Click to donate today!
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
the name usually given to the largest branch of the Oriental or Eastern churches (q.v.). It comprehends all those Christians following the Greek or the Graeco-Slavonian rite, who receive the first seven general councils, but reject the authority of the Roman pontiff and the later councils of the Western Church. (See COUNCILS). The title "Greek Church" is hardly an appropriate one. A "communion embracing several other nations and languages besides the Greek, each performing divine worship in its own tongue, and in which, out of sixty-six millions of Christians, perhaps fifty- nine millions are Slavonians, and pray in the Slavonic tongue, cannot properly be called Greek merely because, its ritual is derived in great measure (by no means exclusively) from Greek sources, and because it was once united with the Graeco-Ronman empire" (Palmer, Dissertations, page 5). The Church calls itself the "Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church." The Greek Church has not, like the Roman Catholic Church, one head, but consists of eleven different groups, which, in point of administration, are independent of each other (see below, Statistics), though they fully agree in point of doctrine.
I. History. — The proper history of the Greek Church as a separate body begins with the interruption of ecclesiastical communion between the pope and the patriarch of Constantinople. After the establishment of the imperial residence at Constantinople, it was the natural ambition of both the bishops of Constantinople and the emperors to enlarge the authority and prerogatives of the see of Constantinople (q.v.). In 381 the first (Ecumenical Council of Constantinople gave to the bishops of Constantinople, because it was the New Rome (διὸ τὸ εῖναι αὐτὴν νέαν ῾Ρωμήν ), the "precedence of honor" next after those of ancient Rome. The canon was not recognized by the churches of Rome and Alexandria, but the authority of the bishop of the imperial residence naturally rose, and in 451 the Council of Chalcedon not only confirmed the precedence already given, but placed under his jurisdiction the dioceses of Thrace, Asia, and Pontus, and grounded these ecclesiastical privileges, in the case of the new as well as the old Rome, upon the political distinction of the two cities. The Roman legates protested against this canon, and pope Leo the Great did not recognize it, but when the empire was divided, the patriarch gradually acquired a kind of superiority over the other three patriarchs of the East, and assumed the title of (Ecumenical Patriarch. The support given by patriarch Acacius of Constantinople (471-489) to the Henoticon (q.v.) led in 484 to the excommunication of Acacius, together with the emperor and the patriarch of Alexandria, by pope Felix III, who also charged him with encroaching upon the rights of the patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem. For thirty-five years (484-519) the communion between Constantinople and Rome remained interrupted, most of the Eastern bishops siding with Acacius, while those of Illyria, bishop Kalandion of Antioch, and the convents in the vicinity of Constantinople, ranged themselves on the side of the pope.
The withdrawal of the excommunication by pope Hormisdas involved a complete acknowledgment of the supremacy of the Roman pontiff, but the rivalry of the patriarchs of Constantinople continued, and pope Gregory the Great in vain endeavored to prevail upon the pious John the Faster of Constantinople to relinquish the title (Ecumenical Patriarch. The antagonism of the two churches was increased by the support which several of the patriarchs of Constantinople gave to the iconoclast emperors, and by the complete political separation between the East and the West. When Photius, after ascending the patriarchal see, could not obtain the recognition of pope Nicholas, he excommunicated the pope, and arraigned the whole Latin Church for her doctrine of the twofold procession of the Holy Ghost and the addition of "Filioque" (q.v.) to the creed, for the practice of clerical celibacy, and for denying to priests the power of administering confirmation. As the rival of Photius for the see of Constantinople, Ignatius, was a declared partisan of the pope. and the Latins, the struggle for the possession of the see greatly added to the animosity of the party of Photius against the whole Latin Church. After the death of the emperor Michael III, Ignatius was restored to the see, and a council at Constantinople under his presidency, which by the Latins is accounted as the eighth oecumenical council, established in 869 the union between the two churches. After the death of Ignatius in 877, Photius again became patriarch. A council held by him in 879 repealed the decisions of the Council of 869. The papal legates were induced by Photius to approve the acts of this council, which the Greek Church numbers among the oecumenical, but pope John. rejected it, and excommunicated Photius anew. In 886 Photius was exiled by the emperor Leo IV, and his successor, Stephen, accepted the demands of the