Volume III - Church History

Twentieth Century

Other Orthodox Churches


The Orthodox Church in Serbia declared its autocephaly in 1832, after the success of the Serbian Revolution against the Ottoman Turks. This status was officially recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1879. In 1920 the Serbian patriarchate—which was lost in 1459, regained in 1557, and lost again in 1766—was restored, with its headquarters located in the capital city of Belgrade. In this same year of 1920, the Church was officially separated from the State.

Saint Nikolai Velimirovich

During World War II, the Serbian Church suffered terribly at the hands of the Croatian Ustashi, in alliance with the German Nazis. Patriarch Gavrilo (Dozich) (1881–1950), as well as Saint Nikolai Velimirovich, were incarcerated in the Nazi prison camp at Dachau, and some 800,000 Serbians were uprooted or massacred by the Ustashi. Sometimes they were killed for refusing to convert to Roman Catholicism.

From 1945 to 1990, the Church in Serbia (Yugoslavia) continued to suffer persecution under the Communist regime established by Marshal Tito (1892–1980). In 1990, when the Soviet era came to an end, Patriarch Pavle (Stojchevich) (r. 1990–2009) publicly apologized for any collaboration with the Communists, and offered to step down from office. This offer was rejected by the Church, and he continued as the Patriarch until his death in 2009. He was succeeded by Patriarch Irenej (Gavrilovich) (b. 1930), who continued to rule the Church of Serbia in 2013.

In 2010 the Serbian Church glorified as saints two famous Serbian ascetics: Father Justin Popovich (1894–1979) of the Chelije Monastery, and Father Simeon Popovich (1854–1941) of the Dajbabe Monastery.


The Romanian Orthodox Church declared its autocephaly in 1859, when the modern Romanian nation was formed. This status was officially recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1885. In 1925, the Romanian Church received a patriarch for the first time, with his headquarters located in the capital city of Bucharest. To this day this Church remains the state-church of Romania, which is the most thoroughly Orthodox nation in the world. Liturgical services are done in the modern Romanian language.

The Romanian Christians suffered much during the Communist era after WWII. The persecution was moderated by the fact that the Church was firmly under State control, and because of close personal relationships between some of the Communist and Orthodox leaders. Unlike the Soviet government in Russia, the Romanian government was not determined to create an atheist state and society.

Freedom for the Church came at the end of 1989 with the fall of the brutal dictator Nicolae Ceauseșcu (1918–1989). Patriarch Teoctist (Arăpașu) (r. 1986–2007) resigned under pressure for alleged collusion with the Ceauseșcu regime, but he was reinstated by the Holy Synod of the Church in April of 1990.

In May of 1999, Pope John Paul II visited Romania at the invitation of Patriarch Teoctist. This was in all probability the first time any Roman bishop ever visited Romania.

Upon Patriarch Teoctist’s death in 2007, he was succeeded by Patriarch Daniel (Ciobotea) (b. 1951), who continued to rule the Church of Romania in 2013.

According to the census of 2011, the Church of Romania had over 16 million adherents, who made up about 86% of the population.

Syria and Lebanon

In 1899 the Antiochian Patriarchate in the Middle East received its first Arab primate since 1724, with considerable help from the Russians. This was Patriarch Meletius II (Doumani), who ruled until 1906. At present, all the higher clergy are Arabs.

In 1942 a youth movement was started, called simply the Orthodox Youth Movement. Comprised mostly of laity, it has been especially important in bringing new vitality to the Church in Syria and Lebanon. The group has been active in book publishing and in various forms of social outreach. Their work was especially appreciated during the long years of civil war from 1975 to 1990.

Patriarch Ignatius (Hazim) IV (1921–2012), who was a member of the Orthodox Youth Movement along with others who have become bishops of the Church, began his reign as Patriarch of Antioch in 1979. In 1988 he founded the University of Balamand, which now has oversight of the Saint John of Damascus School of Theology (founded in 1970), the patriarchate’s only seminary for training priests.

In 2012 Patrarch Ignatius died. He was succeeded by Patriarch John X (Yazigi) (b. 1955).


The Patriarchate in Jerusalem continues to the present to have a Greek primate, who must be a member of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre that is responsible for the upkeep of the holy sites in the Holy Land. A council of Arab priests and laymen was formed in 1911 to participate in Church government.

