We continue now our reflections on bishops and church structural organization in Orthodox Church history. I want to deal today with the 19th century, and particularly today with the Orthodox Churches in the Ottoman Empire, because this century witnessed the decomposition of the Ottoman Empire, and ultimately its total demise that would be coming up in the Balkan wars and the beginning of the 20th century. But already in the 19th century there were many events that are crucially important in Orthodox Church history, and especially important for us Orthodox today in the 21st century because we’re still dealing with the results of all of those activities.
Now what we could say is that in the 19th century, the activities concerning the Orthodox Churches in the Ottoman Empire were a continuation of that which was in the 18th century, namely, that the churches in the Ottoman Empire were basically controlled by Constantinople, by the Phanariotes, by leading powerful people in the Phanar, who used their relationship with the Turks very often for their own personal advantage; with commerce, trade, some of them became very wealthy, very influential, these Phanariote Greeks. But still there was this Greek domination of all of the Orthodox that were within the Ottoman Empire, and basically that meant of course the churches in the Balkans, and then the Churches in the Arab territories.
Now, what we want to see about the 19th century is the following. The Ottoman Empire was disintegrating, it was breaking up, it would actually come to an end in the 20th century, really, in any significant way for Orthodox churches. But in the beginning of the 19th century, there were movements already that were showing that there was going to be an uprising and a rebellion against the Turkish occupation. For example, right at the beginning of the 19th century, you had an independence of a large number of Orthodox Christians under the Turkish yoke. The Greek uprising actually began in 1821. There was an uprising against the Ottomans in the Greek areas in 1821, and this caused the Turkish authorities to hang Patriarch Gregory of Constantinople and five Metropolitans from the gates of the Phanar on Easter Sunday of that year, 1821. So whenever there was an uprising—and the one thing you didn’t do if you were Christians under the Turks is you did not make a revolution, and it was the Church’s business to see that that revolution would not take place, that the people would be kept under wraps, so to speak. And the irony here is that the independence movements were very often led in Greece and in the Balkans by Orthodox clergy. But the reprisals on the part of the Ottomans were violent, especially in the beginning of the 19th century. I just mentioned, again, the hanging of the Patriarch of Constantinople with five Metropolitans on Easter Sunday because there were revolutions in certain part of Greece. However, those uprisings continued, and ultimately the independence of Greece was won from the Ottoman yoke, and the autocephalous status of the Greek Church, the Orthodox Church in Greece, was declared in 1833. In other words that particular church, that part of the Empire, declared itself to be a self-governing Orthodox Church, freed from the domination of the Phanar in Constantinople. And that was a Greek Church of Greek-speaking people. And it was declared in 1833, the beginning of the 19th century; and by 1850, this de facto separation from Constantinople was recognized and confirmed by Constantinople, in 1850.
So you had a movement already begun, with the confirmation of a self-governing Church in the Greek-speaking areas under the Ottomans by the mid-19th century. I just might note in passing that around that same time, in 1844, the patriarchical theological seminary on the island of Halki was founded. The theological school was founded in Halki, one of the islands off the coast of Constantinople—it has a Turkish name and a Greek name, the Greek is Halki—but that seminary was opened at that time, and there was some kind of educational possibilities given to the Christian Orthodox in the Ottoman-ruled areas by mid-century.
Now if we move to the Balkans, we see that you had again this activity of liberation, and independence, from the Ottomans in those areas. If we look at Bulgaria, first of all, the Bulgarians were subjected to the Turks in 1396. Their particular uprising actually began in 1876, toward the end of the 19th century, the rising of the Bulgarians. And before actually breaking from the Ottoman Empire, the Bulgarian section of the Balkans asked permission and obtained permission from the Turks to have their own separate Church jurisdiction. In other words, no longer to be ruled and governed by Phanariotes and Greeks—and mainly it meant no longer having the bishops being assigned by Constantinople, who were all Greek people, Greek bishops; they wanted to have their own Church. The Ottomans recognized that, before the actual end came, and they were given the permission in the Bulgarian part of the Ottoman Empire to have their own separate Church jurisdiction.
