POLL: Nearly 1/3 of Russians believe historic division of Christians to be a mistake

As Father Z would say, brick by brick. The Russian news agency Interfax reports today on a recent religion survey that may offer new reasons for hope that there can somehow be a reunion between the Catholic Church and (at least) the Russian Orthodox Church. The poll results show that

Almost one third of Russians, or 30 percent, thinks the division of Christians to Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants was a historic mistake which may and should be corrected.

Such results reported to Interfax-Religion Wednesday were shown by the all-Russian poll carried out by Sreda Service Company and Public Opinion fund and covered 1,500 people.

Women, city dwellers and Orthodox Christians are more inclined to believe that the Christian schism was a mistake. And the highest percentage of respondents who agree with the above statement was shown by Orthodox believers involved in parish life (43%).

Almost the same number of respondents thinks the division of Christians into Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants was not a mistake. For the most part, they are men, non-believers and village dwellers.

The respondents’ education level had no effect on their answers. However, the individuals with only high school education mostly responded that they had no definite opinion on that matter.

39 percent of respondents have no definite opinion as to whether the division of Christians was a historic mistake.


  1. Johnny O'Tool

    Why do they include the split with protestant Christians? The protestant split occured 1500 or so versus 1000 between east and west? Am I wrong?

    1. Patrick Madrid

      That’s a good question, Johnny. I don’t see the relevance of including Protestants in that question either.

  2. Jason

    Does this really tell us anything though? How do we know the orthodox don’t really mean “it was a mistake for rome to break away from the church?”

    1. Patrick Madrid

      As I mention in my response to Suzanne above, I think it tells us that there is a softening of attitudes among some Russians toward realizing that the the division between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Catholic Church is not a good thing. It seems to me to be a gradual dawning of this awareness. I don’t know for sure. I’ve never spent any time in Russia. But that’s my hunch based on this article and from other things I’ve read in recent years.

  3. Mike Fears

    My Russian Orthodox wife is amused. She’s wondering when we will come to the same realization and “get with” Orthodoxy. After all, they think we are the ones that made the mistake…

    1. Patrick Madrid

      I hear you, Mike. That’s not an uncommon reaction among the Eastern Orthodox folks I have encountered. A good over-the-counter remedy for their misunderstanding on the question of “who left whom” would be the writings on this issue by Father Ray Ryland (http://bit.ly/kgmhV7) and the 19th-century Russian Orthodox intellectual Vladimir Soloviev (http://bit.ly/iwNN0w and http://bit.ly/fHUrVA). Lastly, I’d respectfully recommend to any Eastern Orthodox to read Fr. Aidan Nichols, O.P.’s calm and irenic “Rome and the Eastern Churches.” It’s quite instructive reading for readers from either Church.


    Pointless. *Why* was it a mistake? That’s the bigger issue. They think we separated from them, not that they separated from us. This makes me think of surveys which say that most Catholics agree that contraception should be “allowed” by the church. It’s a grossly uninformed decision.

    1. Patrick Madrid

      “Pointless”? Hardly. Are you naturally predisposed to be cynical and pessimistic?

      The significance of this study, it seems to me anyway, is that it suggests there is a shift in attitudes taking place among a segment of Russian society, one that could well work in favor of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church eventually being able to mutually repair the damage done and the scandal caused by a millennium of separation. One comparison that comes to mind as partial parallel is the recent Gallup poll showing that now a slight majority (51%) of Americans oppose abortion (http://bit.ly/cAjGj). Some of that 51% may well be “uninformed” about all the reasons why abortion is evil and should be opposed, but this subtle shift in opinion is (like the one in Russia) a good thing that should be seen as progress and encouraged, not sneered at and dismissed scornfully as you have done here, Suzanne.

  5. Irenaeus of New York

    None of the christian communities that split with Rome during the reformation can rightfully be called Churches. They are as the Holy Father calls them… ecclesial communities. This is an important distinction. The Orthodox have valid sacraments and apostolic succession. The protestant communities don’t.

    Sadly, unity with the Orthodox is not even close to being a reality.

    1. Patrick Madrid

      Yep. That was spelled out in detail in chapter 3 of the Vatican II document “Unitatis Redintegratio” http://bit.ly/a6uecB. Well worth the read for anyone who isn’t familiar with the distinction between “church” and “ecclesial community.”

  6. Stephen E Dalton

    I hope the Russians learn about Fatima and become devoted to it!

  7. Neil

    I’m worried that something important will be lost if the schism is ended: The mutually confirming nature of the two branches of Christianity could be lost.

    Let me explain: Today we can point to the similary in the beliefs of eastern and western bishops as evidence that these beliefs are rooted in apostolic Christianity. Otherwise why would the whole world believe them? But if everything gets united into one church, then the common beliefs of Christians throughout the world can be blamed on centralized authority from Rome.

    1. Thomas

      What?! How could the end of Schism be anything but good. Who cares what the world thinks? If they look on the Church with less disdain because of a refusal to end an unholy separation that rends the body of Christ, a schism which is contrary to the prayer for the unity of believers which was prayed by Our Lord, God Himself, a schism which therefor pleases the devil, then they have not softened toward Christ, only increased their allegiance with the devil. I appreciate where your concern is coming from, but we ought not practice evil because non-Catholics hate the good we do, rather we ought to witness to the good, that they may learn hate evil. And a humble reconciliation of Christendom in humility and forgiveness for the pleasure of God is just such a good to witness to.

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