Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pope vs. Islam? Or Pope vs. Eastern Orthodoxy?

The world seems to be looking at the whole “Pope visiting Turkey” thing as some sort of potential Christian/Muslim clash, thanks especially to Benedict’s recent bad choice of quotes regarding Islam. While I am sure the Pope and his entourage saw this as a good opportunity to repair ties with Islam, the bigger concern should perhaps be his meeting with his arch enemy and rival, Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos (Bartholomew I). Come on people, this is the stuff of comic book apocalypse here! Ancient enemies, meeting after a thousand year split, who will come out victorious? Yea, ok, the so-called “schism” was denounced 40 years ago or whatever, and Popes have come and gone, but these two churches can’t really be called buddies.

Honestly, if everyone involved really spoke their mind here, the Pope would have a better shot with the Muslims than the Orthodox. It isn’t that the Orthodox hate Catholicism, it is just that the nicest reply any Orthodox has given to a statement concerning Catholicism has been a sort of growl. I can’t claim to have been around in 1054, but I do know that all the grievances that caused the split seem to have withstood the test of time. Sure, some of it is semantics, but hey, I wouldn’t have liked the Pope claiming supremacy Über Alles either. Both sides consider themselves to be the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”, thus claiming to be the “true” church. Well, they can’t both be right. Personally, I think it would be really funny if Jesus came back just to say they both suck, but I don’t guess that’ll be happening. Hell, I haven’t found myself smack dab in the middle of such historic drama since I moved to the South from the North.

I don’t know what the internal politics are of both churches, but I have a strong feeling that each side still wants what they want. And since what they both want pretty much absorbs the other, I don’t think we’ll get any major agreements out of them anytime soon. But who will win, The Joker or The Riddler? How many ka-pows will it take? As long as they get a good illustrator, I guess it really doesn’t matter, because Batman will always save the day.


Thanos said...

I"m confused - where's Robin!

Anonymous said...



zenon said...

Why don't you stick to writing about your husband's farts and leave off the politics and history – because you clearly don't have a clue.

Tim said...

Batman is God? Does that make Catwoman Mrs. Satan?

Thanos said...

Why don't you enlighten us, zenon? Tell is a bit about history.

zenon said...

Well, Thanos, I’m no expert, but any discussion of the relationship between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism has to mention the Fourth Crusade/the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 and the subsequent centuries-long rule of large parts of the Greek world by Franks, Venetians and so on; rule which sought to crush or subordinate the Orthodox church; Catholic rule which was often more devastating and unwelcome than Ottoman rule – hence the famous late Byzantine slogan: ‘Better the Turkish turban than the Latin mitre.’

As for theological disputes, there’s a sketchy summary here

A more thorough, intellectual approach can be found in Phillip Sherrard’s book, The Greek East and the Latin West, in which Sherrard discusses the metaphysical and philosophical roots of the Orthodox/Catholic schism, with stress on the far-reaching consequences of the Filioque dispute, i.e. whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone – as Orthodox contend – or from the Father and the Son – as Catholics believe.

melusina said...

I appreciate the info, as I am interested in reading more about the schism (until I moved to Greece I never knew Catholics and Orthodoxy had been the same religion), but this post in no way deserved the classic asshole comment. It was a joke, that came about because we just watched the third Star Wars, and Palpatine/Sidious looked so much like Benedict, and the Patriarch wears all the cool long black robes, and because of the thousand year split, I thought of them as comic book characters. And really, Zenon, I think you've read enough of my posts to understand my humor, even when it takes jabs at religion.

I hope this puts it into perspective. Although it would have been much nicer for you to have made this comment instead of the troll one, which was obviously below the level of someone who can put thoughts together as intelligently as you just did.

zenon said...

Yes, Melusina, you are quite right. I should have posted my second – more considered – comment first and not had an easy pop at you. Apologies. It was uncalled for – particularly since you are the most entertaining and open-minded of the foreigners blogging in Greece.
You will be aware by now of how touchy Greeks can get about their history and what they perceive to be foreigners’ insensitivity towards it. Put my rudeness down to typical, overweening Greek pride.
Still, I’m sure if I were to mock certain periods or personalities in American history and society – make jokes about slavery, MLK or JFK, for example – you too might get offended or, at least, not see the funny side. Very few people can laugh at everything.

If you are genuinely interested in the period in which the schism between Byzantium and the West takes place, then you might want to look out for Anna Comnena’s ‘Alexiad’. Anna is regarded as the first female historian and wrote about the reign of her father, Emperor Alexius I (1081-1118), during which time the Byzantines first began to feel military and political pressure from the West, repelling Norman invaders before making an uneasy alliance with them for the purposes of the First Crusade. Anna’s history reflects the predominant Byzantine view that the Crusaders/Westerners were bloodthirsty barbarians. It’s good stuff, even better than Star Wars.

melusina said...

Honestly, I wasn't aiming at a jab of Eastern Orthodoxy, I was going for the Catholics, and their general hubris that seemed to contribute to the schism. Sure, I'm a bit jaded when it comes to all religions (thus my Jesus jab), but honestly, you can blame that on a year of suffering at a Catholic school. I know very well the suffering the Greek people have experienced on a variety of fronts, both religious and political, and I don't intend to be insensitive to it. I actually have a great amount of respect for what they have gone through.

I was born without tact, so apparently I can laugh at a lot of un-"PC" jokes, even about American history. Maybe I'm too jaded in general.

I am quite interested in the schism and the general history of the period and the effect, especially, on Greek literature. The time period is my favorite in English literature and I find myself quite lacking in knowledge on what was going on in the rest of the world during that time. I think if I read more I'd find some really interesting conclusions, especially in my quest of the "heroic". The West was terribly barbaric during this period, from the Crusades to the Inquisition, I suppose another reason I'm a bit leery of religion. I'll be on the lookout for the Comnena work, which seems doubly interesting because she is female - during a time period where you aren't really going to see much female work on any level - historical or literary.