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Differences Between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches

Roman Catholic vs Greek Orthodox Churches

During the fourth century, Christianity revolved around five main centers: Constantinople (today’s Turkey), Alexandria (Egypt), Jerusalem (Israel), Antioch (Greece), and Rome (Italy). But when Islam started to flourish, the primary centers were focused on Constantinople and Rome. With this, later on, the powers in these centers started to diminish ‘“ leading to the East-West Schism or the Great Schism in 1054 AD. And so came the birth of the Greek Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox), similar to Roman Catholicism in ways largely related to the teachings of the Apostles and Jesus Christ.

As these two religions were nourished, however, there sprang differences which up until now are carried on to their believers’ faiths. First among these differences is regarding the Pope. For the Roman Catholics, the Pope is infallible. He can contradict lower ranking church leaders. On the other hand, for Greek Orthodox believers, they consider a ‘highest bishop’ also known as the ‘first among equals’. This bishop, in this light, for the Greek Orthodox, is not infallible and he does not have supreme authority on the churches.

Another difference between these two is related to language used during church services. In Roman Catholic, services are held using Latin. Meanwhile, in the Greek Orthodox, they use native languages.

Then, on another note, these religions also have contrasts with regards the concept of original sin. Even though they both believe in the belief that there is what we call as ‘original sin’ and that it can be purified through baptism, they have varying ideas regarding its effects to humanity. On the contrary, they differ now when it comes to how it can be applied to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. For Catholics, Mary was born with no original sin. As for the Greek Orthodox, Mary, just like other persons, was born and will then die. She was selected to be Christ’s mother due to her righteous life.

Aside from these, there are minor differences noted between these two beliefs. One of these is related to icons/statues. Churches of the Eastern Orthodox pay homage to icons while Roman Catholic ones have statues.

In the Roman Catholic church, also, the doctrines, as they are changed through time by popes, bishops and other known instruments of the Holy Spirit, are considered to be more intellectual ‘“ bearing the enlightenment provided by the Spirit itself. This in line with what they call as ‘Doctrinal Development’. Meanwhile, for the other religion, the New Testament must not be changed. For the Eastern Orthodox believers, the early church and the Bible must not be altered in any way. For them, this is a way to avoid heresies and false doctrines. This is also to abide by Jesus’s warning that tells them to be cautious of human traditions connected to Christ’s doctrines.

Likewise, when it comes to the priests, in the Eastern Orthodox, they are allowed to marry before they are ordinated while in Roman Catholic, priests cannot marry.

Also, Eastern Orthodox believers do not accept the concept of purgatory as well as the Stations of the Cross, opposed to the Roman Catholics who do so.

In relation to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, if Roman Catholics make use of an unleavened wafer, the Greek Orthodox uses unleavened bread. They also have differences in the calculations of the days pertaining to Easter and Christmas. When it comes to the perceptions of one another on the forms of beliefs, the Greek Orthodox is considered to be very mystical and depends on spiritual practices. Meanwhile, in the Roman Catholic, beliefs may tend to be too legalistic and depends upon intellectual speculation.


1. Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox believers both believe in the same God.
2. Roman Catholics deem the Pope as infallible while Greek Orthodox believers don’t.
3. Roman Catholics believe that Mary is free from original sin, while Greek Orthodox believers don’t.
4. Roman Catholic priests cannot marry, while priests in the Greek Orthodox can marry before they are ordinated.
5. Latin is the main language used during Roman Catholic services, while native languages are for the Greek Orthodox.
6. Roman Catholics venerate statues as much as Greek Orthodox believers venerate icons.
7. Doctrines can be changed in Roman Catholicism, as opposed to Greek Orthodox.
8. Greek Orthodox believers do not accept the concepts of purgatory and Stations of the Cross, opposite to Roman Catholics.

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  1. One note of inaccuracy: Roman Catholic masses are also primarily in the native languages. This use of the “vernacular” has been in place since the second Vatican Council in 1965.

  2. As a Catholic, my belief is that we do not. ..do not venerate statues.
    We have them as reminders of those who have gone before, much like family photographs. But. we do not venerate a statue.

  3. Doctrines in Roman Catholicism do NOT change. Something may be added…but once it is there…..it is NOT changed. Also, nothing is taken out. The main changes in Roman Catholicism are practices. How the doctrines are carried out as regards lifestyle and within the mass. But doctrines do not change…and have never changed.

