The Greek Orthodox Church, properly the Christian Orthodox Church, consists of those churches which are descendants of the ancient Great Church which formulated Orthodox Christian doctrine. This was centred upon the five ancient patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch in Syria), Alexandria (in Egypt) Rome and Constantinople. The Church centred upon Rome developed into the Roman Catholic Church, with its monarchical papacy; while the majority of believers in the churches which looked to Antioch and Alexandria developed heretical doctrines and to some extent succumbed to Islam. This left the see of Greek city of Constantinople as the centre of the faith of the Great Church, and after the Turkish conquest of that city, the Patriarch of Constantinople was recognised as Ecumenical Patriarch. This primacy is one of 'first among equals', and gives the Patriarch no kind of power over local churches. Today, in addition to the successor churches of the ancient patriarchates, there are Orthodox churches of Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Greece, Georgia, Poland, Romania, Russia, and Serbia, each headed by its own archbishop. Total membership may be estimated as somewhere between forty and eighty million.
The leader of the national Church of Greece, the Greek Church, is the Archbishop of Athens. However, he exercises full authority only over churches in southern and central Greece. Crete and the islands of the eastern Aegean, added to the Greek state subsequent to its original foundation and that of the Greek national church, remain under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical patriarch, and are part of the Church of Constantinople. Northern Greece, similarly added to the original state territory, comprising Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace were placed under the administrative control of the Greek Church in 1928, but remain under the spiritual direction of the Patriarchate. All Greek Orthodox churches lying outside of Greece, serving the diaspora Greeks in the USA, Australia, the UK, etc., are also under the control of the Ecumenical patriarch.
Although the powers and administration of Church and state are specified as distinct and separate, the constitution also recognizes the special standing of the Christian Orthodox Churches as commanding the allegiance of the vast majority of the citizens of the country.
Visit the Anagnosis Greek Church Pages
Greek Church History Timeline'
Listen to examples of Byzantine chant: Greek Church music
Baptism in the Greek Church
Weddings in the Greek Church
Death and Burial in the Greek Church
The Virgin's Serpents
Read about Between Heaven and Earth: The Greek Church