If we see that that actually happened—the date we could put on that would be 1876—it’s very interesting that this area went under the Turks in 1396, which meant it was under Turkish government control, and therefore the Church control from Constantinople, and the Greeks basically, for 480 years. That lets one understand a little bit why Bulgarians and Macedonian areas and others are not partial to Greeks. In fact there was terrible animosity between the Bulgarians and the Greeks. I know elderly Greek Orthodox priests who told me that when they were young, in their Greek Orthodox Churches, if they didn’t like something, or hated something, they called it “Bulgary”—used as a kind of vulgar expression. And I remember Fr. Theodore Stylianopolis saying one time—he’s a professor of the New Testament at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School—he’s retired now but he’s still writing—he just wrote a very nice book about the New Testament canon and that whole issue in Orthodoxy—Father Ted—but I remember him saying one time how surprised he was as a young boy when he began to be more educated, to discover that the Bulgarians were Orthodox! He couldn’t believe it. They were considered to be the scum of the scum by the Greek-speaking people at that time. But in any case they got the assistance of the Ottomans, even before the decomposition of the Ottoman leadership in that area, to have their own Church structure. They wanted also to have their own self-governing Church, which meant, of course, that they could choose their own bishops. And obviously they wanted Bishops coming from their own clergy, from their own Bulgarian Church leadership. They did not want to have Greek bishops any more. Up until that point, toward the end of the 19th century, the Bulgarians were formerly and formally governed in dioceses with other Orthodox Christians in the same area by Greek bishops, and whoever those Orthodox were, these bishops were appointed by the Patriarchate in Constantinople.
When the Bulgarians really made a massive official movement, so to speak, to have their own Church in independence from Constantinople, they went into a schism, which was done around 1872, around the time that they had this permission to have their own Church organization. And here comes a very interesting fact, for Orthodox structure and governance in the Church, that’s still very much a powerful presence in our Church life to this day, and that is: when the Bulgarians officially insisted that they should govern themselves and choose their own bishops from among their own people, Constantinople accused them of heresy. And that heresy was called “phyletism”. The claim was that it is anti-Orthodox and anti-Christian, any action of establishing a separate Church administration on the basis of nationality. And this was officially condemned by the Patriarchs—all of whom were Greeks—of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, in 1872, as the heresy of “phyletism”, meaning nationality as the basis for separate Church structures. That is so ironic, because that’s exactly what finally triumphed, and what Constantinople now supports very clearly, especially in the so-called diaspora—the New World, United States, Canada—that there should be Orthodox jurisdictions here just literally based on nationality. The Greeks have theirs, the Bulgarians have theirs, and of course the Serbians—we’ll get to them—and Romanians will have theirs, the Russians will have theirs—you can see the hypocrisy of this particular act. The Greek bishops wanted to maintain Greek control over an area where the mass of population was not Greek, and when that population said ‘we would like to have our own Church structures and choose our bishops’, they said it’s heresy to think so because the Church is above nationalism. They use that argument that the Church is above nationalism to keep their own national bishops—Hellenic Greek bishops—in those particular areas. Excuse me, but I believe that’s just about the height of hypocrisy that you can come to. And it’s still used to this day, when it’s convenient, so to speak.
However, what happened was that the Bulgarian Church at that time simply said okay, we’ll accept this so-called schismatic situation, but we are going to have our own Church, and we’re going to have our own structure and we’re going to choose our own bishops, and they will be from our own people who live in these actual regions, and not imported Greeks from outside particularly and assigned by Constantinople. So, in 1872, there was this schism of the Bulgarians from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it was called a heretical schismatic movement on the part of Constantinople. The Bulgarians however stuck to it, and they kept it. And therefore the Bulgarians were out of the graces of Constantinople for a long time. It began in 1872, but in 1878 they were independently established, so to speak, with some kind of tacit blessing of the Ottomans who were falling apart. That remained until 1945. Only in 1945-46, the middle of the 20th century, that Constantinople finally recognized the autocephalous Orthodox Church in Bulgaria. And of course by that time, Bulgaria became a separate country, and you had the Balkan wars at the beginning of the 20th century—we’ll get to that—where finally the Ottomans were crushed, not without the help of the Russians, because, in the 1870s, just at the time this was happening in Bulgaria, you had the Russo-Turkish War, the Russians were at war with the Turks from 1877-78, and their main goal was to free the Orthodox Christians from the Turkish domination. And they had played a huge role there. You can say that it really was the Russian armies, in their war with Turkey in 1877-78, that actually in some sense brought down the Phanariote rule over Orthodoxy within the Ottoman or former Ottoman or greatly disintegrating Ottoman Empire at that particular time.
Not everywhere in the 19th century was that so successful. For example in Crete, there was an uprising in 1866-69 against the Ottomans, but the Ottomans just crushed them. They were controlled by outside forces much later, including forces from the West.
