History of the Church of Greece in the 20 th century*
Prof. Archimandrite Grigorios D. Papathomas
The historical beginnings of the Autocephalous Church of Greece in the 19th century
In 1950, the Church of Greece celebrated the 1900 th anniversary of the Saint Paul's arrival in Greece.
In the year 2000, we celebrated the two thousandth anniversary of Christianity in Greece. It was in Philippes, in Macedonia, where Paul and Silas founded the first Church in Greece. Other communities were founded in Thessalonica, and also in Beroia, in Western Macedonia. A little later other churches were also founded in Athens in Attica, in Corinth in the Peloponnese, in Nicopolis in the Southern Epirus, and in Crete, on the Greek islands.
At the start of the 19 th century, following the Greek Revolution (1821), a part of modern day Southern Greece which was liberated from Ottoman dominance (15 th -19 th centuries), declared its political independence and statehood in 1821, and became and independent and sovereign country in 1829, internationally recognized in 1830 (Treaty of London).
Otto of Bavaria (1832-1862) was imposed by the Great Powers as King of Greece. In 1833-1834, George von Maurer, a lawyer and University Professor from Germany, Protestant, was designated as king's Regent for a Catholic German king, who was underage at the time. He was assisted in the matters concerning the Church of the Kingdom of Greece, which was predominantly Orthodox, by the Archimandrite Theoklitos Pharmakidis.
This mix of confessional denominations within the higher administration was merely the beginning of the institutional complexities that would develop at the head of the Church of Greece.
In 1834, Athens became the capital of the new Greece, and the administrative centre of both Church and State.
In May 1833, a Commission made up of four laymen and three clergymen was established, which demanded the Autocephaly of the Church of Greece and the creation of an independent and permanent Synod.
In early July 1833, the Autocephaly of the Church of Greece was arbitrarily declared by King Otto the 1 st through his Regent George von Maurer.
On the 15 th of July 1833, the bishops gathered in Nauplion, the provisional capital, and proclaimed the Church of the Kingdom of Greece “independent” of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The church's governing body from then on would be a Synod made up of five members, with a permanent secular government member, all appointed by the king. With this situation of State interventionism which only grew with time, the idea of creating a National Church began to ripen.
This declaration of non canonical Autocephaly (in 1833) provoked a rupture of the ecclesial communion between the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople which lasted for 17 years, until 1850. At this date, the Patriarchate of Constantinople published a Patriarchal and Synodal Tome proclaiming the Autocephaly of the Church of Greece, under certain canonical conditions.
The Patriarchal and Synodal Tome of the 29 th of June 1850 proclaiming canonically the Autocephaly of the Church of Greece was ratified by the Royal Decree of the 15 th of August 1850, following which Law 201 of the 9 th of July 1852 was approved, i.e. the Statutory Law of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece in which the Greek State accepted its principles. Two Laws (200 and 201) that followed a protestant model were passed to impose political authority at the head of the Church of Greece, with a Synod appointed by the king, this Synod being the highest authority of the Church of Greece. In the synods, a king's representative was always present, with a right to veto any decisions made, which implied the Church's complete submission to the State's political authority. According to the Statute Charter, the king was the Head of the Church of Greece. The Church's Synod should therefore follow the policies of the Royal Government, which at that time, from 1863 to 1913, had in George of Denmark its head as King of Greece. From 1860 to 1923, the Church of Greece was very compliant with royal and national policies, with many serious consequences.
Almost the whole of the clergy was lacking a sufficient and solid theological education. However, from the year 1828, the ecclesiastical schools – sort of like a church secondary schools or small seminars – were set up in Aegina by the First Governor of Greece, John Capodistrias (1828-1831). The Faculty of Theology of Athens founded in 1836/37 was a part of the first Greek University also founded in 1837. This Faculty, however, did not really start functioning until the last decade of the 19 th century. The second Faculty of Theology was founded in Thessalonica, in 1942.
During the second half of the 19 th century, the Greek territory grew in size with the integration, after their liberation, of the Ionian Isles and Thessaly, the so-called “Old Territories” which merged with the Greece that had been liberated in 1821. The Ionian Isles were annexed politically to the Greek State in 1864, after which an Act by the Ecumenical Patriarchate reattached them to the Church of Greece in 1866, without any conditions. In much the same way Thessaly was yielded to the Greek State in 1881, and reattached to the Church of Greece by a Patriarchal and Synodal Act in 1882. The Autocephalous Church of Greece was then territorially complete (see Appendix).
The Church of Greece inherited a very leaden and badly managed past from the 19 th century: interventionism by the State was widespread and constant, there was no Synodal organization within the Church, there was a lack of an administrative body in charge of the church's affairs, a neglect of pastoral duties, a lack of an infrastructure for an even basic social action, a complete absence of any form of contact with other Churches and the outside world, etc. In the beginning of the 20 th century, this situation caused frustration and disorganization within the Church, particularly heightened by absolute and continuous State interventionism within the internal and public affairs of the Church, that is to say in all affairs of the Church (Politeiocracy).
From the last decade of the 19 th century and the beginnings of the 20 th, the “Christian Brotherhoods” ( Christianikes Adelphotites ) or Religious Brotherhoods founded by intellectuals and secular scholars were created to organize a spiritual Christian life for the congregation of churchgoers, as the institutionalised Church neglected its pastoral duties towards them in one way or another. This caused confrontations between these secular movements and the hierarchy of the Church.
These Brotherhoods also wanted to activate an adequate education plan for the masses, training within the framework of the Church, training of the priests in special seminars, etc.; they also wanted to move towards a more social Church through charitable and philanthropic works.
It is important to stress that by trying to control the people, their interventions heavily influenced the religious and even the political life of Greece during the 20 th century. They developed preaching, the practice of confession in the western style, a religious press, religious education including the catechism of women and children, as well as closed groups of biblical study. Their efforts were notorious regarding youth, future members and leaders: Sunday schools, summer camps, libraries and recreation rooms, sports activities, etc.
