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Revista Studii Teologice

REVISTA FACULTĂŢILOR DE TEOLOGIE DIN PATRIARHIA ROMÂNĂ



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Începuturile Bisericii autocefale ortodoxe a Greciei (1821-1852)

Early History of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece (1821-1852)

Autor(i): Dumitru Sorin STOIAN


The beginnings of the Orthodox Church of Greece, as an autocephalous eccle-sial institution headed by its own synod, are closely related to the emergence of the Greek modern state. On the Annunciation day, 1821, in Peloponnese, metropolitan Germanos of Old Patras raised the revolution banner and blessed a fight that would last for almost a decade, resulting in the emergence of the Greek modern state. The fight for independence waged by the Greek people from within and without the bor-ders of the Ottoman Empire had started long before, and several factors had prompted it:
– Greeks in Constantinople’s Phanar working as interpreters for Ottoman au-thorities;
– the proliferation of Phanar princes in the Romanian Principalities;
– the economic „revival” of Greeks and their financial progress;
– the emergence and thriving of a higher social class on the territory occupied by the Turks (primates);
– the emergence of Greek foundations and societies promoting independence;
– Greeks’ cultural „renaissance”;
– the contribution of Greek hierarchs and clergy to the preservation of na-tional spirit and Greek language;
– the French Revolution – the catalyst of 1821 events.
Independence was won on the battlefield as well as by negotiations, as the great European powers: Great Britain, France and Russia lent their support to the young state, each of them for different reasons. The first king of the modern Greek state – Otho, son of Ludwig of Bavaria, was crowned in early 1833.
As a consequence of political independence, the eparchies within freed territo-ries ceased their relationships with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Besides the obvious political reasons, a further one was the fact that among Greek clergy and politicians appeared a faction that deemed the patriarch had betrayed the „holy cause” of free-dom, as he obeyed the Ottomans and was controlled by the Porte. Under the circum-stances, the Greek Church faced a delicate problem, threatening its very existence as an institution: how to regenerate its hierarchy. More than 6,000 priests had died during the war and many bishops had been killed in the conflict, so that half the eparchies in the freed territories were vacant. Greeks turned to the validly ordained hierarchs who had retired, renounced their sees or fled from the territories under Ottoman rule. These appointments were only temporary, and in time it became obvi-ous that the Church of Greece had to clarify its canonical status as well as its rela-tionship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and establish a coherent system – either the old or a new one, functioning independently from Constantinople – to restore its hierarchy.
Since any contact with the ecumenical patriarch was impossible, the new re-gime opted for an unilateral proclamation of autocephaly. A synod convened and 22 Greek hierarchs accepted the government’s proposal to declare the autocephaly of the Greek Church and set up a standing Synod as supreme church authority. Later, on 23 July 1833, the first official statute of the Orthodox Church in the Greek King-dom was promulgated, unilaterally proclaiming autocephaly and thus independence from Constantinople. The document was drafted by one of the three regents, Georg Ludwig von Maurer. The new ecclesiastical constitution broadly followed the Bavarian model, subordinating the Church to the secular authority and allowing its freedom only in dogmatic matters. The Ecumenical Patriarchate ignored the claims to auto-cephaly and took no measures against the „rebels”.
Over the following century, events were nothing but a „cat and mouse” game between the Patriarchate of Constantinople, on the one hand, and the Greek Church and state, on the other hand. The synodal tomos of 29 June 1850 acknowledged autocephaly only if the Church was no longer subordinate to the state. Law 201 of 1852 favored the state: although the first articles granted the Church independence from any other ecclesial authority and secular power, article 6 appointed as a mem-ber of the Church Synod a royal commissary who countersigned all synodal decisions and decrees; no action could be taken without his signature.
