The Orthodox Church of Greece
By most accounts, some 97% of the population of Greece today self-identifies as Orthodox. But the real number is probably somewhat lower because most sources do not count the Old Calendar Orthodox groups separately. They make up perhaps 5% of the population. Orthodox dioceses in Greece tend to be small: there are 92 in the country. Altogether in 2006 a total of 8,515 priests were serving in the Church of Greece, not counting Crete and the Dodecanese Islands which are part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Monasticism, which had been in steady decline since the 19th century, has recently witnessed a modest revival. In 2006 the church reported that there were 216 mens monastic communities and 259 for women along with 66 sketes, with a total of 1,041 monks and 2,500 nuns. The monastic republic of Mount Athos, although within Greece, is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
There was a significant renewal movement within the Greek church following World War II. This was boosted by the new monasticism, or lay brotherhoods that started at the beginning of the 20th century. The most prominent of these groups, Zoe, founded in 1907 by Eusebius Matthopoulos, reached its height in the mid-1960s when it had about 130 members, virtually all theologians, some 34 priests among them. The community worked to reform the attitudes of Greeks towards the Orthodox Church by placing strong emphasis on personal piety. Zoe combined monastic spirituality with an active apostolate, and in some ways resembles the apostolic religious communities that developed in the western church. In 1963 the more traditionalist members broke away from Zoe to form a smaller new brotherhood called Soter, under the leadership of Panagiotes Trembelas. Although today these movements are in decline and most of the members are elderly, they provided a new model of Orthodox religious life and had a profound influence on the church of Greece.
The church has also been heavily involved in philanthropic activity, not only by issuing statements expressing the churchs teaching on social justice, but also by maintaining many orphanages, homes for the aged, hospitals, etc.
Theological scholarship in Greece is centered at the two theological faculties at the universities of Athens and Thessalonika. There are also several seminaries for the training of parish priests. Many of the most distinguished theologians of the Greek church are laymen.
Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece was elected in April 1998 to succeed Archbishop Seraphim, who had headed the church since 1974. At his enthronement, the vigorous new Archbishop, who had helped found the churchs radio and television stations, pledged to increase the churchs role in society, to eradicate manifestations of xenophobia or racism, to increase the churchs outreach to young people, to improve relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and to affirm Greeces role in Europe by advocating full accession to the European Union. In the following years, Archbishop Christodoulos populism and public charisma, along with his ability to express himself in common-sense language accessible to the common people, raised the visibility and influence of the church in Greek society.
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