Among these movements, the one that imposed itself was the “Brotherhood of Life” ( Zôè ), founded in 1907 by the learned Acrhimandrite Eusebios Matthopoulos (1849-1929), who worked closely with Apostolos Makrakis, a famed preacher of the masses. This brotherhood strongly opposed any sort of classical monastic movement, while presenting itself as an “urban and social monastic movement” active within the heart of society. The Brotherhood Zôè was inspired by German pietism and western missionaries, both catholic and protestant, at a methodology level but not a faith level.
The Zôè brotherhood then became a political and religious movement whose main purpose was achieving a global reform of the Church, the State, and also of society as a whole. Its ideal was a modernising and reforming of society through a strengthening of Christian values and faith in popular consciousness.
The Brotherhood Zôè initially concentrated on preaching, religious teachings and the publication of journals addressing the general public, notably its namesake the Zôè Review founded in 1911. During the 1950's, Zôè was made up of around 200 layman theologians and 700 women who founded local Religious Fraternities throughout Greece that worked by themselves independently of the Church and the parishes. They set up primary and secondary schools, and also catechism schools, old people's homes, orphanages and other establishments of a charitable nature.
Right up to the Second World War, almost all the charitable and missionary organisations where under the direction of Zôè, and later, of its more conservative subsidiary, “Soter”, which was founded in 1961, when it split up. Many bishops affiliated themselves with these movements.
Period between 1900 and 1923
It must be stated here that the history of the Greek Church at the beginning the 20 th century was very troubled due to the numerous shifting political scenes and transformations, amongst which stand out the proclamation of the Republic (Parliamentary Democracy) in 1924, several dictatorships including the ones by M. Pangalos (1925-26), General J. Metaxas (1936-41), G. Papadopoulos, during the time of the colonels (1967- 74), the Second World War (Italian occupation of Greece in 1940, then by German occupation of Greece from 1941 until 1944), the civil war and the armed communists (1946-1949), the post war years (1955-1967), besides the general political instability of the time and also the absence during certain periods of an ecclesiastical authority due to interventionist pressure by the State, especially during the years between 1956 and 1974. All of these historical events are tied to the life of the Church of Greece during the 20 th century.
Besides these political and ecclesiastical events, numerous nomo-canonical events took place during the 20 th century, which are relevant to our historical subject. They allow us to highlight the numerous interventions of the State in the affairs of the Church. The first decade of the 20 th century begins with a religious and political crisis at the heart of conservative Greek society on the subject of whether or not to translate the Gospels to Modern Greek.
In September 1901, the publication of the Bible in Modern Greek by Al. Pallis, sparked a negative reaction by the University of Athens. This led, by the 3 rd of November, to the formation of two opposing groups, the Evangelika and the Noembriana (=events of November). Queen Olga, who was of Russian origin and a patron of Pallis, was in favour of the translation, and was accused of harming classical Greek. There were demonstrations in Athens which even led to some deaths. The Metropolitan of Athens, Procopios Economidis (1896-1901), a close friend to the Queen, accepted the translation, but afterwards he was forced to resign, because an anathema by the Holy Synod condemned anyone who translated, circulated or used any texts in Modern Greek. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople authorised the translation in 1911.
At the beginning of the 20 th century, the Metropolitan of Athens was Theoclitos Minopoulos (1902-1917, 1920-22), a moderate man in ecclesiastical matters. He was made to step down by a political intervention that imposed Meletios Metaxakis as Athens Metropolitan (1918-1920).
In 1910, under the rule of Prime Minister El. Venizelos, ecclesiastical laws were passed regulating the organisation of the Church, the parishes (properties, ranks and salaries of priests, etc.), and the election process of priests.
From the beginnings of the Autocephaly of the Church of Greece, and on several occasions during the 20 th century, the State confiscated Church properties. The most significant times this took place during the 20 th century are the following.
In 1909 part of the income from the Church's businesses and properties was seized by the State.
After the Balkan Wars (1912-13), in 1921, the State expropriated some Church properties without any compensation.
In 1952, the State confiscated three quarters of all of the Church's assets to help the people most affected and weakened after a decade of two wars, the world war and the civil war (1940-1949).
In 1987 the minister Ant. Tritsis passed two laws (1700 and 1811) during a crisis between Church and State under the Socialist Government, but these laws were never enforced.
The nationalisation of Church property was sometimes done with the agreement of the Church, for example in exchange for the payment of the salaries of priests, who acquired a status similar to that of a civil servant of the State payed by the State itself from 1910, or for the helping of the numerous Greek refugees coming from Asia Minor in 1923.
In 1930, the “Organisation for the Administration of Church Properties” (ODEP) and the “Insurance Fund for the Greek Clergy” (TAKE) where set up by the Church of Greece.
From the year 1910, the Greek State began its more active involvement within society with the aim to unify and modernise it through increased activity in areas such as education, the military, etc.
In the same way, the Greek State during the 1920s started using the mediation of the Orthodox Church to help it integrate the mosaic of people who had come to Greece as refugees fleeing various recent wars.
Following the two Balkan Wars (1912-1913) that allowed the liberation of Northern Greece, and after the Treaty of Berlin (1913), the Greek State expanded geographically with the addition of the “New Territories”: Macedonia and Epirus in 1912, as well as Western Thrace in 1913, and the Northern Aegean Isles (Lesbos, Samos, etc.), also in 1913. These territories were under the administration of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Due to the World War I (1914-18), it was impossible to immediately address the issues concerning the affairs of the Church (see Appendix).
During the Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the first World War (1914-18), Church activities at a pastoral and organizational level were at a complete standstill.