While the Church hierarchy is still predominantly Greek, the faithful are predominantly Arabs living in the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. This has been a source of discontent among the Arab Orthodox, as they have felt that their particular needs have not been sufficiently addressed by the Greek hierarchy.

In 2013 the patriarch of Jerusalem was Patriarch Theophilos (Giannopoulos) III (b. 1952).


For centuries, the ministry of the Patriarchate of Alexandria was mostly confined to a relatively small Greek community in Egypt that was surrounded by Copts, who have had their own (Non-Chalcedonian) Church since the 6th century, and also by Muslims since they took over the country in the mid-7th century.

In the late 1800s, the character of the Patriarchate began to change, as Greek and Lebanese merchants fanned out across the continent, sometimes establishing churches on their own. Jurisdictional confusion was avoided by a general agreement made in the 1920s that all Orthodox churches in Africa would be included within the Patriarchate of Alexandria.

In the 20th century, the Patriarchate also made efforts to nurture Orthodoxy among Africans living south of the Sahara Desert. These efforts were aided by the Churches in Greece and Cyprus, which in the early 1970s built the Archbishop Makarios Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya, to serve all of East Africa.

In the 1920s several native Africans in Kenya discovered the Orthodox Church through their own studies, and gathered followers. In 1946, the Orthodox Christians in Kenya and Uganda were officially received into the Patriarchate of Alexandria. In 1973, four bishops were consecrated for the Orthodox in East Africa, including two of the group’s original leaders—Reuben Spartas Mukasa (1899–1988) and Theodore Nankyamas. Mukasa had first been ordained as a priest in 1932 by a bishop of the non-canonical African Orthodox Church that originated in America in the 1920s under Marcus Garvey.

From 1997 to 2004, Patriarch Petros (Papapetrou) VII (1949–2004) guided the expansion of his Church all across Africa, including into some Arab Muslim countries. His ministry was tragically cut short when he was killed in a helicopter crash that also took the life of the dynamic bishop of Madagascar, Bishop Nektarios. Patriarch Petros was succeeded by Patriarch Theodoros II (Choreftakis) (b. 1954) in 2004. He continued to rule this Patriarchate in 2013.

While the patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa has continued to be a Greek, in 2013 there were several native African bishops, including the dynamic Metropolitan Ieronymos (Muzeeyi) of Mwanza, Tanzania (b. 1963).


The Orthodox Church in Poland received autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1924. This was recognized by the Church of Russia in 1948.

When the Soviet Union annexed eastern Poland after WWII, the Polish Orthodox Church lost about 80% of its membership.

After political freedom came to Poland in 1991, ending its status as a satellite state of the Soviet Union, the new government granted the Orthodox Church equal legal status with the predominant Roman Catholic Church. This law also allowed the Orthodox to reclaim properties previously seized by the Roman Church.

Since 1998 the Polish Church has been led by Metropolitan Sava (Hrycuniak) (b. 1938). In 2013 the membership of the Polish Church was estimated at about 600,000, spread across seven archdioceses, including one in South America centered in Rio de Janeiro.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia

By 1925, there were two dioceses of Orthodox Christians in Czechoslovakia, both under the authority of the Serbian Orthodox Church. In 1942, during WWII, the especially effective and beloved bishop of the Czech diocese, Bishop Gorazd (Pavlik) (1879–1942), a former Roman Catholic priest, was executed by the German Nazi occupiers, along with hundreds of clergy and laity, and the Czech Orthodox Church was outlawed. Bishop Gorazd was glorified as a New Martyr by the Church in Serbia in 1961.

After WWII, the restored Czech diocese, along with the Diocese of Presov in Slovakia, came under the authority of the Church of Russia. In 1951, the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia was granted autocephaly by the Church of Russia.

This was not recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but after the fall of Communism and the establishment in 1993 of the separate nations of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia was recognized as autocephalous by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This happened in 1998, as a unilateral action taken by the Ecumenical Patriarchate solely on its own accord (i.e., without reference to the previous autocephaly granted by the Church of Russia).

In 2013, Metropolitan Christopher (Pulets) (b. 1953) was the ruling hierarch of this Church, having succeeded Metropolitan Nicholas (1927–2006) in 2006. As of 2013 there were 82 parishes in the Czech Republic and 90 in Slovakia.


