Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Sui Juris Churches XVIII: The Greek Byzantine Catholic Church

(on sui juris churches in general)

Liturgical Family: Byzantine

Primary Liturgical Languages: Greek (both Koine and modern)

Juridical Status: Apostolic Exarchate

Approximate Population: Somewhere between 2500 and 5000

Brief History: Most of the Greek-speaking world fell to the Ottoman Turks, who recognized the danger to their rule of any East-West union among Christians, and therefore organized their policy with regard to Greek Christians in such a way as to hinder the possibility of it. It was thus not until the nineteenth century that an organized union with Rome (as opposed to fleeing West or counting oneself as Catholic secretly) became even a genuine feasibility. Certain possibilities rose immediately, however, when Ottoman control began to loosen and recede. In 1829, the Ottoman government under considerable external pressure removed Catholics from the authority of Orthodox patriarchs, and in 1856, John Marangos started a mission in Constantinople itself. He would later go on in 1878 to have missions in Athens. In part as the result of his efforts, a priest in Thrace, Isaias Papadopoulos, became Catholic and built up a small community there, as well. Further growth occurred through the arrival of Assumptionist missions in Constantinople in 1895.

While the community was still small and barely surviving, the growth and organization had developed enough that Pius X organized the Ordinariate for the Greeks in the Ottoman Empire in 1911, naming Isaias Papadopoulos its head. This was out of Constantinople; however, in the 1920s, after Papadopoulos had been succeeded by George Calavassy, Turkey and Greece exchanged portions of their population, and, barring a few scattered exceptions, most of the Byzantine Rite community in Constantinople was transferred to Athens. Thus in 1923, the Apostolic Exarchate for Byzantine-Rite Greek Catholics was formed, headquartered in Greece, although it still also covered the Byzantine Rite Catholics in Turkey.

In 1932 it was deemed better to divide the exarchate in two, one for Greece and the other for those in Turkey. The next several decades, however, were increasingly troublesome for Greeks of any kind in Turkey, and thus the Turkish exarchate dwindled through persecution and immigration. It is now almost defunct -- it is a single parish that has not had even a priest since 1997 and its church is mostly used by Chaldean Catholic refugees -- but it still exists.

The Exarchate for Byzantine-Rite Greek Catholics continues to grow slowly in Greece itself, however, despite strong opposition from the Greek Orthodox, who tend to regard it as a deliberate and gratuitous interference by Rome. For its size, it is quite active, and serves as the basic framework by which the Catholic Church serves Byzantine Rite Catholics of all kinds in Greece.

Notable Religious Institutes: The Sisters of the Pammakaristos Mother of God, founded in 1922.

Extent of Official Jurisdiction: Two exarchates in Greece and Turkey, although the latter is vacant, and some small scattered parishes elsewhere.

Online Sources and Resources:




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