After World War I, the Church of Greece's mission changed; it had to rethink its national strategy. The reasons for this are many. To give an example, the growing trend of immigration (Diaspora) posed a new challenge. There were also limitations imposed by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923): for example, the Ecumenical Patriarch ceased to be the Ethnarch of Orthodox Christians within the former Ottoman Empire.
On the other hand, at a national level, between 1916 and 1920, there was, as has been previously mentioned, a political rupture ( dichasmos ) among the Greek people that divided into two factions: the Conservatives who sided with the King and the Liberals who followed Venizelos. There was confrontation in Athens between King Constantine XII and Prime Minister El. Venizelos who rebelled against the Royalist Government and established a provisional Government between 1916 and 1917 in Thessalonica which had been liberated in 1912. The bishops got involved in the affair and the Holy Synod excommunicated Venizelos and his followers. This course of action caused great division within the Holy Synod.
The reorganization of the Church of Greece and the “modernization” of Greek society were important Greek Liberal Party projects, between 1911 and 1932, especially from 1923 onwards.
Upon his return to power in Athens in 1917, Venizelos named Meletios Metaxakis (then Archbishop of Cyprus) Metropolitan of Athens (1918-1920), and he later became Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (25.11.1921-20.9.1923).
In 1922, the disastrous Greco-Turkish war broke out in Asia Minor that ended up with the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations within Greece and Turkey (Treaty of Lausanne, 24 th of July 1923). Turkey accepted that a Greek minority could stay on its soil, in Istanbul and on the isles of Imbros and Tenedos. With this massive exchange of populations, around 360.000 Turkish people were forced to leave Greece and around 1.400.000 Greeks had to leave Asia Minor. The vast majority of the Greeks settled down in Greece, which caused an overall increase of about a quarter of the population. Others went elsewhere, to the United States especially, but also to Australia and Western Europe.
In 1922, a Pan-Orthodox Congress was held in Constantinople, under the auspices of Meletios who was in the process of becoming Ecumenical Patriarch. Certain reforms where discussed, amongst which was the adoption of the New Gregorian Calendar.
It was following this Congress that a program to reorganise the Church of Greece was finally implemented along with the promulgation of a Statute Charter in 1923.
Period from 1923 to 1938
In 1923, a new Archbishop of Athens was appointed, Chrysostomos Papadopoulos (1923-1938), a great Church historian supported by the Faculty of Theology of the University of Athens. Following an initiative by the Archbishop, a meeting of the whole Holy Synod was called for the first time, which had important consequences for the Church as it derived in the writing up of a new constitution for the Church, the Charter of 1923. This established the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy ( Synodos tes Hierarchias ) as the supreme authority of the Church, made up of all the bishops and presided over by the Archbishop of Athens. Amongst other things, it would appoint future bishops and define how many there should be.
The only weakness of this new synodal model was the difficulty that getting all the bishops together at the same time entailed. It was very hard to get them all to go to Athens at the same time, so in reality it was the Archbishop who represented the Church and made all the decisions in its name.
This new path that the Church took, from 1923 onwards, was not fortuitous. From the end of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), it could already be seen that the Church's projects tended towards a reorganisation of the Church. These initiatives led the way to, in 1914, the drawing up of a document by a commission in charge of writing laws, which in turn led to the writing of a new Charter, in which it was stated that the Church would regain its independence and avoid any interventionism by the State within the frame hood of a free state.
This text contained lots of positive elements, but political events between 1914 and 1922 caused it not to be immediately applied.
The Permanent Holy Synod ( Diarkis Hiera Synodos) was also constituted just afterwards, in 1925, with the approval of another law, as the executive Synodal body of the “Holy Synod of the Hierarchy”. It was made up of seven members, and after 1929 of thirteen members, with Archbishop of Athens presiding over it. This authority represented the Holy Synod of the Church; it assumed the real executive power of the Synod of the Hierarchy, mediated in any conflicts and took care of any urgent problems as they arose through extraordinary meetings. This Synod is renewed every year by means of rotation in age order of the elders that are Metropolitans and who are able to attend when a problem arises.
There is, therefore a “mixed” system of the Church administration, comprised of the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy and the Permanent Holy Synod, instead of there only being the “Holy Synod and the Archbishop” as was the case before the Statutory text of 1923.
By reorganising these Synods and making them the supreme authority of the Church of Greece, the canonical identity was restored to the Church of Greece.
The Synod of the Hierarchy, or Holy Synod replaced the five members previously appointed by the King and, in theory at least, could have some influence over the Government.
This new synodal ambit of the Church was not always respected by governments in the years that followed. To put an example the dictatorship and also other governments arbitrarily changed the Church's statutes every now and again, sometimes in favour of some of the Religious Brotherhoods previously mentioned. However, it should be said that some governments did respond positively to some demands made by the Church. By the State's wish, there was always a representative of the government who partook in both synods mentioned above. This was an institutional weakness within this new synodal system. After a report by a governmental commissioner, the government accepted or not the decisions made by the Holy Synod, right up to the dictatorship of 1967 to 1974.
The ecclesiastical reforms between 1923 and 1925 notably improved Church affairs. But it took around 50 years of toil (1923-1974) to establish the canonical foundations that allowed the Church to function alongside the State. A good relationship with the State was established after 1975.
In 1923 the first editions of the Church's magazine, Ecclesia , were published and in 1930 Theologia first made its appearance.
In March 1924, the New Calendar (Gregorian) was adopted by the Church of Greece. The adoption of the Gregorian calendar and the limiting of public holidays were factors that contributed to a changing relationship between the Church, the State and society as a whole.
After the fall of the dictatorship (1926), the Archbishop Chrysostomos called an extraordinary meeting of the Holy Synod (February 1927) to review the weaknesses that the Statutory Charter from 1923 had. In this meeting the matter of integrating the Metropolitans of the New Territories to the governing body of the Autocephalous Church of Greece was also discussed. This was finally accomplished in September 1928. A Patriarchal and Synodal Act was passed contemplating the integration of the Metropolitans of the New Territories to the Autocephalous Church of Greece to go with the State Law 3615 that had been passed in July 1928 (see Appendix).
