Published on January 17, 2008
Greek Orthodox Christianity: Greek Orthodox Christianity Religion in Modern Greece Eastern Orthodox Church: Eastern Orthodox Church The word Orthodox is derived from the Greek, orthos meaning "right" and the word doxa meaning "belief". Hence the word Orthodox means correct belief or right thinking. It is called Eastern because the Church descends from the Christianity of the Eastern Roman Empire. Eastern Orthodox Church: Eastern Orthodox Church St Paul was the first who came in the Greek World to preach Christianity in 49 AD. He visited and preached in Thessaloniki, Athens and Corinth among other cities. After his visit the first Greek Christian communities were created. Constantine the first Christian Emperor: Constantine the first Christian Emperor In 312 AD the Roman Emperor Constantine was about to lead his army in a battle against his enemy Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge outside Rome. The winner would gain control of the late Roman Empire. According to the tradition a sign appeared in the sky "above the sun" and with it the words "conquer by this". That night also he said that he saw Jesus Christ telling him to use the sign "as a safeguard in all battles". Constantine ordered the sign to be put on his soldier's shields - and won the battle. Constantine the first Christian Emperor: Constantine the first Christian Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, had become a Christian, and along with her son she began to spend large sums of money building new churches and visiting the Holy Land. Finally Constantine was baptized close to the end of his life. Constantine the first Christian Emperor: Constantine the first Christian Emperor In 330 Constantine dedicates the city of Constantinople (in Greek "the city of Constantine"), established on the site of the Greek city Byzantium, as the new capital of the Roman Empire. In 410 Rome is sacked by the Visigoths. In 527 Constantinople covers eight square miles (Manhattan covers twenty-two square miles) with at least 500,000 inhabitants Byzantine Empire 565 AD: Byzantine Empire 565 AD The Great Schism of 1054: The Great Schism of 1054 Although initially the Eastern and Western Christians shared the same faith, the two traditions began to divide after the seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 CE were finally split over the conflict with Rome in the so called Great Schism in 1054. The major conflict was over the papal claim to supreme authority and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The break became final in the fifteenth century. The Great Schism of 1054: The Great Schism of 1054 A decisive aspect of the Schism was the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the (Western Christian) Fourth Crusade. The sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders eventually led to the loss of this Byzantine capital to the Muslim Ottomans in 1453. The Greeks have never forgotten this event. Similarities between Orthodox and Catholic Churches: Similarities between Orthodox and Catholic Churches They are both liturgical churches-teaching is conveyed by both rite and ritual. Eucharist is the supreme ritual. They both recognize the Holy Mysteries-The Sacraments They both celebrate the saints as living icons of God's redemptive power and Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. Differences between Orthodox and Catholic Churches: Differences between Orthodox and Catholic Churches Orthodox Church does not accept the universal jurisdiction claimed by the Pope over the whole of Christendom. Orthodox Church rejects the dyarchy of origin, (however qualified), for the Holy Spirit (proceeding from the Father and Son). Orthodox priests are getting married. Spread of Orthodox Tradition: Spread of Orthodox Tradition The two most widely known Orthodox traditions are the Greek and Russian Orthodox. Along with Greece and Russia, however there are other communities around the world, principally in Australia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Cyprus and the UK. There are Orthodox communities in the Far East, notably Japan and Korea. Spread of Orthodox Tradition: Spread of Orthodox Tradition In East Africa there are highly successful mission churches, and in the USA the former Russian communities have been granted independence by Moscow and are now overwhelmingly American. The Orthodox faith was brought to America by Russian missionaries to Alaska, where there is now a flourishing Inuit church. In Finland the Orthodox Church is a state church, along with the Lutheran Reconciliation: Reconciliation O5/11/2001 Pope John Paul II, in a sweeping statement of regret aimed at healing Christianity's