Greek Orthodox Church in America
The name Orthodox Church is generally used to distinguish those of
the Greek Rite who are not in communion with the Holy See. It is a name common
to the official designation of both Churches of the Greek Rite, but the schismatic
or dissenting Churches lay great stress upon the word Orthodox, and its implied
meaning of correctness of doctrine, while the Uniat Churches lay equal emphasis
upon the word Catholic. Hence these divisions of the Greek Church are respectively
called the “Greek Orthodox” and the “Greek Catholic” for
convenience in designation.
The Greek Orthodox Church is now well established in America, and
nearly every city of considerable size has one or more churches of the various
nationalities belonging to that communion. There is no unity among them nor any
obedience to a central authority; they conform to the general usages and discipline
of the Byzantine Rite, but look to their respective Holy Synods in their home
countries for governing authority and direction. Seven nationalities have their
churches here, using the Old Slavonic, the Greek, the Arabic, and the Rumanian
as their liturgical languages and of these the Russian is the oldest and best
I. RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
In 1793 a band of eight missionary monks was sent out from St.
Petersburg to Alaska,
and the first Russian church was built on Kodiak
Island in 1794. In 1798 the first missionary bishop, Joasaph, was consecrated.
In 1812 the Russians made a settlement in California;
Russian Hill, in San Francisco,
is still a reminder of them. In Alaska
they converted many of the Eskimo and Indians, and the success of their missions
was such that in 1840 the monk Ivan Veniaminoff was made the first bishop and
took up his see at Sitka.
In 1872 the see was changed from Sitka
to San Francisco, and a Russian
cathedral was built there. In 1900 the title of the see was changed to “Aleutia
and North America”, and an assistant bishop was appointed for Alaska.
In 1905 Bishop Tikhon changed his see from San
Francisco to New York City,
and in the year 1906 the Russian Holy Synod raised him to the dignity of archbishop
with the suffragan Bishop of Alaska
and a new Bishop of Brooklyn.
Until within the last twelve years the Russian Church was hardly known in the
United States, being wholly confined to its Pacific shores.
The first great impulse to the establishment of the Russian Church
in the United States on a large scale was given in 1891, when the late Rev. Alexis
Toth, then a Ruthenian Greek Catholic priest in Minneapolis,
disobeyed the instructions of Archbishop of Ireland
and, when threatened with a recall to his native country, left his parish, went
to San Francisco, turned
Orthodox, and submitted to Bishop Nicholas, and on returning to Minneapolis
took over his whole parish to the Russian Orthodox Church. Toth became an able
and energetic advocate of the Russian Orthodox Church among the Ruthenians of
America, succeeded in arousing the Holy Governing Synod of Russia
to the opportunity to spread Orthodoxy and Panslavism among the Ruthenians in
America, and became a most bitter opponent of Catholicism. He was made a mitred
protopriest for his efforts and is said to have been the cause of nearly 10,000
secessions from the Greek Catholic to the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1900 the whole Orthodox movement was put under the direction of
the “Orthodox Missionary Society of All-Russia”, which, together with
the Holy Synod, supplies extensive funds and numerous priests for its development
here. In 1902 a fine Russian cathedral (St. Nicholas) was built in New
York City, and Russian churches have begun to spring up everywhere in the
Atlantic States, particularly in Pennsylvania.
Numerous priests and lower clergy were brought from Russia,
a theological seminary opened in Minneapolis,
a monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania,
the rites of the Greek Church were celebrated with a magnificence and splendour
before unknown in America, and the Church itself put on a solid basis. In March
1909, the Russian Church adopted an elaborate Constitution (Normalny Ustav) of
sixty-four paragraphs, defining the rights of clergy, laity, and parishes, thus
creating a local canon law for the United States, subject to the Holy Synod in
II. GREEK HELLENIC ORTHODOX CHURCH
Greek immigration was confined to hundreds until 1890. The
first Greek church (Holy Trinity) was opened in New
York City in 1891 by Rev. P. Ferentinos from Greece. Subsequently the new
church on East 72nd Street was acquired, in which they have erected one of the
finest Greek interiors - the altar, iconostasis and throne being of Pentelic marble.
The Greeks have begun to build fine churches. There are (1909) about 130,000 Greeks
in the United States, chiefly in the Eastern and Middle States, and they publish
eighteen newspapers, including two dailies. They have 32 churches in the United
States and 2 in Canada, some
of considerable importance.
III. SYRO-ARABIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
These are Syrians of the schismatic Greek Rite who use the
Arabic language in their liturgy. They are nearly all from the Patriarchate of
Antioch. They began to immigrate
to the United States at the time that the other Syrians, Melchites, and Maronites,
came. The Russians have greatly assisted them in building churches and establishing
missions here, and their bishop, Raphael of Brooklyn,
is a Syrian educated in Russia.
The first Syro-Arabian church (St. Nicholas) was built in Brooklyn
in 1902, and has since become their cathedral church.
There are said to be about 50,000 Orthodox Syrians in the United States,
but they are quite scattered. They have frequent dissensions with their fellow-Syrians,
the Melchites and Maronites, who are Uniats. They publish two Arabic newspapers
in the interest of the Orthodox Church, and have a number of societies in New
York and elsewhere.
IV. SERVIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
This is composed of immigrants from Servia,
Dalmatia, Hungary, and Montenegro.
They all speak Servian. The Servians are mainly in Pennsylvania
and the West, and the first church was built by the Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovitch
in Jackson, California.
(1894). The Servian Orthodox Church is closely affiliated to the Russian Church
in this country, except that some of their churches do not recognize the jurisdiction
or authority of the Russian archbishop. There are about 70,000 or 80,000 Servians
in the United States.
V. RUMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
About half the Orthodox Rumanians in the United States come
from Rumania and half from
Transylvania in Hungary.
They are under divided jurisdiction, those from Rumania
being under the Holy Synod of Rumania
and those from Transylvania under the Metropolitan of Hermannstadt.
There are about 30,000 Orthodox Rumanians at the present time (1909)
in America, including Canada.
Their first church was St. Mary's, built in 1907 at Cleveland,
Ohio. It is a noticeable
fact that these two branches of the Greek Rite, Catholic and Orthodox, have harmonious
relations and attend all Rumanian celebrations together, where matters of their
race and language are concerned.
VI. BULGARIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Bulgarian immigration into the United States has only recently been
in any considerable numbers. They dislike the Greeks very much, and while the
Turkish contingent of them is nominally under the Patriarch of Constantinople,
they recognize only the Exarch of Bulgaria.
Neither will they affiliate with the Russian Church authorities here.
The first Bulgarian Church (Sts. Cyril and Methodius) was built in
1908 by the Bulgarian monk Theophylact at Granite
City, Illinois. There
is also another one near St.
Louis, Missouri, and
one is being built at Madison, Illinois,
while there are several mission stations. There are about 20,000 Bulgarians and
three priests in this country. They publish two papers in their language and have
several church societies, but have no national organization.
VII. ALBANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
The Albanians use the Greek language in their liturgy, there having
been no version into their very difficult tongue. They come from Albania
in the southern Balkans and from Epirus
and northern Greece. Albanian
immigration to America has been quite recent, but there are now some 15,000 here,
mostly settled in the vicinity of New
York City and in New England. Although they use the Greek language in their
liturgy and have attended the Hellenic Orthodox Church, they have no love for
the Greeks. The Russian Holy Synod has taken steps on his initiative towards translating
the Greek Liturgy into Albanian. They have a small chapel in Brooklyn
and missions in New England, Pennsylvania,
Andrew J. Shipman, ed.
Transcribed by: Douglas J. Potter
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.
- The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908)