Orthodox Church of the Mother of God

Joy of all the Sorrowful - Mays Landing, NJ (f. 1966)

Church History 7 - The Orthodox Church Since WWI

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The Orthodox Church in the Middle East

As a result of the Greco-Turkish War, the entire Greek population of Asia Minor was transferred to Greece (1922); the Orthodox under the immediate jurisdiction of the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople were thus reduced to the Greek population of Constantinople (Istanbul) and its vicinity. This population, rapidly shrinking in recent years, is now reduced to a few thousand. Still recognized as holding an honorary primacy among the Orthodox churches, the ecumenical patriarchate also exercises jurisdiction over several dioceses of the "diaspora" and, by consent of the Greek government, over the Greek islands. The ecumenical patriarchate convened pan-Orthodox conferences in Rhodes, Belgrade, Geneva, and other cities and began preparations for a "Great Council" of the Orthodox Church.

Together with the ecumenical patriarchate, the ancient sees of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem are remnants of the Byzantine imperial past, but under the present conditions they still possess many opportunities of development: Alexandria, as the centre of emerging African communities (see below The Orthodox diaspora and missions); Antioch, as the largest Arab Christian group, with dioceses in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq; and Jerusalem, as the main custodian of the Christian holy places in that city.

The two ancient churches of Cyprus and Georgia, with their quite peculiar history, continue to play important roles among the Orthodox sister churches. Autocephalous since 431, the Church of Cyprus survived the successive occupations, and often oppressions, by the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Venetians, the Turks, and the English. Following the pattern of all areas where Islam was predominant, the archbishop is traditionally seen as the ethnarch of the Greek Christian Cypriots. Archbishop Makarios also became the first president of the independent Republic of Cyprus in 1960. The Church of Georgia, isolated in the Caucasus in a country that became part of the Russian Empire in 1801, is the witness of one of the most ancient Christian traditions. It received autocephaly from its mother Church of Antioch as early as the 6th century and developed a literary and artistic civilization in its own language. Its head bears the traditional title of "Catholicos-Patriarch." When the Russians annexed the country in 1801, they suppressed Georgia's autocephaly and the church was governed by a Russian "exarch" until 1917 when the Georgians reestablished their ecclesiastical independence. Fiercely persecuted during the 1920s, the Georgian Church survives to the present day as an autocephalous patriarchate.

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