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  • Orthodox Churches in Decline, Except in Ethiopia. A Survey Posted on 06 December 2017

    Orthodox Churches in Decline, Except in Ethiopia. A Survey

    Ortodossi

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    Of the 260 million Orthodox Christians all over the world, fully 100 million live in Russia. But only 15 percent of them maintain that religion is “very important” in their lives.

    These are some of the most conflicting data from the major survey that the Pew Research Center in Washington has published on Christians of the Orthodox faith:

    > Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century

    With respect to Catholicism and Protestantism, which over the past century have expanded from Europe to the other continents and above all in Latin America and Africa where they now count the bulk of their faithful, Orthodox Christianity has remained concentrated with more than three fourths of its members in Europe, with the only big exception being none other than Ethiopia.

    An exception that is not only geographical.

    In Russia and in all the other countries with a predominantly Orthodox population, in fact, religious practice everywhere is very low, in spite of the fact that almost all of the faithful keep sacred icons in their homes.

    In Russia, only 6 percent of the Orthodox go to church once a week, in Ukraine 12 percent, in Romania 21 percent, the European record.

    But if one looks at Ethiopia, weekly church attendance characterizes 78 percent of the faithful.

    In Ethiopia, the Orthodox faith has a particular profile. It accepted only the first three ecumenical councils, before that of Chalcedon in 451, like the Orthodox communities of Egypt, Syria, Armenia, India. But it is also distinguished by its Jewish features. It observes the sabbath rest, circumcises boys, and follows the dietary rules of the Jews. It recounts that three thousand years ago its emperor Menelik I, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, brought the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia, where it is still venerated.

    With respect to the Orthodox faithful of Europe, Ethiopia also distinguishes itself by its levels of certainty of faith in God. While in Russia only 26 percent of the Orthodox say they are certain of his existence, in Ethiopia the level rises to 89 percent.

    The observance of fasting during Lent and on other days also registers a divergence. While in Russia this is practiced by 27 percent of the faithful, in Ethiopia it is 87 percent.

    And then, in Russia 60 percent of the Orthodox believe in heaven and hell. In Ethiopia, 97 percent.

    On the other hand, while in Russia 61 percent of the Orthodox believe in the evil eye, in Ethiopia it is much lower: 35 percent.

    Circumscribing the survey to European Orthodoxy alone, the Pew Research Center has also ascertained that the inclination toward an ecumenical reconciliation with the Catholic Church is rather limited.

    In Russia, 17 percent say they are in favor, 41 percent against, and another 41 percent did not respond. 32 percent are in any case in favor of Pope Francis’s efforts toward improving relations between the two Churches.

    But to the request to indicate who is the highest authority of the Orthodox Church, capable of negotiating with the pope of Rome, the responses are divided.

    In Russia 69 percent of the Orthodox point to Moscow patriarch Kirill, and only 4 percent to ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew, who theoretically would be the “primus inter pares” of all Orthodoxy and is the one who for decades has maintained the most friendly relations with the papacy.

    Also in Ukraine, in Romania, in Serbia, in Bulgaria, in Georgia the selection goes to the respective patriarchs, and not to that of Constantinople.

    The only country in which Bartholomew obtains a narrow majority is Greece, with 56 percent of the selections.

    But apart from Greece, in no other Orthodox country does the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople exceed 10 percent of the votes

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