What is Russian Orthodox theology? - Non-Catholic Religions - Catholic Answers Forums

What is the philosophical and theological background of Russian Orthodoxes? Why are they not Catholics and why not Greek Orrhodox? What is their difference? What is their theology?

I cannot answer to their philosophy and theology in depth as I’m not familiar. Also, Russian Orthodox cannot be Greek Orthodox because they are part of the same communion under Constantinople.

To me, the Eastern Orthodox have roughly the same theology as Catholics. The main difference is they don’t recognize the authority of the Pope but have their own national Patriarchs, who may or may not recognize each other as valid or a speaker for the group. So they lack unity.

Ok so they were the same Church until somewhere between the 6th and 15th centuries.

Yeah. That’s as specific as it gets. The mutual excommunications are way overemphasized.
A few big reasons for the split, but easily the biggest is whether the Pope is a first among equals (orth) or the authoritative Leader of the Church (cath).

Russian orthodoxy comes from the Orthodox ecclesiastical structure of national churches in the middle ages. That oversimplifies it a bit, but that’s the gist.

Their unity derives from submission to the same “Holy Tradition”, which is analogous to the Catholic “Deposit of Faith”.


Orthodox have the same theology. Russian, Greek, Antiochian, etc. only have to do with jurisdiction. So as I like to say, the only difference are the pastries served at the Church festivals.

Eastern Orthodox theology (along with liturgical practice) is the same as that of Byzantine Catholics.



I think that there are some differences, but i am not sure how you would classify them (doctrinal, disciplinary, theological, etc.?) For example:
Byzantine Catholics are not allowed a church approved divorce and remarriage, given that the first marriage was recognized.
Fasting during Lent is a lot lighter for many Byzantine Catholics, than the Orthodox Lenten fasting guidelines. Also, the Communion fasting regulations can be lighter in the Byzantine Catholic church.
Byzantine Catholics are not ever allowed to use artificial birth control even if the married couple has five or six children.
In many cases the Byzantine Catholic will celebrate Easter according to the western date.
Last time I checked the date of the Russian Orthodox Christmas was later than the western date. i think it was January 7 according to the Gregorian calendar which is December 25 according to the Julian calendar.
Byzantine Catholics may honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whereas Orthodox generally do not do so.
I have seen an icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a Byzantine Catholic Church. Generally, an icon of Mary in an Orthodox church will have Mary holding the baby Jesus, thus ruling out an icon of Our Lady of guadalupe.
And of course the papal doctrines.


in the early churches, churches formed regionally. As it happened, one such church covered all of the west, while there were multiple churches, regionally, in the East and Africa.

Today, that one western church is the RCC, while the others are mostly EO and OO, and some (e.g., Ukraine, RUthenia, Melkite) have re-established communion with Rome.

The RO in particular comes from the EP (Patriarch of Constantinople) sending saints Cyil and Methodius as the Apostles to the Slavs, at the request/invitation of the royal family in Kiev.

Some centuries later, that family fled in the face of invasion, and purported to take the see of Kiev with them to Muscovy–but the kievians who remained had different ideas on the subject.

After more centuries passed, the Moscow church, action with the the NVKD (predecessor to the KGB) largely liquidated the kievian/ukranian church (as in, executing and imprisoning the bishops and non-cooperating priests, taking all the properties, and holding a false synod in which the cooperation priests [but no bishops] “voted” to attach to the Moscow church). The faithful Ukrainian church, in communion with Rome at that point, went underground for its survival, and Moscow and Constantinople both “established” new Orthodox churches there.

Anyway, you’ll probably get far more detail by more knowledgeable people on the differences between orthodox groups on the byzcath.org forums. You may need to read archives, as it is no longer every active. Note that the name aside, it is an Eastern Christianity site, and not specifically either Catholic or Orthodox.


sede vacantism, it seems

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Our Lady of Guadalupe is pregnant with the Christ-child. I always saw that apparition as Our Lady giving birth to Christ / the Church in the new world. I understand that Orthodox Churches in Mexico will display and venerate this icon.

From the differences you listed above, it’s interesting… Catholics may be more “liberal” on fasting, but much more conservative on marriage and contraception.


It is uncommon, but not canonically disallowed, for an icon to portray the Theotokos alone. Probably the most famous example of this would be the icon of the Protection of the Theotokos.

Almost all Orthodox celebrate a common date for Easter that is different from the date celebrated in the west, and that the Orthodox Church of Finland celebrates according to the Gregorian calendar. Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas and Easter according to the Julian calendar, but so do many Eastern Catholic churches throughout the world. The Greek Orthodox church and many other Orthodox churches follow the revised Julian calendar. They follow the Julian calendar for Pascha and all of the feasts that rely on Pascha for their dates, but follow same calendar as the West for all of the other feasts on the calendar. As these Orthodox Churches remain in communion with each other, clearly this is ultimately a matter of tradition, rather than doctrine. ( Some would disagree with this and there have been schisms over the calendar.)

