On July 16, 1054, Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius was excommunicated from the Christian church based in Rome, Italy. This excommunication severed the largest faction of Christianity, called Chalcedonian Christianity. The split is known as the Great Schism
 
The Great Schism divided Chalcedonian Christianity into what are now known as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths.
 
The Great Schism was both a spiritual and practical conflict. For instance, one of the spiritual differences between the western (Roman) and eastern branches of the church was whether it was acceptable to use unleavened bread for the ceremony of communion. (The west supported the practice, while the east did not.) A more practical conflict that led to the Great Schism was whether the pope, the spiritual leader in Rome, had authority over the patriarchs, religious leaders in the east.
 
The Great Schism was long-lasting; the two branches of Christianity are still split. Catholicism is the single largest Christian denomination, with more than a billion followers around the world. Eastern Orthodoxy is the second-largest Christian denomination, with more than 200 million followers. Eastern Orthodoxy includes national churches such as Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox.
authority
Noun

person or organization responsible for making decisions.

Catholic
Adjective

having to do with the Christian denomination with the Pope as its leader.

ceremony
Noun

activities to celebrate or commemorate an event.

Christianity
Noun

religion based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

communion
Noun

Christian sacrament commemorating the death of Jesus Christ with bread and wine.

conflict
Noun

a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

denomination
Noun

branch of a church or larger spiritual faith.

Eastern Orthodox
Noun

loose affiliation of several Christian denominations (including Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, etc.) which follow early church hierarchy.

excommunicate
Verb

to cut off or expel from a church.

faction
Noun

group within a larger group.

patriarch
Noun

highest-ranking bishop in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, the Catholic Church, and the Assyrian Church of the East.

pope
Noun

leader of the Catholic Church.

practical
Adjective

useful or easy to use.

schism
Noun

split or separation.

sever
Verb

to separate or cut away.

spiritual
Adjective

having to do with religion or faith.

unleavened
Adjective

having to do with baked goods lacking a substance that causes them to expand or rise.

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