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Differences Between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches

Differences Between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches

Roman Catholic vs. Greek Orthodox Churches

During the fourth century, Christianity revolved around five main areas: Constantinople (today’s Turkey), Alexandria (Egypt), Jerusalem (Israel), Antioch (Greece), and Rome (Italy). But when Islam started to flourish, the primary centers of focus became 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, certain differences emerged; they are carried by their believers’ faith to this day. The first difference is relates to the Pope. For the Roman Catholics, the Pope is infallible; he can contradict lower ranking church leaders. On the other hand, Greek Orthodox believers consider a ‘highest bishop’, also known as the ‘first among equals’. This bishop is not infallible and does not have supreme authority over the churches.

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

Another difference between the two religions is the concept of original sin. Even though both believe in the so-called ‘original sin’ that can be purified through baptism, they have varying ideas regarding its effects on humanity. They also differ 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. According to the Greek Orthodox, Mary – just like all other humans – was born and will then die. She was selected to be Christ’s mother due to her righteous life.

Aside from these major differences, there are some minor ones as well. One of these is related to icons and statues. Churches of the Eastern Orthodox pay homage to icons, while Roman Catholic ones have statues.

Additionally, in the Roman Catholic Church, the doctrines, which are changed over 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 is in line with what they call ‘Doctrinal Development’. Meanwhile, for the other religion, the New Testament must not be changed. For 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, and abide by Jesus’s warning that tells them to be cautious of human traditions connected to Christ’s doctrines.

Furthermore, Eastern Orthodox priests are allowed to marry before they are ordinated, while in the Roman Catholic Church, priests cannot marry.

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

In relation to the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, while Roman Catholics make use of an unleavened wafer, members of the Greek Orthodox Church use unleavened bread. They also have differences in the calculations of the days pertaining to Easter and Christmas.

The Greek Orthodox is considered to be very mystical and dependent on spiritual practices, while Roman Catholic beliefs  tend to be too legalistic and dependent 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 Greek Orthodox churches use native languages.
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. Unlike Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox believers do not accept the concepts of purgatory and Stations of the Cross.

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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.

    • I was baptized Greek Orthodox and would like to believe that Mary mother of Christ was born and died without sin.

      • In catholic belief the mary was born without original sin and she was not died rather taken up to the heaven with her human body

        • If Mary was married to Joseph and yet someone other than Joseph (god) is the father of Jesus wouldn’t hold true that Mary was an adulterous and as such a whole lot of sin. Religion was concocted by man as a means of control. If the ancient believers did truly believe then there would be just one religion and not the splintering over time that has occurred. More lives has been lost due to religious wars and yet these warriors violate the commandment “Thou shall not Kill”. Therefore, those who claim to be religious are merely hypocritical.

          • You need help to understand…Satan wants all to
            miss the point. Mary was a virgin betrothed but not married when Jesus was concieved to be with child with God incarnate as the angel Gabriel told her. Joseph was troubled but had a divine dream to affirm. He did not “know”/have sex with Mary until after Jesus birth. Don’t look to people as your examples but Jesus/Immanuel/ God Incarnate whom the Old Testament prophesied about and the New Testament revealed plus prophesies and truths yet to come.

          • An atheist… keep your evil thought to yourself. You’ll find out God is indeed real soon enough. Atheism is one of the more foolish ideas in the universe,

          • What like the world is only three thousand years old, the world is flat and the sun travels around the earth.

      • That’s the problem brother,you’d like to believe. The bible clearly says that we have ALL sinned(including apostle Paul and Mary)

    • Do not venerate statues. Only respect the people they are depicting.

    • As a Catholic, we do…WE DO venerate statues and icons. Please read the 7th Ecumenical Council.

  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.

    • It is not just the Greeks who believe that it is all Orthodox Christians

    • What a shame. The Father and Son are the same. Christ was incarnated by the Holy Spirit and became man.

      Orthodoxy and Catholicism shold unite asap……what a force this could be for Christianity with these two churches united. Man always has a way of messing with perfection.

  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.

    • As an evangelical Christian, it through faith and faith alone. You have but to confess your faith in prayer that you believe Jesus to be the son of God and that His death paid for your sins. God Bless

    • A muslim is who you are; this is your heritage. Have you ever heard of Jews for Jesus? They are born jewish, practice as Jews, but accept Jesus as their personal savior. Something to think about. God bless you!

    • MY brother… Am a 60 year old woman …living in the United States… I feel that God had me read your questions tonight about how to become a Christian…. I have lived a very difficult life …but your life is more difficult…
      Jesus Christ said…. I AM THE WAY… The truth and the life… So my brother …to be a Christian… You must believe what Jesus Christ said… If you will search Jesus Christ … Then you will become a Christian… Then you pray…and God will send you to the correct church…

    • Brother
      Walekum Asssalam.
      Being a Muslim if you read Quran you find many instances and references of prophet Mariam and prophet Jesus. Islam respect Christianity and true path. Also life and teachings of Prophet Mohammad help you to fight tough situations.

  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.

      • Or become d son of God or believe in God. .n accept jesus as his son as our brother. .theres nothing wrong in our religion. .it is the man who makes differences not our religion. .

    • As a orthodox Christian you are allowed to take holy Communion in a Catholic Mass. But Catholics are not allowed to partake in holy Communion in the Orthodox Church.

    • You will be welcome in a Protestant Church.

  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…

  15. FYI: Most of the Eastern and Byzantine Catholic churches permit married priests, such as the Ukrainian Catholic and Maronite Catholic churches.

  16. one major inaccuracy here is that Jerusalem is in Palestine and not in “isreal”

    • Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, as the State of Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there while the State of Palestine ultimately foresees the city as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.

    • Jerusalem is in Israel as always and not Pelestine.

  17. History reveals no known or speculated burial place for Mary; unlike our Lord and St. Peter and the other apostles. The greek orothodox venerate the mother of Jesus and there have been many reported miracles of weeping icons of her. In the mid-19th century, St. Bernadette (who could not read nor write) related that the lady introduced herself as the immaculate conception (conceived without sin). Regardless of being Catholic or Greek Orthodox, both follow closely our savior’s teachings and the early apostles as well as venerate Mary. They are close, like sisters.

  18. A note of inaccuracy- the Pope is not infallible. Rather he possesses the authority of infallible teaching under the label “ex cathedra”, from the Chair [of Peter], which is rarely ever exercised. In fact, the only ex cathedra application of papal infallibility since its solemn declaration has been for the Marian Dogma of Assumption in 1950.

    Thus, this is a commonly misunderstood teaching of Catholicism by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

    I’d like to know the sources by which this site is gathering it’s information. It’s doing many believers and non-believers a disservice with the careless disperment of errors.

  19. Your post is deeply flawed. There is no such thing as a Greek Orthodox religion. Orthodoxy is followed by more than 20 countries, so singling out one very small country is missleading.

  20. Lots of issues left and right with this post. No disrespect, but these topics are not so simple as a google search. I have my Masters in Traditional Roman Catholic Theological Studies, including at minimum a detailed survey of all major schools, etc. As well, I am a practicing Orthodox Christian. There are too many eras to spend time writing about them. If it is worthwhile for your website to be accurate, send me an email and I’ll talk about fixing it.

    Thank you

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