THE STAGES IN THE HISTORICAL COURSE OF THE GREEK CHURCH
by Emmanuel Io. Constantinidis
The Church's 2000-year old historical course towards the evangelization of the world was founded on a central axis, namely, the Apostles' teachings, which extended from Jerusalem to Rome "and to the ends of the earth" as expressed by Luke the Evangelist in the Acts (1:8); this axis extended across the entire Greek-Roman world, thus offering prospects to all neighboring lands. Greece was situated at the very center of this axis, and for this reason it was placed at the epicenter of Apostle Paul's mission.
The decision, therefore, that was taken at the convention of January 1st 1999 by the Perpetual Holy Synod of the Church of Greece regarding the dedication of the "Diptychs" of our Saviour's Year 2000 to the commemoration of two important events in its history, was admittedly a most appropriate one.
These two events are: firstly, the 1950th double anniversary of the coming of the Apostle of the nations Paul to Greece (49/50 A.D.) which in turn opened the way to the Christianization of all the European peoples during the first thousand years of the Church's historical existence; secondly, the 150th anniversary of the Church of Greece' formal Declaration of the Autocephalous which virtually crowned the centuries-old, incessant and active presence of the Church in the Greek dominion, during the 2000-year old radiation of the Christian faith among the people.
These are peak events in the centuries-long history of the Greek Church, the importance of which we shall expand on, in the following chapters.
A. The Church of Greece from its foundation to latter years
The coming of the Nations' apostle Paul and his companions to Greece is directly related to the foundation of the first European apostolic Christian Church in Philippi.
We are familiar with the "vision" that "came to Paul in the night" (Acts 16, 8-10), during his stay in the city of Troad: "a man came to him, a Macedon, pleading, and saying: 'go across to Macedonia and help us'. As soon as he had seen this vision, we immediately started to go forth to Macedonia, convinced that the Lord was inviting us to evangelize them".
The propagation of Christianity within the spiritual hearth of the Greek-Roman world was apostle Paul's overwhelming desire; he considered the teaching of the Gospel in the Greek domain the chief purpose of his missionary program, and also viewed it as an important bridge for relaying the glow of Christian faith further across to the West.
Thus, Paul and his travelling companions Silas, Timothy and Luke reached the city of Philippi in Macedonia, as instructed by the Lord, "to evangelize them"; and it was thus, that the foundations of the first Greek church were laid; Paul himself continued on his missionary course, to subsequently found other Churches throughout Greece. Despite reactions and perhaps even persecutions by the Judaeans, Paul's task of evangelizing Greece was not impeded. Thessaloniki, Veria, Athens and Corinthos were Paul's next important missionary goals, and he would later found Churches in these cities also. It was in this way that Paul, the apostle of Nations, laid the foundations for the task of evangelizing Greece.
The apostolic Churches founded by Paul would from then on become the main missionary centers, thanks to which Christianity would propagate and prevail throughout Greece (end of 3rd — beginning of 4th century).
The Apostle's spiritual bonds with the Churches he founded in Greece proved to be a determining factor, both for the prevalence of Christianity within Greece, as well as for its propagation throughout the Greek-Roman world. The Philippeans' zealous dedication, the Thessalonicians' enthusiasm, the Verians' protective nature, the Athenians' unbiased scepticism and the Corinthians' willing reciprocation to Paul's teachings, all explain his untiring vigilance over the stability of the locally founded Churches. This vigilance became apparent, not only through his letters or his missions, but through his repeated, personal visits to them, making the Apostle of Nations — exceptionally — the Apostle of the Hellenes.
Paul will indeed support the Churches founded by him in Greece through numerous epistles, in the anticipation that the true orthodox evangelic faith and traditions would take root in them. This was accomplished — and in such a manner that the locally founded Church of Greece held "amongst all independent orthodox Churches the exceptional privilege of never — within its historical existence — having given birth, nurtured, or raised any heretic deviation or schismatic splitting that would alter or paraphrase any Christian principle or even a basic side of the Church's canonical conscience".
It thus becomes obvious, why the Church of Greece was able to play an important role in the overall course of the Church, from as early as the apostolic times, through the subsequent centuries. Indisputable evidence of this claim, is the presence of many Greek bishops in both Ecumenical as well as local Synods.
