Dan asked:

How does the Eastern Orthodox church relate to the Roman Catholic church and their claim that they're the church Christ founded?

Jimmy Akin replied:

"Originally there was no distinction between the Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox churches. There were Christian churches that grew up all over the place in the old world and orginally they were all in communion with each other. Over the course of time some split off and broke union.

Then over a period of a few hundred years many of the eastern churches began to drift away from the western churches or to put it another began to be a kind of .. cultural cold war that developed ... that manifested at times in things that just sound ridiculous today. Like Greek speaking Catholics were sometimes not willing to celebrate mass on an altar by Latin speaking Catholics ... when you've reached that point it sounds like you're not in communion with each other any more ... there were attempts to repair it ... but they drifted apart quickly. There are groups in the east that can trace their lineage back to the first century in terms of their episcopal lineage. Their bishops do go back to the first century in a line, the same way the bishops in the west do. But that merely having that apostolic succession is not enough to say we are the fullness of what Christ meant his Church to be. From a Catholic perspective in order to say you have the fullness of what Christ meant his Church to be you need the pope. You need the bishop of Rome as the successor of Peter and as the ecumenical center of the Church. So that's actually what defines a schism. It's a refusl of communion with the bishop of Rome ...

Since Peter is the rock on which Jesus built the Church, and since Jesus gave Peter a special pastoral role in the Church among the disciples saying feed my sheep. And since Jesus indicated that although they're to practice principle roles of servant leadership, Jesus indicated Peter was the greatest of the apostles in the sense that he prayed for him and gave him the task of strengthening his brothers. If you then run away or break union with the successor of Peter, then you're not having the fullness of what Jesus meant His Church to be and consequently for all of their many strong points, our Eastern Orthodox brothers don't have that at the moment and so they don't have the fullness of what Christ meant his Church to be."

Source material:

Editor's note: A great article to read at Catholic Answers' site about this subject can be found here.


Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2014)

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of the answer provided. For the complete response download the podcast.

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Show air date: January 30, 2014

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Jimmy Akin

Question appeared in show: 39:20

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"...and upon this rock I will build My Church..." Matthew 16:18