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Bishop Kallistos Ware
Orthodox Church

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  • Part I: History.
    • The twentieth century, Greeks and Arabs
      • Western Orthodoxy
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Western Orthodoxy

  Let us look briefly at the Orthodox communities in western Europe and in North America.

In 1922 the Greeks created an Exarchate for western Europe, with its center in London. The first

Exarch, Metropolitan Germanos (1872-1951),  was widely known for  his work for Christian

unity, and played a leading part in the Faith and Order Movement between the .wars.  In 1963

this Exarchate was divided into four separate dioceses, with bishops at London, Paris, Bonn, and

Vienna; further dioceses were later formed in Scandinavia and Belgium, and most recently of all

(1982) in Switzerland. There are about 130 Greek parishes in western Europe with permanent

churches and resident clergy, and in addition a number of smaller Church groups.

  The chief centers of Russian Orthodoxy in western Europe are Munich and Paris. At Paris

the celebrated Theological  Institute of Saint Sergius (under the Paris jurisdiction of Russians),

founded in 1925, has acted as an important point of contact between Orthodox and non-

Orthodox. Particularly during the inter-war period, the Institute numbered among its professors


an extraordinarily brilliant group of scholars. Those formerly or at present on the staff of Saint

Sergius include Archpriest Sergius Bulgakov (1871-1944), the first Rector; Bishop Cassian

(1892-1965), his successor; A. Kartashev (1875-1960), G.P. Fedotov (1886-1951), P. Evdoki-

mov (1901-1970), Father Boris Bobrinskoy and the Frenchman, Olivier Clément. Three profes-

sors, Fathers  Georges  Florovsky, Alexander Schmemann,  and John Meyendorff, moved to

America, where they played a decisive role in the development of American Orthodoxy. A list of

books and articles published by teachers at the Institute between 1925 and 1947 runs to ninety-

two pages, and includes seventy  full-scale books . a remarkable achievement, rivaled by the

staffs of few theological academies (however large) in any Church. Saint Sergius is also noted

for its choir, which has done much to revive the use of the ancient ecclesiastical chants of Russia.

Almost entirely Russian between the two wars, the Institute now draws the majority of its stu-

dents from other nationalities: in 1981, for example, of the thirty-four students, there were seven

Russians (all except one brought up in France),  seven Greeksfive Serbs, one Georgian, one

Romanian, seven French, two Belgians, two from Africa, and one each from Holland and Israel.

Courses are now mainly in French.

  In western Europe during the post-war period there has also been an active group of Ortho-

dox theologians belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate, including Vladimir Lossky (1903-1958),

Archbishop Basil (Krivocheine) of Brussels, Archbishop Alexis (van der Mensbrugghe) (1899-

1980) and Archbishop Peter (l.Huillier) (now in the U.S.A.), the last two being converts to Or-

thodoxy. Another convert, the Frenchman Father Lev (Gillet) (1892-1980), a priest of the Ecu-

menical Patriarchate, wrote many books as .A Monk of the Eastern Church..

  Several Russian monasteries exist in Germany and France. The largest is the women.s mon-

astery dedicated to the Lesna icon of the Mother of God, at Provemont in Normandy (Russian

Church in Exile); there is a smaller monastery for women at Bussy-en-Othe, in Yonne (Russian

Archdiocese of Western Europe). In Great Britain there is the Monastery of Saint John the Bap-

tist at Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (Ecumenical Patriarchate),  founded  by Archimandrite So-

phrony,  a disciple of Father Silvan of Mount Athos, with Russian, Greek, Romanian, German

and Swiss monks, and  with a women.s  community nearby. There  are also the Convent of the

Annunciation in London (Russian Church in Exile), with a Russian abbess and Arab sisters, and

a few smaller foundations elsewhere.