The Church of Greece painstakingly guarded the purity of its faith and traditions, even during the long periods of barbaric invasions and the centuries of slavery. Characteristically, during the extensive occupation of Greece by the Franks, and despite the dynastic behaviour of the Crusaders and the unjust propaganda of the Latin Unia in vast areas of the country, the faithful clung to their orthodox traditions and ignored the Franks' oppressive measures. Likewise, the Unia found no reciprocation amongst the Orthodox Hellenes; the Ecumenical Patriarchy, the Mother Church' s untiring vigilance kept alert the Hellenes' orthodox conscience.
On the matter of administrative organization of the Greek Churches, we may note the following: Churches founded during the first three centuries in Greece introduced the metropolitan system of administration, in compliance with the decisions of the 1st Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea (325 A.D.), and were accordingly organized in the following six, large, Metropolitan Provinces of:
Achaia (with Corinthos as Metropolis),
Macedonia (with Thessaloniki as Metropolis),
Thessaly (with Larisa as Metropolis)
Crete (with Gortyna as Metropolis)
Old Epirus (with Nikopolis as Metropolis)
New Epirus (with Dyrrachion as Metropolis)
The Province of the Aegean Islands was not included, as it was under Asian administration.
In each Metropolitan Province were many dioceses, which, although self-contained at their poimantical duties, nevertheless observed obedience to the Provincial Synod under its presiding bishop. The Greek provinces' subordination to the spiritual supervision of the Papal Throne during the 6th and 7th centuries made the Greek Church a functional communications bridge between the Churches of the East and the West.
The detachment of the Eastern Illyrian provinces from the West during the year 732 (or 733) by the emperor Leon III of the Isauri, and their subsequent integration to the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople, created new prospects in the administrational organization of the Greek Ecclesiastical Provinces. The evolution of the "order" of the Metropolises and the dioceses of Greece following their integration to the Ecumenical Throne may be observed by studying the preserved manuscripts of "Taktika" (=Notitiae Episcopatuum) of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. After being fully integrated under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Throne, the Greek Churches have since followed a mutual ecclesiastical life, rendering their undivided services towards solving all arising, difficult ecclesiastical problems. The Greek Churches' stance during the Iconomachy period (726-843 A.D.) was extremely characteristic; they solidly opposed the Iconomachs, in defence of the holy icons.
Greek ecclesiastical life is glorified during the next centuries, thanks to the establishment and growth of monastic centers such as the Athos Holy Mountain (3rd century onwards) and the Meteora (14rd century onwards), without of course overlooking the existence of other Monasteries (Osios Loukas) throughout the Greek domain, both on the continent as well as its islands (Patmos). The contribution of these Monasteries towards developing theological studies and Christian art was both comprehensive and beneficial, to all orthodox peoples.
The Greek Church's course, under the canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, both during the Franks era (13th-14th century), as well as the centuries-long turkish slavery (1453-1821), ran parallel to the course of the Church of Constantinople and all the other Orthodox Churches. Outstanding spiritual personages of the Greek holy clergy and monkhood persistently supported the Church through spiritual means, in order to help preserve the Hellenes' faith and their ethnic self-identity. The results were indeed remarkable. The Greek people and their Church recovered their freedom and their independence.
B. The Church of Greece from its foundation to latter years
The Hellenes' national rebirth, which sprung from the 1821 liberation movement "for the holy faith of Christ and the homeland's freedom", provided a new framework for the Greek Church's organization and its mission. Regions of the Greek domain that were freed from the turks' dynasty now faced insurpassable difficulties in communicating directly with their impoverished Mother Church in Constantinople, and also faced pressing needs to man the Metropolitan provincial hierarchies with Archbishops and bishops of those same, freed regions. However, these circumstantial difficulties which could have been overcome through conventional means during the critical years of the liberation movement, were, regrettably, used as an excuse by supporters of a secular governmental theory, these being Greeks and Bavarians of the "Enlightenment", for the purpose of detaching the Greek Church from the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Pursuant to the Hellenes' national independence, the Greek Church was destined to encounter many painful adventures, on account of the 1833 Viceregency's unilateral, forceful and irregular decree whereby the Church was pronounced autocephalous.
This personal, unjustified and irregular decree from within the Viceregency was the work of Maurer and his accomplice Theokletos Farmakides, and was soon to result in the interruption of canonical relations with not only the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its provincial Greek Churches, but with other Orthodox churches as well.
Of the triumvirate of the viceregency, the person responsible for affairs of the church — Georg Ludwig von Maurer — a renowned professor of both German and French Law at the University of Munich, as well as a notable sociologist, of protestant creed — was a man who was directly influenced by the Enlightenment, in the way that epoch perceived the notion of government.