Conforming to this Law 3615/1928, the Permanent Holy Synod was made up of nine members, four of which belonged to the Autocephalous Church and four who were Metropolitans of the New Territories, always presided over by the Archbishop of Athens.
With a new Law, No. 5438, approved in 1932, this changed to thirteen members (the Archbishop of Athens, six Metropolitans of the Autocephalous Church and six Metropolitans from the New Territories). The Synod members still changed every year on a rota basis system and in order of seniority.
On an administrative level, the names of the titles held changed in 1927. The “Metropolitan” of Athens was thereafter known as the “Archbishop” and the title of “bishop” changed to that of “metropolitan”.
In 1936, the first theological Conference of all the Orthodox Faculties in the world was held in Athens; it was followed in 1978 by the second Conference, also in Athens.
A series of reforms that took place under Chrysostomos between 1923 and 1938 radically changed the infrastructure and life within the Church. In 1923, two seminars were organized to train priests and members of the clergy; and a system of dogmatic litigation was adopted.
Period from 1938 to 1974
In 1938, following the death of Archbishop Chrysostomos, Damaskinos Papandreou took his place with the support of the Holy Synod. Some religious movements, however, put pressure on the Government to impose their candidate, who was also Dictator Metaxas' preference, Chrysanthos Philippidis (1938-1941) and former Metropolitan of Trebizond (Pont). The extraordinary influence that the religious movements (influential people, intellectuals, university lecturers) had, that got their way by taking the case to the Court of Cassation, the Greek Supreme Court, against the election of Damaskinos, was made evident when Damaskinos was exiled and imprisoned at the Monastery of Phaneromeni in Salamis.
During Metaxas' dictatorship (1936-1941), State interventionism began again. The Permanent Holy Synod then came to take excessive importance. The new Permanent Synod, made up of twelve members gained influence over the Synod of the Hierarchy, which lost importance yet was not abolished.
Under the dictatorship, a series of “laws of need” (laws by decree) were passed, with the aim to regulate certain administrative ecclesiastical matters about their projects. The “Law of necessity”, i.e. the Law 2170 from 1940, put in question the Statutory Charter preceding it (1932), especially those points in it concerning State interventionism.
In 1941, when Greece was invaded by Germany, Chrysanthos was made to step down because he refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Nazi occupation. The Holy Synod restored as its head the Archbishop that had been excommunicated in 1938, Damaskinos Papandreou (1941-1949), who had an extraordinarily strong character and was a brilliant lawyer. While he was metropolitan of Corinth, he had been sent by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the United States to organize the Greek Orthodox Diaspora there, and had afterwards written a perfect report about it.
During the German occupation (1941-44), this great Archbishop organised with extraordinary authority the lives of the Orthodox people, in a very difficult period during which he managed to triumph over the German Nazis.
In 1941, under Damaskinos, even though Greece was under German occupation, ecclesiastical Law was once more modified. As Archbishop of Athens, Damaskinos passed Statutory Charter of the Church (Law 671, in 1943), constituting a mixed Permanent Holy Synod (bishops from the Autocephalous Church and bishops from the New Territories), with the aim to satisfy what had been agreed upon in the Patriarchal and Synodal Act of 1928 concerning the New Territories. The Holy Synod was then again the supreme authority of the Church of Greece, but it conceded the Permanent Holy Synod the authority to elect bishops so as to give the Church more flexibility to be able to solve emergencies.
Damaskinos also skilfully organised the philanthropic deeds in the Athens region, as it was necessary and urgent to carry out this work. To achieve this, he invited the Religious Brotherhoods, his old enemies, to help him with their knowledge of organising of the work.
In any case, the Religious Brotherhoods continued being very active in their activities and gained much power and influence, as well as enriching themselves significantly, especially after getting involved in the social section of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Greece after the second World War. From then on they were dominant; it is estimated that one out of two Greeks went through these movements from this time onwards.
In March 1947, the Dodecanese political reattachment took place, the ecclesiastical consequences of which are explained in the Appendix.
During the civil war (1946-1949), a violent anticlerical flare-up occurred and 300 to 400 priests where killed in the northern areas occupied by the anti-Christian pro communist rebels. It was a stormy time that divided Greek people throughout the second half of the 20 th century.
Archbishop Damaskinos (+1949) was followed by Spyridon Vlachos (1949-1956). The latter, before being appointed had organized the Greeks in the north to fight against the invading Bulgarians. He was highly respected by the Greek people, as he was considered to be a defender of Greek rights. In 1911, he had founded the famous ecclesiastical Academy of Vellas-Ioannina to help train priests and teachers in Northern Greece. His extraordinary authority meant that the State no longer dared meddle in the affairs of the Church.
The next Archbishop, Dorotheos Kottaras (1956-1957), former Metropolitan of Larissa, was a great scholar of Canon Law.
Theokletos Panagiotopoulos (1957-1962), former Metropolitan of Patras, was another Archbishop who was very much influenced by the Religious Brotherhoods. In 1961 the movements Zôè and Soter split up. Zôè was the more liberal of the two. For the members of Soter, Liturgical life and the Church were the centre of their spirituality.
In 1961 the first pre-Synodal inter orthodox Conference was organised in Rhodes to pave the way for a Pan-Orthodox Synod. It was followed by a second conference in 1963 and another one in 1964.
In 1962 a Commission was established to reform the Statutory Charter of the Church of Greece, to formulate a proposal to install a co-reciprocal system in the relations between Church and State. However, due to the troubled 1960s decade, it could not be applied.
In 1963 it was the one thousandth anniversary of the founding, in 963 in Mount Athos, of the Monastic Politeia, the status of which will be explained in the Appendix.