pope. Peace between the two churches was preserved until the middle of the 11th century, when Michael Cerularius (q.v.) was, though a layman, elected patriarch, contrary to the canons of the Council of 869, which forbade the election of laymen to this dignity. Cerularius, in union with bishop Leo of Achrida, the metropolitan of Bulgaria, wrote a letter to bishop John of Trani, in Apulia, who was asked to communicate it to the bishops and priests of the Franksand to the pope. Besides the points of difference alleged by Photius, the letter of Cerularius reproached the Latins for the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist, for fasting on Saturday, and for not singing Hallelujah during Lent. Cardinal Humbert gave a. Latin translation of the letter to pope Leo IX. The pope wrote two letters against Cerularius, which in 1054 were taken to Constantinople by archbishop Petrus of Amalfi, the chancellor Frederick, and Cardinal Humbert. They charged Cerularius especially with the design to establish a jurisdiction over the patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch, and to make himself the oecumenical patriarch of the entire Greek Church. Cardinal Humbert added a third letter, in which he charged the Greeks: with rebaptizing the Latins, with allowing to the priests the use of marriage during the days of their service at the altar, with not baptizing their children until the eighth day after their birth, and other similar points. The emperor Constantine Monomachos, who, from political reasons, was opposed to a schism, had the letter of Humbert translated into Greek. 'The monk Niketas (Pectoratus), who wrote a violent refutation of Humbert, was compelled to retract, but Cerularius remained firm in his opposition, and in July 1054, was solemnly excommunicated by the papal legates. With the support of the emperor, whom he gained over to his side, Cerularius maintained his authority until, in 1059, he was exiled by the emperor Isaac Comnenus. He died soon after.
But the exile of Cerularius did not restore the union of the churches. On the contrary, from this time the separation struck deeper root among the people of the East. Some of the emperors were favorable to a reunion in order to procure political aid from the pope and the Latin princes; but their efforts met only with temporary success. Thus, in 1095, ambassadors of the emperor Alexius Comnenus appeared, suppliant for aid, at the Council of Piacenza, and pope Urbanf to restore a union, held in 1097 a council at Bari, in Apulia. In 1201 pope Innocent III induced the Greek emperor Alexius and the patriarch of Constantinople, John Lomaterus, to enter into a union with Rome. At the Council of Lyons, 1217, delegates from the Greefi Church were present, and they, as well as the emperor Michael Paleeologus, declared in favor of union. But the son and successor of Michael, Andronicus, was a decided opponent of the union, and imprisoned the patriarch, who supported it. The emperor John Palmeologus II, and the patriarchs Philotheos of Constantinople (1363- 1376), Niphon of Alexandria, and Lazar of Jerusalem, also reentered into communion with Rome, and sent to pope Clement VI their profession of faith. At the OEcumenical Council of Ferras, which began in Januarsa, 1438, the emperor John Palmeologus VI, his brother, the patriarch of Constantinople, representatives of the three other patriarchs, many bishops, priests, and officers, and altogether some 700 Greeks and Orientals, were present. After a long discussion of the points of difference, the decree of union was, on July 5, 1439, signed by the pope, the Greek emperor, the cardinals, the patriarchs and bishops of both churches, with the sole exception of the bishop Markos Eugenikos of Ephesus. (See FERRARA); (See FLORENCE).
But this union was short-lived. On the return of the Eastern bishops to their homes, their action was repudiated by the large body of the priests, monks, and people. The great majority of the bishops them.selves yielded to the public pressure and renounced the union, and soonm after, in 1453, the fall of Constantinople obliterated every trace of the attempted reconciliation. The patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem declared is 1460 their readiness to accept the union, but, as usual, this declaration bore no practical fruit. Many attempts to effect a general union have since been made, but without effect. Only small bodies of Greeks, especially through the influence of the Catheolic government of Poland, have entered into and remained in union with Rome, receiving from the popes permission to retain the use of the Greek language at divine service, and some other peculiarities of the Greek Church. (See UNITED GREEK CHURCH). Pope Pius IX, on ascending the papal see, invited the bishops of the Greek Church, in a circular letter addressed to them, to re- enter into the union with Rome. The Greek bishops replied by a letter, setting forth their reasons for not complying with the invitation. In 1868 the pope invited the Greek bishops individually to attend the coming council, but this invitation also was declined by every bishop.
