Church of Greece
|Church of Greece|
|Autocephaly/Autonomy recognized||1850 by Constantinople|
|Current primate||Ieronymos II|
|Musical tradition||Byzantine Chant / Choral|
|Population estimate||10,000,000 |
|Official website||Church of Greece|
The Church of Greece, also called the Greek Orthodox Church, is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches of the Orthodox Christian communion, whose territory consists of the whole of Greece except for those parts which belong to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, such as the Dodecanese and Crete. Though bishops of the "new lands" (those that were liberated from 1912 and afterward) are members of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, they commemorate the Patriarch of Constantinople in the divine services.
- 1 History
- 2 Greek language
- 3 Theologians
- 4 Contemporary elders
- 5 Modern writers
- 6 References and notes
- 7 Source
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
The first contact of the Greeks with Christ is related by the author of the Fourth Gospel. He writes that some Greeks among those who used to visit Jerusalem at the Passover approached Philip and Andrew and asked to see Jesus (Jn. 12.20-24). The Greeks, as seekers after truth, were eager to listen to something novel, to meet the new master. Jesus was aware that the Greeks who came to Him were men with a searching mind and a troubled spirit. Upon His confrontation with them, He exclaimed, "The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified" (Jn. 12.23). These Greeks were few in number, but Christ saw in them not only Greeks but Romans and Scythians and other peoples of all times and places who would also seek to find Him. Jesus said the hour had come for the Christian Gospel to be proclaimed outside the limited boundaries of ancient Israel.
The Greeks have played a major role in the kerygma and the didache of Christ. The Greeks found in the person of Christ the eternal Logos and the "unknown God" of their forefathers, while Christ discovered in them sincere followers and dedicated apostles of the New Kingdom.
In the history of the Greek Orthodox Church four stages of development can be distinguished. The first three centuries, through the age of Constantine the Great constitute the apostolic and ancient period. The medieval period includes almost ten centuries, to the fall of Constantinople. The age of captivity starts, roughly, in the fifteenth century and ends about the year 1830. It is followed by the modern period.
Stage 1: Apostolic and Ancient Period
The Greek Orthodox Church traces its history back to the time of St. Paul who was the first to preach Christianity in Greece. He visited Athens, Philippi, Thessaloniki, Veroia, Corinth and Crete. Christianity eventually spread through Greece from these cities. In these early days, the Church of Greece comprised a diocese, with Corinth as the centre, known then as Achaia and considered a city of great importance.
The Church of Cyprus recognised its autonomy from the Church of Greece during the Council of Ephesus in 431. This was confirmed by the Emperor in 488.
Stage 2: The Medieval Period
Following three centuries of underground existence and persecution in the Roman Empire, it was again the Greek Church, the Greek language, and Greek missionaries that carried the Christian message in both the East and the West. This first period ended in 313 with the edict of toleration, where Constantine the Great divided the Roman Empire and prepared the way for Christianity to become the state religion of the later Roman and Byzantine empires. The geographical area we know today as Greece constituted the diocese of Eastern Illyricum, which was self-governing.
For historical and other reasons, the Greeks for many centuries identified themselves solely as Christians and especially during the centuries of captivity under the Turks. This is significant that although the patriarchs of Constantinople and many bishops of the Bulgarians, Albanians, and Slavs were Greeks during the Ottoman period, they did not attempt to Hellenize their congregations: neither did they try to force them to abandon their liturgical traditions and cultures.
The term "Hellene" as an ethnic name began to appear among the Greeks of the high Middle Ages, but still was not commonly used. However, all nations living outside the medieval Greek world of the Byzantine Empire, such as the Russians, the Germans, Khazars, the English, the Georgians, the peoples of Italy, and the Franks, called the native inhabitants of the Byzantine Empire "Greeks." The designations "Greek Orthodox" and "Roman Catholic" were unknown in the early and medieval Church, and they took on their distinct meaning only after the eleventh century.
By 733 AD, under Emperor Leo the Third, Greece was acknowledged as part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople but prior to this, it was subordinated to the Bishops of Rome.
Stage 3: Age of Captivity
During the Byzantine Empire and the subsequent Turkish occupation of Greece, the Christian church in Greece was under the administration of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. After the Greek War of Independence (1821-32), the provisional president of Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias(1776-1831), began negotiations with the patriarch for the independence of the Greek church. The final decision was made when Otto I (1815-1867), the new king of Greece, feared the Turkish government might still be able to influence the politics of Greece through the patriarchate of Constantinople and as such the Greek church was declared autocephalous in 1833. The independence was formalised by Constantinople in 1850, with some limitations.
Stage 4: The Modern Period
In 1864, the Ionian islands were added to the Church of Greece and in 1881 the diocese of Thessaly and parts of Epirus were also added. Also in this year, the first Greek Orthodox church was founded in America. Under an agreement made in 1908 between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Holy Synod of Athens, jurisdiction of the churches in America was given to the Church of Greece. In 1927, the statutes regarding the Church were modified resulting in the government controlling the church and attending the Holy Synod meetings. So during the 20s and 30s, the turbulent political events in Greece divided the Greeks of America and this resulted in Archbishop Athenaogoras of Corfu to be appointed to head the Greek Church in America.
Today the Church of Greece is governed by a Holy Synod, presided over by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Athens and assisted by four bishops chosen in regular succession. The Patriarch of Constantinople is still regarded as the spiritual head of the church and all of the Holy Chrisma used in Greece is consecrated by him. Organised as a state church, similar to the pattern adopted in the Russian church under Peter the Great of Russia, the ultimate authority is vested in the Synod of Bishops under the presidency of the archbishop of Athens and all Greece. A second synod, with the same presidency, consists of 12 bishops, each serving for one year only. The first synod deals with general ecclesiastical questions, whereas the second synod deals with administrative details. The church is divided into 81 small dioceses; some of these, are nominally under the jurisdiction of Constantinople. The majority of the church's priests in Greece do not have a university education, with very little formal training beyond two years at higher seminaries after high school. An up-to-date listing, in order of seniority of ordination, of the Holy Synod can be accessed at the Church of Greece's official website.