  In North America there are between two and three million Orthodox, subdivided into at

least fifteen national or jurisdictional groups, and with a total of more than forty bishops. Before

the First World War the Orthodox of America, whatever their nationality, looked to the Russian

Archbishop for leadership and pastoral care, since among the Orthodox nations it was the Rus-

sians who first established churches in the New World. Eight monks, chiefly from Valamo on

Lake Ladoga, originally arrived in Alaska in 1794:one on these, Father Herman of Spruce Island,

was canonized in 1970. The work in Alaska was greatly encouraged by Innocent Veniaminov,

who worked in Alaska  and Eastern Siberia from 1823 to 1868, first  as a priest and then as

bishop. He translated Saint Mathew.s Gospel, the  Liturgy,  and a catechism into Aleutian.  In

1845 he  created  a seminary  at Sitka in Alaska,  and in 1859  an  auxiliary  bishopric was set up

there, which became an independent missionary see when Alaska was sold to the U.S. in 1867.

In Alaska today, out of a total population of 200,000, there are perhaps 20,000 Orthodox, most of

whom are natives; the seminary was reopened in 1973.

  Meanwhile in the second part of the nineteenth century, numbers of Orthodox began to set-

tle outside Alaska in other parts of North America.  In 1872 the diocese was transferred from

Sitka to San Francisco, and in 1905 to New York, although an auxiliary bishop was still attached


to Alaska. At the turn of the century, the number of Orthodox was greatly increased by a group

of Uniate parishes which was reconciled to Orthodoxy. The future Patriarch Tikhon was Arch-

bishop of North America for nine years (1898-1907). After 1917, when relations with the Church

of Russia became confused, each national group formed itself into a separate organization and

the present multiplicity of jurisdictions arose. Many see, in Moscow.s grant of autocephaly to the

OCA, a hopeful first step towards the restoration of Orthodox unity in America.

  The Greek Orthodox in North America number over one million, with more than 400 par-

ishes. They are headed by Archbishop Jakovos, who presides over a synod of ten bishops (one

lives in Canada, and another in South America). The Greek Theological School of the Holy

Cross at Boston has some 110 students, most of them candidates for the priesthood. The bishops

in the Greek Archdiocese in America have come in most cases from Greece, but almost all the

parish clergy were born and brought up in the U.S.A. There are two or three small monasteries in

the Greek Archdiocese; the much larger Monastery  of the Transfiguration at Boston, Mass.,

originally under the Greeks, is now within the Russian Church in Exile.

  The Russians have four theological seminaries in America: Saint Vladimir.s in New York

and Saint Tikhon.s in South Canaan, Pennsylvania (both of these belong to the  OCA); Holy

Trinity Seminary at Jordanville, N.Y. (Russian Church in Exile); and Christ the Saviour Semi-

nary in Johnstown, Pennsylvania (Carpatho-Russian diocese). There are several Russian monas-

teries, the largest being Holy Trinity, Jordanville, with thirty monks and ten novices. The monas-

tery,  as  well  as  maintaining  a  seminary  for  theological  students,  has  an  active  printing  press,

which produces liturgical books in Church Slavonic, and other books and periodicals in Russian

or English. The monks also farm, and have built their own church, decorated by two members of

the community with icons and frescoes in the best tradition of Russian religious art.

  Orthodox life in America today displays a most encouraging vitality. New parishes are con-

tinually being formed and new churches built. In some places there is a shortage of priests, but

whereas a  generation ago Orthodox clergy in America were often ordained hastily, with little

training, today in almost every jurisdiction most if not all ordinands have a theological degree.

Orthodox theologians in America are few and often overworked, but their number is gradually

increasing. Holy Cross and Saint Vladimir.s both produce substantial periodicals in the English


  The chief problem which confronts American Orthodoxy is that of nationalism and its place

in the life of the Church. Among members of many jurisdictions there is a strong feeling that the

present subdivision into national groups is hindering both the internal development of Orthodoxy

in America and its witness before the outside world. There is a danger that excessive nationalism

will alienate the younger generation of Orthodox from the Church. This younger generation have

known no country but America, their interests are American, their primary (often their only) lan-

guage is English: will they not drift away from Orthodoxy, if their Church insists on worshipping

in a foreign tongue, and acts as a repository for cultural relics of the .old country.?