What would happen when the Bulgarian state for example became independent and had its country, then they turned to the West for leadership, and that’s where you began to have kings and queens of Bulgaria, and Serbia, and even Greece, that were imported from the West. There was one point in time where I think five queens in Orthodox countries—Romania, Bulgaria, Greece—and well also Spain—were actually granddaughters of Queen Victoria—Russia, Alexandra in Russia was one of them. They were sisters, who were queens in different places, like Marie the Queen of Romania, who was the mother of Mother Alexandra, who founded our monastery here in Ellwood City where I now go to church in my retirement. But this was a terrible war that went on in these particular areas, but it created the reestablishment of the Bulgarian state and, the de jure—in other words the factual legal independence of also Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, and then also Wallachia, Moravia, even Albania—these places were given their independence thanks to the Russo-Turkish War, but it was at a massive price. I’ve read somewhere—I have my note here but I don’t remember where I read it—that 250,000 people were killed in those military operations at that time. That’s a huge amount of people who were killed, but they were killed for the sake of the freedom of these people from the Turkish occupation.
What happened was that in Romania, and in various places—Wallachia, Moldavia, and other places—they were liberated from the Ottomans in order to have their own Church. And around this time also they began bringing in the Romanian language into the Church in Romania, because the people obviously didn’t know Greek. But it’s interesting that their first written alphabet was Slavonic. So I’ve seen, myself, documents in Romania that are in the Romanian language, but the alphabet that’s used is Slavic. You take a look at it and you think it’s Church Slavonic, then you start reading it and you say ‘I don’t understand what this is’. Well that’s because it’s Romanian language, Wallachian, Moldavian and so on. So there were in these particular areas at this time various Church structures in those particular areas. In the 19th century you had five self-governing dioceses of Serbian Orthodox in various regions, and two dioceses of Romanian Orthodox, that were set up outside the boundaries of the Turkish empire during the course of this century, where the empire had disintegrated or the people had won their freedom. This was the foundation of the modern Patriarchate of Serbia, and the Patriarchate of Romania. So Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, those three Patriarchates—which have, actually, ethnic jurisdictions now in the United States—in the United States of America, Canada, there are these ethnic jurisdictions that Orthodoxy is organized by to this present day. There’s a lot of rhetoric that we should have our own self-governing churches in the United States, Canada, whatever, but we never get there, and certainly the six Patriarchates that have churches in the New World, US, Canada, even Australia, they don’t want this at all, it’s pretty clear, we’ll get to that later. But what we see here is that you have this coming into reality in the 19th century, toward the end of the 19th century. So you have dioceses governing themselves, outside the boundaries and certainly outside of the influence of Phanariotes in Constantinople, which meant that they were able to raise up to the episcopate priests and monks and so on from their own churches, did not have to have a Greek bishop, but could have a bishop that they themselves elected and chose.
I’m not sure exactly when the Serbian and Romanian were officially confirmed as self-governing churches; I think it was most likely in the beginning of the 20th century. I believe it was only in 1920 that you had—well in 1911 you had the Greeks in Greece itself pulling out, and then you had, in 1920, five dioceses of Serbian Orthodox came into being, and the formation of the European nations formed into one national Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, with a patriarch in Belgrade. And in 1922, that Church was officially separated from the state and from the Ottoman people. In the Romanian, it was established around 1925, and it remains the national church of Romania. So this is where the national churches in the Balkans got their start, and then after being freed from the Turks they went for a while under monarchies imported into these countries from the West, but that was very short-lived, because what happened of course, there were the World Wars, and after the Second World War, Communism took over all these regions. There were civil wars in Greece, and then we know that Greece escaped domination by the Bolsheviks—by the Communists in Greece. But the Serbians, Romanians, Bulgarians did not. And their churches were then almost immediately—they went from Ottoman domination to Marxist domination in those particular years. But this is how all of that worked. Also we’re going to see that in the beginning of the 19th century, the Orthodox Church in Poland also received an autocephaly in 1924, and there were two dioceses of Orthodox Churches in Czechoslovakia. Finland became an autonomous Church under the guidance of Constantinople in 1923, and in 1921 the exarchate in Western Europe led by Metropolitan Evlogy—we’ll talk about that later—who was appointed by St. Tikhon, and then the Patriarch of Constantinople appointed him as the exarch of the Constantinopolitan Patriarchate in Western Europe in 1922. So all of this was moving from the end of the 19th into the beginning of the 20th century.