Under archbishop Iakovos Vavanatsos (1962), a major crisis in the history of the Church of Greece took place. The Religious Movements fiercely opposed him, and criticised his moral life in public. He had to resign very quickly.
The next Archbishop, Chrysostomos Hadjistavrou (1962-1967), had been an assistant bishop to Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Smyrne who was considered a martyr of the Greek Nation. He had worked a lot with Chrysostomos while the latter was metropolitan in Drama, in Northern Greece, to control Bulgarian propaganda (1910). When Chrysostomos Hadjistavrou was first bishop of Smyrna, before being exiled in 1923 to Greece where he became Metropolitan of Kavala. He regained respect for the Church and was able to control the Religious Movements.
During the post-war period (1955-1966), several State interventions in the affairs of the Church still took place. For around thirty years (1943-1974), during a time that was politically very far from being homogeneous, the State kept the Statutory Charter during the German occupation (“Law” 671 from 1943). No attempt to change this gave any positive results. It was just the opposite. The only exception to this during this period was a proposal by a Commission made up of fourteen clergy and non clerical members (1962-1964), of a Statutory Charter that based the relationship between the State and the Church on the principle of “co-reciprocity”. The proposals of this Commission made reached the Permanent Holy Synod (in June 1964) and took the form of a provisional Charter which was, however, never approved by Parliament.
All attempts to improve the Church's Statutory Charter were interrupted with G. Papadopoulos' dictatorship (1967-1973) when the “Law of necessity”, number 3, was passed in 1967. This law abolished the current Charter that was in place (671 from 1943). It abolished the Permanent Holy Synod, relieved all its members of their duties and changed the system to create a new Synod made up of five members who were appointed by an alleged “order of merit” ( Aristindin ), chosen by the regime, who were bishops appointed by royal decree 291 in 1967. This type of “Aristindin” Synod lasted from 1967 to 1974. During the seven year long dictatorship, the Church was governed first by the “laws of necessity”, and then by the decrees passed by the dictatorship.
In 1967, under the first Dictatorship of the Colonels, pressure was placed on Archbishop Chrysostomos to resign, but he had the courage not to succumb to it. However, a law was passed by State that declared that the maximum age an Archbishop could be was eighty years old.
As for the new statutory Charter from 1969, it gave the archbishop appointed by the regime the right to choose the members of the Permanent Holy Synod by “order of merit” ( Aristindin Synod) and made compulsory again the presence of a governmental commissioner to validate the archbishop's decisions. As of May 1967 the Church's canonical administration regime from 1923, made up of the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy and the Permanent Holy Synod representative of the former, was abolished.
The Synod created by the dictatorship and made up of five bishops ( Aristindin Synod) imposed Hieronymos Kotsonis (1967-1973) as archbishop. He was an archimandrite, one of the main leaders of the Zôè movement, a professor of Canon Law and the former chancellor of the palace. He immediately placed the Religious Movements at the heart of the administration of the Church of Greece. He caused unprecedented confusion, when suddenly seventeen bishops were replaced by members of Zôè. On a political level, the monarchy was abolished in 1968 and the Democracy proclaimed in 1974.
In 1969-70, Hieronymos and his Synod appointed 35 new bishops, with the support of the dictatorial regime. In 1969, Hieronymos introduced his own Statutory Charter.
During Papadopoulos's government, during the regime of the Junta of the Colonels (1967-1973), the Charter of 1969 again made it compulsory to have a Commissioner appointed by the Government to validate each and every one of the Archbishop's decisions and those of the Director of the Religious Affairs of the Ministry for National Education and Cults.
In 1972 there was a conflict between Dictator Papadopoulos and Archbishop Hieronymos. Hieronymos made a provocative statement about the relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, suggesting a change of the structure of the Permanent Holy Synod, trying to abolish the pact made with the Patriarchate after 1928, with the aim to take its power.
In 1973 the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy did rejected the terms proposed by the archbishop. That same year, Hieronymos resigned after a new colonel, Dim. Ioannidis (2 nd dictatorship), came to power. P. Christou, professor of Patristics at the University of Thessalonica, a firm opposer of Hieronymos's ideology, became Minister of National Education and Cults, and the Church's positions took another radical change.
Period from 1974 to 2000
After the abolition of the second dictatorship (1974), the Statutory Charter of 1943 was re-enforced by the Law dec ree order 87 of 1974, up until the publication of the Statutory Charter of 1977. Seraphim Tikas (1974-1998) was then appointed as archbishop. Seraphim Tikas was favoured by Damaskinos Papandreou and was extremely committed to the Greek armed resistance aga inst German occupation. He had been elected Metropolitan of Ioannina in 1949.
Seraphim was appointed by a Synod made up of former bishops elected before 1967 to restore the canonical taxis (order) of the Greek Church. The Synod was proposed by the Colonels of the second period, that of D. Ioannidis. The Synod decided on the deposition of thirteen bishops who had been elected by Hieronymos. The new bishops were hostile towards the Religious Brotherhoods which had lost the religious responsibilities they prev iously acquired. It was then that the clerks and laymen of these Brotherhoods withdrew to monasteries, in particular to Mount Athos where some became higoumenes.
The Church displayed some weaknesses caused by past divisions. Seraphim knew how to organize t he Church and how to maintain balance within Church administration, including supporting certain bishops who came from brotherhoods which were still considered powerful. He also succeeded in maintaining a balance between the Greek Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He organized new dioceses around Thessalonica and around Athens to facilitate pastoral work. However, this organization was more suited to the level of the Metropolises than the level of the parishes, because generally, the clergy was not su fficiently motivated or active.
Seraphim also reorganized ecclesiastical education which prepared the clergy by better organization of the theological seminaries, which from 1974 were subject to the Ministry of National Education which covered operating costs. By the same perspective in 1976, the Minister for Education G. Rhallis wanted to encourage the Greek clergy to be well-educated by increasing the salary of the priests who had completed university education.
