Orthodox Christians Number 200 Million Worldwide

Author: ZENIT



Result of Split Following Council of Chalcedon and 1054 Eastern Schism

ROME, 28 JAN 2000 (ZENIT).
At present, there are 200 million Orthodox Christians in the world, one third of whom live in the former Soviet Union. On January 24, ZENIT published an interview with Fr. Boris Bolrinskoy, Dean of the St. Sergius Orthodox Institute for Theological Studies of Paris. Today that interview is being supplemented by a brief description of the different branches of the Orthodox Church, similar to the information given yesterday on the Baptists. By this series of articles on the different Christian denominations, ZENIT hopes to make a contribution to ecumenical dialogue.

During the first centuries of Christianity—from 330 to 1453, Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Many theological debates and councils were held to settle disputes over interpretations of Christian doctrine.

The 4th Ecumenical Council, held in Chalcedon, ended with a split caused by the Monophysites, who admitted only one nature in Christ—the divine. The modern day Churches resulting from that split are the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt; the Orthodox Church in Syria (also known as Jacobite); the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Malabar in southern India, also known as Christians of St. Thomas who, according to tradition, suffered martyrdom near Madras. Technically speaking, these churches are not "Orthodox" in the sense of those of the Great Schism, but common usage calls them that.

1054 was the year of the Great Schism between the Eastern and Roman branches the Catholic Church. The separation was to be long and very painful, exacerbated by the interference of temporal rulers on both sides of the divide.

The Eastern Orthodox Church, with its See in Constantinople, was later identified as Greek Orthodox and, eventually, as it spread northward, Russian Orthodox and Serbian Orthodox. When the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, the leadership of the Orthodox world passed to the Russian Church. The modern branches of this Church include the Rumanian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Ukrainian and Carpatho-Russian Churches, all of which are present in the United States.

The Russian, Ukrainian and other European Orthodox Churches were virtually confined for 70 years, during the period of the communist regime. However, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the disintegration of the Marxist-Leninist empire, the Orthodox Church has come alive in these countries. Over the last few years, millions of Russians have been baptized, including many former members of the Communist Party. This is true of Boris Yeltsin and other authorities who are seen attending Orthodox services. More than 6,000 churches and monasteries have been built or re-opened, although it should be noted, that before the 1917 Revolution, there were 70,000 churches in Orthodox Russia.

After years of persecution and, sadly, at times connivance with the Soviet regime, today the Orthodox Church must face the challenge of modernity, a challenge that the Catholic Church addressed with Vatican Council II, as Fr. Bolrinskoy recalled during his interview. ZE00012823  

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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