In our previous article, we discussed some of the orthodox church countries. In this article, we will look at the Orthodox Church of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. We’ll also look at the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is the second largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church. It has an estimated 220 million baptised members.
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church, which has nearly 100 million members, is the largest of all the Orthodox churches. Its leader is Patriarch Kirill. In recent years, the Russian Orthodox Church has framed its role in Ukraine’s crisis in religious terms. The Church has fought against the protestant sects since the late tsarist period.
Kirill believes that the Church’s immediate task is to rebuild its institutional structure. He plans to do this by expanding the central ecclesiastical administration, establishing more parishes, and training more priests. In fact, during his time as patriarch, the Russian Orthodox Church added 688 parishes and 994 priests annually.
The Soviet government forbade patriarchal elections after Tikhon’s death. In response, Metropolitan Sergius of Moscow expressed loyalty to the Soviet regime and avoided criticizing the state. This attitude led to divisions in the Church. In response, the Russian Orthodox metropolitans in western Europe and America severed relations with Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church reasserted itself as the dominant religion in Russia during the 1990s. The Church was also helped by the government returning some of its seized state land. The 1997 religious association law provided additional leverage for the Church. Further, the Russian Orthodox Church also reopened parish churches.
The ROC is organized in a hierarchical structure. There are two-tiered bodies: the Local Council and the Bishops’ Council. The Local Council consists of all bishops, representatives of clergy, and laypeople. Another organ of power is the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has seven permanent members and is chaired by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
Belarusian Orthodox Church
The Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC) has an important public role and has contributed to the formation of the Belarusian national identity. Since its establishment in 1991, the BOC has been actively involved in civic affairs and has worked closely with various governmental organizations and educational institutions. These initiatives and relationships have been critical in forming the national identity of Belarus.
The BAOC has had a turbulent history, which began with its dissolution in 1839. However, this did not stop a few nationalists from trying to restore the Church. In 1972, Bishop Andrey (Kryt) of Adelaide declared a revival of the Church. He consecrated Bishop Iziaslauv (Brucki) of Polatsk, who was subsequently elected Metropolitan of the BAOC. Metropolitan Andrey died in 1983 and Bishop Iziaslauv inherited the title.
Since the end of World War II, the number of Protestants in Belarus has significantly increased compared to other Christian groups. Although the number of Protestants is still low compared to the number of Orthodox believers, they are growing in number. This trend has continued even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The Belarusian Orthodox Church is the largest religious organization in the country and is an exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite the size and popularity of the church, the Belarusian Orthodox Church has faced some serious criticism. The previous Metropolitan Paul faced criticism for his close relationship with the country’s President Lukashenko. Consequently, Metropolitan Paul was forced to step down from his office in late August. His replacements, Bishop Veniamin of Borisov and Maryina Horka, are both Belarusian citizens. Various Christian denominations in Belarus are also standing with the protestors and are making solidarity with them.
Kazakhstani Orthodox Church
The Kazakhstani Orthodox Church is one of the most active churches in the country. The state of Kazakhstan hosts the seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions (CLWR) this year. The government is working to bring together spiritual leaders from different countries to discuss their concerns and goals. As in any case, dialogue is always beneficial, and this one is no exception.
Christian communities began to appear in Kazakhstan during the third century. The Russian Cossacks first settled in the southern part of the country, where they began building their first Orthodox churches. Around the 17th century, the Russian Empire annexed this region, and the first Orthodox churches were built by the Russians.
By the ninth century, Christianity was widespread in Kazakhstan, and monuments attest to this. During this time, the orthodox church rejected Nestorianism, which was a form of Nestorian Christianity. Nestorian Christians believed in the Holy Spirit and worshiped the Trinity. During the Soviet era, the situation was particularly difficult for all religious groups in the country. Bolsheviks destroyed churches, which was a humiliating experience for many believers.
When the country gained independence, the Church in Kazakhstan was divided into three eparchies. The first of these was the Eparchy of Almaty-Semipalatinsk, and the second was named the Eparchy of Astana-Almaty. In 2003, the eparchies were joined to form the Metropolia of Kazakhstan. The Metropolitan of Astana is the ruling hierarch of the Metropolia.