A Guide to Religions, Religious Information and Help in Search for God

Eastern Orthodox Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church has an estimated 158,000,000 to 300,000,000 followers. "Orthodox" is derived from two Greek words, orthos (meaning right) and doxa (meaning teaching).

The formation of the Eastern Orthodox Church was finalized in 1054 with separation of the Patriarch of Constantinople (and later, by other eastern European church leaders in the area of the Byzantine Empire) from the Pope and his western European churches (that formed the Roman Catholic Church with headquarters in Rome, Italy). This happened before the Reformation that started in 1517 and formed Protestantism, the last of the three major divisions of Christianity.

The Eastern Orthodox Church includes many denominations including the Church of Alexandria (founded by St. Mark in Egypt), Church of Antioch (founded by St. Paul in Damascus, Syria), Church of Cyprus, Church of Constantinople (founded by St. Andrew in Istanbul, Turkey and center of the Byzantine Empire), Church of Greece, Church of Jerusalem (credited to Sts. Peter and James), Church of Rome (credited to Sts. Peter and Paul) and Russian Orthodox Church. (NOTE: the Saints were Apostles, who include Jesus Christ's original 12 disciples and Paul.) About 98% of the population in Greece belongs to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

There are also Eastern Orthodox churches in many other countries including those of the old Soviet Union, China and Japan. Furthermore, there are Eastern Orthodox churches in some western countries, like the United States of America.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is currently headed by the Patriarch of Constantinople (a.k.a. the Ecumenical Patriarch or the Universal Patriarch) only in a symbolic way. He only has authority over his own Patriarchate, not over the affairs of other Orthodox churches.

Authority or governing power of the Eastern Orthodox Church is fragmented among the various denominations. (The first) nine Eastern Orthodox churches are headed by "patriarchs", while other Eastern Orthodox churches are headed by archbishops and/or bishops. (NOTE: archbishops and bishops are also part of the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Episcopalian Church organizational structure.)

It was the older churches (now part of the Eastern Orthodox Church) that developed and supported monasticism (secluded life in a monastery by monks or nuns) in the Early Church era.

NOTE: The Oriental Orthodox Church is not the same as the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Oriental Orthodox Church was formed centuries earlier, is much smaller and composed of several denominations including the Armenian Church, Coptic Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Syriac Orthodox Church.


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