Ignoring the canonical law and the age-old tradition of the Orthodox Church, he strove, and succeeded, in depriving the Greek Church of its autonomy and independence, and rendered it totally subject to the power of the State. Maurer thus remained faithful to the Western, Protestant prototypes and rendered the Greek Church subject to the monarchic power of the King, without deviating from the old, prevailing Western principle "cuius regio, eius religio" (who has the region has the religion).
On the basis therefore of these principles and provisions, on the 23rd of July 1833, the much-advertised "Proclamation of Independence of the Greek Church" was drawn up and signed, in the city of Nafplion. This was a Royal Decree, which was issued by the triumvirate of the Viceregency, in the name of the still underage King Othon, and constituted the first Statutory Law of the inappropriately decreed Autocephalous Church of the Kingdom of Greece. The context of the aforementioned "Decree" is a faithful, verbatim replication of an organic law of the year 1818 of the Bavarian Consistorium (despite reassurances expressed by Maurer of its originality). It consists of 25 articles, most of which are almost entirely governed by a Protestant spirit and absolute power of the state. Administrative Head of the Church, is the King (article 1). The Church is governed by a perpetual 5-member Synod, recognized as "Holy Synod of the Kingdom of Greece", whose members are chosen by the Government (articles 2-3) and who swear "fealty to the King", upon undertaking their duties (article 8). This Synod is "presided " by a Royal Commisioner, chosen "by the King"; furthermore, any Synodic acts "taking place in his absence, are considered not valid" (articles 6-7). No Synodic decision whatsoever may be announced or executed, without prior approval by the Government (article 9). Head priests are proposed by the Synod, but are to be finally approved by the Government; it is in the same manner that they are transferred, ceased or demoted from their positions (article 16).
All correspondence or direct relations of the Holy Synod or "any other of the clergy" with "external secular or Church authorities" is not possible, except "through the acknowledged Secretariat of State" (article 19).
These items taken from the "Decree" are in themselves sufficient evidence for anyone to perceive the "independence" which Maurer spoke of and wrote about, and with which "freedoms" he had apparently endowed the "Autocephalous" (to us, Caco-cephalous) Church in Greece ! The two subsequent Decrees, 1) "defining the functions of the Synod" of the 15th (27th) August 1833 and 2) "concerning the temporary division of the Bishoprics of the Kingdom" of the 20th November (2nd December) 1833, came to fulfil the so-called "independence" of the Church of Greece. Bound as it was to this state-driven legislative framework, the Church of Greece was unable to develop any sort of initiative, or even to preserve the proper order of the Orthodox Church. It was unjustifiably cut off from its administrative centre, and from any communication whatsoever with it, as with all other Orthodox Churches. This situation lasted for fifteen years (1833–1850 ), as the Ecumenical Patriarchate refused to recognize all the irregularities imposed by the Viceregency. It therefore had acted appropriately, by discontinuing all communication with the Church in Greece during this time.
The Church of Greece strove to overcome this impediment by requesting, through the Greek Government, the Ecumenical Patriarchate's "recognition" of its Autocephalous. The long-awaited opportunity to communicate with the Patriarchate was given, in December of 1849.
Present at the funeral of Iakovos Rizos Neroulos, Greek Ambassador in Constantinople (deceased 17 December 1849), was the Patriarch Anthimos IV with his Synod. The Greek Government expressed its desire to thank and to honour the Patriarch, by bestowing him the medal of the Saviour. The mission was to be undertaken by the Archimandrite Misael Apostolides, professor of the School of Theology. The then President of the "Holy Synod of the Kingdom of the Hellenes" Neofytos of Evia utilized this opportunity, by sending a letter to the Patriarch who "graciously" accepted the medal and sent his thanks to the King and the Government, through the Greek emissary, P. Deliyannis. However, the Patriarch returned Neofytos' letter intact to its bearer, in refusal to acknowledge the President and the Synod over which he presided, pointing out to him that "the Church was never notified of the constitution of such a Synod".
Having being duly notified of the above, the Government immediately sent (30th May 1850) a letter to the Patriarch, an official "scroll membrane", in which was requested the recognition of the independence of the Greek Church and its Synod, in the name of the holy Greek Clergy.
The Patriarch subsequently convened a grand Synod in June of 1850 (synods of 16th, 20th, 24th and 29th June) in which five former Ecumenical Patriarchs participated, as did Kyrillos of Jerusalem and the members of the Patriarchal Synod (12 high priests).
