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From what I understand, the Western and Eastern churches fasted identically for a long time: Wednesday and Friday, and the entirety of Lent. Is this untrue?

If not, when and why did the Catholics stop fasting on Wednesday and Friday and throughout Lent as the Orthodox fast?

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You have some great questions! – Byzantine Oct 16 '13 at 0:26
As a start...I would say take a look at the changes Vatican II made. Ill just put it this Grandmother had much stricter fast regulations than I do. – user5286 Oct 16 '13 at 1:43
IIRC by Vatican II fasting on Fridays was no longer required. Catholics were however supposed to abstain from meat (red meat and poultry) -- which in the past could have meant a severely reduced calorie intake. Fridays during Lent are still supposed to be a day of sacrifice but the particulars are left up to the individual. – David Feb 25 '15 at 16:48
There also used to be a requirement to fast from midnight on Saturday/Sunday until after you had attended Mass on Sunday. I believe some of these regulations were relaxed because such fasting might actually present a health risk e.g. to a diabetic or a woman during pregnancy. That said, the popular perception seems to be that such practices were done away with or deprecated because they were "too old-fashioned". – David Feb 25 '15 at 16:54

Charles Alsobrook is on the right path in pointing you toward the changes made by Vatican II. The Catholic fasting rules used to be much stricter but have relaxed significantly since Vatican II.

However, even among Orthodox churches the fasting rule varies in regards to the specifics (for example, which kinds of oil are allowed). This probably held true even through the centuries when there was no Catholic/Orthodox split simply because of regional variances in diet and slower communication.

Long discussion on the whole topic here:

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Welcome to the site, and thanks for the additional insight. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Also, this doesn't really answer the question. It looks like it should be a comment on another post, but you haven't yet earned enough to leave comments. (Again, see the help page.) Hopefully, soon! – David Nov 20 '13 at 4:00
Yes, I would have just used a comment, but that wasn't an option yet. Thanks for the welcome! – Paul Williams Nov 24 '13 at 20:52

I'm reading the Lenten Triodion, and in this particular version there is a forward by Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, where he states:

Until the fourteenth century, most Western Christians [i.e., Catholics], in common with their brethren in the Orthodox East, abstained during Lent not only from meat but from animal products, such as eggs, milk, butter and cheese. In East and West alike, the Lenten fast involved a severe physical effort. But in Western Christendom over the past five hundred years, the physical requirements of fasting have been steadily reduced, until by now they are little more than symbolic.

Unfortunately he didn't provide a source, although he is a prolific writer on Orthodoxy.

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