Byzantine vs. Roman Catholic: What is the main difference?

As a practicing Roman Catholic, I have taken a lot of time to study the workings and history of the Church. During a recent study, I encountered the great split of 1054 AD that led to the establishment of the Byzantine Catholic Church (otherwise referred to as Greek Orthodox) and the Roman Catholic Church. While the two maintain many similarities to date, several differences set them apart. So, what is the striking difference in the Byzantine vs. Roman Catholic comparison?

The main difference between the Byzantine and Roman Catholic churches is the theology they apply to their belief in Jesus Christ. The Byzantine Catholics believe in the human nature of Christ but place a lot more emphasis on His divinity. In contrast, the Roman Catholics believe in the deity of Christ but emphasize more on His humanity.

In this article, we will explore the main differences between the Byzantine (Greek Orthodox) and Roman Catholic Churches in detail. Join me as I try to respond to such questions as who the head of the Byzantine Church is and the main similarities between the Byzantine and Roman Catholic churches.

Byzantine vs. Roman Catholic: Differences in definition

Roman Catholic
Byzantine vs. Roman Catholic. Image source: Pixabay

The Byzantine Church derives its name from the Byzantine Empire that largely occupies present-day Istanbul, Turkey. This Church is also called the Greek Orthodox Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church. It includes all churches separated from the Western Church in 1054 AD.

The Roman Catholic Church derives its name from the main seat of the Pope, which is in the Vatican, Rome. After the great separation of the Church in 1054 AD, the Roman Catholic Church remained in the West and was mostly established in Europe before spreading throughout the world.

Differences between Byzantine and Roman Catholic


Byzantine Church

Roman Catholic Church


They believe in the humanity of Jesus but emphasize his divinity

They believe in the divinity of Jesus but emphasize more on his humanity

Divine Liturgy

Use leavened bread to signify the Risen Christ

Use unleavened bread as used by Christ in the last supper as part of their divine liturgy.


Greek is used as the main language in texts. The liturgy is performed in Slavonic and English.

Latin is used instead of Greek. The liturgy is also performed in Latin and English.

Worshipping Symbols

They use icons as worshipping symbols

They use statues as worshipping symbols

Liturgy performance

The Priest faces the east together with the people

The Priest faces the people during Mass


She is seen as the Mother of God

She is believed to be ever-virgin and Mother


All music is performed as acapella

Musical instruments are used to accompany music


They do not accept the concept of Purgatory

They believe in Purgatory


Bishops and Pope work together for the unity of the Church

The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church

Similarities between Byzantine and Roman Catholic

Byzantine vs. Roman Catholic
Byzantine and Roman Catholic Similarities. Image source: Pixabay

Both are Creeded Churches

This means that both churches still practice the recitation of many creeds that were used in the early Church. One of the main creeds still recited by both churches is the Nicene Creed.


Both churches base many of their rites and teachings on similar beliefs. Some of the most common ones include the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ, His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the birth of Christ, and His second return.


Both churches have a detailed hierarchy of leadership that governs the clergy and laity. They both have different levels of Priesthood and also include nuns and monks.


The Byzantine and Roman Catholic churches have 7 sacraments used in their faith; Baptism, Penance, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. Each one of these can only be administered by a Priest in both churches. The practice of the 7 Sacrament is also similar in Byzantine and Roman Catholicism.

Prayer and Fasting

Both the Byzantine and Roman Catholic churches strongly believe in the power of fasting and praying. Both churches teach that these practices lay a solid foundation for the faith of believers. Members of both churches are encouraged to fast and pray.

Who is the head of the Byzantine Catholic Church?

Byzantine vs. Roman Catholic
Byzantine Catholic Church. Image source: Pixabay

The leader of the Byzantine Catholic Church is called the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. He is considered the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and other churches that are part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. He is regarded as the spiritual leader and representative of all Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide. The incumbent Archbishop of Constantinople is His All Holiness Bartholomew 1.

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