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The term schism or schism is the division within an established religious denomination without forming a new theological conception ( heresy ). In contrast to opposing factions and parties within such a community, the division is characterized by the completed separation. The term church division rather refers to the institutional framework and the different church constitutions of the separated churches . In the ecumenical dialogue of the churches, the historically less burdened term church separation is preferred.

The foreign word Schisma ( late Middle High German sc [h] ISMA ) goes to church latin schisma and Greek σχίσμα s-chísma back, which means "division, separation". In Greek, 's' and 'ch' are to be spoken separately, as in Sleeping Beauty ; In German, the pronunciation is also common, as in Schiff . The plural is schisms or, more rarely, schismas .

The term schism is used primarily with reference to the Christian churches and the history of Christianity . Divisions of faith are not only found in Christianity , but also, for example, in Islam between Kharijites , Shiites and Sunnis as well as in Buddhism . The political rift between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, the Sino-Soviet rift , is sometimes referred to as the communist schism .

Furthermore, Schisma in the Codex Iuris Canonici of the Roman Catholic Church describes a canonical offense, namely "the refusal of subordination to the Pope or of fellowship with members of the Church who are subordinate to him".

Church history

Graphic representation of the most important schisms and splits on the path of the (Christian) faiths and the associated ecumenical councils. In English, the corresponding years AD in brackets

Old church

Divisions of faith have accompanied the history of the church from the very beginning and often mark the hour of birth of churches or Christian special communities that compete with the existing churches, see also Old Church .

In the New Testament , especially in Paul's letters, there are many traces of rifts and divisions. The deepest crisis arose from the question of the validity of the Old Testament law ( Torah ) also for the Gentile Christians . The Ebionites , a strong Jewish Christian group, were lost to the emerging church.

In the year 144 AD, for example, there was a conflict between Marcion and the old church and a break with the prevailing exegesis and the establishment of a separate, Gnostic religious community. Marcion was probably "banished" from the Roman community, founded his own communities and gathered followers around him, to which early church bishops and priests joined. In contrast to the Gnostic sects, the Marcionite community was tightly organized; It was precisely because of this that it could become serious competition for the old church. Marcion's travels quickly spread his teaching to Egypt and Persia. Under Constantine , the Marcionite communities were fought, which in some regions of the Roman Empire had more followers than the other communities.

In the period that followed, in the process of clarifications and divisions, that community emerged that understood itself and its creed as orthodox and catholic . This happened until the 4th century ( Constantinian turn ) without state power. If a dogmatic conception of faith such as that of the Gnostics , Donatists , Arians and others was declared erroneous after long arguments, their followers were expelled ( excommunication ), which however had no consequences under civil law.

Until 313, the special communities, like the Orthodox Catholic Church, were the target of state persecution of Christians . Only after the emergence of the Roman imperial church were the “ heretical ” communities exposed to discrimination on the part of the Roman state.

The Council of Chalcedon of 451 brought about a series of secession of the monophysitic churches. One of them is the split of the Coptic Church in Egypt from the Imperial Church.

In contrast to the later divisions in the Middle Ages , in the church divisions, which were not infrequently the result of the disputes at the councils, in early Christian times theological disputes had greater weight than questions of church politics.

middle Ages

The great oriental schism of 1054 represents a striking event of a split in faith . In the sense of the Greek word split , this term has flowed into historiography. Here this means the separation of the Latin Church of the West from the Greek Church of the East, which included Greece and the Byzantine Empire ( Greek Orthodox Church ). Crucial for this split was the question of the center of Christianity, which the Latin West saw in Rome as the rock of Peter and the Greek East in Constantinople . The Pope in Rome as the Patriarch of the Latin West and West and the Patriarch in Constantinople as the spiritual leader of the Greek East and East excommunicated one another. Decisive for this separation were primarily less theological differences, which developed over centuries, but rather ecclesiastical political interests related to the growth of power and the reputation of the papacy. The old imperial church , as it existed since the Roman emperor Constantine I, ceased to exist.