In 1974, Professor Vl. Phidas, General Secretary of the Ministry of National Education for Ecclesiastical and Religious Affairs as well as Professor of Church History and Canon Law at the University of Athens, annulled the Statutory Charter of Hieronymos of 1969 and reintroduced the Statutory Charter of Damaskinos Papandreou of 1943 (Law 671), without the later modifications.
In the declaration of the new Constitution of the Greek State in 1975, articles 3 and 13 settled relations between the State and the Church. The Parliament accepted further additions concerning the Church, which were proposed by the Athens University Professor Vl. Phidas. The new Statutory Charter of the Church, prepared by Phidas, was promulgated in 1977. The Law 590 stipulated that the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece, supreme authority , must be summoned every year, whereas previously the Holy Synod was convened every third year.
The Permanent Holy Synod, which was recognised for the first time by the new Constitution of the Greek State, exercised all of the authority of the Hierarchy between two summonses. All of the questions settled by the article 3 in the Constitution of the Greek State of 1975 concerning organisation, administration and the identity of the Church of Greece, were also developed in the Statutory Charter of the Church of Greece (articles 1-35).
The internal life of the Church was settled in article 13 of the Constitution of Greece. With this article concerning the freedom of Religion, the Church had the right to regulate by itself, without intervention of the State, all aspects relating to pastoral life. So, once more, both Synods were able to organise everything relating to the internal life of the Church according to their particular rights (parishes, monastic life, etc.), promulgation of the regulations of projects. The publication of regulations in the Government Journal gave them the authority of a compulsory law recognised by the Government. This new Statuary Charter (Law 590) of 1977 helped the Church of Greece to become free from State intervention.
Aft er Seraphim's death, Christodoulos Paraskevaidis (1998-2008) was elected archbishop. Formerly the secretary of Hieronymos (1967-73), it was Chr. Paraskevaidis who was able to combine the spiritual mentality proposed by the Religious Brotherhoods with an op ening towards modern society and youth in particular. He also helped lead to the revival of the liturgical life. He was very active in social and philanthropic domains, creating the non-governmental organisation “Solidarity” and establishing several commit tees to tackle contemporary issues (bio-ethics, drug addiction, violence against women, single mothers, etc.). At times he demonstrated a polemical spirit through his sermons and in interviews with journalists. In 1999, he began debates with the Ecumenical Patriarchate which lasted almost until his death. In Ecumenical Relations, Archbishop Christodoulos crafted links between the Church of Greece and the Roman Catholic Church, welcoming Pope Jean-Paul II in Athens in 2001 and visiting the Vatican in 2006 at the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI.
The year 2000 raised the issue of ID cards. In 1981, Greece became a member of the European Community. In line with European Community standards, the Greek Government decreed that religion would be excluded from ID car ds. This European, intergovernmental decision provoked an immediate and lively reaction from the Church of Greece, which mobilised a large number of citizens. The Church summoned two public demonstrations ( laosynaxes ), one in Thessalonica (14 th June 2000) and the other in Athens (21 st June 2000). On both occasions, Archbishop Christodoulos was the main speaker – despite the lack of unanimity within the bishops. Approximately 3,5 million Orthodox signed to declare that they wanted religion to remain on ID ca rds. In the end the Church failed to prevent the exclusion.
At present there is much discussion in Greece on the position and future of religions within European Union.
The current Archbishop, Hieronymos Liapis, was elected on 7 th February 2008. In his ina ugural mass he demonstrated a will towards ‘turning the page' of 20 th century history – characterised by the principle of politico-social intervention started by the Religious Movements and applied by Archbishop Christodoulos – and beginning the 21 st centu ry by emphasizing the priority of the exclusively ecclesiastical mission of the Church in society in contemporary Europe and even globally.
According to official statistical data in 2001 in Greece, with a population of approximately 11 million, 95 % were orthodox, 0.9 % Roman Catholic and 0.6 % Protestants, 2,7 % Muslims and a marginal Jewish Community. The Catholic Greeks during the 20 th century numbered between 45.000 and 55.000 believers, 0.5 % of the population. However, with the recent influx of immigrants (e.g. from Poland, the Middle East, Philippines), the Roman Catholic Community in Greece may consist of around 350.000 members. Finally, regarding canonical and civil marriages, which occur equally within Greece, it should be noted that, statistically, 95 % of the marriages take place in the Church.
The organisation of the Church of Greece in our days
In conformity with the current Statutory Charter, the Holy Synod deals with ecclesiastical matters with the assistance of twelve Synodal Committees – (1) General Secretariat, (2) Ecclesiastical art and music, (3) Nomo-Canonical and dogmatic affairs, (4) Pastoral work and worship, (5) Monastic life, (6) Christian education for young people, (7) Inter-Orthodox relations with other Christians, (8) Ecclesiastical training for the clergy, (9) Press and public relations, (10) Heresy, (11) Social assistance and (12) Church finances.
The Monastery of Petrakis, in Athens, is the centre of the Holy Synod, with the offices of the Synodal Commissions, the Ecclesiastical Courts and the Apostoliki Diakonia, founded in 1936 for the Greek missions abroad, especially in Africa and the Far East.
From 1971 onwards, the Monastery of Pentelis in Athens had been devoted to being a centre of “Inter-Orthodox Relations” with the aim to promote relations with other locally established Orthodox Churches and also other Christian Churches, through engaging in Ecumenical dialogue and international theological meetings.
In the year 2000, four Ecclesiastical Academies (with four year long studies) where established (in Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete and Vellas-Ioannina), after a Parliament vote in 2006. These Academies were added to the 26 secondary church schools for young people's theological training and to the four church colleges that already existed.
On a theological level there are now in Greece numerous internationally renowned theologians such as Chrys. Papadopoulos, Chr. Androutsos, P. Balanos, P. Trembelas, P. Bratsiotis, J. Karmiris, B. Vellas, P. Nellas, P. Christou, Ev. Theodorou, N. Nissiotis, and their successors. Many of them were involved in the Ecumenical Theological Dialogue.