The Greek Church comprised within its ancient limits, anterior to the Mohammedan conquests, Greece properly so called, opon us, Eastern Illyricum, the Islands, and Asia Minoras also Syria and Palestine, Arabia, Egypt, and parts of Mesopatamia and Persia. Her territory in Asia and Africa was in the course of time almost wholly lost in consequence of the advance of the Mohammedamms, and with the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century nearly all the ancient sees of the Church in Europe came likewise under the rule of a Mohammedan government. Other portions became subject to the Catholic governments of Austria and Poland, leaving only one single government, that of Russia, as the protector of the interests of the Greek Church. In Austria and Poland the Greek Church suffered some losses in consequence of the efforts of the governments of those two countries to induce the Greek bishops to accept the supremacy of the pope. In European Turkey the Church maintained, on the whole, her ground, as the Turks, though oppressing them in many ways, did not deny them religious toleration. More than from the Turkish govermnent, the Greek Church in Turkey suffered from internal corruption, especially from the simony prevailing in, the appointments to episcopal sees and other ecclesiastical positions. (See TURKEY).
While the territory of the Greek Church in Africa, Asia, and South-eastern Europe was greatly reduced by the advance of Mohammedanism it received a most important increase by the conversion of the Russians. The first missionaries were sent to this people from Constantinople in the 9th century. In 955, princess Olga, the saint, was baptized at Constantinople, and in 956 the first Christian church was built at Kief. Vladimir, at the close of the 10th century, was especially eager for the suppression and destruction of paganism. The first attempt to sever the connection of the Russian Church with the patriarch of Contantinople was made by Yaroslam I, who, in 1051, commanded the Russian bishops to elect the new metropolitan of Kief without the cooperation of the patriarch. His successors, however, again conceded to the patriarch the right of appointing the metropolitan of Kief. In 1164 the patriarch of Constantinople sent a new metropolitan to Kief without even asking for the consent of the prince; but prince Rostislav, though willing to accept the metropolitan for once, declared that in future the election of the metropolitan would require the sanction at least of the government. Negotiations of the princes of Russia and the metropolitans of Kief with the pope for a union of the Russian Church with Rome began in the 11th century. Some of them, in particular several princes of the Russinians and Ruthenians in Galicia, and the metropolitan Isidore, who took part in the Council of Florence, really joined the union, but among the mass of the people and clergy it never gained ground. In 1588 the metropolitan Job of Moscow was consecrated by the patriarch of Constantinople the first patriarch of Russia, and was recognized by the other Oriental patriarchs as the fifth patriarch of the orthodox Church. At the close of the 16th century an attempt was made to establish a union between the Russian Church and those of Georgia and Armenia, but it failed in consequence of the intolerance of the Russian patriarch. The attitude of the patriarch towards the metropolitan of Kief induced the latter, with a number of other bishops of. South Russia; and a population of about ten millions, to enter in 1594, at the Council of Brzesk, into communion with Rome. The breach between the Russians and the Church of Rome was greatly widened by the elevation of the house of Romanoff to the throne and by the consolidation of the Russian nationality in its hereditary struggle against Catholic Poland. In 1657 and the three following years the Russian ambassador in Constantinople obtained from the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem an official recognition of the right of Russia to have the patriarchs of Russia elected by the Russian clergy, without obtaining the previous sanction of the Oriental patriarchs. . After the death of the eleventh Russian patriarch in 1702, Peter the Great left the patriarchal see vacant, and in 1721 put the administration of the Church in the hands of a board of bishops called the Holy Synod. Since then the Church of Russia has been eminently a state church. Though in doctrinal union with the other branches of the Greek Church, it is, in point of ecclesiastical administration, entirely unconnected with them. At home it has been unable to prevent the growth of numerous dissenting sects; but the rapid growth of the Russian empire has made it not only by far the most numerous and important branch of the Greek Church in the present age, been the largest state church in the Christian world. (For a fuller account of the inner history of the Church, (See RUSSIA).) The establishment of the independence of the Hellenic kingdom at the beginning of the present century created another independent Greek state church. In 1833, the regency of Greece, at the request of thirty-six metropolitans, declared the orthodox Oriental (Church of Greece independent of every foreign ecclesiastical authority, and, after the model of the Russian Church, organized for the administration of the Church a "Holy Synod." This indepndent constitution was recognized by the patriarch of Constantinople in 1850. (For a fuller account of this branch of the Greek Church. (See GREECE).)
