In the simplified standard account, the great schism between the sees of Rome and Constantinople - and therefore between the Catholic and Orthodox churches - began with the excommunication of the Ecumenical Patriarch by papal legates in 1054. As Steven Runciman elaborates, however, this was only one dramatic moment in a long process of ecclesiastical, theological, cultural, linguistic, and political estrangement - the roots of the schism predate Christianity and the sometimes heroic efforts to reverse it continue to this day.
Runciman struggles for objectivity and largely succeeds, but admits his own sympathies lie with the Byzantines - a slant which, as he argues, is more than compensated for by the fact that most Western studies of the schism tilt in the other direction. The result is a balanced and nuanced presentation of the history of the most momentous split in the history of Christianity, necessary to understand the persistent divisions between what St John Paul II famously described as the "two lungs" of the Church.
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