The role of women is often reduced to doing charity work, but nowadays there are a few female orthodox theologians. The bishop Nectaire of Aegina tried to reactivate the institution of deaconesses in Aegina. However this development was short-lived.
Also cited here are ecclesiastical publications such as Synaxis, On Way (Kath' Odon) and a theological review of the Ecumenical Patriarchate published in Thessalonica Heritage (Klironomia), without forgetting the official Church of Greece magazines Ecclesia and Theologia.
The Church supports many charitable activities (orphanages, old people's homes, hospitals, etc.) within all its Dioceses. The Church of Greece also partakes in philanthropic activities to help Orthodox people in the Balkans, in Africa and in Asia through the already mentioned Apostoliki Diakonia.
In 2008 the Church of Greece is made up of 81 Metropolises (44 from the “Autocephalous Church” and 37 Metropolises of the “New Territories”). To these, one must add 9 Metropolises of the Semi-Autonomous Church of Crete and 5 Dodecanese Metropolises, who are canonically dependent on the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Therefore, the actual number of Metropolitans in Greece is 95, with 51 of those depending on the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and 44 being part of the Autocephalous Church of Greece.
According to the official Records Diptycs of the Church of Greece 2008, there are 8523 parishes and 9842 clerics. There are also 489 monasteries with 5239 monks and nuns.
One must note a decline in monastic life during the first half of the 20 th century, and a revival that took place during the 1970s, which was due to some spiritual fathers and mothers. This was especially the case in Mount Athos, with father Ephrem (+1980) from the Monastery of Xeropotamou, father Vassilios, abbot of the Monastery of Stavronikita and later of Iviron, father Emilianos of the Monastery of Simonos-Petra, father Georges of the Monastery of Gregoriou and father Ephrem of the Monastery of Philotheou.
Among the prominent female monasteries, one must cite Saint Patapios in Loutraki, the monastery of Dormition in Panorama (in Thessalonica), the monastery of the Virgin in Chios and Tinos, that of Saint John the Theologian in Souroti, and of Dormition at Ormylia (both near Thessalonica).
The best known saints canonized during the 20 th century are Saint Nectarios (1846-1920), founder of the monastery of the Holy Trinity on the Isle of Aegina; Saint Nicolas Planas (1851-1932) who loved the poor, and Saint Silouan the Athonite (1866-1938). We venerate other holy men like the monks Paissios (+1994) and Porphyre (+1991).
Moreover, the leader of artistic ecclesial iconography in Greece during the 20 th century was Photios Kontoglou (1896-1965).
In certain parishes one can find cultural centres and also small museums.
On a musical level, there are some renowned singers in the byzantine style, the best known of which is Lucurgus Angelopoulos.
During the 20 th century, the Church went from the submission lived during the 19 th century to the domination of the State that intervened a lot in its affairs. It endured 50 years (1923-1974) of permanent conflict between political and ecclesiastical leaders to establish some sort of harmony between the Church and the State. The Statutory Charter of the Church of Greece from 1977 allowed a quiet split in the administration of the Church and the State, with well defined roles for both parties.
From 1923 to 1943, the each Statute Charter was less respected than the one before it, with 29 arbitrary interventions by the State in Church affairs and from 1943 to 1968 were 22 arbitrary interventions. To put an example, in 1966 the Government told the Holy Synod that it was not giving it permission to elect bishops and closed the gates of the city of Athens so that no bishops could enter it. At last, from 1977 to 2008, there were no more arbitrary interventions by the Greek State in the affairs of the Church.
As for Religious Brotherhoods, they were particularly powerful during the period between 1945 and 1967, and managed to, luckily for them, to heavily influence the Greek Government. In the year 2000, there remained somewhere between 5000 and 7000 active members of Soter, and very few of Zôè.
The ecclesiastical troubles during the 20 th century can be attributed in part to the three dictatorships (1925-1936-1967), general political instability, the Second World War, the ideological heritage of politicians concerning State interventionism and the absence, at least during certain periods, of a strong ecclesiastical authority, capable of pursuing a defined ecclesiastical agenda.
During the 20 th century, one can talk about the gradual liberation of the Church from the State's stranglehold through the progressive reinforcement of the canonical institution of the Holy Synod and the Permanent Holy Synod that represented it. Thus the circumstances determining the administration of the Church went through five phases during the 20 th century: 1923-1938, 1938-1941, 1941-1966, 1967-1974 and 1975-2008. During one period, beginning with Archbishop Chrysostomos (1923-1938), the Church of Greece oscillated between two supreme administrative authorities, adopting one or the other administrative system without it necessarily matching the ecclesiastical needs of the time.
When studying all the problems the Church of Greece had to face during the 20 th century, a question arises: how can this perpetual State interventionism in the functioning of the Church and its organization be explained? Orthodoxy is the main religion of the Greek people, the Greek State should have given “preferential” treatment to “its” Church. But the State was interested in the workings of the Church insofar as it reinforced its tendency to have control on the Church; this went on until 1975, when the innovative 10 th Constitution of the Greek State which institutes the “conventional relations system” ( consonantia ) was passed.
“Autocephalous Church of Greece” and the “Church of/in Greece”
Following the historical changes that occurred during the 19 th and 20 th and also the geographical enlargement of Greece after 1882, when it almost doubled the size of its territory, it would be good to understand the term “Church of Greece” and differentiate it from Church in Greece.
I. The Church of Greece
After law 3615 of 1928 and the Patriarchal Synodal Act of 1928, the Church of Greece included the Autocephalous Church of Greece and the Metropolises under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the New Territories in Northern Greece.
The Autocephalous Church of Greece (1850-1882) was made up of “Old” (Southern) Greece (1850), Heptanese (1866) and Thessaly (1882).
