Patron:
The Hon Sir Gerard Brennan AC KBE
former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
Conference Committee:
Suri Ratnapala, Professor of Public Law, UQ
Thomas John, Chair, European Focus Group, LCA
Nicholas Aroney, Reader in Law, UQ
Hendryk Flaegel, International Law Section, LCA


Before the Great Schism

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All orthodox Christians were in churches with an episcopal government, that is, one Church under local bishops and regional Patriarchs. Writing between ca. 85 and 110, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Patriarch of Antioch, was the earliest of the Church fathers to define the importance of episcopal government. Assuming Ignatius' view was the Apostolic teaching and practice, the line of succession was unbroken and passed through the four ancient Patriarchal sees (those local churches known to be founded by apostles), Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria. Rome was the leading Patriarchate of the ancient four by virtue of its founding by Saints Peter and Paul and their martyrdom there, not to mention being the political center of the Roman empire at the time. Some organizations (e.g. the Assyrian Church of the East), though aloof from the political wranglings of imperial Christianity, nevert eless also practiced episcopal polity. Shortly after the Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christianity in 321, he also constructed an elaborate second capital of the Roman Empire located at Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople, in 324. The single Roman Empire was divided between these two autonomous administrative centers, Roman and Constantinopolitan, West and East, Latin speaking and Greek speaking. This remained the status quo through the fourth century. In the fifth century, Pope Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, rejected certain Christological dogmas promulgated by the Council of Chalcedon, and as a result, the Oriental Orthodox churches split from the rest; however they continued the episcopal tradition, and today in fact there is dialog between the various orthodox churches over whether the schism was due to real differences or simply translation failures.

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