July 23, 2014

The Days of the Schism of 1054 (4 of 6)

3. The Summer of 1054

The events of 1054 directly caused the military developments in Southern Italy, when the balance of power was overthrown between the Papal State, the Byzantines and the Normans, because of the advancement of the latter. The friction, however, had begun in 1050, when the Pope appointed Cardinal Humbert as Archbishop of Sicily, of the subsequent fatal embassy of 1054, even though Sicily belonged to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and had not been conquered (yet) by the Normans. In retaliation, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularios, took measures against the Latin churches of Constantinople and urged Archbishop Leo of Ochrid to report in writing the Latin errors in 1053. The newest research, however, does not accept that the Patriarch closed the Latin churches in the City, as it was believed until recently. When Humbert was in Constantinople in 1054 he reformed some customs in certain churches there, so obviously the Latin churches of Constantinople must have remained open.

Throughout 1053 there were rapid military developments in Italy. Originally Pope Leo had no problem with the continuing Norman conquests, since they belonged to the Latin Church. But when they started approaching towards Rome, alarmed he sought an alliance with Constantinople, which also had an interest in stifling the Normans. Before the two allied armies managed to meet, the Normans conquered the Byzantines in February 1053 and captured the Pope himself in June 1053. During his captivity the Pope received the letter of Leo of Ochrid and instructed Cardinal Humbert to draft a response to the Patriarch. In this, using arguments from the Pseudo-Donation of Constantine, he defended the papal primacy. The emissaries carried the letter with them to Constantinople in 1054.

The delicate diplomatic balance of the time was reflected in the next two letters received by the Pope in captivity, one of Emperor Constantine Monomachos and the other by the Patriarch himself. The first was in a very friendly style, in favor of a closer political alliance, while the second by Cerularios was addressed with respect to the Pope and he prayed for the unity of the two Churches, without referring to the friction. However, the Pope ignored the whole style and reacted to the title "Ecumenical Patriarch" in which Cerularios signed. So he decided to send the papal delegation headed by Humbert to Constantinople in 1054. (It should be noted that eventually the Pope acknowledged the Normans and allied with them. In 1059 their leader Robert Guiscard took the title of duke together with power in Apulia and Calabria and with the right to extend to the principality of Sicily, if he could conquer it. From their part the Normans handed to Pope the Byzantine churches that were in their territory.)

What exactly happened in the summer of 1054?

When the three papal legates arrived in Constantinople, they treated the Patriarch in a contemptuous manner, refusing to honor him with the established veneration or even a typical head tilt to the right to show respect. When the letter of Pope Leo was read he criticized the Patriarch for the title "Ecumenical" and continued with a polemic on other issues. The Patriarch was disappointed so much that he refused to believe that it came from the papal office. He carefully examined the seals and ruled that the document was a forgery. (This probably was due to the recent change of stamps adopted by the Pope). Then Humbert presented a response to Leo of Ochrid, which had been drafted by the Latins. The Byzantines responded with a text by Niketas Stethatos against the use of unleavened bread, the celibacy of clergy and other things. Humbert reacted violently and abusively. Niketas Stethatos, however, was forced to be silenced by command of the Emperor who wanted to maintain the alliance with the Pope against the Normans. Humbert, encouraged, proceeded to a new attack by criticizing the Byzantines for not accepting the Filioque. Cerularios flatly refused to discuss it at that time, insisting that such a discussion should take place with the other Patriarchates of the East. Then Humbert decided to proceed with the anathematization.

The document of anathematization invites surprise today, as it is full of inaccuracies. The only logical conclusion is that the Latins were in desperate poverty of arguments to support the one thing that interested them, which was the authoritarian primacy of the Pope. We will list here some of the accusations it contained, together with a commentary (in parenthesis) by a modern non-Orthodox historian, Steven Runciman.

According to Runciman, the document placed by the papal envoys on the Holy Altar of Hagia Sophia on 16 July 1054 accused, among other things, everyone who supported Cerularios as being guilty of simony ("the major vice of the Western Church at the time, as Humbert knew better than anyone"), of encouraging castration ("a practice that also applied to Rome"), of insisting on re-baptizing Latins ("which was not true at that time"), of allowing priests to marry ("which was wrong: a married man could become a priest, but none already ordained could marry"), of baptizing women in labor, even if they were on the verge of death ("a good practice of the Ancient Church"), of refusing communion to shaved men ("which was not true, despite that the Greeks did not approve of shaven priests"), and, lastly, of omitting a clause in the Creed ("which was the exact opposite of the truth").

The release of this document caused a revolt among the people of Constantinople which resulted in a Synod condemning its authors.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.