On the 29th June 1850 the Patriarchal Synod issued the Synodic Volume, through which the Greek Ecclesiastical Provinces of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were proclaimed a Self-Governed Church. This Volume contains seven canonical terms, which are the foundations of the canonical terms of organization of the newly-constituted, Autocephalous Greek Church. Its supreme Ecclesiastical authority will be a perpetual Synod, whose president will be the periodic metropolitan high priest of Athens and member high priests, sequentially invited "in accordance with their rank". The Synod is obliged to govern the Church "in accordance with divine and holy Canons, freely, without any secular hindrances". The Synod's name shall be "Holy Synod of the Church of Greece". The high priests shall, during their church services, commemorate the Holy Synod, and the president shall commemorate "every Orthodox Bishopric". In the holy Diptychs, the Holy Synod is obliged to commemorate "the current Ecumenical Patriarch, and the other three Patriarchs in their proper order, as well as "every Orthodox Bishopric", in order to maintain proper unity with the Great Church in Constantinople as well as with the other Orthodox Churches of Christ, "in compliance with the divine and holy Canons and the Traditional customs of the Overall Orthodox Church". The preservation of this unity is also expressed, during the acceptance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's holy Myrrh by the Greek Church. Furthermore, the Volume ordains that for its general ecclesiastical affairs, the Greek Church's Synod shall refer to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which shall willingly offer its cooperation "for the optimal provision and support of the Orthodox Church".
The publication of the Synodic Volume 150 years ago was truly a significant historical event. As we have elsewhere observed (1974), the "Patriarchate of Constantinople through its publication of the Synodic Volume looked upon three things: firstly, the restoration of canonical unity with the ecclesiastical Provinces of the free Greek Kingdom which were proclaimed an autocephalous Church on a canonical basis; secondly, to relieve this Church of all secular manipulation; and finally, to define the fundamental canonical principles which were imperative for the implementation of the synod's newly-conceded jurisdiction.
The publication of the Synodic Volume was joyously embraced, by almost everyone in Greece, (with the exception of Farmakides and his circle).
In fact, King Othon made the following important statement, upon establishment of the first canonical Holy Synod of the "Church of Greece", to the synod's members: "I consider the resumption of canonical relations of the Greek Church with the other orthodox Churches to be one of the most illustrious events that have ever taken place during my reign". By Royal Decree on the 11th August 1850 it was ordained that a special glorifying service be held on the 20th August in every church in Greece, as proposed by the Holy Synod, "for the glorious act of the canonical recognition", and that the Synodic Volume be read thereupon. Thus it came to be. On the 2nd September 1850 by Royal Decree, the Synod's presiding Bishop of Attica, Neofytos, was re-named "Metropolitan of Athens" (as already referred to in the Synodic Volume).
Farmakides' reaction to the Synodic Volume was a vehement one; he demanded that it be rejected, and even wrote an essay which he published anonymously in 1852 (23 April), entitled "Synodic Volume, or, About Truth" (otherwise called the Anti-Volume). According to Farmakides, acceptance of the Synodic Volume was equal to treason against the Nation!
Farmakides' misguided perceptions of affairs of the Greek Church were rebutted by the "wise" Konstantin Economos of the Economos lineage, permanently residing in Greece since 1834 (formerly in Russia). The battle between the two men, mainly by means of essays, was a tempestuous one and indicative of the two warring worlds within Greece – the conservative-traditionals (Economos) and the pro-liberals (Farmakides), who were also bearers of the West's novel theories on Church-State relations. A direct result of the prevailing atmosphere was a full, 2-year delay between the date of issuing and date of printing of the basic constitution laws 200 and 201 of the Volume by the Government, which was eventually fulfilled, on the 10th and 24th July of 1852 respectively (No.200 focuses on "Bishoprics, Bishops and the clergy under the Bishops", while No.201 is a "Constitutional Law of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece").
The dreams and hopes of those who awaited the canonical adjustment of church affairs on the basis of the Synodic Volume's terms, were not realized. The reason was, that Laws 200 and 201, with very few exceptions, were a replication and repetition of stipulations within the "Proclamation" of 1833 ! These exceptions refer to: a) the name of the Synod : "Holy Synod of the Church of Greece" (and no longer "…. Church of the Kingdom of Greece"), b) the Metropolitan of Athens" permanent appointment as Chairman of the Synod (both the above are mentioned in the Synodic Volume).
