Membership, Community, Diversity

Why are some Eastern Christian groups called Orthodox and others Catholic?

As early as the fifth century, Eastern Christians identified themselves as “orthodox” to distinguish themselves from the various heretical factions whose views the Council of Chalcedon had condemned in 451. When the Iconoclastic Controversy ended in 842, Eastern Christian authorities declared the first Feast of Orthodoxy. At that time, the term distinguished the “right belief” of all supporters of image veneration from all who opposed that essential part of liturgy and devotion. Since the definitive disconnection of several major Eastern churches from Papal authority, the term has generally distinguished them from the “Uniat,” or Eastern Catholic communities that retained or renewed ties to Rome. Eastern Catholic churches include members of the Antiochene, Chaldean, Alexandrine, and Byzantine traditions. Individual bodies are the Ukrainian, Maronite, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Ruthenian, and Melkite, several of which also have their Orthodox counterparts.


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