    • sorry but I do need to ask. Isn’t adding something technically changing it

      • Adding to something is changing it. You’re correct in a purely common sense way of looking at it but to add to it and clarify the meaning or as in Vatican II vastly improve how Catholic’s participate in whorship and improve the ability of all to understand what was once knowledge held to a few. In this case it is expanding on the subject.

  4. DEFINITELY biased! Roman Catholics DON’T venerate statues, and Masses are mostly said in English. That changed back in the 60’s, so where are they getting their info?

  5. One of the most obvious differences and part of what led to the Great Schism is the filioque clause of the Nicene Creed – the Greeks believing that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, the Romans believing that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. Funny that it was left out of this list, as it is one of the top reasons the two communions are not reconciled.

  6. Assalammualaikum and greet to you all here brother and sister.Before i tell from the long story i’m born islam and why i interested to christian i just want a helper here what type christian must i convert.The story begin when i left my job in 2010 and become homeless i live in penang malaysia that time my interested to christian begin.Everyday accept sunday and saturday i go to st john church to eat food because i homeless.3 pm their give we all homeless no matter relegion enter the church their give we watch tv then give rest a while then 5 pm their give food.Even when chrismass time church
    invite me to celebrate it inside church their give present like clothes,pants and more.I think their care and love us more than any relegion,i tell the short story when i go back to kuala lumpur more christian church helping people there.In st john cathedral every lunch hour i eat there,sometimes different type christian like cavalry church give me sleep inside the place their worship every wendesday and give food and 1 hour service to us.And then 1 day decide go to st john catholic church to attend the mass in sunday.Right now i live in malacca to find the truth is,i got dream before singing song hosanna in the highest the church song.The conclusion is im muslim right now,how can possible i convert to christian.What must i do but i read the bible say no idol and images to worship and cannot eat pork?

    • All you must do to be converted is acknowledge that you have sinned. Believe in your heart that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and rose again so that you could be reconciled to the Father. Confess that belief with your mouth. That’s it. Find a Bible-based church where you can learn more and more. May God bless your endeavors!

    • You need to talk to the priest at one of the Catholic churches you are receiving assistance from. They will tell you everything needed.

  7. The Greek Orthodox Church was formed when the Roman Empire split into the Byzantine Empire.

    • No… the great schism was in the 11th century and the fall of the eastern roman empire (or the begining of the byzantine empire) was in the 5th century. It may have been a catalyst since the seperation of the churche between two empires could lead to conflict and difference of opinion as to whom should be in charge. But to say that the Byzantine Empire was the formation of the Greek Orthodox Church is incorrect.

  8. Definitely way simplistic on the question of purgatory. Orthodox don’t believe in it? Wrong. This is an example of someone being paid to write a super short “article” for a website and getting facts wrong. There are other examples here. Just sad that it had to involve people’s religion. Sign of the times….

    • actually the Orthodox Christians don’t believe in purgatory. i should know because i am one. purgatory is (from my understanding) a temporary hell where souls are sanctified before they are allowed in to the kingdom of heaven. The orthodox Christians believe that your sins are forgiven in this life not in the next one.

  9. correction. in holy Eucharist Orthodox Christians used leavened bread (bread with yeast) to represent the risen Christ. they DO NOT use unleavened bread

  10. Greek Orthodox is not the only Orthodox church. there is also the Russian Orthodox and Serbian Orthodox as well (just to name a few).

  11. The correct name for the ‘centers’ is the Patriarchates. so each one is a Patriarchate.

  12. I am greek orthodox and for the last 2 years I have been going to Catholic church and I receceive Holy Comunion.
    Is this a sin?
    I like the church and its people, But I am a little confused what to do. The Greek church is 60 miles away from us and travelling is not so easy any more.
    Now after 2 years I been told that I should not go for Holy Comunion as I am not Catholic.
    What shall I do?

    • Hello, it’s been some time since you wrote your post, but I hope all is well. According to the Roman Catholic point of view, yes, you can receive holy communion at the Catholic Church you are at and it would be equal to another Catholic receiving it. The Catholic church considers your old church to be a “sister” church. However, your old church would not agree. The question is, why not just become a catholic? Yes, there are some differences between the two, but in the big picture, are they that different? I mean, everybody has different opinions. Many Catholics do not agree with everything in the church, just like many of those in your old church, do not agree with everything in the Orthodox church. The simple thing…the correct thing to do is just became a Catholic.

  13. as a heathen Baptist follow the words of Christ…

  14. I am talking about myself,not talking down where you should follow the Lord…

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