Once again, an illegitimate state regime similar to Maurer's, was imposed on the Greek Church's administrative organization. All attempts by the Hierarchy to persuade the Government in favour of improvement of the affairs of the church through revision of ecclesiastical laws (memorandum of 1868), proved futile. Another serious attempt was made in 1914, through the legislative trustees' committee (law No.188 of 21st March, during the primeministry of Eleftherios Venizelos).
However, the ensuing political events in Greece (the anathema of Venizelos, with the church's participation), the international political situation, as well as the 1922 catastrophe in Asia Minor and the dissolution by the Government of the Hierarchy, which convened in Athens (1922) to voice its complaints on the state of the church, unfortunately proved to be obstacles that did not permit the realization of this important project by the legislative committee.
The election of the archimandrite and professor of the School of Theology Chrysostom Papadopoulos as new Archbishop of Athens (8th March 1923, ordained 10th March), presented new prospects for the solving of ecclesiastical problems. The Archbishop requested and succeeded in securing from the Synod an official convention of the Hierarchy of the Greek Church "as confirmation of the peace achieved in the Church through his election, and the revision of the laws governing its administration" (laws 90 and 91). The government was swayed in favour of this convention of the Hierarchy.
Having thus convened on April 3rd, it issued a decision which validated the oncoming solution of the ecclesiastical issue (from the Venizelos anathema) and proceeded to review the Statutory laws of the Greek Church, and actually repealed laws 90 and 91, rendering the Church independent of civilian jurisdiction.
The "Statutory Law of the Autocephalous Greek Church" which was issued during General N. Plastiras' Revolution the 31st of December 1923, (Greek Government Journal issue No.387A), gave the Church the power needed to support its administration on a proper basis. This new law even helped to improve the current political system. The few-membered Perpetual Synod was replaced by a supreme "Ecclesiastical Authority within the State", the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy of the Greek Church (article 2), which was to convene on a regular basis once a year on the 1st of October and exceptionally, whenever the need would arise. This Synod would be presided over by the Athenian hierarch, who would bear the title "His Beatitude Archbishop of Athens and All Greece" and the Archpriests "Metropolitans" (article 18). This Synod would be represented during its absence by the Archbishop of Athens. The election of Archpriests would be performed by the Hierarchy (article 23). The church was also given its freedom by the State in other matters such as ecclesiastical justice. Obviously, this was a 'victory' for the Church, which came almost a century (90 years) after the Maurer "Proclamation" (1833).
However, although Church matters may have progressed smoothly and ever improving, the oncoming political change (the Pagalos dictatorship) smothered the Church's creative force, and subsequently brought tension to Church-State relations. The Hierarchy was forcefully hindered from convening, however, the Archbishop resented this dictatorial action. On the 26th September 1925 a legislative decree (Greek Govt.Journal, issue 270A) was issued, for "the forming of a Perpetual Holy Synod, and supplements and amendments to the Statutory Legislation of Dec.31st 1923 of the Autocephalous Greek Church". In this way, the Perpetual Holy Synod was being re-established (7 members, "of which 1 was to be President, the other 6 Members", article 2. President was to be the Archbishop of Athens), to be given supreme power (election of Archbishops and Archpriests, art.7) and to represent the "Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority, viz., the Synod of the Hierarchy in every aspect…….."(art.1). Of course, the Hierarchy was not made obsolete, and it was fortunate that the dictatorship did not take into account the proposals made by some, to restore laws 90 and 91 of 1852.
The Hierarchy reacted to the new status of administration imposed on the Church and convened secretly in the Athens Archdiocese, where it was decided not to accept the enforcement of the law of 26th September, and to persist in restoring the 1923 law.
The endeavours pursued by the Archbishop and the Hierarchs bore fruit. In 1931, law 5187 was voted ("Statutory Law of the Autocephalous Greek Church" — Greek Govt. Journal, issue no.255A) and in the following year 1932, the codified law 5438 (Greek Govt. Journal, issue no. 265A/17 Aug. — previously issued under the same no.5438 law "regarding amendment and supplementing of law 5187……." was in issue no. 178A/1 Jun.1932). It was through the aforementioned laws, that the 1923 law's provisions were basically restored.
