Christine Chaillot, Ed., the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

Christine Chaillot, ed., The Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century, Oxford, et al.: Peter Lang, 2011, 464 pp.

Christine Chaillot, a converted Swiss Orthodox belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is well known as a specialist in Orthodox (both Eastern and Oriental) Churches. She has published several books on this subject, contributing tremendously to a better knowledge of Orthodoxy on a worldwide level. Her last publication that she edited is focused on the history of the Orthodox Churches in Eastern and Central Europe in the twentieth century and is understood as a continuation of a similar volume dedicated to the Orthodox Churches in Western Europe in the same century (published in French and then English in 2006).

The volume is privileged to be introduced (ix-xvii) by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia who is, no doubt, the best-known Orthodox theologian alive. He tries to identify the common points of the history of Orthodox Churches in Eastern Europe as well as the main challenges of their future. Three major developments have marked the history of Orthodoxy from this part of the world in the last hundred years: (1) The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, which brought communism in Russia and from there, after the Second World War, in other Eastern and Central European countries. The communist ideology caused either a direct and violent persecution (for example in Russia during the 1920s and 1930s and in Albania) or indirect and concealed persecution of the churches in other orthodox East European countries. However, Metropolitan Kallistos observes very well that "the aim of the communist authorities in the order countries of Eastern Europe (Albania excepted) was to control rather than to annihilate the church" (xi). (2) The exchange population that took place between Greece and Turkey in 1923, which caused the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to be deprived of the large majority of its flock. And (3) the collapse of communism in 1988-1989, which permitted the revival of Orthodox churches in all Eastern Europe. In the foreword are identified some of the common points of the Orthodox churches, as well as their challenges: active support of the post-communist states or at least positive neutrality in relationship with the Orthodox churches; "the lack of inter-orthodox unity and cooperation, not on the level of doctrine and worship ..., but in the domain of church administration and jurisdiction" (xiii); the issue of the pan-Orthodox Synod, "the strong spirit of nationalism that prevails in almost all Orthodox churches" (xv); the need of Orthodox churches to go through the process of "transition from the situation of a state church to that of a [free] church, existing in what is essentially a multicultural secular society." This process is "painful," but necessary (xvi).

An editor's introduction (1-8) brings more clarifications to the content and purpose of the volume. …