A similar situation was created in the early 20th century, when the northern Greek eparchies known in Greek historiography as the „New Territories” (Macedonia and important areas of Thracia and Northern Epirus) were ceded by the dying Otto-man Empire to the Greek Kingdom in 1913. Constantinople delayed a decision on the canonical status of these territories, although precedents existed (the eparchies of Thessalia, Southern Epirus and the Ionian archipelago, once integrated into the Greek state, had passed under the authority of the Synod of Athens, as decreed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate). Following the failed incursion of the Greek army into continental Turkey, in 1921-1922, relationship between the two states became strained, and populations were exchanged. Under these circumstances, the Ecumeni-cal Patriarchate could no longer maintain any contact with the faithful in the „New Territories”. To avoid leaving the eparchies without leaders and restricting the juris-diction of the ecumenical patriarch to the inhabitants of Constantinople, in September 1928 the Constantinopolitan synod decided to delegate administration of the „New Territories” eparchies to the Church of Greece, while the patriarchal see retained the supreme canonical authority over these eparchies. In other words, the Ecumenical Patriarchate ceded to the Church of Greece, for a limited yet unspecified period (until the situation became better), the administrative rights over these eparchies, while maintaining all canonical and jurisdictional rights over them.
Before the patriarchal decree was made public, the Greek government drafted a law on the ecclesiastical status of the „New Territories”. The document, published on 10 July 1928, two months prior to the official version of the patriarchal decree, stated that the metropolitanates of the Ecumenical Patriarchal See within the „New Territories” of Greece acknowledged the Holy Synod of Athens as administrative authority, while remaining under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which retained its canonical rights in these eparchies. The law caused unrest in Con-stantinople, mainly because although it stated that the Patriarchate maintained its canonical rights, it failed to specify which these rights were.
Church-state relationships in Greece were complex: on the one hand, from the very first constitutional endeavor (Epidaur, 1822), Orthodoxy was declared the na-tional religion; on the other hand, as the modern Greek state became established, political authorities attempted to subordinate the Church to the state. During the 19th-20th centuries Church-state relationships in Greece gradually moved from absolute control over the Church to actual separation of the ecclesial institution from the secular ones. The first Church statute (1833) stipulated that the Holy Synod of the Greek Church was placed under the authority of the king. Art. 6 of Law no. 201/1852 appointed in the Synod a royal commissary, who countersigned all synodal decision and decrees; no action could be taken without his signature. Law no. 200/1852 regulated the election of hierarchs: the Synod would propose three cler-gymen, Greek citizens, and the king would select one of them. For almost a century, legal provisions in the Greek Kingdom kept the Church in the same position of sub-ordination to the state.
A law voted in December 1923 abrogated laws 200 and 201 of 1852 and stipulated that the king’s representative lost some of his importance, since the Synod could make decisions in his absence.
The Church became completely independent from the state through the Con-stitution of 1975, which declared that the Church of Greece was autocephalous and headed by a standing Synod made up of bishops, a body constituted according to the provisions of the patriarchal Tomos of 29 June 1950 and the Synodal decree of 4 September 1928 (documents of the Patriarchate of Constantinople that insisted that the Church of Greece was independent from the secular power). According to the current Statute of the Greek Church, the Synod elects the archbishop of Athens, and metropolitans are elected with an absolute majority of votes.
Relationships between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Church of Greece have been very complex. Despite their shared, millennia-old historical and cultural legacy, the 19th century brought about a split between the Ecumenical Patri-archate and the eparchies in the newly-formed Greek state. Prompted by Enlighten-ment ideas, the Greek people gained political independence, soon followed by the proclamation of Greek Church’s autocephaly, events that led to the definitive jurisdic-tional separation from Constantinople of eparchies that had been dependent on the Ecumenical Patriarchate for over a millennium. On the other hand, the Constantino-politan Synod condemned ethno-phyletism and continued to hold the old, imperial multi-national view according to which a Church is not confined within the borders of a state or the member of one people. Thus over the last two centuries relationships between the two ecclesial institutions evolved in the political context of the times, with a few tense moments and even loss of communion. Territorial jurisdiction has been and still is the main cause of such episodes in the history of the relationships be-tween the two Churches.

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Pagini: 161-200