from the rest of the Church. Then, in 809, the Franks formalized the Filioque at the Synod of Aachen, thus introducing into the Creed a doctrinal difference with the rest of the united Church. This movement of course was flatly rejected by Pope Leo III. This rejection was repeated at what is considered the Eighth Ecumenical Synod in 879. The Church of the five patriarchates remained united in the ninth century, but the Church of the Franks, who occupied a large part of Western Europe, was torn off.

The second step took place in 962 when the Saxon king Otto I came down with his army to Rome, and after intervening in a local dispute, he forced Pope John XII to crown him emperor. To secure the allegiance of each Pope, Otto legislated that all future Popes would have to swear their allegiance to him before being enthroned. Pope John XII did not accept this claim and Otto convened a meeting of Italian bishops which he "persuaded" to dethrone John and elect his own candidate, in 963. In this way the Pope was turned into an instrument of the German Empire. For the next one hundred years, 21 of the 25 Popes were chosen by the German king. The reaction of the Romans during this century, from Otto to 1054, was the familiar reaction of all people under occupation: some became collaborators of the Germans and some were resisters. Since this occupation never ended, history was written by the victors, and these years are remembered as a period of decline for the papal throne and Pope John XII especially is considered by most as among the most "immoral" Popes of history.

The third logical step was the final expulsion of the Romans from the Papal throne and their replacement with Germans. Because of the resistance of the Romans, several years were required to take this step. In 996 German Emperor Otto III appointed the first German Pope, his young cousin Bruno, who was renamed Gregory V. The new Pope was not recognized by Constantinople, either because he added the Filioque to the Creed or because he did not want to send a Recommendation Letter there. He was soon expelled by the Romans, who in turn elected a Roman, John the Benevolent.* He sent a Recommendation Letter to Constantinople and was recognized by it. Otto became outraged and went to Rome and restored Gregory V, and had John arrested and dismembered.** When Gregory died, Otto appointed the first French Pope, Gerbert d'Aurillac, renamed Sylvester II, who also was not recorded in the diptychs of Constantinople.

The last Orthodox Pope resigned (for unknown reasons) in 1009. This is the last year, until today, in which the name of a Pope was in the diptychs of Constantinople. It has been suggested that since then the German's popes finally replaced the Romans. It seems that this view is not correct, because in the next four decades there were Roman popes. However, as noted by Fr. John Romanides, they all came from German families and therefore officially introduced the Filioque into the Church of Rome in 1014. Later, the now German-held Papal Church recognized as a "saint" King Henry II (1002-1024), who achieved the final expulsion of the Orthodox Romans from the papal throne and the introduction of the Filioque. After an effort of two hundred years, the addition of the Filioque into the Church of Rome represented the triumph of German policy there.

The fourth step was the events of 1046-1049 in Rome. Due to Germanophile conflict and resistance, in 1046 there were three Popes simultaneously. The German king Henry III descended on Rome and drove all three out and appointed his own chosen one, but he died in less than a year. Henry appointed a second, but he lived only 23 days. There is the suspicion that both were victims of Roman resistance against the Germans. The third appointed by Henry was his cousin Leo IX, who was more fortunate and in whose days the critical delegation was sent with Humbert to Constantinople in 1054.

* He has become known to history as Antipope John XVI.

** The emperor's troops cut off his nose and ears, cut out his tongue, broke his fingers and blinded him, that he might not write, and publicly degraded him before Otto III and Gregory V. At the intercession of Saint Nilus the Younger, one of his countrymen, his life was spared: he was sent to the monastery of Fulda, in Germany, where he died about 1001.

Translation and notes by John Sanidopoulos.