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The Church of Greece (Greek: Ekklēsía tēs Helládos, ), part of the wider Greek Orthodox Church, is one of the fifteen autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches which make up the Orthodox Communion. Its canonical territory is confined to the borders of Greece prior to the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, with the rest of Greece being subject to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinoplemarker. However, most of its dioceses are de facto administered as part of the Church of Greece for practical reasons, under an agreement between the churches of Athens and Constantinople.

Prevailing religion of Greece

The Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ is established by the constitution as the "prevailing" religion of Greece. In return for having granted a portion of its estates to the State, the main stream Orthodox clergy's salaries and pensions are being paid for by the State at rates comparable to those of teachers. By virtue of its status as the prevailing religion, the canon law of the Church is recognized by the Greek government in matters pertaining to church administration. This is governed by the "Constitution of the Church of Greece", which has been voted by Parliament into law. Religious marriages and baptisms are legally equivalent to their civil counterparts and the relevant certificates are issued by officiating clergy. All main stream Orthodox students in primary and secondary schools in Greece attend religious instruction. Liaisons between church and state are handled by the Ministry of National Education and Religious Denominations. Greece is the one of the few European countries that has not separated Church from State.

Church hierarchy

The religious jurisdictions of the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece.
Supreme authority is vested in the synod of all the diocesan bishops who all have metropolitan status (the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, Greek: Hierà Sýnodos tês Ekklēsías tês Helládos, ) under the de jure presidency of the Archbishop of Athens and all Greecemarker. This synod deals with general church questions. The Standing Synod is under the same presidency, and consists of the Primate and 12 bishops, each serving for one term on a rotating basis and deals with details of administration.

The church is organised into 81 dioceses; 36 of these, in northern Greece and in the major islands in the north and northeast Aegean, are nominally and spiritually under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinoplemarker, which retains certain privileges over and in them—for example, their bishops have to acknowledge the Patriarch as their own primate during prayers. They are called "The New Lands" (Νέαι Χώραι, Néai Chōrai) and are represented by 6 of the 12 bishops of the Standing Synod. A bishop elected to one of the Sees of the New Lands has to be confirmed by the Patriarch of Constantinople before assuming his duties. These dioceses are administered by the Church of Greece "in stewardship" and their bishops retain their right of appeal (the "ékklēton") to the Patriarch.

The dioceses of Cretemarker and the Dodecanese, and the Monastic Republic of Holy Mount Athos remain under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinoplemarker; they are not part of the Church of Greece. The Archdiocese of Crete in particular enjoys semiautonomous status: new bishops are elected by the local Synod of incumbents, and the Archbishop is appointed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate from a three-person list (the triprósōpon) drawn by the Greek Ministry of Education from among the incumbent Metropolitans of Crete.

Clergy and monastics

As in all other Eastern Orthodox Churches, graduates from seminaries,financed by the Greek State, run by the church may be ordained as deacons and eventually priests. They are allowed to marry before their ordination as deacons, but not afterwards. The vast majority of parish clergy in Greece are married. Alternatively they may enter monasteries and/or take monastic vows. Monastics who are ordained as priests and possess a university degree in theology are eligible as candidates for the episcopate (archimandrites). Women may also take monastic vows and become nuns, but they are not ordained.

Monasteries are either affiliated to their local diocese, or directly to one of the Orthodox Patriarchates; in the latter case they are called "Stauropegiac" monasteries (Stayropēgiaká, "springs of the Cross").

Old Calendarists

A split (schism) occurred within the Church in 1924 when the Holy Synod decided to replace the Old Calendar (Julian) with a hybrid calendar—the so-called "Revised Julian Calendar"--which maintained a modified Julian dating method for Easter while adopting the Gregorian Calendar date for fixed feasts. Those who refused to adopt this change are known as Old Calendarists (palaioimerologites in Greek) and still follow the old Julian Calendar. They themselves have suffered several schisms, and not all Old Calendarists comprise one Church. They refer to themselves as "Genuine Orthodox Christians", and the largest group associating itself with the Old Calendarists is the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostomos II (Kiousis). This Synod has obtained government recognition as a valid Orthodox Church, although this is not in communion with the Church of Greece or the other Eastern Orthodox Churches. Old Calendarists are a diminishing presence and number a few thousand followers.


The Church was formerly a part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. It was declared autocephalous in 1833 in a political decision of the Bavarian Regents acting for King Otto, who was a minor. It was only recognized as such by the Patriarchate in 1850, under certain conditions with the issue of a special "Tomos" decree which brought it back to a normal status. As a result, it retains certain special links with the "Mother Church".

See also


Tomkinson, John L., Between Heaven and Earth: The Greek Church, Anagnosis (Athens, 2004) ISBN 960-87186-5-1
Online Greek Orthodox Typikon

External links


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