east-west divide, begged God's forgiveness Friday for sins committed by Roman Catholics "against their Orthodox brothers and sisters," including the plunder of the Byzantine capital by 13th century Crusaders. Monasticism: Monasticism The Orthodox Church has a long tradition of monastic life. In 1986 it was estimated that there were about 2,000 Orthodox monks and another 2,000 nuns in the church of Greece. Mount Athos-The center of Greek Orthodox Christianity: Mount Athos-The center of Greek Orthodox Christianity Mount Athos is the oldest monastic republic still in existence and it is located on the Athos peninsula of Chalkidiki. The community was officially established in 963, when a monk named Athanasios the Athonite built the Monastery of the Great Lavra. Mount Athos-The center of Greek Orthodox Christianity: Mount Athos-The center of Greek Orthodox Christianity There are twenty monasteries together with a number of smaller communities known as sketae. The Mount Athos has independent administration and sovereignty. It is considered semi-autonomous. The Greek State is represented by the Governor of Mount Athos, who answers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and who, together with the deputy governor, resides in Karyes the capital of the community. Mount Athos-The center of Greek Orthodox Christianity: Mount Athos-The center of Greek Orthodox Christianity Any Greek or foreign Orthodox Christian who wishes to visit Mount Athos must first get in touch with the Pilgrim Bureau in Thessaloniki or Ouranoupolis, Chalkidiki (in order to obtain the Diamoneterion (visitation permit) which is valid for four calendar days. Foreigners of other religious affiliations must apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mount Athos-The center of Greek Orthodox Christianity: Mount Athos-The center of Greek Orthodox Christianity A maximum of 120 Orthodox Christian visitors are allowed per day, whereas foreigners of other religious affiliations are limited to 14 per day. These limits do not include persons that have explicit invitations from the monasteries. No women are allowed. Ban on Women’s Access: Ban on Women’s Access The issue of Mount Athos’ ban was raised in European parliament on 14 January 2003 when a slim majority voted a non-binding ‘resolution on the situation concerning basic rights in the European Union’. Article 98 of the resolution, which was approved by 277 votes to 255, ‘requests the lifting of the ban on women entering Mount Athos in Greece, Ban on Women’s Access: Ban on Women’s Access Greek Minister of Culture explained the legal status of the 20 monastery strong community that enjoys special status established in the Accession Treaty of Greece to the EEC, which was reaffirmed in Amsterdam. He also stressed that the peninsula is self-governed and all the land there belongs to the monasteries and is therefore private, without exception and without any of it belonging to the public or the central Greek state. Ban on Women’s Access: Ban on Women’s Access ''The ban on women at Mt. Athos and the regulations of administration of the Catholic Church, as well as that of other churches and all similar issues, are elements of a tradition which the EU should confront with tolerance and a pluralistic attitude which characterizes European civilization,'' Minister of Culture Venizelos said. No objections were raised by the Eurodeputies or Rocard. Religion and the Greek State: Religion and the Greek State The latest Greek constitution (1975) recognizes Orthodoxy as the “predominant religion in Greece.” All proselytism is forbidden. As opposed to earlier constitutions, the President of Greece no longer must be an Orthodox Christian, and he is no longer required to swear to protect the predominant religion in the country. Religion and the Greek State: Religion and the Greek State Omnipresence of Religion. On Serifos (island in the Cyclades), which has a population of about 1,000 habitants, there are 117 churches . The Greek Orthodox Church influences people very much," says writer Nikos Dimou, "not on religious matters, but on political ones." "The church is against change," says Dimou, " and it is against anything that will make Greeks look more like Europeans." Religion and the Greek State: Religion and the Greek State BBC news 11 April, 2002 Athens running out of space to bury the dead But the government's attempts to solve the problem have sparked a row with the Orthodox Church. A religious burial service - conducted by a Greek Orthodox priest - has been the only legitimate way for Greeks to dispose of their dead. Greece is one of the few countries in Europe that does not have a crematorium Religion and the Greek State: Religion