Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria

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Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and of All Africa
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa.png
Seal
Founder The Apostle and Evangelist Mark
Independence Apostolic Era
Recognition Orthodox
Primate Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria
Headquarters Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt
Territory Egypt, Nubia, Sudan, Pentapolis, Libya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and All Africa
Possessions None
Language Greek, Arabic, English, French and many African dialects
Members ~250,000 - 300,000 in Egypt+ ~1,200,000 Native Africans + 150,000 ex-patriates in the African Continent
Website Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria (Official site)

The Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria, also known as the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa (Greek: Πατριαρχεῖον Ἀλεξανδρείας καὶ πάσης Ἀφρικῆς, Patriarcheîon Alexandreías kaì pásēs Aphrikês) is an autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church within the wider communion of Orthodox Christianity. Officially, it is called the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria to distinguish it from the non-Chalcedonian Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. Members of the church were once known as Melkites, because they remained in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople after the schism that followed the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Leader of the church[edit]

The Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria head bishop is the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. His full title is "His Most Divine Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria, Libya, Pentapolis, Ethiopia, all the land of Egypt, and all Africa, Father of Fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds, Prelate of Prelates, thirteenth of the Apostles, and Judge of the Œcumene". Like the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, he claims to have succeeded the Apostle Mark the Evangelist in the office of Bishop of Alexandria, who founded the Church in the 1st century, and therefore marked the beginning of Christianity in Africa. It is one of the five ancient patriarchates of the early church, called the Pentarchy.

History[edit]

In the schism that was created by the political and Christological controversies at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Church of Alexandria split in two. The majority of the native (i.e., Coptic) population was non-Chalcedonian and became known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The small portion of the Church at Alexandria that followed Chalcedonian Christology, being loyal to the emperor at Constantinople (New Rome), has long used Greek as its liturgical language, and it became subsumed under Constantinople as the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria. After the Arab conquest of North Africa in the 7th century - with its political break from the Byzantine emperor - the Eastern Orthodox were an alien minority in the region, even among Christians, and the church has remained small for centuries.

New growth[edit]

Diaspora growth in the 19th century[edit]

In the 19th century Orthodoxy in Africa began to grow again. One thing that changed this in the 19th century was the Orthodox diaspora. People from Greece, Syria and Lebanon, in particular, went to different parts of Africa, and some established Orthodox Churches. Many Greeks also settled in Alexandria from the 1840s and Orthodoxy began to flourish there again, and schools and printing presses were established.

For a while there was some confusion, especially outside Egypt. As happened in other places, Orthodox immigrants would establish an ethnic "community", which would try to provide a church, school, sporting and cultural associations. They would try to get a priest for the community in the place they had emigrated from, and there was some confusion about which bishops were responsible for these priests.

Eventually, in the 1920s it was agreed that all Orthodox churches in Africa would be under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and so Africa has managed to avoid the jurisdictional confusion that has prevailed in places like America and Australia.

Mission growth in the 20th century[edit]

In Africa south of the Sahara most of the growth in Christianity began as a result of mission initiatives by Western Christians; Roman Catholic, Protestant and especially in the 20th century adherents to Western-origin Christian bodies that do not fit into this old dichotomy. These Western-initiated churches were, however, very often tied to Western culture. The Greek missions to African outposts followed Greek-speaking settlers, as with the missions to America and Australia, and still provide cultural links to Greece and the Greek patriarchy in Egypt.

African-initiated churches interested in the various forms of Orthodoxy, but finding it difficult to make contact with historic Orthodoxy in the parts of Africa where they lived sought further afield. In the 1920s some of them made contact with the so-called African Orthodox Church in the USA (not a part of the canonical community of Eastern Orthodox Churches), notably Daniel William Alexander in South Africa, and Ruben Spartas Mukasa in Uganda.

In the 1930s, Daniel William Alexander visited first Uganda, and later Kenya. Spartas, however, also made contact with Fr Nikodemos Sarikas, a missionary priest in Tanganyika, and through him made contact with the Greek Patriarch of Alexandria. In 1946 the African Orthodox groups in Kenya and Uganda were received into the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.

In the 1950s, however, the Orthodox Church in Kenya suffered severe oppression at the hands of the British colonial authorities during the Mau Mau Uprising. Most of the clergy were put in concentration camps, and churches and schools were closed. Only the Cathedral in Nairobi (which had a largely Greek membership) remained open. Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus preached an anti-colonialist sermon at the cathedral on his way home from exile, and this led to friendship between him and the leader of the anti-colonial struggle in Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.

After Kenya became independent in 1963 the situation eased, and the Greek-speaking Church of Cyprus helped to get the presence of the Greek Orthodox Church in Kenya once more, building a seminary and sending missionary teachers.

The Church Today[edit]

In recent years, a considerable missionary effort was enacted by Pope Petros VII. During his seven years as patriarch (1997–2004), he worked tirelessly to spread a Greek-centred form of Orthodox Christian faith in Arab nations and throughout Africa, raising up native clergy and encouraging the use of local languages in the liturgical life of the Church. Particularly sensitive to the nature of Christian expansion into Muslim countries, he worked to promote mutual understanding and respect between Orthodox Christians and Muslims. His efforts were ended as the result of a helicopter crash on September 11, 2004, in the Aegean Sea near Greece, killing him and several other clergy, including Bishop Nectarios of Madagascar, another bishop with a profound missionary vision.

Today, some 300,000 Greek Christians constitute the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt, the highest number since the Roman Empire. The current primate of the Greek Church of Alexandria is Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.

Administrative Structures and Hierarchy[edit]

Archdioceses (Metropolises)[edit]

Dioceses[edit]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]