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Eastern Christianity

The Patriarchate of Constantinople

Doctrines On all major issues the Patriarchate of Constantinople is in agreement with other Eastern Orthodox churches. (See Eastern Orthodoxy.)

History In 330 Emperor Constantine established his new capital, Constantinople, on the site of the Greek city of Byzantium. The Council of Constantinople (381) assigned to Constantinople second place of honour after Rome, making it the leading centre of Greek Christianity. Next to the imperial palace, Constantine built the Church of the Holy Wisdom, which was rebuilt and enlarged in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian.
Growing tensions between eastern and western Christendom led to outright schism in 1054. In 1204 the Crusaders captured Constantinople and plundered it of its wealth and treasures. This left Constantinople militarily weakened, making the city vulnerable to the Ottoman Turks, who captured it in 1453. The Ottomans placed the Patriarch of Constantinople at the head of all the Orthodox Christians in the areas controlled by them. This considerably enhanced the political power of the Patriarchate, but produced much corruption and intrigue as the church became an instrument for secular administration.
The collapse of the Ottoman empire after the first world war, and the defeat of Greece in the Greco-Turkish war of 1922, left the Constantinople church greatly weakened. Almost all of the Greek population of Turkey was transferred to Greece, leaving only a small population in Istanbul and its surrounding districts. The Patriarch of Constantinople remains pre-eminent among Patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and has the sole right to call a pan-Orthodox synod. However, he does not have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of other churches.

Symbols Festal icons, the Virgin Mary as Theotokos, Christ as Pantocrator. (See Eastern Orthodoxy.)

Adherents The church has an estimated 5,000,000 adherents world-wide (Harris and others 1994, 177). The church has 700,000 members in the archdiocese of Australia, 2,500,000 members in the archdiocese of North and South America, and 45,000 members in Turkey (Europa Publications Limited 1995, 1:422, 2:3289, 2:3507).

Main Centre
 Rum Ortodoks Patrikhanesi, 34220 Fener Halig, Istanbul; tel. (212) 5319670.