That portion of the Christian church which prevails in the countries once comprised in the Eastern Roman Empire and the countries converted to Christianity by missionaries from them. Its full official title is The Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Eastern Church. It became estranged from the Western, or Roman, Church over the question of papal supremacy and the doctrine of the filioque, and a separation, begun in the latter part of the 9th century, became final in 1054. The Eastern Church consists of twelve (thirteen if the Bulgarian Church be included) mutually independent churches (including among these the Hellenic Church, or Church of Greece, and the Russian Church), using the vernacular (or some ancient form of it) in divine service and varying in many points of detail, but standing in full communion with each other and united as equals in a great federation. The highest five authorities are the patriarch of Constantinople, or ecumenical patriarch (whose position is not one of supremacy, but of precedence), the patriarch of Alexandria, the patriarch of Jerusalem, the patriarch of Antioch, and the Holy Synod of Russia. The Eastern Church accepts the first seven ecumenical councils (and is hence styled only schismatic, not heretical, by the Roman Catholic Church), has as its creed the Niceno-Constantinopolitan (without the later addition of the filioque, which, with the doctrine it represents, the church decisively rejects), baptizes infants with trine immersion, makes confirmation follow immediately upon baptism, administers the Communion in both kinds (using leavened bread) and to infants as well as adults, permits its secular clergy to marry before ordination and to keep their wives afterward, but not to marry a second time, selects its bishops from the monastic clergy only, recognizes the offices of bishop, priest, and deacon as the three necessary degrees of orders, venerates relics and icons, and has an elaborate ritual.
© Webster 1913