The Eastern Churches Part 3

The Orthodox Church of Greece

The Greek revolution against Turkish rule began in 1821 and culminated in the recognition
of the independence of a small Greek state by Turkey in 1832.
The new Greek government was reluctant for the Orthodox Church in Greece to remain
under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose See remained in
Ottoman territory. For this reason in 1833 the church of Greece was declared autocephalous
and placed under the authority of a permanent five-member Synod of Bishops and the
King, who was declared the head of the Church. The autocephalous status of the Greek
Church was recognized in 1850 by Constantinople.

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The Orthodox Church of Albania

Christianity arrived in Albania before the 4th century from two directions.
The Ghegs in the north of the country became Latin Christians, while the Byzantine
tradition was predominant among the Tosk people in the south. But following the
Turkish conquest in the 15th century, the majority of Albanians became
Muslim Constantinople recognized the autocephalous status of the Albanian Orthodox
Church 1937. The communist revolution of 1945 marked the beginning of savage persecution
of all religious groups in Albania. By this time the population was approximately
22% Orthodox and 10% Catholic. In 1967 it was announced that all religious edifices
in Albania, including 2,169 churches, mosques, monasteries and other institutions
had been closed, and all religious practices were declared illegal. When the communist
government began to disintegrate in 1990, the long period of religious persecution
came to an end.

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The Orthodox Church
In The Czech And Slovak Republics

>At the time of its founding as an independent state after World War I, Czechoslovakia
was a preponderantly Catholic nation. But soon after independence, a number of Catholic
priests and faithful decided to become Orthodox. But the larger part of this group
soon split away and formed a Protestant Church. Subsequent developments led to divisions
within the Orthodox community in the country. In 1923 the Patriarchate of Constantinople
granted the Czechoslovak Church autonomous status. The collapse of the communist
government in 1989, and the subsequent division of Czechoslovakia into independent
Czech and Slovak states on 1 January 1993, required modifications in the structure
of this Orthodox Church. In November 1992 the Holy Synod decided to divide into
two metropolitan provinces, with two dioceses in each of the new republics

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The Orthodox Church of Poland

When Poland was restored as an independent country in the wake of World War I, nearly
4,000.000 Orthodox Christians were included within its new boundaries. Most of these
were ethnic Belarussians and Ukranians in the eastern parts of the country who had
been under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. Soon after its independence,
however, the Polish government began to promote the idea that Orthodox in Poland
should constitute an autocephalous Orthodox Church independent of Moscow. This position
was supported by the first Orthodox Metroplitan of Warsaw, George Yoroshevsky, who
had been recently appointed by Moscow and granted a certain degree of autonomy.
But in 1923 he was assassinated by a Russian monk who held the opposite view. The
Polish government then appealed the question to the Patriarchate of Constantinople
which, after lengthy consideration, issued a document granting autocephalous status
to the Polish Orthodox Church on 13 November 1924. The Moscow Patriarchate, however,
considered this action as interference in its affairs, and refused to recognize
the Polish Church’s autocephalous status. When Eastern Poland was annexed by the
Soviet Union in 1939, most Polish Orthodox again found themselves in the Soviet
Union and reincorporated into the Moscow Patriarchate. The Moscow Patriarchate declared
Constantinople’s 1924 proclamation of autocephaly null and void, and issued its
own declaration of autocephaly.

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The Orthodox Church in America

Orthodoxy arrived in America when a band of Russian Orthodox missionaries from Valaam
monastery reached Alaska in 1794. At that time, Alaska was a Russian imperial province.
A first church was built on Kodiak Island, and a number of Eskimos and Indians were
baptized. In 1840 a diocese was erected for Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands,
with its see at Sitka. The first bishop was Innocent Veniaminov. By 1868, when Alaska
was sold to the United States, the Russian mission was flourishing among the Eskimos,
and had translated the Bible and the Orthodox liturgy into the native Aleut language.
The headquarters of the diocese was transferred from Sitka to San Francisco in 1872.
In 1890 an auxiliary bishop was given pastoral responsibilities in Alaska, and in
1906 Sitka again became the seat of a separate Russian Orthodox diocese of Alaska.
In 1905 Bishop Tikhon had moved his see from San Francisco to New York. In 1907
he was granted the title Archbishop, with suffrages in Brooklyn and Alaska. Following
the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, there was a large influx of Russian
immigrants into America. Many of these Russian Orthodox were critical to their mother
Church because of its policy of cooperation with the Soviet authorities. For this
reason, in April 1924 the North American Diocese declared itself a temporarily self-governing
church while retaining spiritual communion with the Church of Russia. In 1970, the
Moscow Patriarchate granted autocephalous status to the Metropolia (Diocese of North
America), calling it the Orthodox Church in America. Three other Orthodox jurisdictions
of different ethnic backgrounds have come into full canonical union with the Orthodox
Church of America, giving it a multi-ethnic character. These are an Albanian Diocese,
a Bulgarian Diocese, and a Romanian Diocese.