The Reformed Churches which arose in the 16th century made also several attempts to establish an understanding with the Greek Church. The Augsburg Confession and Luther's Smaller Catechism were translated into Greek, and, very early after the Reformation, a letter was addressed by Melancthon to the patriarch Joseph of Constantinople through a deacon Demietrius Mysus, who visited Germany in 1558. Another Lutheran embassy of a more imposing character, headed by the well-known Tü bingen divines Andreae and Crusius, visited Constantinople during the patriarchate of Jeremias (1576 to 1581). But both missions remained without result. Negotiations with the Reformed Churches were opened by the patriarch Cyril Lukaris, who in 1629 issued a decidedly Calvinistic confession of faith. But he was not only unable to carry his Church with him, but was himself deposed and imprisoned; and, to cut off future attempts of this kind, a doctrinal declaration was signed by the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, and many metropolitans and bishops, which, by clear and decided definitions, draws a marked line between the Greek and the Reformed Church. (See CYRIL LUCAR). This exposition was generally adopted by the churches, and in a synod held in Jerusalem in 1672 it was adopted as the creed of the Greek Church. (See below,)
Several efforts have also been made by the Anglican churches to enter into intercommunion with the Greek Church, which during the last ten years have received the official endorsement of the English convocations and of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. The plan has found many friends even among bishops of the Greek Church, some of whom are members and patrons of a Society for Promoting the Unity of Christendom (See ENGLAND), which comprises Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Oriental Christians among its members.
II. Doctrine. — The Greek Church, in common with the Roman Catholic, recognizes the infallible authority of the first seven councils. Its particular doctrines are laid down in a number of confessions of faith, among which the most important are, the Confession of patriarch Gennadius (q.v.), and the Confessio orthodoxa catholicae atque apostolicae ecclesiae orientalis of Petrus Mogilas, metropolitan of Kief, which in 1642 was sanctioned by a synod at Yassy, in 1643 signed by all the patriarchs, and in 1672 again sanctioned by a synod at Jerusalem, and declared to be an authentic exhibition of the doctrine of the Church.
The Greeks agree with the Roman Catholics in accepting as the rule of faith not alone the Bible, including the Deutero-canonical books, but also the traditions (q.v.) of the Church. They deny the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son (See FILIOQUE), and reject the papal claim to supremacy and doctrinal authority. They admit the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church, but differ in some of the rites used at their administration. They administer baptism by trine immersion, and confirmation in immediate connection with baptism, even in the case of infants. The right of administering confirmation is conceded to priests as well as to bishops. They administer the communion in both kinds and even to children. (For their peculiarities in the sacraments of extreme unction and priestly orders, (See EXTREME UNCTION) and (See ORDERS).) They forbid marriage altogether to bishops; priests and deacons are forbidden to contract marriage after ordination, and must not have been married more than once, nor to a.widow. Married priests must live separate from their wives during the time when they are actually engaged in Church service. They regard marriage as dissoluble in case of adultery, and regard fourth marriages as utterly unlawful. They do not permit the use of graven images, with the exception of that of the cross. They observe four great fasts: the forty days of Lent, from Pentecost to the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the fifteen days before Assumption Day, and the six weeks before Christmas; and, besides, the Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year are fast days. At divine service they generally use the liturgy of St. Chrysostom, and on certain Sundays and festivals that of St. Basil. The liturgy of the Russian Church is in the Old Slavic language; that of the Church in the kingdom of Greece, in modern Greek; that of the Church of Georgia, in the Old Georgian language. Instrumental music is forbidden, but singing is universally in use. The ordinary posture in public, prayer is standing, the body being turned towards the east; only at Pentecost is kneeling in use. The sign of the cross is in more frequent use among them than in the Roman Catholic Church, but in a different form. The preaching of sermons is not common; generally a homily is read from ancient collections. Corresponding to the breviary of the Latin Church is the Horologion, which contains prayers for different hours of divine worship,. a complete calendar (Menologion), and different appendixes for worship. Festivals peculiar to the Greek Church are the consecration of water on January 6 (Old Style) in commemoration of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, and the orthodox Sunday (Estomihi), with a. litany anathematizing heretics and in honor of the imperial patrons, the prelates, and martyrs of the Church. III. Constitution and Statistics. — The constitution of the Greek Church is, in many respects, similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church. They reject the claims of the pope to a supremacy over the whole Church,, and are only willing to recognize him as the patriarch of one great section of the Church. The higher clergy (Archiereis) are the patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops, who have to live in celibacy; the lower clergy are divided into the regular clergy (monks; also called,, from the color of their dress, the black clergy) and the secular clergy (also called, in opposition to the regulars, the white clergy, although their dress is, in fact, often of a brown, violet, or other color).
