Santa Clara University



See also Christianity.

1. Brief Introduction
2. Religion and Politics Sections
3. A Short Introductory Course
4. Other Resource Materials
5. Recent Articles

1. Brief Introduction:

The medieval historian Dawson states that the 1054 split between East and West was less about theological controversies than about the growing cultural divergence between the Byzantine Empire at Constantinople and the newly formed Carolingian Empire of Charlemagne’s successors. Slavic Christianity began with the missionary activity of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, who devoted themselves to the conversion of Moravia.  Throughout the second half of the tenth century, the new Russian state extended south toward Constantinople. In 988 C.E., Vladimir the Great accepted baptism and entered into an alliance with the Byzantine Emperor, thus laying the foundations for a new Byzantine-Slavonic Culture in the East that seemed more than a match for the new Roman-Germanic alliance in the West. Even after the seventh-century expansion of Islam, the Orthodox tradition had always emphasized the role of all the ancient patriarchs and the close cooperation of the emperor and the church in the fostering of a Christian society.

When the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, Orthodox believers looked north to Moscow as “the Third Rome,” the political center of Orthodox Christianity. Individual “autocephalous” (self-headed) national churches express strong ties between the church and the nation in most Orthodox countries, for example, in Serbia. The freeing of Greece from the Ottoman Turks in the nineteenth century allowed that country to serve as the Orthodox center for the new European Union following World War II. Countries like the Ukraine suffer from religious divides between Catholics in union with Rome and Orthodox, either in union with the Moscow patriarchate or with national synods. This Orthodox-Roman Catholic line through Central Europe also bedeviled the 1990s conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Tension between Roman Catholics and the Orthodox has been alleviated somewhat by the trip of the Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Cathedral of St. George, Istanbul, on November 30, 2006. See, for example, the full page insert in the New York Times (December 21, 2006) by leading American Orthodox and their supporters. Seventy-three U.S. Senators signed.

2. Religion and Politics Sections

“Western Christianity and the Byzantine Empire” (pp. 98-101)

“Orthodox Europe in the Post-Communist Period” (pp. 150-55)

3. A Short Introductory Course:

The Garrards provide the history of Orthodoxy and politics in Russia to the present. Prodromou discusses the links and the tensions between the Orthodox tradition and democracy. Vjekoslav describes the current religious-political situation of Orthodox churches as they face an enlarged European Union. John Chryssavgis provides a fine collection of the global initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Garrard, John, and Garrard, Carol. Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent: Faith and Power in the New Russia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

Prodromou, Elizabeth, “The Ambivalent Orthodox,” World Religions and Democracy. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 132-45.

Perica, Vjekoslav, “The politics of ambivalence: Europeanization and the Serbian Orthodox Church,” in Byrnes, Timothy A., and Katzenstein, Peter J., eds. Religion in an Expanding Europe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 176-203.

Chryssavgis, John, ed. In the World, Yet Not of the World: Social and Global Initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010).

4. Other Resource Materials:

See the national entries for Greece, Russia, and the Ukraine.

Bartholomew I (Ecumenical Patriarch). Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today (New York: Doubleday, 2008).

Chryssavgis, John, ed. Cosmic Grace--Humble Prayer: Ecological Vision of the Green Patriarch Bartholomew I, rev. ed. (Grand Rapis, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2009).

Daniel, Wallace L. The Orthodox Church and Civil Society in Russia (College Station, TX: Texas A&M Press, 2006).

Dawson, Christopher. The Making of Europe (Cleveland: Meridian, 1956).

Georgiou, S.T. The Way of the Dreamcatcher (New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 2002), and Mystic Street: Meditations on a Spiritual Path (Montreal: Novalis Press, 2008). According to Cunningham (America, June 6, 2008), "[t]he spirituality of that [Orthodox] tradition suffuses these pages, which record his intuitions about the natural world, Orthodox liturgy, and his work as a "writer" of (untraditional) icons." Georgiou met the hermit Robert Lax, one of Thomas Merton's best friends, on the island of Patmos, setting off his own spiritual quest. The first book also serves as a remembrance of Lax.

Linzey, Sharon, and Krotov, Iakov, “The Future of Religion and Religious Future in Russia,” Kontinent (May 2000), translated in Religion in Eastern Europe 51 (October 2001): 26-47.

Vermaat, J.A. Emerson. The World Council of Churches and Politics. New York: Freedom House, 1989.

The BBC’s site on Christianity.

The official site of the Orthodox Church of the United States.

The official site of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

The official site of the World Council of Churches.

5. Recent Articles:

A World Summit of Religious Leaders, attended by 200 religious leaders from 49 countries, was sponsored by Patriarch Alexy II, as a lead-in to the July 15 meeting of the G-8 nations in St. Petersberg. New York Times, July 5, 2006.

"2 Russian Churches, Split by War, to Reunite," New York Times, May 17, 2007. Union of Russian Orthodox Church with Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, formed in response to Soviet persecution. President Putin plays major role.

"Catholics, Orthodox Complete Text on Church Authority," America, October 29, 2007. Although Russian Orthodox representatives were absent, the international Catholic-Orthodox theological commission completed a text on church structure and authority. The meeting took place in Ravenna, October 8-14.

Obit for Archbishop Christodoulos, charismatic leader of Greek Orthodox, New York Times, January 29, 2008. Archbishop Christodoulos, head of Greece's ten million Orthodox and at least five million in diaspora, mended rifts with Vatican in Pope's visit to Greece in 2001 and Archbishop's visit to Vatican in 2007. Strong nationalist message against Turkey, the European Union, some aspects of popular culture, and all else that threatened Greece's Orthodox character. Fought Socialist government over removing religious affiliation from state identity cards.

"'Become All Fire': The Splendor of Orthodox Spirituality," Commonweal, February 29, 2009. Article by Orthodox priest John Garvey on the nature of Orthodox spirituality with book list for further reading. Garvey stresses connection to early Greek Fathers, "Holy Tradition," mysticism grounded in apophatic theology, liturgy, and monastic hesychia [stillness].

"Kasper Meets With Russian Orthodox Leaders," America, June 23-30, 2008. Upbeat assessment by Cardinal Walter Kasper after ten-day trip to Russia at the end of May. "Everything seems to point in the direction of a possible meeting Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Alexy II. There is not a concrete agenda, but there are many signs of reconciliation," according to an interview in L'Osservatore Romano.

"Slavic Rivals Embroiled in Church Rift," New York Times, July 30, 2008. Ukrainian President Yushchenko, on the 1,020 anniversary of the founding of Orthodoxy in Kiev, calls for an atonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church before Ecumenical Partriarch Bartholomew, who warned of "problematic consequences for Ukraine's future" of division. Russian churchmen and political leaders strongly oppose.

"Conflict Tests Ties Between the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Churches," New York Times, September 6, 2008. Religious fallout of Russian attack on Georgia.

List of other Religions

September 10, 2010.