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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
Seal
Founder The Apostle and Evangelist Mark
Independence Apostolic Era
Recognition Orthodox
Primate Pope and Patriarch Theodoros II
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
Adherents ~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 Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa (Greek: Πατριαρχεῖο Ἀλεξανδρείας καὶ πάσης Ἀφρικῆς) is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is sometimes called the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria to distinguish it from the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria, and in Egypt members of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate were also known as Melkite, because they remained in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople after the schism that followed the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Head of the church

The Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria head bishop is the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, who like the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, 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. This latter claim would of course be disputed by the Coptic Orthodox faithful.

History

Since the schism occurring as a result of the political and Christological controversies at the Council of Chalcedon (451), the portion of the Church of Alexandria loyal to Chalcedonian Christology has liturgically been Greek-speaking, the majority of its native (i.e., Coptic) population and their modern descendants becoming a part of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria (i.e., non-Chalcedonian). After the Arab conquest of North Africa in the 7th century the Eastern Orthodox were a minority even among Christians, and remained small for centuries.

New growth

Diaspora growth in the 19th century

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

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 adherrants 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. Some African Christians became dissatisfied with this, and formed African-initiated churches, which often became more effective in mission and evangelism than the Western-initiated churches.

Some leaders of African-initiated churches had read about Orthodoxy, but found it difficult to make contact with historic Orthodoxy in the parts of Africa where they lived. 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 Reuben Spartas 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. 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 Church of Cyprus helped to get the Orthodox Church in Kenya back on its feet, building a seminary and sending missionary teachers.

The Church today

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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 the 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.

Hierarchs of the Throne

The Holy Synod

Under the Presidency of Theodoros II the Pope and Patriarch, the following reverend Metropolitans participate in the Holy Synod of the Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria:

Metropolitans of the Throne

  • Paul, Elder Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Memphis
  • Dionysios, Elder Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Leontopolis
  • Petros, Elder Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Aksum
  • Makarios, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Kenya
  • Jonah, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Kampala
  • Seraphim, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Johannesburg and Pretoria
  • Alexandros, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Nigeria
  • Theophylaktos, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Tripolis
  • Sergios, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of the Cape of Good Hope
  • Alexios, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Carthage
  • Kallinikos, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Pelousion
  • Proterios, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Ptolemais
  • Georgios, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Zimbabwe
  • Nicholas, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Ermoupolis
  • Demetrios, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Irinoupolis
  • Ignatios, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Central Africa
  • Emmanuel, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Khartoum
  • Gregorios, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Cameroun
  • Ieronymos, Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Mwanza

Provincial Bishops

Auxiliary Bishops

  • Athanasios, Bishop of the Holy Eparchy of Cyrene, Patriarchal Exarch in Moscow
  • Gabriel, Bishop of the Holy Eparchy of Mareotis
  • Spyridon, Bishop of the Holy Eparchy of Kanopou
  • Nikodemos, Bishop of the Holy Eparchy of Nitria
  • Gennadios, Bishop of the Holy Eparchy of Nilopolis

Retired Bishops

  • Theoklitos, Titular Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Helioupolis
  • Philemon, Titular Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Karpathos
  • Ioakeim, Titular Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Thamiatis
  • Porfyrios, Titular Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Thivais
  • Panteleimon, Titular Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Antinopolis
  • Kyrillos, Titular Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Nafkratis
  • Petros, Titular Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Nikopolis


See also

Bibliography

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