Religion in Greece & the islands

The religion of Greek people is an important aspect of their culture. The population in mainland Greece and the Greek islands is Christian Orthodox per 90%. The religion of the rest of the population is Muslims, Catholic, Jewish and other minorities. Greece and Russia are the only countries to have such a great proportion of the Orthodox population.

The Orthodox Church forms the third largest branch of Christianity, after the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. You will find below information about the history of Orthodox religion in Greece: the founders of the orthodox church, the Schism, the connection with the Greek nation, the separation with the state and other religions in Greece.

The founders

According to the history of Orthodoxy, the first who came in the Greek territory to preach Christianity was Saint Paul in 49 AD. Although many people converted to Christianity in the centuries that followed, this didn't become an official religion until the Emperor Constantine the Great established Christianity as the official religion of the Byzantine Empire.

The Schism

In 1054 AD, Christianity was divided into Eastern and Western Church, the Orthodox and the Catholics. This division was called " The Schism" and was the result of long disputes between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople. The disputes referred to the celibacy of the clergy (Catholic priests had to remain unmarried, whereas the orthodox priests could marry before becoming ordained), receiving the Holy Communion and the wording of the Creed: for the Orthodox, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, whereas Rome added and the Son (filioque). However, the largest problem between the two Churches was the demand of the Pope to have full control over the Eastern Patriarchs (of Constantinople, of Alexandria and of Antioch).

Orthodox Church and the Greek Nation

The Orthodox Church is strongly connected to the Greek Nation since the Byzantine times when the Patriarch of Constantinople had a strong power over the national matters. During the Ottoman rule, from 1453 to 1821, the Orthodox religion was an important element for the conservation and the definition of the Greek Nationality. During the several occupations, the Orthodox Church made a great effort to preserve the language, culture, traditions, and the Orthodox faith. They managed to preserve the religious conscience and the feeling of affiliation.

Separation State - Church

Officially and like in all European countries, the Greek State and the Orthodox Church are separated. This separation is not written or regulated by the Constitution and the Greek Orthodox Church has great power in Greek society.

Other religions in Greece

As mentioned, 90% of the Greek population is Christian Orthodox. A percentage of less of 1% are Greek citizens of the Muslim religion, most people living in Thrace who were not affected by the population exchange of 1922 between the Greeks of Asia Minor and the Turks of Greece. The rest are Catholics (less than 1%), Jewish (7,500 people), Jehovah's Witnesses, and others. Many Catholics live on the island of Syros and other islands the Cyclades, remain from the Venetian occupation in the Medieval times.