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Greek Orthodox Church

Greek Orthodox Church
Flag used by the Orthodox Church in Greece,[1] and the standard of the self-governed monastic state of Mount Athos.[2][3][4]
Founder various
Independence various
Recognition Orthodox
Primate The Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and the Archbishops of Athens, Cyprus, Archbishop of Albania and Mount Sinai
Headquarters various, but Constantinople is held in special regard
Territory Eastern Mediterranean & diaspora
Language Koine Greek, Russian, and Arabic, with other local languages used in the diaspora
Members 23–24 million (about 50% of whom are in Greece)

The name Greek Orthodox Church (Greek: Ἑλληνορθόδοξη Ἑκκλησία, Ellinorthódoxi Ekklisía, IPA: ) is a term referring to the body of several Churches[5][6][7] within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, whose liturgy is or was traditionally conducted in Koine Greek,[8] the original language of the New Testament,[9][10] and whose history, traditions, and theology are rooted in the early Church Fathers and the Byzantine Empire. The Greek Orthodox Church has also traditionally placed heavy emphasis and awarded high prestige to traditions of Christian monasticism and asceticism with origins in Early Christianity in the Near East and in Byzantine Anatolia. Today the most important centres of Christian Orthodox monasticism are Saint Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt) and Mount Athos in Greek Macedonia (Northern Greece).

Contents

  • History 1
  • Churches 2
  • History of the term 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

History

The origins of the Greek Orthodox Church can be traced back to the churches which the Apostles founded in the Balkans and the Middle East during the first century A.D.,[11][12][13][14][15][16][17] and it maintains many traditions practiced in the ancient Church.[17] Greek Orthodox Churches, unlike the Catholic Church, have no Bishopric head, such as a Pope, and hold the belief that Christ is the head of the Church. However, they are each governed by a committee of Bishops, called the Holy Synod, with one central Bishop holding the honorary title of "first among equals."

Greek Orthodox Churches are united in communion with each other, as well as with the other Eastern Orthodox Churches (such as the Russian Orthodox Church). The Eastern Orthodox hold a common doctrine and a common form of worship, and they see themselves not as separate Churches but as administrative units of one single Church. They are notable for their extensive tradition of iconography (see also: Byzantine art), for their veneration of the Mother of God and the Saints, and for their use of the Divine Liturgy on Sundays, which is a standardized worship service dating back to the fourth century A.D. in its current form. The most commonly used Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church was written by Saint John Chrysostom (347–407 A.D.).

The current territory of the Greek Orthodox Churches more or less covers the areas in the Balkans, Anatolia, and the Eastern Mediterranean that used to be a part of the Byzantine Empire. The majority of Greek Orthodox Christians live within Greece, all over Albania including the region of Northern Epirus in the south, and elsewhere in the southern Balkans, but also in Cyprus, Anatolia, European Turkey, and the South Caucasus.

There are also many Greek Orthodox Christians, with origins dating back to the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, who are of Arabic-speaking or mixed Greek and Arabic-speaking ancestry and live in southern Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. They attend churches which conduct their services in Arabic, the common language of most Greek Orthodox believers in the Levant, while at the same time maintaining elements of the Byzantine Greek cultural tradition.

Ethnic Greeks in Russia and Greeks in Ukraine, as well as Pontic Greeks and Caucasus Greeks from the former Russian Transcaucasus, often consider themselves both Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox, which is consistent with the Orthodox faith (since Orthodoxy is the same across ethnic boundaries). Thus, they may attend services held in Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic, without this in any way undermining their Orthodox faith or distinct Greek ethnic identity. Over the centuries, these Pontic Greek-speaking Greek Orthodox communities have mixed through intermarriage in varying degrees with ethnic Russians and other Orthodox Christians from mainly Southern Russia, where most of them settled between the Middle Ages and early 19th century.

Churches

A religious procession in Corfu

The churches where the Greek Orthodox term is applicable are:

History of the term

Historically, the term Greek Orthodox has also been used to describe all Eastern Orthodox Churches, since "Greek" in "Greek Orthodox" can refer to the Greek heritage of the Byzantine Empire.[35][36][37] During eight centuries of Christian history, most major intellectual, cultural, and social developments in the Christian church took place within the Empire or in the sphere of its influence,[37][38][39] thus most parts of the liturgy, traditions, and practices of the church of Constantinople were adopted by all, and still provide the basic patterns of contemporary Orthodoxy.[40][41][42] However, the appellation "Greek" was abandoned by Slavic and other national Eastern Orthodox churches in connection with their peoples' national awakenings, from as early as the 10th century A.D.[43][43][44][44][45]

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