The Albanian Church in the motherland was granted autocephaly in 1937 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In 1939, after Fascist Italy occupied the country, an attempt was made to unite the Albanian Orthodox Church with the Church of Rome, but this failed.

In 1945, with Albania falling to the Communists, the Church was subject to various forms of persecution. Beginning in 1967, the Communist government of Albania began subjecting the Christians and Muslims to the most intense persecution anywhere, as it tried to establish a completely atheistic state and society.

In 1991, after the fall of the Communist regime, the Ecumenical Patriarch appointed Anastasios (Yannoulatos) (b. 1929) as patriarchal exarch. In the next year he was made Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania, along with three other diocesan metropolitans, all of Greek descent. The civil authorities strongly opposed this development for nationalistic reasons. They finally accepted the arrangement after two of the Greek metropolitans were replaced with native-born Albanians, and a synod was formed that officially elected Anastasios as primate.

The Church in Albania has made a miraculous recovery under the energetic, mission- and social-minded leadership of Archbishop Anastasios. He was still leading the Church in 2013.

As of 2013, the Albanian Church had 909 parishes and about 500,000 faithful.


In 1870 the Bulgarians in the Ottoman Empire gained permission from the sultan to have their own churches, to be under an exarchate of the Church of Constantinople. A Church council held in Constantinople two years later condemned this development as the heresy of phyletism (or ethnicism; defined as setting up any church based on the ethnicity of its members). When the Bulgarians refused to yield, they were excommunicated, and the so-called “Bulgarian Schism ” began.

Reconciliation was not achieved until 1945, when the Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized an independent Bulgarian Church within the boundaries of the modern Bulgarian nation. In 1953 the Bulgarian Church proclaimed Metropolitan Cyril of Sofia as patriarch, thus restoring the office that was lost in 1393 when the Bulgarians became subject to the Ottoman Turks. Constantinople officially recognized the Patriarchate of Bulgaria in 1961.

Patriarch Maxim (Minkov) (1914–2012) shepherded the Bulgarian flock from 1971 until his death in 2012. With the collapse of the Communist government, in the early 1990s some of the parishes broke away from Patriarch Maxim, accusing him of collaboration with the former regime. They organized themselves into an Alternate Synod. Reconciliation had still not been achieved by 2013.

Patriarch Maxim died in November of 2012. In February of 2013, he was succeeded by Patriarch Neofit (Dimitrov) (b. 1945), who had been the Metropolitan of Ruse (Rousse) in Bulgaria. An expert Church musician and erudite theologian, he was known to have had a close relationship with Patriarch Maxim.

The Bulgarian Church had about 6.5 million members as of 2013, with an additional 1.5 to 2 million scattered in other parts of the world.


The Church in Ukraine, the original heartland of Orthodoxy in the lands of Rus, has been within the Patriarchate of Moscow since 1686, but there was always a yearning among many of the Ukrainian Orthodox to have their own autocephalous Church. When an independent Ukrainian state emerged after WW I, a self-proclaimed independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was also established, at an assembly in Kiev in 1921. But since no bishops could be found to endorse the movement, the delegates decided to have priests (presbyters) consecrate their own bishops.

The resulting “self-consecrated” Ukrainian hierarchy was never accepted by worldwide Orthodoxy. Yet in the 1920s this non-canonical Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) flourished, with some 2500 priests and 2000 parishes. In the 1930s Stalin completely suppressed this Church. It was revived in the German occupation during WW II, this time with an episcopacy with a legitimate apostolic succession, but after the war Stalin suppressed it again.

Negotiations between the Ukrainian “self-consecrated” jurisdiction and the Patriarchate of Constantinople developed in the 1970s, but without clear and conclusive results.

As an independent nation of Ukraine was again being established as the Iron Curtain was collapsing, the UAOC was again revived, though still without recognition by the other Orthodox Churches worldwide. By 1992, this group had about 1500 parishes, but it was split into two parts. Among the 5500 Ukrainian parishes still under the Moscow Patriarchate, there was also a split, with some of them proclaiming themselves to be independent.