  Such is the problem, and many would say that there is only one ultimate solution: to form a

single and autocephalous .American Orthodox Church.. This vision of an American autocephal-

ous Church has its most ardent advocates in the OCA, which sees itself as the nucleus of such a

Church, and among the Syrians. But there are others, especially  among the Greeks, the Serbs,

and the Russian Church  in Exile, who view with reserve this emphasis upon American Ortho-

doxy. They are deeply conscious of the value of the Christian civilizations developed over many

centuries by the Greek and Slavonic peoples, and they feel that it would be a disastrous impover-

ishment for the younger generation, if their Church were to sacrifice this great inheritance and to


become completely .Americanized.. Yet can the good elements in the national traditions be pre-

served, without at the same time obscuring the universality of Orthodoxy?

  Most of those who favor unification are of course alive to the importance of national tradi-

tions, and realize the dangers to which the Orthodox minority in America would be exposed if it

cut itself off from its national roots and became immersed in the secularized culture of contem-

porary America. They feel that the best policy is for Orthodox parishes at present to be .bilin-

gual,. holding services both in the language of the Mother Country and in English. In fact, this

.bilingual. situation is now becoming usual in many parts of America. All jurisdictions in prin-

ciple allow the use of the English language at services and in practice are coming to employ it

more and more; English is particularly common in the OCA and the Syrian Archdiocese. For a

long time the Greeks, anxious to preserve their Hellenic heritage as a living reality, insisted that

the Greek language alone should be used at all services; but in the 1970s this situation changed,

and in many parishes English is now employed almost as much as Greek.

  Over the past few years  there have been increasing signs of cooperation  between national

groups.  In 1954 the Council of Eastern Orthodox Youth Leaders of America was formed, in

which the majority of Orthodox youth organizations participate. Since 1960 a committee of Or-

thodox bishops, representing most (but not all) the national jurisdictions, has been meeting in

New York under the presidency of the Greek Archbishop (this committee existed before the war,

but had fallen into abeyance over many years). So far this committee, known as the .Standing

Conference. or  .SCOBA,. has not been  able to contribute as much to Orthodox unity as was

originally hoped. The grant of autocephaly to the OCA gave rise at the time to sharp controversy,

and the underlying problems thus created remain as yet unsolved; but in practice inter-Orthodox

collaboration still continues.


  A small minority in an alien environment, the Orthodox of the diaspora have found it a hard

task even to ensure their survival. But some of them, at any rate, realize that besides mere sur-

vival they have  a wider task.  If they  really believe the Orthodox faith to be the true Catholic

faith, they cannot cut themselves off from the non-Orthodox majority around them, but they have

a duty to tell others what Orthodoxy is. They must bear witness before the world. The diaspora

has a .missionary. vocation. As the Synod of the Russian Church in Exile said in its Letter of

October 1953, Orthodox have been scattered across the world with God.s permission, so that

they can .announce to all peoples the true Orthodox faith and prepare the world for the Second

Coming of Christ. (This emphasis on the Second Coming will surprise many Christians of the present day, but it

would not  have seemed strange to Christians in the first century. The events of the last fifty  years have led to a

strong eschatological consciousness in many Russian Orthodox circles).

  What does this mean for Orthodox?  It does not of  course imply proselytism in the bad

sense. But it means that Orthodox . without sacrificing anything good in their national tradi-

tions . need to break away from a narrow and exclusive nationalism: they must be ready to pre-

sent their faith to others, and must not behave as if it were something restricted to Greeks or Rus-

sians, and of no relevance to anybody else. They must rediscover the universality of Orthodoxy.

  If Orthodox are to present their faith effectively to other people, two things are necessary.

First, they need to understand their own faith better: thus the fact of the diaspora has forced Or-

thodox to examine themselves and to deepen their own Orthodoxy. Secondly, they need to un-

derstand the situation of those to whom they speak: Without abandoning their Orthodoxy, they

must enter into the experience of other Christians, seeking to appreciate the distinctive outlook of

western Christendom, its past history and present difficulties. They must take an active part in

the intellectual and religious movements of the contemporary west . in Biblical research, in the


Patristic  revival,  in  the Liturgical Movement,  in  the movement  towards  Christian  unity,  in  the

many forms of Christian social action. They need to .be present. in these movements, making

their special Orthodox contribution, and at the same time through their  participation learning

more about their own tradition.

