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Greek Orthodox Church in America

Those not in communion with Rome

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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 established.

I. RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. The Russian Church has been established upon American (formerly Russian) territory for over a century. In this connection the word Russian refers to rossiisky (of the Empire of Russia), and not russky, which may be translated either Russian or Ruthenian. 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 1804 the fort and city of New Archangel (now Sitka) was founded on the island of Sitka. 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 of “Kamchatka, the Kuriles and Aleutians”, and took up his see at Sitka. In 1867, just before Alaska was sold to the United States, he was made Metropolitan of Moscow, and in Russia his advice was of great assistance in the negotiations for the transfer of Alaska. After him the title of the see was changed to “Aleutia and Alaska“. In 1872 the see was changed from Sitka to San Francisco, and a Russian cathedral built there. The Russian bishops in America have been Paul (1867-70), John (1870-79), Nestor (1879-82), Vladimir (1883-91), Nicholas (1891-97), and Tikhon (1897-1907). 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. In 1907 he was succeeded by the present Archbishop Platon, a former member of the Russian Duma.

Until within the last twelve years the Russian Church was hardly known in the United States, being wholly confined to its Pacific shores. In New York between 1870 and 1880 there was a Russian Orthodox chapel on Second Avenue, established by the Rev. Nicholas Bjerring, but it failed for lack of a congregation and support by the Russian authorities. Father Bjerring became a Catholic before his death. The first great impulse to the establishment of the Russian Church in the united States on a tale wgs given in 1891, when the late Rev. Alexis Toth, then a Ruthenian Greek Catholic priest in Minneapolis, disobeyed the instructions of Archbishop 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. He afterwards tried, in 1892, to take over the entire congregation and church property of St. Mary’s Greek Catholic church in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The transfer of the church property was prevented by the courts, but over half the congregation seceded. 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 splendor before unknown in America, and the Church itself put on a solid basis. In 1908 the whole United States and Canada were divided into five great blagochinnia, or deaneries: New York, Pennsylvania, Pittsburg, the Western States, and Canada, each one having from ten to twenty churches, and there was besides the Diocese of Alaska. 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 Russia. This is the more remarkable when there are but few Russians (from Russia) in the United States. The latest figures (1909) for the Russian Orthodox Church in America are: Russians, 7974; Galician Ruthenians, 11,045; Hungarian Ruthenian, 5820; Bukovinians, 4180; making a total of 29,019. Besides these there are in Alaska: Indians, 1891; Aleutians, 2149; Eskimo, 3666. The Orthodox Russian clergy (1909) consist of one archbishop, one bishop, 2 archimandrites, 2 protopriests, 2 hegumens, 15 monastic priests, 70 secular priests, 2 deacons, and 40 cantors. Three of these are in Canada, and fifteen in Alaska. They have 60 churches in the United States, 10 in Canada, and 17 churches and chapels in Alaska. They have a large church society very much like the Ruthenian ones, the “Pravoslavnoe Obshchestvo Vzaimopomoshchi” (Orthodox Mutual Aid Society), with 133 brotherhoods and 3950 members. Two church journals are published, “Amerikansky Pravoslavny Viestnik” (American Orthodox Messenger), in Great Russian, and “Svit” (Light), in Ruthenian. Their tone is bitter towards Greek Catholics and in many Uniat parishes they excite dissension.

II. GREEK HELLENIC ORTHODOX CHURCH. Greek immigration was confined to the hundreds until 1890; the immigration figures for 1905-08 are: Greece, 77,607; Turkey, 19,032. 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 the 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 like Holy Trinity of Lowell, Mass., and Holy Trinity of New York City of considerable importance. Their clergy consist of 7 archimandrites, 3 monks, and 25 secular priests, but the churches are in the main governed by the lay trustees and particularly by the president of the board. Of these Greek clergy, 15 are subject to by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and 20 to the Holy Synod of Athens. This circumstance and the fact that a part of the Greeks come from the Turkish Empire and the other part from the Kingdom of Greece have given rise to many dissensions and prevented the nomination of a Greek bishop for the United States, neither the patriarch nor the Synod wishing to cede such an appointment to the other. On the other hand, they both decline to admit or recognize the authority of the Russian bishops here.

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, which just now is quasi-schismatic towards Constantinople but closely affiliated with Russia. They of course 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. Their clergy consist of the Syro-Arabian bishop and twelve priests, of whom three are monks. They have (1909) churches in the following localities: Brooklyn and Glens Falls, New York; Boston, Worcester, and Lawrence, Massachusetts; Pittsburg, Johnstown, and Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kearney, Nebraska; Beaumont, Texas. 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 news-papers 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 that southern Slavic language, the Servian, which is identical with the Croatian, except that it is written in the Russian alphabet to which are added two or three letters unknown to Russian, whilst the Croatian (used by the Roman Catholics) is written with Roman letters. The Russian, the Servian, and the Bulgarian Churches use the Old Slavonic language in the Mass and church offices. The Servians are mainly in Pennsylvania and the West, and the first church was built by the Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovitch in Jackson, Cal. (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, from Pennsylvania to California, Wyoming, and Washington. Their clergy consist of one archimandrite, five monks, and four secular priests, and they have churches in Chicago, Illinois; Pittsburg, McKeesport, Wilmerding, Steelton, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Kansas City, Kansas; Denver, Colorado; Jackson and Los Angeles, California; Butte, Montana; St. Louis, Missouri. They also publish three Servian papers and have several church societies the chief one “Srbobrar”.

V. RUMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH., about half the Orthodox Rumanians in the United States come from Rumania and half from Transylvania in Hungary. Their immigration has been all within the past decade, both in the United States and in Canada. They are also 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 Ruma nians at the present time (1909) in America, including Canada. Their first church was St. Mary’s, built in 1907 at Cleveland, Ohio. They have, besides several missionary stations, five churches situated at the following places: Indiana Harbor, Illinois; Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio; Sawyer, North Dakota; Regina, Canada. Of their clergy—one archimandrite and four secular priests—three are from Transylvania and two from Rumania. 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. While the majority come from the Kingdom of Bulgaria, a great many are also from Macedonia, in Turkey. 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. While there are considerable numbers in New York City, yet they have settled chiefly in Illinois and Missouri, and are scattered also farther westward. 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. They are also known as Arnauts and call themselves in their own language skipetar, “mountaineers” (see Albania). They are, of course, the same race which formerly emigrated into Italy, and whose descendants now form the majority of the Italian Greek Catholics. 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. In February, 1908, the Russian Archbishop of Aleutia and North America ordained the Rev. F. S. Noli, a young Albanian, in New York City as an Orthodox priest and established him as missionary for his people in the United States. 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, and Missouri. Endeavors have been made by them to attract the Italo-Greeks from their Uniat rite, on the ground of their being also of the Albanian race in America.


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