At the same time, the Eastern-rite Greek Catholics (Uniates) in Ukraine had about 2700 parishes. These parishes had been either closed or forced to become Orthodox by Stalin. With the fall of the Soviet regime, they were free to return to Eastern-rite Catholicism. There was still much antagonism on this account in 2013 between the Orthodox and the Eastern-rite Catholics.


Saint Nina of Georgia

According to tradition, the Apostle Andrew was the first missionary to preach Christianity in what is today the Republic of Georgia in the region of the Caucasus Mountains east of the Black Sea. Around the year 330, a woman from Cappadocia in central Asia Minor named Nino (or Nina) came to Georgia as a missionary. Having brought King Mirian and Queen Nana to the Christian Faith, the entire country became Christian. Thus Georgia became the second Christian nation, after Armenia (in about 300). Saint Nina of Georgia is the patronal saint of the nation.

Through the centuries the culture and society of Georgia have been deeply penetrated with Orthodox Christianity, enabling the people to stay firm in their Faith during periods of rule by Zoroastrian Persians and Muslim Arabs, Mongols, and Ottoman Turks. Ten years after Georgia became absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1801, the Church was subordinated to the Russian Church. The Church regained its autocephaly in 1917, but in the Soviet era it experienced drastically severe persecution. From 2455 churches in 1921, there were only 25 left open in 1977, along with only four small monasteries.

Beginning in 1977, the Georgian Church has revived greatly under the leadership of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia (Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili) II (b. 1933), sparked by his open critique of Soviet ideology. By 2003 there were 550 parishes with 1100 clergy, along with 65 monasteries. In 2013 about 80% of the population was Orthodox, with the Church still being led by Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia.

As of 2013, the Church in Georgia had about 3.6 million members, who made up about 84% of the population, according to the 2002 census. The Church has about 33 dioceses, with some 550 parishes served by 730 priests.


In 1918 the Orthodox Church of Finland became the second “established” (State-supported) Church in Finland, after the Lutheran Church. Due to heavy pressure from the State, the Finnish Church is the only Orthodox Church that always celebrates Pascha on the same date as Western Easter.

In 1923 the Church in Finland was granted a fully autonomous status by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, although this was not accepted until 1957 by the Church of Russia, which had missionized the region in the Middle Ages. The local bishops of the Finnish Church are elected by the general assembly of clergy and laity; only the Archbishop’s election must be ratified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

After WWII, when eastern Finland (Karelia) was annexed by the Soviet Union, 75% of the Orthodox there fled to the western part of the country, where the government generously helped them restore normal church life. The New Valamo Monastery has become a place of pilgrimage for the whole nation, and in many other ways the small Orthodox Church contributes to the religious and cultural life of Finland.

Archbishop Paavali (Paul) (Olmari) (r. 1960–1987) was an especially beloved primate of the Church of Finland. He was followed by Archbishop John (Rinne) (r. 1987–2001), who was a convert from Lutheranism. He was the first western convert to become the head of any Orthodox Church in the world. Upon his death, Archbishop John was followed by Archbishop Leo (Makkonen) (b. 1948). Archbishop Leo was still leading his Church in 2013.

The Orthodox Church of Finland had about 60,000 members as of 2013, out of a total population of over 5 million.

Western Europe

Russian Exarchate of Western Europe within the Ecumenical Patriarchate

During the 1920s, the Moscow Patriarchate demanded a pledge of loyalty to the Soviet regime from the Russian Church in Western Europe. Metropolitan Evlogy (Georgievsky) (1868–1946; r. 1921–1946), appointed by Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow, refused to comply, and appealed to Constantinople. Thus, in 1931, the Russian Church in Western Europe became an exarchate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Many famous Russian churchmen and theologians were in this exarchate led by Metropolitan Evlogy, who in 1925 founded the Saint Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris.

This spiritual and academic institute became the center of Orthodox learning in the West, where such notable men were gathered as Father Sergei Bulgakov (1871–1944); Father Vasily Zenkovsky (1881–1962); Bishop Kassian (Bezobrazov) (1892–1965); Archmandrite Cyprian (Kern) (1899–1960); Father Nicholas Afanasiev (1893–1966); Father Georges Florovsky (1893–1979), who became dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in New York and later taught at Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline; and Professor Anton Kartashev (1875–1960), who was the last (de facto) oberprokuror of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church, serving under the very short-lived provisional government led by Alexander Kerensky. Kartashev helped organize and served as secretary of the great Russian Church Council held in Moscow in 1917–1918.