Only a few years prior to the publication of law 5187/1931, law no.3615/1928 (Journal issue no.120A/11 Jul.) was published, concerning "ecclesiastical administration of the Metropolises of the New Greek Territories of the Ecumenical Patriarchate" through which law the administrative assimilation of the Metropolises of the "New Territories" came into effect (having previously been agreed upon with the Ecumenical Patriarchate). The problem of administration of the Metropolises of the so-called "New Territories" which was created immediately after the victorious wars of 1912/1913, was legitimately solved by the Patriarchate, with the issuance of its Synodic Act of September 4th, 1928, whereby "although supreme canonical rights over these Territories are retained by the Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarchal Throne, the administration of these individual provinces shall henceforth be undertaken by committees under the supervision of the beloved, Most Holy sister Church of Greece…"
This "committee" administration of the Metropolises of the "New Territories" functions on the basis of the ten conditions of the Act, which the Greek Church is forever bound to uphold. It is important to stress here that this is a direct order by the Ecumenical Throne that these Metropolises are to be governed by committees, and does not refer to their "assimilation" with other Territories of Old Greece, as was the case with the Eptanisos in 1866 and Thessaly (with parts of Epirus) in 1882.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate always retains its supreme canonical rights over the Metropolises of the "New Territories" (commemorated by every Metropolitan), and as such, "rightfully observes whether the conditions set down in the Synodic Act regarding the committee administration of the Metropolises of the New Territories are upheld by the Greek Church".
The Archpriests of the "New Territories" participate in the administration of the Autocephalous Greek Church in exactly the same way "and with the same rights" as the Archpriests of the Old Greece; In the Perpetual Synod they are "equal in number" (term B').
Following the aforementioned adjustment, the Autocephalous Greek Church was thenceforth comprised of two sections, continuing thus its close collaboration with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The political changes that were imposed by the 1936 Metaxas dictatorship had a negative effect on Church affairs (issuance of a multitude of compulsory laws and legislative decrees, which brought about numerous supplements or amendments regarding Church administration).
Under Nazi occupation of Greece, law 671/1943 was issued, which was amended many times and improved, and which remained in force until the April 1967 dictatorship, when the legislative decree 1126/1968 was issued, which dissolved Statutory Law No. 671/1943. Following the overthrow of the dictatorship in 1974, Statutory Law No.671/1943 (as originally issued) was reinstated, with the publishing of legislative decree 87/19744, which was subsequently abolished in 1977, when law 590/1977 was issued (Govt.Journal 146/31-6-77, vol.A') "regarding the Statutory Charter of the Church of Greece". This law remains in force to this day; it is the only self-contained Statutory Charter of the Greek Church ever drawn up by Greek Parliament, through parliamentary procedures. The new Charter secures the legal and canonical functions of the Church's administrative traditions, in strict compliance with the Constitution (art. 3, par. 1), while it "clearly defines the place of the Greek Church in the Greek State", on the basis of its traditional principle of "mutual acceptance".
Having secured beneficial prerequisites through its new Charter, and with its capable spiritual and moral powers, while also preserving its centuries-long, apostolic tradition, it shall be able to persevere on its 2000-year old historical course, into the new millenium, in the Holy Spirit upholding the word of truth forever.
Consequently, the 2000-year old historical course of the Greek apostolic Church is living proof, not only of the Christian faith's message of salvation, but of the continuing, orthodox experience of this message. Paul's apostolic tradition was always the irreplaceable criterion of this spiritual mission for both the local and the distant Greeks; and always in close fellowship and active corroboration with the Greater Church of Christ in Constantinople, for the mutual confrontation of the multiple adversities of our age.
During the first thousand years, it contributed immensely towards preserving the community of the Faith through the bonds of love between the Churches of the East and the West. During the next thousand years, it struggled with unparalleled zeal to defend the orthodoxy of the Faith, against the unbrotherly and definitely unjustified convertist propaganda of the Roman Catholic Unia and the Protestant Missionaries, as well as against the infidel conqueror, by preserving untainted the faith that was handed down, and keeping intact the spiritual unity of its body of the faithful.
Today, the 2000-year old struggle for the projection of the orthodoxy of the Faith, and also for the preservation of hope within us, comprises the priceless heritage of the Greek Church's historical memory; however, at the same time it also characterizes the peculiarity of its spiritual mission, inasmuch as the excessive spiritual confusion of latter years has not been beneficial in regard to the smooth function of the Church's own body.
Indeed, the Greek Church — now rid of opposing secular pressures within its body's internal functions — has the necessary potential to renew its spiritual relations with the contemporary, less spiritual society, and is capable of projecting its own reliable testimony to those near and far, by aligning itself with the superb example of the nations' apostle Paul, and adjusting the Christian message of salvation to the contemporary spiritual needs of mankind.
From the Diptychs of the Church of Greece 2000,
ed. Apostoliki Diakonia of the Church of Greece
Translated from the Greek by Catherine Nikolopoulos