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Current Dynamics within Orthodox Christianity: Between Tradition, Innovation and Realpolitik (3/3)

Panel Chair: Vasilios N. Makrides | Friday, August 28, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

During the last 100 years, the areas where Orthodox Christianity predominates have experienced numerous socio-political and other upheavals, including communist rule. Moreover, processes of globalisation, local nationalisms, political cleavages and regionalisms have heightened the challenge of religious pluralism in these regions, as well as increased the number of Orthodox faithful residing in “the West”, outside the traditionally Orthodox heartlands in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. All these developments continue into the 21st century and have already prompted various responses within the Orthodox world. Underlying most of them is the question of authority within the church: To what extent are pressures from secular models, societal modernisation processes, global developments and strategic political considerations considered legitimate from the point of view of Orthodox Christian theology? How do the various Orthodox Churches react to these pressures and accommodate them? Are there any discernible differences in this respect between the historical Orthodox mother-churches and the Orthodox transnational communities across the globe? The nine papers of this panel, divided in three sessions, attempt to offer glimpses of the evolving dynamics within the contemporary Orthodox world and its oscillation between traditional commitments and the challenges of change and innovation.

Emil Bjørn Hilton Saggau

The Return of Duklja: The Montenegrin Orthodox Church’s Recasting of History

The Montenegrin Orthodox Church was revitalized in 1993 after a bitter feud between the local Montenegrins and the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan of Montenegro during the breakup of Yugoslavia. This new Orthodox community has since tried to transform, adapt and re-shape the history of Montenegro to fit into their claim of an independent status detached from the Patriarchate of Belgrad. This reshaping is partly based on the revival of a “Dukljan” identity linked to the medieval Slavic state known as Duklja or Diocleia, which is claimed to have been religiously and culturally independent of the Serbian medieval state, known as Raska. This paper investigates this revival of the “Dukljan” identity, the reshape of its history within the Montenegrin Church and how it is used to detach the Montenegrin Orthodox population from the Serbian Metropolitanate.

Nicolas Kazarian

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Jurisdiction and Power: The Stakes of a Pan-Orthodox Council

The starting point of this paper is a paradox that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople faces today. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has been the first Church within the community of Orthodox Churches for centuries, is the ecclesiastical institution which has lost the most territory and members during the 20th century. The forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council is seen as a chance for the Orthodox Church to fundamentally adapt itself to the exigencies of the modern world, and the local weakness of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has pushed it towards a strategic redeployment of its global power through the forthcoming Council. Although the Patriarchate serves as the guarantor of unity and communion among the numerous autocephalous Orthodox Churches, it is marginalised by the rise of the national Orthodox Churches, particularly of the Patriarchate of Moscow. