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Orthodox Eastern Church

Orthodox Eastern Church, community of Christian churches whose chief strength is in the Middle East and E Europe. Their members number over 250 million worldwide. The Orthodox agree doctrinally in accepting as ecumenical the first seven councils (see council, ecumenical) and in rejecting the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome (the pope). This repudiation of the papal claims is the principal point dividing the Orthodox from Roman Catholics. Eastern Christians who have returned to communion with the pope are called Eastern Catholics, or Uniates; in every respect apart from this obedience to Rome, they resemble their Orthodox counterparts. This use of the terms Catholic (obeying the pope) and Orthodox (belonging to one of the Orthodox churches) is not technical, for both groups call themselves both Catholic and Orthodox (see catholic church). The word Orthodox became current at the time of the defeat (753) of iconoclasm in Constantinople. Orthodox acceptance of the seven councils resulted in the exclusion from their communion, on grounds of heresy, of the Nestorian, Jacobite, Coptic, and Armenian churches; it also involves holding a sacramental doctrine of grace ex opere operato (see grace) and of veneration of the Virgin Mary, two points differentiating the Orthodox from Protestants.

Ritual and Liturgy

The ritual that developed at the patriarchate of Constantinople—known as the Byzantine rite—gradually replaced other local rites in the Orthodox East, and after the 13th cent. became, with local variations and translations, the standard of Orthodox worship. It is sometimes called the Greek rite, because the original language was Greek, but the liturgy has been adapted into Slavonic, Arabic, Estonian, and many other languages. The liturgy is not usually celebrated daily as in the West, and it is always sung. Leavened bread is used in the Eucharist, and communion is given to laymen in both kinds (i.e., both bread and wine). Infants receive communion and confirmation. The other sacraments are similar to those of the Latin rite, except in details; e.g., confirmation is conferred by priests. The frequency of confession varies in the different self-governing churches. The church buildings are generally square, with a solid sanctuary screen covered with icons (iconostasis; for the style, see Byzantine art and architecture). Parish priests may marry prior to ordination; monks and bishops may not marry.

Church Government

The old mode of government was the patriarchate (see patriarch), but now for the most part the churches, all of which are self-governing, are each governed by a holy synod, a board of bishops and laymen, often appointed by the government; where the head of the church is called patriarch, he is often only the moderator of the synod. The number of Orthodox churches recognizing one another as such is indefinite because of the fluid state of the relations of Orthodox bishops in countries to which communicants have emigrated.

There are many churches apart from those directly under the patriarchs. A unique, ancient church is that of Mt. Sinai, made up of the monastery of St. Catherine and its subject houses. The archbishop is also abbot. The monastic community of Mt. Athos in Greece is of special interest.

The Patriarchs and Churches

The four ancient patriarchates enjoy the highest prestige. The patriarchate of Constantinople, having the primacy of honor after Rome, was set up when the Eastern capital was established; it included Asia Minor and the Balkan Peninsula. From the time of Justinian I the emperor controlled the patriarch absolutely. The patriarch was freer under the Turks, who gave him civil and religious jurisdiction over all the Orthodox within the Ottoman Empire. The patriarch of Constantinople never succeeded in establishing jurisdiction in the East comparable to that of the pope in the West. First the Russians, then the Greeks and the Balkan countries set up autonomous churches, always opposed by the patriarch, especially in the case of Bulgaria. In Turkey the patriarch now rules a remnant only, although some modern Orthodox churches in North and South America, Australia, and N Europe are under his direct control. The Orthodox patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch are minority churches (for the corresponding separated churches, see Copts; Jacobite Church), as is the patriarchate of Jerusalem. The patriarch represents Orthodox interests in the shrines.

There are seven national churches, each the traditional patriotic church of the people. The Church of Cyprus has been autonomous since the Council of Ephesus. The Church of Georgia is also ancient. In the 19th cent. it was absorbed by the Russian church but in 1917 resumed its autonomy. The head of the Georgian Church is titled catholicos.

The Russian Orthodox Church, the largest of the Orthodox churches, was led first by the metropolitan of Kiev, under Constantinople. The see was moved to Moscow, and in 1589 a new patriarchate was set up under the czar. The language of the ritual is Church Slavonic. In 1721, Peter the Great (Peter I) abolished the patriarchate and established a synod, which he controlled through its lay procurator.

In 1917 the patriarchate was revived, just before the Bolshevik Revolution began the weakening of the whole church structure. In the disturbances of the revolution many priests and bishops were killed or exiled. Churches were plundered of their sacred vessels, and seminaries were closed. In 1920, bishops residing abroad formed the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, leading to a split (1927) in Russian Orthodoxy that continued into the 21st cent. Relations between the two groups improved beginning in the late 1980s, and in 2007 they reestablished canonical communion, recognizing the overall authority of the Moscow patriarch while preserving the administrative independence of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia.

In World War II, the Soviet government consented (1943) to the reopening of churches and to the election of a patriarch (the first since 1925). The new patriarch and his successors were loyal to the Communist government. As the Soviet Union annexed lands after 1939, the local Orthodox churches disappeared; the same was true of Catholic churches of the Eastern rites, and thus it was announced that the Byzantine-rite Catholics of Ukraine and Ruthenia had united with the Russian Orthodox.

Under Mikhail Gorbachev, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church was received (1988) at the Kremlin, the first such reception since World War II. Gorbachev oversaw a period of improved relations with the Orthodox Church, granting it legal status, returning relics seized by the state in 1920, and lifting other restrictions on worship. Since the end of the Soviet Union the church has seen enormous growth in Russia, and in 1997 it (along with other religions recognized under Soviet rule) was given special rights and legal exemptions. Legislation in 2004 gave the church the right to regain full ownership of its churches and other lands, and the Russian church now has relatively close ties to the government (especially compared to other faiths). In former Soviet-ruled lands outside Russia, the post-Soviet role of the Russian church sometimes has become controversial; in Ukraine, for example, many Orthodox believers have joined independent churches that are not subordinate to the Russian patriarch.

The self-governing Church of Greece dates from the Greek War of Independence. It is the state church and legally much favored. The patriarch at Belgrade heads the Church of Serbia, which suffered restrictions under the Communist government of Yugoslavia and developed a strong nationalist bent in the 1990s during the breakup of Yugoslavia. The Macedonian Orthodox Church declared itself autocephalous in 1967, leading to condemnation from the Serbian church (under which it had autonomy). The Macedonian church has not been recognized by other Orthodox churches, and an autonomous Macedonian archdiocese under the Serbian church also exists. The Church of Bulgaria was severed from communion by the ancient patriarchates in the 19th cent., but the Russian church recognized it. Its ruler is an exarch. The Romanian Orthodox Church has a patriarch at Bucharest; it was probably the most carefully organized of the Orthodox churches. After 1945 the government announced that the Roman Catholic dioceses of the Romanian rite had been annexed by the Orthodox church; the status of these dioceses and their property has become a source of tension in the post-Communist era.

Other Orthodox churches are minority denominations of recent creation. The Albanian Orthodox Church suffered considerably under Italian rule during World War II, as well as under Communist rule afterward. The Orthodox churches of Finland and of Poland, founded after World War I, lost most of their members when the eastern sections of the countries were repossessed by the Soviet Union in World War II. The Japanese Orthodox Church became autonomous under government pressure (1939). It had its origin in a Russian mission founded in 1860.

There are a number of autonomous Orthodox groups that began in emigration. Thus in the United States there have been separate hierarchies of Greeks, Russians, and others, sometimes in communion with each other. There have been many efforts to establish a single American Orthodox church, but no union has been effected. In 1950 several Eastern Orthodox denominations joined with Protestant groups in the formation of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America; almost all Orthodox churches in America are now members.

With the collapse of Communist rule in the countries of E Europe during the late 1980s and early 1990s, their Orthodox churches revived and gained new members. Following the establishment in 1991 of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Russian patriarch, a breakaway church emerged and demanded independence from Moscow, but Constantinople refrained from endorsing the break. Constantinople's recognition in 1996 of Estonia's church as under its, instead of Russian, oversight led to strain between it and the Russian church.

Relations with Rome and the West

The relations between the Orthodox and the Western Church have been full of misunderstandings, which became grave as political and cultural ties loosened after the 5th cent. There were breaks between Constantinople and Rome in the 9th cent. (see Photius) and in 1054 (see Leo IX, Saint), but the main obstacle to reconciliation was the conduct of the Crusades, especially the Fourth Crusade (when the Crusaders seized Constantinople), since the whole of Western Christendom, most of all the pope, was inevitably blamed. In 1274 there was an attempt at reunion (Second Council of Lyons), and in 1439 another (see Ferrara-Florence, Council of); the second was repudiated (1472) by Constantinople.

In the Middle Ages the points at issue were papal authority, matters of worship and discipline, and the addition of the filioque to the Nicene Creed (see creed1). There have been fractional reunions, notably the Union of Brest-Litvosk (1595) of Ukrainians, who retained their hierarchy and rites. A synthetization of Orthodox and Protestant beliefs was unsuccessfully attempted in the 17th cent. by Patriarch Cyril Lucaris. In the 19th cent. began the cultivation of cordial relations between Anglicans and Orthodox, and official exchanges between them have become frequent. In 1962 several observers from the Orthodox churches attended the Second Vatican Council, convened by Pope John XXIII. The following year the Orthodox churches (with the exception of the Greek church) agreed to open a dialogue with Rome on equal terms. Contacts between the Orthodox and Rome continued into the 1990s, but opposition to the dialogue is strong in some Orthodox churches. A 1997 Russian law granting special status to the Orthodox Church was widely deplored by Western religious leaders as contrary to the spirit of the ecumenical movement.

Bibliography

See A. A. King, The Rites of Eastern Christendom (2 vol., 1950, repr. 1962); D. Attwater, The Christian Churches of the East (2 vol., rev. ed. 1961); J. Paraskevas and F. Reinstein, The Eastern Orthodox Church (1969); J. Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology (1974); D. J. Constantelos, ed., Issues and Dialogues in the Orthodox Church since World War II (1986).

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Greek Orthodox Church

Greek Orthodox Church

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Greek Orthodox Church refers to any number of Eastern Orthodox Church groups whose heritage derives predominantly from Greek language and culture. These churches are organized around three Greek-speaking patriarchs (exalted bishops who historically have co-administered the Orthodox churches): the Ecumenical Patriarch, who resides in Constantinople (Istanbul) and has jurisdiction over present-day Turkey and all Christian areas beyond those territories that have been explicitly designated to another jurisdiciton; the Patriarch of Jerusalem who presides primarily over Palestine; and the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria, who is responsible for Egypt and all of Africa. For historical reasons, three separate relational patterns have emerged between these Greek Patriarchs and their daughter churches:

  1. Eparchy : Some Greek Orthodox Churches are Patriarchal eparchies, ecclesiastical provinces that are directly under the auspices of one of the three Greek-speaking Patriarchs. These include the large emigrant churches formed in the West such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America (formed in 1922, with about 1.5 million members) and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia (formed in 1924, with about 400,000 members). The leaders of these churches are usually given the title Eparch, Metropolitan, or Archbishop and are selected by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarch with advice of a local synod of bishops.
  2. Autonomous : Autonomous churches operate with full administrative independence but have leaders who are chosen or affirmed by a Patriarch. Autonomous Greek Orthodox Churches include the small but important Church of Sinai, which is limited to the famous Monastery of Saint Catharine and several dependencies.
  3. Autocephaly : As self-governing churches, autocephalous churches have hierarchies independent of the Patriarch and operate with complete independence. While maintaining ecclesiastical and theological communion with the Patriarchs, these autocephalous Greek Orthodox Churches are responsible for all church matters affecting the life and administration of the church with the exception of doctrinal and canonical positions. Historically, these churches often emerged as a result of nationalistic movements and are closely identified with the national ethos of the people. The largest Greek Orthodox autocephalous churches are the Church of Greece (formed in 1833, with about 8 million members) and the ancient Church of Cyprus (formed in 431, with about 1 million members).

