Greek Religion and Orthodoxy in Greece

Greek religion and the Orthodox church

Greek orthodox churchMost Greeks are Christian Orthodox. There are, of course, also other religious groups in the Greek society like Catholics, Moslems, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus and Buddhists, but they consist of minority groups.
A few specific characteristics of the Greek Orthodox religion is that the Virgin Mary, or Panagia (All Saint) as the Greeks call her, is given great importance, the clergy is only male, priests can have wives as long as they get married before they are ordained, there are monasteries and icons are given great significance.

The Orthodox church is a fellowship of administratively independent, or autocephalous (self-governing), local churches united in faith, sacraments, and canonical discipline, each enjoying the right to elect its own head and its bishops. Traditionally, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople is recognized as the “first among equal” Orthodox bishops. He possesses privileges of chairmanship and initiative but no direct doctrinal or administrative authority.

The other heads of autocephalous churches, in order of precedence, are: the patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, with jurisdiction over Africa; the patriarch of Antioch, now residing in Damascus, Syria, and heading Arab-speaking Orthodox Christians in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq; the patriarch of Jerusalem, with jurisdiction over Palestine; the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; the patriarch of Kiev; the patriarch-catholicos of Georgia; the patriarch of Serbia; the patriarch of Romania, the patriarch of Bulgaria, the archbishop of Cyprus, the archbishop of Athens and all Greece, the archbishop of Albania; the metropolitan of Prague and the archbishop of New York and North America.


There are many, many churches in Greece, and they are very varied in size. Their walls are covered in icons, and the iconostasis (wall of icons) separate the holiest space where the altar is from the rest of the church. Only clergymen are allowed behind the iconostasis. The churches are always named after its patron saint.
You might have noticed that there are icons of various saints almost everywhere you go in Greece: in homes, shops, restaurants, cars, boats etc. One is not to worship the actual icon, but what it represents as a window to heaven.
The sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Holy Confession, Holy Unction, Holy Matrimony (Marriage), and Ordination .


Historically, the contemporary Orthodox church stands in direct continuity with the earliest Christian communities founded in regions of the eastern Mediterranean by the apostles of Jesus. The subsequent destinies of Christianity in those areas were shaped by the transfer (324) of the imperial capital from Rome to Constantinople by Constantine I.

As a consequence, during the first eight centuries of Christian history most major intellectual, cultural, and social developments in the Christian church also took place in that region; for example, all ecumenical councils of that period met either in Constantinople or in its vicinity.

Missionaries, coming from Constantinople, converted the Slavs and other peoples of Eastern Europe to Christianity (Bulgaria, 864; Russia, 988) and translated Scripture and liturgical texts into the vernacular languages used in the various regions. Thus the liturgy, traditions, and practices of the church of Constantinople were adopted by all and still provide the basic patterns and ethos of contemporary Orthodoxy.

In the peninsula of Athos in Chalcidiki  located the monastic autonomous part of the Greek State Mt Athos This is a monastic state with many Greek and Russian monasteries where only men are allowed.

Easter is the most important holiday, Christmas comes second. There are various masses during Easter, but the one almost all participate in is on the Sunday. People gather at their local churches, usually outside because of the crowds, late in the evening. At midnight the priest declares “Christos anesti”, Christ has risen, and the people reply “Alithos anesti”, “truly risen”. Then everyone light the candles they have with them from the holy flame from Jerusalem that the priest carries. After this the people go home, trying to keep the flame alive. If they make it to the doorway with the candle still burning, they make a cross in the archway, blessing the house for the following year.

The orthodox religion of Greece

One of the three main branches of Christianity, the Greek Orthodox church claims to have preserved the original and apostolic Christian faithÑthat is, as passed from Jesus through his twelve apostles.

The Orthodox church is a fellowship of independent, self-governing local churches, each of which elects its own leaders.
It broke with the Roman Catholic church in the 11th century after a series of disputes over, among other things, the Catholic view that the pope is the successor of the apostle Peter and head of the entire church by divine appointment.

The Orthodox church holds that the basic doctrines on the Trinity and Incarnation were authoritatively defined by seven church councils that took place between the years 325 and 787.

Although some practices differ, the Orthodox church accepts the early traditions of Christianity and the same seven sacraments as the Roman Catholic church. In worship, the liturgy is always sung, and the Eucharist, or communion, is always distributed in both of its formsÑbread and wine.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is especially venerated along with the saints, and icons of Christ, Mary, and the saints are seen as visible witnesses to the fact that God has taken human flesh in the person of Jesus