church, which includes people of all races within it.21 The destructive potential of ethnic nationalism has been seen in many countries in the years since 1990, most tragically in the Balkans, although it must be acknowledged that here the churches have also provided a courageous witness for peace and reconciliation.
New nations also pose a challenge to church organisation and force the question of whether a new nation necessarily requires a new church. In the new republic of the Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe, there are at present four churches - the Moscow patriarchate with its strength in the east, a new patriarchate in Kiev, an alternative autocephalous Orthodox Church in the west, and a Greek Catholic Church also in the west. A good example of a fully local church is providedby Albania, a small country with only 3.5 million inhabitants, in which the church suffered extreme persecution under a communist government between 1944 and 1990. There were, for example, no public liturgies in the country for twenty-three years. Following the fall of communism, Anastasios Yannoulatos, Greek by birth and a professor of theology in Athens, archbishop in East Africa and an ecumenist, was in 1992 consecrated archbishop. He has been careful to select both ethnic Greek and Albanian bishops, has always insisted on speaking Albanian on ecclesiastical occasions, and has provided service and care for all regardless of ethnicity or faith. The result is a vibrant Christian community, with many new local clergy and a local leadership. The archbishop's concern to ensure a fully local church has contributed to the renewal of the Orthodox Church in this poorest of European nations.
Participation in the international world order requires the Orthodox to define not only their internal ecclesiastical relations but also their external relations with other churches and faiths. Generally these have not been good. The Orthodox historical memory includes the day in 1204 when the Latin crusaders captured Constantinople, which resulted in a weakened Byzantine Empire, much less able to resist the Turks; the formation of Greek Catholic churches in communion with the pope in place of previously Orthodox communities; and more recently the arrival from the west of well-funded and aggressive evangelising Christian missions in former communist countries. These have combined to make relations between Orthodox and other churches difficult.
21 The 1870 Council's statement was somewhat lacking in moral authority, since it was issued in the context of a struggle between the new Bulgarian exarchate and the ecumenical patriarchate. Both competed for the allegiance of Bulgarians. As a result of the disagreement a Bulgarian patriarch was not elected until 1953 and not recognised by Constantinople until 1961.
Was this article helpful?