All of the Greek Orthodox Churches trace their origins to the earliest Christian movements, which were primarily composed of Greek-speaking Christians in the Eastern Roman Empire. While Rome remained an important religious center from Christianitys inception, most of the growth and theological development during the first four centuries of Christianity occurred in the Greek-speaking East. The unity of the Eastern Christians was repeatedly challenged, leading to a major schism in 451 that resulted in the formation of a Coptic Christian Church in Egypt. Because of cultural, political, and theological differences, a gradual estrangement emerged between the remaining Greek-speaking Christians of the East and the predominantly Latin-speaking Christians of the West. This led to the Great Schism of 1054, which became entrenched after the Fourth Crusade, during which western Christians sacked the eastern capital of Constantinople. After the fall of Constantinople to Islamic forces in 1453, the theological and liturgical center of Eastern Christianity shifted to Russia until the twentieth century. The Greek churches continue to be out of communion with the Roman Catholic Church, despite repeated attempts for reunification.

Greek Orthodoxy stresses two foundations for the churchs beliefs: the Bible, which is believed to be inspired by God, and Holy Traditions that have been passed down through the church. The primary dogmas of the church, including the nature of the Trinity, the person of Jesus, the role of the Virgin Mary, and the veneration of icons, were defined in seven Ecumenical councils that the Greek churches share with the Roman Catholic Church. Compared to Western theology, Greek Orthodoxy tends to emphasize a direct mystical encounter with God gained through ascetic and liturgical practices rather than emphasizing discursive reasoning as in the West. The ultimate goal is described as deification of the human person through sanctification by Christ. The sacraments, called mysteries in the East, are seen as transformative vehicles that guide the human person toward deification.

Greek churches are led by celibate bishops who stand in apostolic succession to the original apostles. Local churches are led by priests and deacons who are usually married and always men. Historically, there was no official number of sacraments, though baptism and the Eucharist service are universally recognized as the central pillars of the Greek Christian life. One of the most distinctive aspects of Greek Orthodox worship is the use of icons paintings of saints, the Virgin Mary, and Jesusthat are seen as windows into heaven. The most important holiday is Easter, called Pascha (Passover) in Greek churches, which is understood as Jesus resurrection destroying death by death, thus offering everlasting life to those who believe.

SEE ALSO Christianity; Coptic Christian Church; Jesus Christ; Religion; Roman Catholic Church

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Behr, John. 2001. The Formation of Christian Theology. 2 vols. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimirs Orthodox Theological Press.

Ware, Timothy. 1993. The Orthodox Church, 2nd ed. London: Penguin.

Stephen R. Lloyd-Moffett

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Eastern Orthodox Church

EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH

Direct descendant of the Byzantine State Church; also includes a group of independent national Christian churches.