  It is normal to speak of .Eastern Orthodoxy.. But many Orthodox in Europe or America

now regard themselves as citizens of the countries where they have settled; they and their chil-

dren, born and brought up in the west, consider themselves not .eastern. but .western.. Thus a

.Western Orthodoxy. has come into existence. Besides born Orthodox, this Western Orthodoxy

includes  a  small  but  growing  number  of  converts  (almost  a  third  of  the  clergy  of  the  Syrian

Archdiocese in America are converts). Most of these Western Orthodox use the Byzantine Lit-

urgy  of Saint John Chrysostom (the normal Communion Service of the Orthodox Church) in

French, English, German, Dutch, Spanish, or Italian. There are, for example, a number of French

and German Orthodox parishes, as well as (under the Patriarchate of Moscow) a Dutch Orthodox

Mission . all of them following the Byzantine rite. But some Orthodox feel that Western Or-

thodoxy, to be truly itself, should use specifically western forms of prayer . not the Byzantine

Liturgy, but the old Roman or Gallican Liturgies. People often talk about .the Orthodox Liturgy.

when they mean the Byzantine Liturgy, as if that and that alone were Orthodox; but they should

not forget that the ancient Liturgies of the west, dating back to the first ten centuries, also have

their place in the fullness of Orthodoxy.

  This conception of a western-rite Orthodoxy has not remained merely a theory. The Ortho-

dox Church of the present day contains an equivalent to the Uniate movement in the Church of

Rome. In 1937, when a group of former Old Catholics in France under Monsignor Louis-Charles

Winnaert (1880-1937) were received into the Orthodox Church, they were allowed to retain the

use of the western rite. This group was originally in the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate,

and was for many years headed by Bishop Jean de S. Denys (Evgraph Kovalevsky) (1905-1970).

At present it is under the Church of Romania.  There  are several small western-rite Orthodox

groups in the U.S.A. Various experimental Orders of the Mass for use by western-rite Orthodox

have been drawn up, in particular by Archbishop Alexis (van der Mensbrugghe).


  In the past the different autocephalous Churches . often through no fault of their own .

have  been too much  isolated  from one  another.  At times  the  only  formal  contact  has  been  the

regular exchange of letters between the heads of Churches. Today this isolation still continues,

but both in the diaspora and in the older Orthodox Churches there is a growing desire for coop-

eration. Orthodox participation in the World Council of Churches has played its part here: at the

great  gatherings of the  .Ecumenical Movement,. the Orthodox delegates from different auto-

cephalous Churches have found themselves ill-prepared to speak with a united voice. Why, they

have asked, does it require the World Council of Churches to bring us Orthodox together? Why

do we ourselves never meet to discuss our common problems? The urgent need for cooperation

is also felt by many Orthodox youth movements, particularly in the diaspora. Valuable work has

been done here by Syndesmos, an international organization founded in 1953, in which Orthodox

youth groups of many different countries collaborate.

  In the attempts at cooperation a leading part is naturally played by the senior hierarch of the

Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch. After the First World War the Patriarchate of Con-

stantinople contemplated gathering a .Great Council. of the whole Orthodox Church, and as a

first step towards this, plans were made for a .Pro-Synod. which was to prepare the agenda for

the Council. A preliminary Inter-Orthodox Committee met on Mount Athos in 1930, but the Pro-


Synod itself never materialized, largely owing to obstruction from the  Turkish government.

Around 1950 the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras revived the idea, and after repeated post-

ponements a .Pan-Orthodox Conference. eventually met at Rhodes in September 1961. Further

Pan-Orthodox Conferences have met at Rhodes (1963, 1964) and Geneva (1968, 1976, 1982).

The chief items on the  agenda of the .Great Council,. when and if it eventually meets, will

probably be the problems of Orthodox disunity in the west, the relations of Orthodoxy with other

Christian Churches (.ecumenism.), and the application of Orthodox moral teaching in the mod-

ern world.


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