Mention also must be made of the Russian priests Father Alexander Elchaninoff (1881–1934) and Father Sergei Chetverikoff (1880–1959). Working in France along with many of the professors of the Saint Sergius Institute, they labored closely with the Russian Student Christian Movement, which did important work among Russian émigrés during this period.

In 1965 the Russian Exarchate of Western Europe was made a vicariate, but in 1999 its status was restored as an exarchate. In recent times the primates of this jurisdiction have been Archbishop George (Tarassov) (r. 1960–1981), Archbishop George (Wagner) (r. 1981–1993), Archbishop Serge (Konovalov) (r. 1993–2003), and Archbishop Gabriel (de Vylder), a Belgian, who was still leading this Church in 2013. Its parishes number about 100, with 40 in France and the others scattered across most of Western Europe and Britain, especially in Scandinavia.

The Moscow Patriarchate continued to operate its exarchate in Western Europe, with Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh (1914–2003) in London and Archbishop Basil (Krivosheine) (1900–1985) in Brussels as its most well-known leaders. Metropolitan Anthony was nationally recognized in Great Britain for his teaching, writing, and radio broadcasts, while Archbishop Basil was a renowned Patristics scholar.

Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)

Immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution, a group of Russian émigré churchmen, together with leading monarchist laymen, formed themselves into the Russian Orthodox Synod in Exile, also called the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). This group, led by Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) (1863–1936), established its center in Sremski-Karlovtsy in Serbia, where it received the right to function independently from the local ecclesiastical hierarchy. Because of its location in Sremski-Karlovtsy, the group also received the name Karlovtsy Synod.

In 1930, ROCOR founded Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, which in 2013 was this body’s largest monastery. In 1948, Holy Trinity Seminary opened on the monastery grounds; this institution continued serving in 2013 as ROCOR’s only seminary.

Except for the years from 1937 to 1946, ROCOR and the (Russian) Metropolia in America were not in communion, and both groups remained alienated from the Moscow Patriarchate—until 1970, when the Metropolia was granted autocephaly by Moscow and became the OCA. Under Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) (r. 1964–1985) and Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov) (r. 1986–2001), ROCOR continued to defend and propagate strict anti-ecumenical and anti-New Calendar views.

Saint John (Maximovitch)

From 1962 until his death in 1966, the renowned wonderworker and clairvoyant elder Saint John (Maximovitch) (1896–1966) was the ROCOR Archbishop of San Francisco. He was glorified as a saint by ROCOR in 1994.

Under Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla) (r. 2001–2008), relations improved considerably between ROCOR and the Patriarchate of Moscow, leading to full reconciliation in May of 2007, with ROCOR continuing its independent administrative existence. By 2013, there were still a number of its parishes which had not accepted the reconciliation and hence remained in schism.

Other Orthodox Dioceses in Western Europe

Saint Silouan of Mount Athos

In 1922 Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios (Metaxakis) (1871–1935) established the Diocese of Thyateira to care for all the Greek Orthodox Christians living in Western and Central Europe. Beginning in 1988 and continuing into 2013, this body has been headed by Gregorios (Theocharous), Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, and Exarch of Western Europe, Ireland and Malta. In 2013 this jurisdiction had about 100 parishes in Great Britain, along with the ­celebrated Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, founded in 1959 in Essex, England, by Father Sophrony (Sakharov) (1896–1993), the most famous disciple of Saint Silouan of Mount Athos (1866–1938).

About 20 former Anglican parishes joined the Antiochian Orthodox Church in the 1990s. From 2008 to 2012, these parishes were under the care of Metropolitan John (Yazigi) of Western and Central Europe, residing in Paris.

Now known as the Antiochian Archdiocese of Europe, this jurisdiction also has parishes in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, as well as France. By January of 2013, a successor had not yet been appointed to follow Metropolitan John, who was elected to be the new Patriarch of Antioch in December of 2012.

Metropolitan Laurus was succeeded in 2008 by Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral). Born in Alberta, Canada, in 1948, he continued to lead his Church in 2013.

Significant numbers of Serbian and Romanian parishes also existed in Britain and Western Europe in 2013.