The Greek language has been known as the "Sacred Language"  of the church from the time of the Apostles and enjoyed its prominence mainly in the early history of Christianity. In scriptural study and to a great extend it is one of the original languages of the Scriptures (the New Testament).
- ... adsolent Latini homines Graece cantare oblectati sono verborum nescientes tamen quid dicant. [The Latins are accustomed to singing in Greek, delighted by the sounds of the words, but not knowing what they are saying.] 
- 1359 St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359)
- 1770 St. Kosmas Aitolos (1714-1779)
- 1809 St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite (1748-1809)
- 1813 St. Athanasius Parios (1722-1813)
- Elder Joseph the Hesychast (1898-1959)
- Elder George (Karslidis) of Drama (1901-1959)
- Elder Gervasius of Patras (1877-1964)
- Elder Amphilochius of Patmos (+1970)
- Elder Demetrius of Trikala (1902-1975)
- Elder Philotheos (Zervakos) of Paros (1884-1980)
- Hieromonk Kosmas of Zaire (1942-1989)
- Elder Epiphanius of Athens (+1989)
- Elder Porphyrius of Kavsokalyvia and Kallisa (1906-1991)
- Elder Iacovos (Tsalikis) of Euboea (1920-1991)
- Elder Paisius the New of Mt Athos (1924-1994)
- Eldress Macrina of Volos (1921-1995)
- Blessed Stavritsa the Missionary (1916-2000)
- Papa-Dimitri Gagastathi
'Writers considered controversial in their point of view:
References and notes
- The tradition of the Greek Church has been one of religious toleration rather than nationalism. If this had not been true, the Greek Church, in the Byzantine centuries and especially during the four hundred years under the Turks, could have Hellenized all the minorities under her aegis or at least a great majority of them.
- The Greek historian K. Paparigopoulos, known for his patriotism, blamed the Church for not exploiting here numerous opportunities to Hellenize the various Balkan peoples in a period of four hundred years, something she could have done without much difficulty.
- Arthur P. Stanley, a distinguished professor of ecclesiastical history at Oxford, some hundred years ago wrote:
- The Greek Church reminds us of the time when the tongue, not of Rome, but of Greece, was the sacred language of Christendom. It was a striking remark of the Emperor Napoleon that the introduction of Christianity itself was, in a certain sense, the triumph of Greece over Rome; the last and most signal instance of the maxim of Horace, Graecia capla ferum victorem cepit (captive Greece took its rude captor captive). The early Roman Church was but a colony of Greek Christians or Grecized Jews. The earliest Father of the Western Church wrote in Greek. The early popes were not Italians but Greeks. The name of the pope is not Latin, but Greek, the common and now despised name of every pastor in the Eastern Church. …. She is the mother and Rome the daughter. It is her privilege to claim a direct continuity of speech with the earliest times; to boast of reading the whole code of Scripture, Old as well as New, in the language in which it was read and spoken by the Apostles. The humblest peasant who reads his Septuagint or Greek Testament in his mother-tongue on the hills of Boeotia may proudly feel that he has access tot he original oracles of divine truth which pope and cardinal reach by a barbarous and imperfect translation; that he has a key of knowledge which in the West is only to be found in the hands of the learned classes.
- Hugo Rahner, a leading Roman Catholic theologian:
- "God spoke his revelation in the world of the Greek spirit and the Roman imperium and the Church guards this truth framed in the Greek speech of her sacred Book…The Church will continue to speak Greek even if…Hellas descend into the abyss of utter oblivion."
- "The task of our time, in the Orthodox world, is to rebuild the Christian-Hellenic culture, not out of the relics and memories of the past, but out of the perennial spirit of our Church, in which the values of culture were truly christened. Let us be more Hellenic in order that we may be truly Christian.
- The "Ambrosiaster" (saec. IV) on 1 Cor 14:14; CSEL 81, 2, p. 153, 6
- Church of Greece website
- The Historical Development of Greek Orthodoxy, Constantelos
Official Sites of the Church of Greece
- The Church of Greece Official Site
- The Archdiocese of Athens Official Site
- Apostoliki Diakonia of the Church of Greece
- The Online Library Site of the Church of Greece
- The Online Cultural Center of the Church of Greece
- Multimedia Releases Site of the Church of Greece
- Gallery Site of the Church of Greece
- Music Gallery Site of the Church of Greece
- Documentaries Site of the Church of Greece
- Discussion forum Site of the Church of Greece
- European Issues Site of the Church of Greece
- Representation of the Church of Greece to the European Union, official website
Church-State relations in Greece
- Anastasios Anastassiadis. Religion and Politics in Greece: The Greek Church's 'Conservative Modernization' in the 1990's. Research in Question, No.11, January 2004. (pdf format).
Various News Articles
- "Religion is main group activity in Greece:study" - Hosted on AFP, 23rd May 2008
- E. P. Blegen. Earliest Christian churches in Athens. American Journal of Archaeology v. 50 (July 1946) pp.373-75.
- George T. Dennis. The Late Byzantine Metropolitans of Thessalonike. Dumbarton Oaks Papers no. 57 (2003) pp.255-64.
- The Orthodox Church of Greece. CNEWA Papal Agency website.
- Library of Congress - Federal Research Division - Country Studies - Greece (See section on RELIGION: Orthodox Church of Greece).
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