In the period from 1378 to 1417 the so-called occidental schism arose . Several people made claims to the papacy. Popes and counter- popes resided not only in Rome, but also in Avignon . In the middle of the 15th century, at the time of Eugen IV , Felix V (1439–1449), elected by the Council of Basel, was the last Catholic antipope to claim the throne. He resigned, however, because he and thus the council could not prevail.

Further splits in the Middle Ages, which the Catholic Church viewed as heresies , included a. the Waldensians and the Cathars . There were also anti-bishops .

Early modern age

The Reformation is also known as the “age of the split in faith”. It began in 1517 with the posting of the theses in Wittenberg by Martin Luther , which also resulted in the Peasants' War of 1525. It came to an end with the Peace of Westphalia of 1648. During this period religious struggles took place, in particular the struggles of German Protestantism against the Catholic Empire under Emperor Charles V and the persecution of the Huguenots in France. For the period of religious struggles from 1550 to 1648, the concept of confessionalization or the “confessional age” introduced by Wolfgang Reinhard and Heinz Schilling has prevailed.

The inner-Catholic reform efforts began with Pope Hadrian VI. (1522–1523) and strengthened themselves from the Council of Trent (1545–1563) until the actual Counter Reformation . They aimed to reverse the split in the interests of the Catholic Church. Both diplomatic means of persuasion and violence were used. The attempt to overcome Protestantism by force and reintegrate its followers into the Roman church was ultimately unsuccessful. According to Arno Herzig, these efforts represent measures of social discipline in the sense of a policy of re-Catholicization . The Peace of Westphalia is considered to be the end of the religious struggles, but it did not end the church division caused by the Reformation.

Faith division and ecumenical dialogue

The split in faith persists to this day. The ecumenical dialogue strives for a gradual rapprochement between the separated churches. During his pontificate , Pope John Paul II turned primarily to ecumenism with the Eastern Churches . However, different views still have a dividing effect in numerous areas; not least, the papal office itself in its historically developed form after the First Vatican Council is perceived as an obstacle to unity. That is why the striving for recognition of the existence of the other church and the striving for mutual coexistence and coexistence is already seen as an important step.

In fact, however, in 1965 the ecumenical patriarch Athinagoras and Pope Paul VI succeeded. a cautious approximation by at least undoing the mutual spell of their predecessors (1054). Under the sign of ecumenism, the Greeks even managed to convince the Italians that the Latin counter-patriarchates of Antioch (1098), Jerusalem (1099), Constantinople ( 1204) and Alexandria (1219) also formally abolished. Nevertheless, the hope of the Patriarch "... that we can share the communion of the Holy Sacraments again as it was the case up to the year 1054" was not fulfilled.

“Schism” as a crime under Roman Catholic church law

Can. 751 of the Codex Iuris Canonici (CIC) defines schism as “the refusal of submission to the Pope or of communion with members of the Church who are subordinate to him”. For example, in the Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei of July 2, 1988 , Pope John Paul II assessed unauthorized episcopal ordinations carried out by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre with reference to Can. 751 CIC as a "schismatic act".

With a declaration of April 24, 2006, the German Catholic bishops stated that leaving the Catholic Church fulfilled the “offense of schism in the sense of c. 751 CIC ”and result in the penalty of excommunication .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Schisma  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Duden online: Schism .
  2. a b Codex Iuris Canonici, Book III , Can. 751
  3. Walther von Loewenich : The history of the church, I, antiquity and the Middle Ages. 4th edition. Siebenstern Verlag, Hamburg 1971, p. 44.
  4. John Paul II: Apostolic Letter "Ecclesia Dei" in the form of a Motu proprio website of the Vatican
  5. ^ Declaration by the Permanent Council of the German Bishops' Conference , April 24, 2006