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Religious history (1)

The Catholic Encyclopedia

Greek Orthodox Church in America

  The name Orthodox Church is generally used to distinguish those of the Greek Rite who are not in communion with the Holy See. It is a name common to the official designation of both Churches of the Greek Rite, but the schismatic or dissenting Churches lay great stress upon the word Orthodox, and its implied meaning of correctness of doctrine, while the Uniat Churches lay equal emphasis upon the word Catholic. Hence these divisions of the Greek Church are respectively called the “Greek Orthodox” and the “Greek Catholic” for convenience in designation.
  The Greek Orthodox Church is now well established in America, and nearly every city of considerable size has one or more churches of the various nationalities belonging to that communion. There is no unity among them nor any obedience to a central authority; they conform to the general usages and discipline of the Byzantine Rite, but look to their respective Holy Synods in their home countries for governing authority and direction. Seven nationalities have their churches here, using the Old Slavonic, the Greek, the Arabic, and the Rumanian as their liturgical languages and of these the Russian is the oldest and best established.
  In 1793 a band of eight missionary monks was sent out from St. Petersburg to Alaska, and the first Russian church was built on Kodiak Island in 1794. In 1798 the first missionary bishop, Joasaph, was consecrated. In 1812 the Russians made a settlement in California; Russian Hill, in San Francisco, is still a reminder of them. In Alaska they converted many of the Eskimo and Indians, and the success of their missions was such that in 1840 the monk Ivan Veniaminoff was made the first bishop and took up his see at Sitka. In 1872 the see was changed from Sitka to San Francisco, and a Russian cathedral was built there. In 1900 the title of the see was changed to “Aleutia and North America”, and an assistant bishop was appointed for Alaska. In 1905 Bishop Tikhon changed his see from San Francisco to New York City, and in the year 1906 the Russian Holy Synod raised him to the dignity of archbishop with the suffragan Bishop of Alaska and a new Bishop of Brooklyn. Until within the last twelve years the Russian Church was hardly known in the United States, being wholly confined to its Pacific shores.
  The first great impulse to the establishment of the Russian Church in the United States on a large scale was given in 1891, when the late Rev. Alexis Toth, then a Ruthenian Greek Catholic priest in Minneapolis, disobeyed the instructions of Archbishop of Ireland and, when threatened with a recall to his native country, left his parish, went to San Francisco, turned Orthodox, and submitted to Bishop Nicholas, and on returning to Minneapolis took over his whole parish to the Russian Orthodox Church. Toth became an able and energetic advocate of the Russian Orthodox Church among the Ruthenians of America, succeeded in arousing the Holy Governing Synod of Russia to the opportunity to spread Orthodoxy and Panslavism among the Ruthenians in America, and became a most bitter opponent of Catholicism. He was made a mitred protopriest for his efforts and is said to have been the cause of nearly 10,000 secessions from the Greek Catholic to the Russian Orthodox Church.
  In 1900 the whole Orthodox movement was put under the direction of the “Orthodox Missionary Society of All-Russia”, which, together with the Holy Synod, supplies extensive funds and numerous priests for its development here. In 1902 a fine Russian cathedral (St. Nicholas) was built in New York City, and Russian churches have begun to spring up everywhere in the Atlantic States, particularly in Pennsylvania. Numerous priests and lower clergy were brought from Russia, a theological seminary opened in Minneapolis, a monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, the rites of the Greek Church were celebrated with a magnificence and splendour before unknown in America, and the Church itself put on a solid basis. In March 1909, the Russian Church adopted an elaborate Constitution (Normalny Ustav) of sixty-four paragraphs, defining the rights of clergy, laity, and parishes, thus creating a local canon law for the United States, subject to the Holy Synod in Russia.
Greek immigration was confined to hundreds until 1890. The first Greek church (Holy Trinity) was opened in New York City in 1891 by Rev. P. Ferentinos from Greece. Subsequently the new church on East 72nd Street was acquired, in which they have erected one of the finest Greek interiors - the altar, iconostasis and throne being of Pentelic marble. The Greeks have begun to build fine churches. There are (1909) about 130,000 Greeks in the United States, chiefly in the Eastern and Middle States, and they publish eighteen newspapers, including two dailies. They have 32 churches in the United States and 2 in Canada, some of considerable importance.
These are Syrians of the schismatic Greek Rite who use the Arabic language in their liturgy. They are nearly all from the Patriarchate of Antioch. They began to immigrate to the United States at the time that the other Syrians, Melchites, and Maronites, came. The Russians have greatly assisted them in building churches and establishing missions here, and their bishop, Raphael of Brooklyn, is a Syrian educated in Russia. The first Syro-Arabian church (St. Nicholas) was built in Brooklyn in 1902, and has since become their cathedral church.
  There are said to be about 50,000 Orthodox Syrians in the United States, but they are quite scattered. They have frequent dissensions with their fellow-Syrians, the Melchites and Maronites, who are Uniats. They publish two Arabic newspapers in the interest of the Orthodox Church, and have a number of societies in New York and elsewhere.
  This is composed of immigrants from Servia, Dalmatia, Hungary, and Montenegro. They all speak Servian. The Servians are mainly in Pennsylvania and the West, and the first church was built by the Archimandrite Sebastian Dabovitch in Jackson, California. (1894). The Servian Orthodox Church is closely affiliated to the Russian Church in this country, except that some of their churches do not recognize the jurisdiction or authority of the Russian archbishop. There are about 70,000 or 80,000 Servians in the United States.
About half the Orthodox Rumanians in the United States come from Rumania and half from Transylvania in Hungary. They are under divided jurisdiction, those from Rumania being under the Holy Synod of Rumania and those from Transylvania under the Metropolitan of Hermannstadt.
  There are about 30,000 Orthodox Rumanians at the present time (1909) in America, including Canada. Their first church was St. Mary's, built in 1907 at Cleveland, Ohio. It is a noticeable fact that these two branches of the Greek Rite, Catholic and Orthodox, have harmonious relations and attend all Rumanian celebrations together, where matters of their race and language are concerned.
  Bulgarian immigration into the United States has only recently been in any considerable numbers. They dislike the Greeks very much, and while the Turkish contingent of them is nominally under the Patriarch of Constantinople, they recognize only the Exarch of Bulgaria. Neither will they affiliate with the Russian Church authorities here.
  The first Bulgarian Church (Sts. Cyril and Methodius) was built in 1908 by the Bulgarian monk Theophylact at Granite City, Illinois. There is also another one near St. Louis, Missouri, and one is being built at Madison, Illinois, while there are several mission stations. There are about 20,000 Bulgarians and three priests in this country. They publish two papers in their language and have several church societies, but have no national organization.
  The Albanians use the Greek language in their liturgy, there having been no version into their very difficult tongue. They come from Albania in the southern Balkans and from Epirus and northern Greece. Albanian immigration to America has been quite recent, but there are now some 15,000 here, mostly settled in the vicinity of New York City and in New England. Although they use the Greek language in their liturgy and have attended the Hellenic Orthodox Church, they have no love for the Greeks. The Russian Holy Synod has taken steps on his initiative towards translating the Greek Liturgy into Albanian. They have a small chapel in Brooklyn and missions in New England, Pennsylvania, and Missouri.

Andrew J. Shipman, ed.
Transcribed by: Douglas J. Potter
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.

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