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by Catherine Frakas 05 Feb 2002

Who was first ? QUESTION from Russell October 26, 2000 1)Who was first the Roman Catholic Church or the orthodox Byzantine ?
I have read information at And it states that there was actually no Byzantine Empire per say The word Byzantine was coined through French Scholars.
If Constantine revolutionized Christianity and called Constantinople the new Rome was the Roman Catholic Church already established ? As if you check the list of Popes they go back to St.Peter/St. Linus was the second. Several Popes already designated before the creation of Constantinople.
2)Was Constantine aware of the existence of the Roman Catholic Church ?

ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on October 29, 2000 Dear Russell
Before the Eastern Church went into schism, there was no real distinction between the Eastern and Western churches. Constantine would not have been conscious of such a split. Catholics believe that our Church is identical to the one founded by Christ and that our pope is the leader of the universal Church. The Eastern Church is not formally heretical because it does not deny any dogmas that were defined before 1054 A.D.. However, it is in error on a number of subjects, e.g. papal infallibility.
It is true that the term Byzantine was invented by the French during the Enlightenment for the same reason they coined the term Dark Ages. They equated a strong religious belief with blind superstition. They revered the Classical civilizations of Antiquity, but they did not think that the Empire as it evolved under Constantine and his successors had anything to do with the civilizations of preceding eras. The Byzantine Empire was thought to represent the worst aspects of Church-State partnership, which the Enlightenment opposed. Therefore they termed it Byzantine in order to mark the difference between the pagan Roman Empire and the Christian Eastern Empire. Byzantine comes from the name of the city, Byzantium, that was re-baptized Constantinople once Constantine moved his capital there.
Contrary to the author of the website you allude to, I do think that there is a case to be made for using a different name for the Eastern Empire, even if it is a word like Byzantine, which conjures up negative images. Constantine's conversion, and the creation of a new capital, Constantinople, marked a whole new era for the Empire. For the first time, the Empire is Christian, and slowly the culture is evolving to mark that change. So the culture was definitely something different from the pagan Empire of old.
So yes, there was an Eastern Empire. The author's point is not the Byzantine Empire never existed, only that it was badly named, and that westerners have maintained an artificial split between the pagan Europe-wide Roman empire and the new Christian Empire in the East.
Constantine called his new capital the New Rome, but that doesn't mean he did not recognize the authority of the papacy. There's no sense in saying that any purely political action has an effect on Church governance.
Thanks for your question.
God Bless, Suzanne Fortin
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