Irish Council of Churches. Irish Inter-Church Meeting

Orthodoxy in Ireland

Section:

Vision and Values

Various Orthodox Churches are members of the Irish Council of churches. More information about Orthodoxy in Ireland can be found below.

ORTHODOXY IN IRELAND

No Orthodox parish existed in Ireland before 1969. A small number of Russian emigrés arrived shortly after the 1917 Revolution, among them Nicholas Couriss later to be Ireland’s first resident Orthodox priest. Several hundred Orthodox including Greek and Greek Cypriots settled in the country by the early 1950s. 

THE ORTHODOX MISSION IN IRELAND

The mission of the Orthodox Church in Ireland is seen as fulfilling the instruction of Christ our Saviour to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you’ (Mt 28, 19–20) since He ‘desires everyone be saved and come to knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim 2, 4). 

In Ireland this will be primarily done by continuing to preach and serve those Orthodox of the diaspora presently living and working in Ireland, other Orthodox who have no spiritual home, and those others, particularly Irish, who might be drawn to the Orthodox faith. For us it is not about getting into competition with other Christian Churches. It is about sharing the riches of our tradition and an invitation ‘to come and see.’(Jn 1, 46)

BASIS OF BELIEF

Guard the deposit‘. (1Tim 6,20) ‘Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church‘ (Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church)

‘The thing that first strikes a stranger on encountering Orthodoxy is usually its air of antiquity, its apparent changelessness. Orthodox still baptise by threefold immersion, as in the primitive Church; they still bring babies and small children to receive Holy Communion; in the Liturgy the deacon still cries out: ‘The doors! The doors! – recalling the early days when the Church’s entrance was jealously guarded and only members of Christian families could attend; the Creed is still recited without any additions… And whenever Orthodox are asked at inter–Church meetings to sum up the essential characteristics, the will nearly always point to its changelessness and its determination to remain loyal to its past, and its sense of living continuity with the Church of ancient times… The idea of living continuity is encapsulated in the one word Tradition.‘ 

Orthodox Christians of today see themselves as heirs and guardians to this rich inheritance received from the past, and they believe that it is their duty to transmit this inheritance unimpaired to the future. 

‘Tradition is the witness of the Spirit: Christ’s words are to be recalled, ‘When the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth’ (Jn 16,13). It is this divine promise that forms the basis for the Orthodox devotion to Tradition.’

Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, The Orthodox Church, (London: Penguin Books, 1997), pp.195–97; 199. 

GOVERNANCE AND ORGANISATION

All the Orthodox Churches are self–governing or autocephalous. Each is guided by a Holy Synod, a board of bishops and laymen, where the head of the Church is the moderator of the Synod. The number of Orthodox Churches comprises the 4 ancient Patriarchates – Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem; 9 other autocephalous Churches – Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania. All except 2 –Poland and Albania – are in countries where the Christian population is predominantly Orthodox. The heads of the Russian, Romanian, Serbian and Bulgarian Churches are known by the title Patriarch. The head of the Georgian Church is called Catholicos–Patriarch; the heads of the other Churches are called Archbishop or Metropolitan. 

There is in addition several Churches which, while mostly self–governing, are not fully independence. These are termed ‘autonomous’ – Czech Republic and Slovakia, Sinai, Finland, Japan and China. Then there is a large Orthodox diaspora in western Europe (like Ireland and the UK), in North and South America, and in Australia.  

ECUMENICAL RELATIONS

Patriarch Daniel of Romania has written well of the Orthodox contribution to ecumenical relations since the early 20th century which are here offered in summary form. 

The unexpected initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1920 to consider the divided Christian confessions as being members of Christ (although in a state of estrangement) and to call them all to form a koinonia of Churches presents an apparent paradox in light of the permanent affirmation that the Orthodox Church is not simply just another confession, but rather the Church, the most faithful witness towards being the One, Undivided, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. 

The Orthodox Churches which were co–founders of the World Council of Churches at Amsterdam in 1948 (namely the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Church of Cyprus and the Church of Greece) do not hesitate to express their often uncomfortable position in the WCC. Joined by other Orthodox Churches which enthusiastically became part of the WCC at the New Delhi Assembly in 1961 (the Churches of Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland), these all meet from time to time to review and revise their desiderata, as they continue as a minority among a Protestant majority. Nevertheless, at every assembly of the World Council of Churches, the Orthodox continue to renew their commitment to stay and to work for unity together with other Christian Churches. 

The Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, during his visit to the World Council of Churches in November 1967, underscored that the Orthodox Church’s involvement in the Ecumenical Movement appears not only as a chance or opportunity to witness, but even as one of its obligations:

‘The more a Church has the consciousness that it possesses the truth and remains faithful to the word of Christ, so much the more has she the obligation to enter into dialogue and collaboration with all other Christian denominations, in a spirit of love, humility and service.’ 

You can find more information on the Orthodox Churches that are Members of ICC here:

Antiochian Orthodox Church

Greek Orthodox Church

Indian Orthodox Church

Romanian Orthodox Church

Russian Orthodox Church