and the Greek State After the revolution of 1821 and during the years of the formation of Greek national identity(1830-1864), the Greek Church was nationalized and came under the direct control of the state. The Greek state used the authority of the church and its popularity among the people in order to legitimize its policies. Religion and the Greek State: Religion and the Greek State According to the last census, 96.7% of Greeks considered themselves as members of the Greek Orthodox Church. According to a 2002 Eurobarometer survey the Greek youth (15-24 year-olds) is the most religious youth in Europe after the Irish one. A European Social Survey shows that Church attendance levels in Greece are on the rise and among the highest in Europe. Moreover, the level of those who do not attend Church services at all is dropping over the last years. Religion and the Greek State: Religion and the Greek State Nikiforos Diamandouros, “Politics and Culture in Greece, 1974-1991: An Interpretation”, in Richard Clogg, (ed.), Greece, 1981-1989: The Populist Decade, (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993), pp. 3-5. Diamandouros perceives Greek society as an arena where two political cultures are at conflict with each other: the first one, “the underdog culture”, is anti-western, parochial, clientist, and statist in outlook (religious nationalism has sprang from this culture), and the other one is the culture of the “modernizers”, inspired by the Enlightenment and its liberal ideals Religion and the Greek State: Religion and the Greek State Diamandouros believes that the latter political culture will eventually prevail within the milieu of the E.U. Has this happened yet? Greece, Religion and the EU-Cases: Greece, Religion and the EU-Cases In the year 2000, a dispute started in Greece over the content of federal identity cards. All Greeks aged 14 and above must carry one. Prime Minister Costas Simitis announced on July 17 that the cards would no longer contain the individual's religion, occupation, spouse's name, or thumbprint. However, blood type and a description in Latin characters would be added. The latter will facilitate travel throughout the European Union. Greece, Religion and the EU-Cases: Greece, Religion and the EU-Cases A conflict on the Religion identity. “Greece is experiencing a profound identity crisis as it wrestles with what it means to be Greek, fundamental ties between church and state, and how Greek traditions fit in with the rest of Europe." Anthee Carassava, "Greeks debate privacy rights vs. religious identity," Christian Science Monitor Greece, Religion and the EU: Greece, Religion and the EU On 26 May 2000, Ecumenical News International (ENI) reported that leaders of Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, and other minority faith groups in Greece had expressed support for a government decision to scrap the religious affiliation data. Greece, Religion and the EU: Greece, Religion and the EU On June 2000, the Church organized two rallies to oppose the government's action. One was held in mid-June in the northern city of Thessaloniki. Five thousand demonstrators were expected; 120,000 turned out. Archbishop Christodoulos, accompanied by 30 bishops, gave an impassioned anti-government and anti-European speech. He said, in part, "We are first and foremost Greek and Orthodox, and only secondarily Europeans." The second rally was on JUN-21 and involved a half million protestors in Athens. Greece, Religion and the EU: Greece, Religion and the EU The Church started a petition drive to demonstrate citizens' degree of opposition to the government's decision. On 27 August 2001, Archbishop Christodoulos released the tally: more than three million Greeks -- 27% of the population of 11 million -- had signed the petition. The Church demanded that the government conduct a national referendum to assess the public's opinion on the elimination of religion status from the ID cards. Archbishop Christodoulos said: "We call on the government to go forward and hold a free and peaceful referendum so the people can express their will." Greece, Religion and the EU: Greece, Religion and the EU Dimitris Reppas, a spokesperson for the Greek Government denied the request. "We are not concerned by the number of signatures. This discussion is at an end for us." He also felt that a referendum is not an appropriate mechanism when basic human rights are involved. Greece, Religion and the EU: Greece, Religion and the EU A poll was conducted in mid-2000 by the daily Athenian newspaper Eleftherotypia. According to this poll 46% of respondents opposed the elimination of religious data on the ID cards; almost 40% favored it ; 14% were undecided.