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About the same as that of other Orthodox Christians.

If you want the quick and very overly simplistic explanation, their theology is very similar to Catholicism with the biggest (but not only) difference being that they don’t believe the Pope has any greater authority than any other major bishop.

See above for the “why not Catholic.” As for “why not Greek Orthodox” it’s because the way the Orthodox Church operates is that the church is really a bunch of different churches each headed by a patriarch, but all of those churches are in communion with one another (well, generally speaking–the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church got into a conflict with the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church over who had jurisdiction in the Ukraine and severed communion between the two of them, a situation that’s lasted for over a year). The areas each patriarch is head was basically decided by geography. So the Greek Orthodox Church is in Greek, the Russian Orthodox Church is in Russia, etc.

Where things get confusing is when it comes to places like North America, where there isn’t anyone who has particular jurisdiction because back when they were figuring all that out, they didn’t have any ideas they existed at all, plus the primary settlers weren’t Orthodox at all, but rather Catholics and Protestants. The Orthodox parishes here were mostly founded by immigrants from their respective countries, so emigrating Greeks made Greek Orthodox parishes and Russians made Russian Orthodox parishes. They’re all under the control of whoever the person in charge of their particular Orthodox church was, meaning that guy in charge of the Greek Orthodox church is in control of the Greek Orthodox parishes in the US… but not any of the other parishes here. But they’re all in communion with each other (well, again, except for the Greek/Russian ones right now).

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This question would obviously require a very long and detailed answer as it would if you were asking about the theology of the Catholic Church. May it not be more useful to ask a specific question about Orthodox theology that you have in mind?

The answer to your first question would answer this.

They do, of course, count themselves as Catholic because they are part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is because catholic means universal.

They do not recogise the primary of the Holy See. Indeed, they do not accept the need for any see to hold a comparable position over the entire Church. They would accept the pope as a patriarch primus inter pares with all the other patriarchs. They do not accept his jurisdiction over the entire Church. In that sense they are not part of the Catholic Church.

They are not Greek in the ethnic sense and tend to have more in common with the other Slavic Eastern Orthodox churches. They are Greek, though, in the sense of Byzantine: the rite of all the Eastern Orthodox churches.

The Orthodox monks in Canones, NM at the Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael have an icon of Our Lady fo Guadalupe in their chapel. I personally have two icons of Our Lady of Guadalupe and no qualms whatsoever about venerating and praying to her. Many American Orthodox I know (who are not hyperdox Orthotrads) would accept the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe as valid. I even know another Orthodox monk who has an icon of her in his personal icon corner.

Generally Eastern Marian icons always include the Christ child to emphasize the dogma of the Incarnation. There are a few known wonderworking icons where she is not holding the Christ child, such as St. Seraphim of Sarov’s favorite, the Virgin of Tenderness.


Catholic has now come to mean universal. It used to mean “of the fullness of the faith” and is still understood that way by Orthodox Christians.


The adjective καθολικός katholikos means ‘universal’ in both Ancient, Koine and Hellenistic Greek.

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The Russian Orthodox Church is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church…
So is the Greek Orthodox Church…
So is the Serbian Orthodox Church…
So is…
So is…
So is…

In Scripture, Paul wrote to the the Church at Rome…
The Church at Corinth…
The Church at Thessalonika…
The Church at whatever geographical location…

The Churches that comprise the Church are connected to the earth geographically…
And the WHOLE of the Church is found in ALL Her Churches, and in ANY of them…
That is the meaning of Catholic…
Kata means according to…
Holon means the Whole…
Wherever found,
the Body of Christ is not divided,
but is wholly present
in any of its parts…



Was this the case? From my understanding, Sts Cyril and Methodius came from Byzantium when called by Rastislav of Great Moravia (present day Slovakia, my country heh) who wanted vernacular liturgy for his people. Because that was Latin territory, Sts Cyril and Methodius came to Rome and became effectively clergymen of Roman Patriarchate.

Some say they propagated Latin Mass in Church Slavonic, some that they propagated Byzantine Liturgy in Church Slavonic. History is not clear on that. Their successors were banished from Moravia and spread faith to Bulgaria and other Slavic countries. Bulgaria hence came under Pope by Church canons but Patriarch Photius used military intervention to force Greek Rite and submission to Byzantine Church upon them. So while Bulgaria did come to use Byzantine Liturgy, no one is sure whether this was Photian influence or actual heritage from Sts Cyril and Methodius…

It’s interesting history… :slight_smile:

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