Caesaropapism

“The Orthodox Church has often been accused of Caesaropapism, of complete subservience to the secular ruler. With regard to the Russian Church, the accusation is not unfounded. There the period of Mongol rule had given the prince an example of complete absolutism and had eliminated the old nobility, while the populace was ignorant and usually inarticulate. But even in Russia there were times when the Church dominated the Tsar. In Byzantium, though the Emperor, particularly during these later years, had theoretical control of the hierarchy, his power was limited, partly by tradition and still more by public opinion. Byzantium was fundamentally a democracy. Not even the Emperor, though he was the legal and accepted representative of the people before God and Pontifex Maximus, could enforce a religious policy of which the people disapproved. Every Byzantine felt passionately about religion. If he were well educated he considered himself entitled to have his own views, whatever the Emperor or the hierarchy might say. If he were simple he depended upon his spiritual adviser; and the spiritual advisers of the humbler folk were the monks, over whom neither Emperor nor Patriarch could always exercise control. The Emperor was an august figure whose sacred rights were respected and who in a struggle with the Patriarch would usually have his way. But neither he nor the Patriarch, for all their splendour, could live securely in his high office if he lost the sympathy of the Christian people of Byzantium.”

Sir Steven Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity, pp. 73-74

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