The Eastern Orthodox Church comprises a group of autonomous Christian churches united by doctrine, liturgy, and internal hierarchical organizations. The heads are patriarchs or metropolitans, with the patriarch of Constantinople only the first among equals. Orthodox churches represented in the Middle East include the Russian, the Balkan, the Greek; the churches of Antioch (now based in Damascus), Alexandria, Jerusalem, and the See of Constantinople (now Istanbul); and the old churches that date to the fifth century c.e., which emancipated themselves from the Byzantine State Churchthe Nestorian Church in the Middle East and India (with a half million members) and the Monophysite churches (with some 17 million, including the Coptic of Egypt, the Ethiopian, the Syrian, the Armenian, and the Mar Thoma of India). There are also the Uniate churches, which, properly speaking, are not Orthodox churches because, though they retain traditional eastern liturgies, they acknowledge the primacy and authority of the pope in Rome. Orthodox Christians today number some 150 million or more worldwidewith 125 million in Europe, 25 million in Africa, 3.5 million in Asia, and about 1 million in North America.

Eastern Christianity, with its decentralized organization, diverged from the Western hierarchically organized Roman (Catholic) Church after the fourth century c.e., when Constantinople became the capital of the Roman Empire. The theological split between the Western and Eastern churches was formalized in the Schism of 1054. Rivalry between Rome and Constantinople, aided by longstanding differences and misunderstandings, led to the schism: The Eastern Orthodox churches recognize only the canons of the seven ecumenical councils (325787 c.e.) as binding for faith, and they reject doctrines that have subsequently been added in the West.

After the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks, the Orthodox patriarch was entrusted with full civil administration over all Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire. This centralized administration contrasted with the Eastern church's traditional localist organization. Although the Ottomans granted Christians freedom of worship, the restrictions they imposed on the public profile of the church bred resentment and stagnation in theological scholarship.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Ottoman Empire's Orthodox community once again splintered under the impact of European Catholics and Protestants and of emerging nationalism. The Russian Empire assumed a pan-Slavic stance in its attempts to expand south and east into warm-water ports during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the affinity of Russian Orthodoxy with other Eastern Orthodox communities was stressed. World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire ended that gambit, although Russian and Soviet interests in the Middle East never diminished.

Today in the Arab East, the Antioch (Melkite) church represents the largest Arab Christian group, with dioceses in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. The Alexandria church has become the center of emerging African Orthodox communities.


Bibliography

Braude, Benjamin, and Lewis, Bernard, eds. Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1982.

Haddad, Robert M. Syrian Christians in Muslim Society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970.

Shaw, Stanford. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol. 1: Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 12801808. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

elizabeth thompson

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Orthodox Church, Eastern

Orthodox Church, Eastern Community of c.130 million Christians living mainly in e and se Europe, parts of Asia and a significant minority in the USA. The Church is a federation of groups that share forms of worship and episcopal organization, but each group has its own national head. The largest group is the Russian Orthodox Church. Although there is no central authority, member churches recognize the patriarch of Istanbul as titular head. Eastern Orthodox Christians reject the jurisdiction of the Roman pope. When Constantine moved his capital to Byzantium (Istanbul) in ad 330, a separate non-Roman culture developed. Conflicts grew between the Eastern patriarchs and Rome. In the schism (1054), Western and Eastern arms of Christendom excommunicated each other's followers. The split became irreparable when Crusaders invaded Constantinople (1204). Attempts at reconciliation in 1274 and 1439 failed. In 1962, Orthodox observers attended the Second Vatican Council. In 1963 Eastern Orthodox Churches opened dialogue with Rome.

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Eastern Orthodox (Church).

Eastern Orthodox (Church). Those Christians who belong to the Churches which accepted the Chalcedon definition of two natures in the one person of Christ, and did not depart in the great schism between E. and W. They are consequently dyophysite as opposed to monophysite. The term thus covers much more than the Greek Orthodox Church (for which it is nevertheless sometimes used as a synonym), and slightly less than all E. Christians. See further ORTHODOX CHURCH.

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Greek Orthodox Church

Greek Orthodox Church.
1. The autocephalous Christian church found mainly in Greece, a part of the Orthodox Church whose belief and practice it shares. The Church is particularly strong in N. and S. America, and numbers c.15 million.

2. Incorrectly, but widely used prior to 1914, for all Orthodox churches, e.g. in Baedeker's Guide to Russia, 1914.

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