(The Dialog) — President Vladimir Putin’s choice to assault Ukraine has cut up the Orthodox Church.
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, a number one authority of the Jap Orthodox Church, shortly condemned the “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”
Against this, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the top of the Russian Orthodox Church, has supported the conflict, which he claimed in a sermon was a battle to defend “human civilization” against the “sin” of “gay-pride parades.”
As a scholar who has spent several decades studying religion in Russia, I’m following the debates inside the Orthodox Church very intently. To raised perceive the present battle, it’s useful to know extra in regards to the construction and historical past of Orthodox Christianity.
What’s the Orthodox Church?
Orthodoxy is the smallest of the three main branches of Christianity, which additionally contains Catholicism and Protestantism. There are about 1.34 billion Catholics, about 600 million Protestants and roughly 300 million Orthodox Christians globally. Most Orthodox Christians reside in Russia, Jap Europe, the Caucasus and the Center East.
Just like the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church claims to be the one true church established by Christ and his apostles.
Orthodox Church construction
Not like the Roman Catholic Church, which is led by the pope, the worldwide Orthodox Church has no single non secular head. As a substitute, the worldwide Orthodox communion is split into autocephalous church buildings. Fashioned from two Greek roots, the phrase “autocephalous” means “self-headed.”
Autocephalous churches are completely independent and self-governing. Every autocephalous Orthodox church has its personal head, a bishop who presides over the territory of his church. Some, however not all, of those presiding bishops bear the title patriarch.
The number of autocephalous churches has varied over time. The 4 oldest patriarchates — Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem — were important religious and political centers in the Byzantine Empire. When Orthodox missionaries introduced their religion to different nations, patriarchates had been established in Bulgaria in the year 927, in Serbia in 1346 and in Moscow in 1589. Within the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, because the Ottoman and Russian empires fell aside, new autocephalous churches had been shaped within the new nations of Greece, Romania, Poland and Albania, between 1850 and 1937.
At the moment there are 14 autocephalous Orthodox churches which can be universally acknowledged within the international Orthodox group. All these autocephalous church buildings share the identical religion and sacraments.
Among the many 14 church buildings, the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople is thought to be the primary amongst equals. Whereas the patriarch of Constantinople enjoys a primacy of honor, he has no direct authority over the opposite church buildings.
The Russian Orthodox Church, with over 90 million members, is by far the most important. The Romanian Orthodox Church boasts the second-largest variety of believers, with about 16 million.
In Ukraine, Orthodox believers are divided between two competing church structures. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was created solely in 2018, is autocephalous. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate is beneath the non secular authority of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Both Ukrainian churches have sharply condemned Russia’s unprovoked conflict in opposition to Ukraine.
The nice schism of 1054
Till the eleventh century, the Orthodox church buildings acknowledged the Roman Catholic Church as one of many autocephalous Orthodox church buildings. By 1054, nonetheless, variations in theology, observe and church authorities led the pope and the patriarch of Constantinople to excommunicate each other. Particularly, the pope claimed to have authority over all Christians, not simply the Christians inside his autocephalous church. The Orthodox Church rejected this declare.
These mutual excommunications had been lifted only in 1965. In 1980, the 14 autocephalous Orthodox church buildings and the Roman Catholic Church created the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue to debate the troublesome points that proceed to divide them. These talks suffered a serious blow in 2018 when the Russian Orthodox Church suspended its participation to protest the creation of a new autocephalous church in Ukraine.
The orthodox clergy
The Orthodox Church is hierarchical. Religious authority is invested in an ordained clergy consisting of bishops, monks and deacons.
Just like the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church holds to the doctrine of apostolic succession. In keeping with this doctrine, Orthodox bishops, who rule over the territory of a diocese, are the direct, historic successors of the apostles. Bishops are completely male. They have to even be monks and must observe a vow of celibacy.
Monks and deacons, who’re ordained by the bishops, lead the non secular and ritual lifetime of Orthodox Christians within the parishes. Not like the bishops, parish monks are normally married. Whereas monks have to be male and most deacons are male, some ladies have been ordained as deaconesses since the early Christian period.
Orthodox non secular life
Orthodox non secular life is centered on the sacraments, or “mysteries,” normally celebrated by the parish priest. The primary sacrament, baptism, is a ceremony of initiation into Christian life.
Most Orthodox Christians are baptized as infants by triple immersion in holy water.
Instantly, a baptized toddler additionally receives two different sacraments. The priest anoints the kid with chrism, a particular oil ready by bishops throughout Holy Week. The priest additionally provides the infant Communion, the consecrated bread and wine which have mystically turn out to be the physique and blood of Christ.
Like Catholics and most Protestants, Orthodox Christians repeatedly have a good time the Eucharist. This central sacrament of the Orthodox Church is called the Divine Liturgy.
Celebrated each Sunday, the Divine Liturgy has three parts: the providing, wherein the priest and deacon put together bread and wine; the gathering, which incorporates the studying of Scripture; and the thanksgiving, wherein the bread and wine are consecrated and given to the trustworthy. A lot of the Liturgy is sung or chanted.
Not like the Catholic Mass, the Divine Liturgy can never be celebrated by a single priest alone. The Liturgy should at all times be celebrated by a group of Christians. Whereas a Catholic church could have a number of Plenty on Sunday, the Orthdox Divine Liturgy might be celebrated only once per day on a given altar.
Like Catholics, Orthodox Christians regularly confess their sins to their priest within the sacrament of penance. Marriage, ordination and the anointing of the sick with holy oil are additionally acknowledged as sacraments.
Icons and worship
Icons – consecrated pictures of holy individuals or occasions – play an necessary position in Orthodox Church life. Orthodox church buildings are crammed with these pictures, which believers honor with kisses and bows.
In Orthodox theology, icons are a sworn statement to the doctrine that God grew to become human in Christ. As a result of he was a human, he could possibly be represented artistically. Likewise, the saints, who’re believed to be crammed with the spirit of Christ, might be portrayed and commemorated in icons.
Orthodox theologians fastidiously distinguish between worship, which is obtainable to God alone, and veneration, which is appropriate for icons.
Orthodox Christians type a worldwide group of accelerating significance. After the autumn of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, the Orthodox church buildings of those nations have grown in numbers and in political affect.
(J. Eugene Clay is an affiliate professor of spiritual research within the Faculty of Historic, Philosophical and Non secular Research at Arizona State College. The views expressed on this commentary don’t essentially replicate these of Faith Information Service.)