What about the Orthodox churches in the Arab-speaking regions? Because in these regions, the old Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, as we said many times already, they all had Greek bishops. A lot of times they weren’t even living there. The Patriarch of Alexandria and Antioch were living in Constantinople. Sometimes they were taking turns being Patriarch of Constantinople. At one point they’re Patriarch of Alexandria and then the next two years they’re Patriarch of Constantinople, then they’re kicked out by the Turks, the other side comes in, and then they become again Patriarch of Alexandria or Antioch, so, this is what was going on in that particular part of the world under the Turkish domination when the Phanariotes were still ruling and governing Orthodoxy in those regions. And we have to remember also—it’s always important to remember—that in those regions, the majority of the Christians were not Eastern Orthodox. They were what we call today Oriental Orthodox. There were the Copts in Egypt, and in Ethiopia the Church was anti-Chalcedonian, and then the Syrian Church in Syria was anti-Chalcedonian, the Armenians totally were anti-Chalcedonian. So these churches were outside the empire very often to begin with, in the sense of the Latino-Hellenic domination in the Byzantine Roman empire. But we should remember that there are very very few Orthodox in those regions that are of the Greek Orthodox or what we’d call Eastern Orthodox Church today. I think I might have said on one of these podcasts how surprised I was when I was a student at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, in a history class with Fr. John Meyendorff, when he announced to the class that if you count the number of Eastern Orthodox Christians in the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, at that time—which was the mid-20th century—I was in the seminary from ‘57 to ‘63—there were more Orthodox Christians in the city of Pittsburgh, than there were in those four Patriarchates combined! So you can see why Constantinople wants to control all the Churches in diaspora and especially in America because without the Orthodox Christians in the so-called diaspora, they hardly have any people.
Of course, Jerusalem and Alexandria don’t have jurisdictions in America. But the Antiochian Patriarchate certainly does, and they were very active, and we will see also that the first bishop consecrated on American soil was in 1904, was Raphael Hawaweeny, who was a member of the missionary team coming from the Russian Orthodox Church, serving in America. So there was this confusion in America which we will talk about when we get primarily to the 20th century. But already in the 19th century you had those events taking place which impacted America. So the six Patriarchates that still, to this day, have jurisdiction over national churches—and nobody speaks about phyletism any more—are: Constantinople over the Greek speakers (the Church of Greece has no jurisdiction in America); and then you have the Patriarchate of Antioch over the Arabic Christians, Euro-Arab people; and then you have the Russian Church over the Russians—that’s an issue in itself that we have to discuss because in the 20th century of course the original American Russian Orthodox missionary Metropolia in North America was given autocephaly by the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate in 1970, and we’ll look in detail at how that came about. But what we want to see today is that it was the Russian army—again—that went into these areas, especially the Antiochian Patriarchate and dismissed (or whatever it would be called) the Greek man who was acting as the Patriarch of Antioch, and they received the first Arab primate in 1898. Right at the end of the 19th century, the Antiochian Patriarchate finally had a local Antiochian Syro-Arab man as its Patriarch. And that was for the first time after centuries being led by the Greeks. And because the Christians in this area are basically anti-Chalcedonian—so-called Monophysites—the number of Greek Orthodox—and that’s what they’re called to this day, the Patriarch of Antioch is called the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, Greek Orthodox meaning that they accepted Chalcedon and are in communion with the others who were within the realm of Constantinople, and still are to this day because still, de facto, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is still the ranking see in Eastern Orthodoxy’s pecking order, the order of priorities within the Church. That’s a huge problem we’re still facing at the present moment in 2014.
But what’s interesting to note—a little anecdote—is that when the Russians dismissed or chased away the Greek Patriarch of Antioch and the first Arab Primate was put in in 1898 with Russian help, that that particular bishop was a man whose name was Meletios Doumani, and the interesting anecdotal point is this: when in 1904, the archbishop of the Russian-American Missionary Dioceses in America—Tikhon—who later became the Patriarch of Moscow in 1917-18 and perished under the Communists in the 1920s—when the American Missionary dioceses’ bishops decided that they would consecrate Raphael Hawaweeny to be a bishop within that missionary diocese of the Russian Church, with the specific purpose of caring for the Syro-Arab-speaking churches within the Russian-American Mission, Tikhon, who was the primate of that Church in America at the time—1904—he wrote a letter to the Patriarch of Antioch—a long letter, I’m putting together a little book right now where I have that letter printed—where Tikhon in America is asking the blessing and the prayer of Meletios, to concur with their act of making Raphael a bishop for the Syro-Arab people in North America, asking his blessing, honoring him as a Patriarch of Antioch, and that these people originally from the Antiochian Patriarchate—in other words it wasn’t some kind of rebel hostile act on the part of the American missionary diocese to consecrate Raphael to the episcopate (of course he’s now a canonized saint, having been the first Orthodox bishop consecrated on American soil). That was done with the permission and blessing of Patriarch of Antioch Meletios Doumani, and the irony is that that Meletios was the first Arab patriarch of Antioch in centuries, and was put on his seat by Russian arms. So it was by Russian activity that the Arabs appointed the Patriarch of Antioch for the Eastern Orthodox people. So it’s interesting that Tikhon in America writes to Meletios in Damascus in the old country, getting a common mind on the consecration of Raphael as a bishop for America, that the one that Tikhon wrote to was the one who was sitting on the throne of Antioch because of Russian intervention and the expulsion of the Greek leadership in Antioch. So that’s just an interesting anecdotal point.