In point of ecclesiastical organization, the Greek Church consisted in 1869 of eleven groups, which were more or less independent of each other, namely,
1. The patriarchate of Jerusalem, which has 13 sees (metropolitan and 1 archiepiscopal).
2. The patriarchate of Antioch, with 6 metropolitan sees.
3. The patriarchate of Alexandria: it has 4 metropolitan sees.
4. The patriarchate of Constantinople, which has 135 sees (90 metropolitan and 4 archiepiscopal).
5. The patriarchate of Russia, which has 65 sees (5 metropolitan, 25 archiepiscopal).
6. Cyprus, 4 sees (of which 1 is archiepiscopal).
7. Austria, 11 sees (2 metropolitan).
8. Mount Sinai. 1 see.
9. Montefiegro, 1 metropolitan see.
10. Greece, 31 sees (the archbishop of Athens is ex officio president of the Holy Synod).
11. Rumania, 4 bishops in Wallachia and 3 in Moldavia. The people of Servia and those of Bulgaria desire for their bishops a similar independence of Constantinople.
The statistics of the Greek Church, reported in 1889, were as follows:
Turkis Empire (approximately)
For fuller information on the several branches of the Church, (See RUSSIA); (See TURKEY); (See GREECE); (See AUSTRIA). See Herzog, Real- Encyklopä die, 5:368; Le Quien, Oriens Christianus (Paris, 1740, 3 volumes); Heineccius Abbildung der alten snd neuen griech. Kirche (Leipsic, 1711); Ricaut, Hist. de l'etat present de l'eglise grecque et de l'glise armenienne (littell). 1692); Schmitt, Geschichte der neugriech. Und der russischen Kirche (Mentz, 1840); Strahl, Geschichte d. russ. Kirche (Halle, 1830); Wimmer, Die griech. Kirche in Russland (Leips. 1848); Pichler, Geschichte der kirchl. Trennung zwischen dem Orient und dem Occident von den ersten Aunfangen bis zur jungsten Gegenwart (Munich, 1864-8, 2 volumes), and Die oriental. Kirchenfrage (Munich, 1862); Stanley, The Eastern Churchs (Lond. 1867); King, The Rites of the Greek Church in Russia (Lond. 1722); Stourdza, Considerations sur la doctrine es l'esprit de l'eglise orthodoxa (Weimar, 1816); Mouraviet, Briefe tuber den Gottesdienst der Morgenland Kirche (Germ. transl. by Muralt, Lpz. 1838); Dolgorukof, La virite sur la Russie (Par. 1860); The Black and the White Clergy in Russia (in the Russian language, Lpz. 1867; extracts in Preusische Jahrbucher, September and October 1867); Foulkes, Christendom's Divisions (London, 1867, 2 volumes); l'Eglise Orthodoxe l'Orient (Athens, 1853); Neale, Hist. of the Holy Eastern Church (London, 1857 sq.); Stud. u. Krit. 1864, 1; Am. Presb. Rev. October 1868, and January 1869; Wesleyan M. Mag. July 1855; Christ. Rememb. 1861; Princeton Rep. October 1866; Meth. Quart. Rev. July 1867; Journal Sacred Lit. 21; Bibl. Sacra, October 1864; Schem, American Eccles. Almanac for 1869 (N.Y. 1869). (A.J.S.)
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Greek Church'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/g/greek-church.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.