The Metropolises of the New Territories of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (Law 3615 from 1928) comprised: Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace and the Islands of the Aegean Sea.
II. The Church of Crete, the Metropolises of Dodecanese and Mount Athos
In Greece, there are still three ecclesiastical regions that are not under the jurisdiction of the Church of Greece, but rather are directly under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and whose Metropolitans do not have any representation in the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece : Crete, which was politically united with Greece in 1910 and was semi-Autonomous from 1900, the Dodecanesian Isles which were reattached to Greece after the Second World War (1947) and Mount Athos which was reattached to Greece in 1912 and was dependent on the Patriarchate of Constantinople according to the Statute Charter of 1924, as ratified by the Greek Government.
- The Isle of Crete (Semi-Autonomous Church)
The Isle of Crete obtained in 1898 the status of an Autonomous Principality (“Cretan Politeia”) under Ottoman rule. In 1900 the Patriarchate of Constantinople granted it a special ecclesiastical status too (semi-Autonomy).
The Metropolis of Crete was divided into nine dioceses, governed by a Provincial Synod based at Heraklion and presided over by the Metropolitan of Crete.
From 1967, the Metropolis of Crete was named “Archdiocese of Crete” and its Metropolitan [of Crete] was named “Archbishop of Crete”. The Archbishop and other bishops are named by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Church Crete conserved, and does up to this day, its special status of semi-Autonomy, and, even though it is called the Orthodox Church of Crete (Law 4149 of 1961), it is neither Autocephalous nor Autonomous, but rather semi-Autonomous.
- Dodecanesian Isles (Metropolises)
The ecclesiastical region of the Dodecanesian Isles (Dodecanese) is made up of five Metropolises. The Dodecanesians were liberated after the Second World War, and reunited to Greece in 1947. Having been a part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912, the Dodecanesian Isles – the name implying that there are twelve islands (the most important being Rhodes, Kos, Leros, Kalymnos, etc.) – were under Italian occupation from 1920, year after which they were directly annexed to Italy (Treaty of Sèvres 1920, ratified in 1923 by the Treaty of Lausanne). In the years that followed, Mussolini's government tried to organize an “Autocephalous Orthodox Church” within the Dodecanisians and also within other Greek communities under Italian rule, in Tripolitania and in Eritrea. To this end, negotiations with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria were started, but no agreement was finally reached. Finally, in 1947, after Italy's withdrawal, the Dodecanesians were re-annexed to the Greek State by the Treaty of Paris.
Law 1062 from 1949 established the possibility of extending with the Dodecanesian Isles the same ecclesiastical legislation of the Church of Greece. Nevertheless, this provision has not yet been applied.
The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople elects the metropolitans and exercises a direct administrative authority known as “second level”.
- Monastic Politeia of Mount Athos
The peninsula of Athos has had the millenary status of “Monastic Politeia” since the year 963. Upon its liberation from Ottoman rule in 1912, it obtained a special legal regime that has lasted until our days. The Holy Mountain was excluded from the Patriarchal Synodal Act of 1928, and also from Law 3615 from 1928. The legal foundations upon which the structure of the Athonian Politeia is based are laid by the Greek constitution of 1975 and also by the Statute Charter ratified by it. In fact, it is a fundamental part of the Greek State and it is governed politically and ecclesiastically in a special manner defined in each and every Hellenic Constitution (1926-1927-1948-1952-1968-1975), which guarantees the Autonomous administration of its institutions.
According to the Hellenic Constitution of 1975 (article 105), the Athos peninsula is a self administered enclave within the Greek State with a special ecclesiastical regime. In conformity with this constitutional clause, it is run under an old system of privileges to wenty representatives of twenty monasteries. The administrative direction is charged to the State, there represented by a Prefect-Governor whose competences are defined by law. The inner workings are governed by the Statute Charter of Mount Athos, approved in 1924 and ratified by the Greek Constitution of 1926.
The Monasteries of Mount Athos are autonomous and can manage their own properties.
The Treaties of Berlin (1878), Bucharest (1913) and Sèvres (1920) and especially that of Lausanne (1923) assure the inviolability of all the monasteries in Athos.
E.U. law, after Greece joining the European Economic Community (1979), recognizes in an Act, within a common Declaration (-No. 4-) relative to Mount Athos the special status of Athonite Politeia. It is the so-called “Athonite Law” that is based on article 105 of the Hellenic Constitution.
As far as stavropegiac monasteries are concerned, they depend directly on the Patriarchate of Constantinople, even though they are on Greek soil. They include the Patriarchal Exarchate in Patmos (Archipelagos in the Aegean Sea), the patriarchal monastery of Vlatadon, in Thessalonica (Central Macedonia), and also the patriarchal monastery of Saint Anastasia in Chalcidice (Central Macedonia).
And as for the Old Calendarists, their Church began with a schism in 1925, under Archbishop Chrysostomos Papadopoulos. The Metropolitans of Florina and Zante refused to accept the change in the calendar approved Pan-orthodox Decision on the 5 th of June 1923 and applied in March 1924 within the Church of Greece. The Church then appointed two other canonical bishops. After their deaths (after the Second World War) some wanted to continue following the old calendar and created their own hierarchy (with three different currents on how to do so in the beginning and a total of 17 different parallel Old Calendarist Churches of Greece by 2008). This matter still divides Greek society today.
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*Text published in Chr. Chaillot (sous la direction de), L'Église orthodoxe en Europe orientale au XXe siècle , Paris, éd. Le Cerf (coll. Histoire religieuse de l'Europe contemporaine, n° 5), 2009, p. 51-76, in Chr. Chaillot (ed.), The Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century , Bern, ed. Peter Lang, 2011, p. 39-68, and in Кристин Шайо (Под редакцией), Православная Церковь в Восточной Европе 20-й век , Kiev, Дух и л i тера, 2010, p. 53-79 (in Russian).