But what we should notice also is that the churches at that time, in the 19th century, in Alexandria and Jerusalem are still governed by Greek primates, and they are to this very day. The Patriarch of Alexandria in the Eastern Orthodox Church is a Greek, and has been always. There is no native Egyptian Greek Orthodox Chalcedonian Church in Egypt. The Coptic church is there, anti-Chalcedonian. But there are Greek people there, so the Greeks have a Patriarchate there, and the Patriarch is a Greek, to this day. In Jerusalem, the Patriarch of Jerusalem is still a Greek to this very day. There are a sprinkling of Arab leaders in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and I think maybe even a bishop or two I’m not sure, but in any case at this very moment that you are listening and I am speaking, the Patriarch of Jerusalem is Greek. And it’s the Greek Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre who actually run the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. But still the majority of the Greek Orthodox Chalcedonian Christians in the Jerusalem area are Arab people, Arab-speaking people, Syrian people, and that has been that way, but they still to this day, the local episcopate and synod, does not elect its own Patriarch—or rather, it does elect its own Patriarch except the great majority of the members of that synod are Greeks. And it’s the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre which produces the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, to this day, who is a Greek. And there still is some type of hostility about that fact. I don’t think anybody’s too interested in the Patriarchate of Alexandria, because there’s only a handful of Greek businessmen and other people there. But I think there is great interest that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem would be a church in and for the local Orthodox people who live there, who are all Arab-speaking people. There are probably some Greek businessmen and all that kind of thing, but still there is no reason, it seems, why the Patriarchate of Jerusalem cannot have its own patriarchal structure. Even though it’s independent of Constantinople, it is still led by Greek bishops that got their control of it under the Ottomans.
This is what we see in the 19th century under the falling apart of the Ottoman Empire. We see the emergence of the autocephalous church in Greece, and also autocephalous churches in Bulgaria, and in Romania, and in Serbia, and at the beginning of the 20th century this will all become totally legal. It will not only be de facto it’ll be de jure, so to speak, and will be recognized even by Constantinople. Ultimately Constantinople will recognize and perhaps even claim to give the autocephaly to the Bulgarians, the Serbians, and the Romanians, whereas as a matter of fact it was pretty much taken by these churches themselves, with their act then being accepted and finally confirmed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, whereas I mentioned there’s only a handful of Eastern Orthodox Christians in the region of Istanbul, which causes a lot of discussion and difficulty today in the Church about how our Church is structured in the world. The primacy belongs to Constantinople, but Constantinople has no Church. The great majority of the bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople have non-existent sees in the old Constantinopolitan regions, and it’s even ironic that their titles are usually the churches of the Apocalypse, that no longer exist. For example, the famous theologian, John Zizioulas, is Metropolitan of Pergamos (Pergamon). Well, I heard that seven Greeks from Pergamon showed up at his consecration, but he obviously was made a bishop to be on the synod, doesn’t govern any bishop at all, continues to be a theologian and a scholar and an advisor to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but he has no Church. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is the same way. He’s a Metropolitan of Diokleia which doesn’t exist—I don’t know if he’s ever been there—but he’s in Great Britain, and he stays there, and he’s within the Patriarchate of Constantinople in England. And then in America, all the Metropolitans of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, all their sees are non-existent sees in the old Orient, the old Patriarchate of Constantinople, where these churches do not even exist any more. Well, that ought to trouble some people, certain questions should be asked about all that. How can all of this continue? Well, it continues because Constantinople has a great following in the so-called diaspora, particularly North America, and even in South