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Is there really any difference?

By BethPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
Photo by Reinaldo Kevin on Unsplash

People meet all the time, they get talking and few questions in,

Person 1 “which religion are you?”

Person 2 “I am Christian”,

Person 1 “Me too”

That is most likely how that conversation goes. This particular question has likely been asked millions of times since there are about 2.6 billion Christians on this planet. According to a study by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity in 2021, there is about 45,000 Christian denominations around the world.

So back to our conversation, just because people profess to be Christians, doesn’t mean they believe in the same things. For thousands of years there have been splits and more splits giving rise to the different denominations. But in this particular case, let us focus on perhaps the biggest split of all times and that brings us to this two words; Catholic and Orthodox. To bring some context, Catholic is derived from the word “universal” hence also meant to mean “universal Christianity”. On the other hand, Orthodox translates to following the correct beliefs, therefore those who belonging to the denomination, believe they do things the right way according to tradition and law.

To dive into the big split, between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The split has been recorded to have been as a result of “East-West Schism” that happened in 1054. This was as a result of the Western and Eastern Christianity having different opinions on Christ service and not getting along politically. As a result, the Eastern Orthodox church has become the second largest congregation after the Catholic church. Some distinct differences include:


The Orthodox church unlike Catholic, is not headed by the Pope. Orthodox church is led by a patriarch known as the Holy Synod who is the head bishop. The head bishop however, does not oversee all the churches there are other Holy Synods such as the Russian, the Romanian and the Greek Synods among others. The Orthodox church considers all their leader’s mere mortals answerable for their actions and religious roles assigned to each of them. The leadership setup in the Orthodox church differs greatly from the Catholic church as they have the Roman pope who oversees all the churches around the world and isn’t answerable to anyone. The Roman Catholic Pope also uses the title, “Vicar of Christ” and this gives Him the authority to oversee all the other bishops.


The Roman Catholic bishops and priest remain celibate prior and after their ordination therefore never get married. The Orthodox Church priests and deacons are expected to practice celibacy after their ordination which means they can get married. In addition, the bishops in the Orthodox Church must observe celibacy throughout, before and after the ordination.


When the words, “sign of the cross” is mostly associated with the Catholic Church. In 1570, the fifth pope, Pope Pius defined the method in which believers must perform the sign of the cross. The mode defined was made to signify the five stigmata of Jesus Christ that is, all the five fingers are placed from the head, chest, left shoulder, and to the right.

The Orthodox church also performs the sign of the cross but in a different way, they press to fingers against the palm to signify the human and divine nature of Jesus. The three fingers (thumb, middle and index) to signify the Holy Trinity. Another distinct difference is the pattern of performance; The Orthodox Church performs the sign of the cross from the right to the left shoulder.


The two churches have different interiors such that, a keen eye will tell the difference just by looking at the Church benches. Due to the difference in tradition, the Catholic church has benches with shelves due to the prolonged kneeling in the church. On the other hand, the Orthodox Churches have a central location that remains unoccupied for making bows, which is in line with the Orthodox tradition of frequently bowing to the ground.


The holy communion in the Orthodox Church is given to infants from baptism and children as early as ages 7-8 are brought to confession. In the Catholic church the practice differs as children begin receiving communion at ages 8-9.


About the Creator


They say pictures speak a thousand words but when interpreted in words, it leaves an impact. Writing for me is about expression, exploration and fun. Everything around us can be captured in words and can live on for many years to come.

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  • Test4 months ago

    WOW! Very amazing work!!

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