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 The Autonomous Orthodox Churches

There are four Orthodox Churches which, although functioning as independent Churches
on a day-to-day basis, have a certain dependency on another Orthodox Church. In
practice this usually means that the head of an autonomous Church must be confirmed
in his office by the head or synod of an autocephalous Church. The Orthodox Church
of Finland is dependent on the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and Mount Sinai is dependent
on the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Moscow Patriarchate has granted autonomous
status to its Orthodox daughter churches in Japan and China.

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The Orthodox Church of Finland

Although it appears that the earliest Finnish Christians were Byzantines, most of
the country received its Christian faith in its Latin form through the activity
of Swedish missionaries. The easternmost Finnish province of Karelia, however, was
evangelized by Byzantine monks from the ancient monastery of Valamo, located on
an island in Lake Ladoga. But in 1617 Karelia was also taken over by Sweden, which
had in the meantime adopted the Lutheran faith. This began a period of persecution
of the Orthodox. Karelia was again occupied by Russia in 1721, and in 1809 the Czar
conquered all of Finland, which then became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the
Russian Empire. Later in the 19th century Orthodox Karelians began to
assert their national identity. In 1917 Finland gained its independence from Russia,
and in 1918 the Orthodox in Finland declared themselves an autonomous church in
relation to Moscow. Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow recognized this status in 1921.
But in 1923, the Finnish Orthodox Church was placed under the protection of the
Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 1957 the Moscow patriarchate recognized the Finnish
Orthodox Church’s autonomy under the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In 1980 the General
Assembly of the Finnish Orthodox Church voted to seek autocephalous status from
the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but no action has been taken on this proposal. The
disintegration of the Soviet Union has facilitated the development of better relations
between the Finnish and Russian Orthodox Churches.

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The Orthodox Church of Mount Sinai

Given its importance as the site where, according to the Book of Exodus, Moses received
the Books of the Law from God, Mount Sinai has been frequented by Christian pilgrims
since ancient times. By the third century, Christian anchorites had begun to live
in the area, and by the fourth century they had formed one or more communities of
Due to the instability of the area, the monks were vulnerable to attack; therefore, the Emperor
Justinian decided to fortify the monastery in 528. He also settled 200 families
from Egypt and Trebizond in the area to protect and serve the monastic community.
At first the monastery had a highly international character, with Slavic, Arab, Latin,
Armenian, Ethiopian and Syrian monks, as well as Greeks. Perhaps the best known
monk of the monastery was St. John Climacus, who was Abbot in the 7th
century. By that time the area had been conquered by the Muslim Arabs. During this
period, monks of other nationalities abandoned the monastery to the Greeks.
St. Catherine’s monastery, as it has been known since the 9th century,
was originally part of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, within the diocese of Pharan.
After the bishop was deposed for monotheletism in 681, the see was transferred to
the monastery itself, the abbot becoming the bishop of Pharan.
In 1575 the Patriarchate of Constantinople granted Mount Sinai autonomous status.
This was reaffirmed in 1782. The only remaining link with the Jerusalem Patriarchate
is that the abbot must be ordained bishop by the Jerusalem Patriarch, who is also
commemorated in the monastery’s liturgy.
The monastery’s library is world-famous for its great antiquity and its manuscripts.
It was here in 1859 that Tischendorf found the Codex Sinaiticus of the Bible. Today
it contains about 4,000 manuscripts. Some of the world’s icons are also found in
the monastery.

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The Orthodox Church of Japan

This church began in 1861 with the arrival in Japan of a young Russian missionary
priest-monk named Nicholas Kassathin. Before his death in 1912, he had baptized
some 20,000 into the Orthodox faith and had translated the New Testament and many
liturgical books into Japanese.
Orthodoxy in Japan quickly became an indigenous phenomenon, which enabled it to
survive periods of hostility between Japan and Russia. This process was completed
with the installation of Bishop Theodosius as the first native Japanese Metropolitan
in 1972.
As a result of canonical problems with the Russian Orthodox Church in the period
following the Bolshevik Revolution, the Orthodox Church in Japan placed itself under
the jurisdiction of the American Metropolia from 1945 to 1970. When the Orthodox
Church in America was declared autocephalous by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1970,
the OCA returned the Japanese Orthodox Church to the jurisdiction of Moscow, and
Moscow simultaneously declared the Japanese Church autonomous. Consequently, the
election of the head of the Japanese Orthodox Church must now be confirmed by the
Moscow Patriarchate.

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The Orthodox Church of China

The origins of the Chinese Orthodoxy can be traced back to 1686, when the Chinese
Emperor hired a group of Russian Cossacks as his personal bodyguard. Their descendants
were eventually completely adsorbed into Chinese culture, but remained Orthodox
in faith and formed the nucleus of an Orthodox community in China.
The Russian Orthodox Church began missionary activity in China at the end of the
19th century. By 1914 there were about 5,000 Chinese Orthodox.
After the 1917 Russian revolution, Russian émigrés swelled the Orthodox population
in China. After the communist revolution in China, most of the Russian clergy and
faithful were either repatriated to the Soviet Union or fled to the West.
The Moscow Patriarchate granted autonomous status to the Chinese Orthodox Church
in 1957, and recalled its Russian hierarchy. Little is known about the present situation
of this church

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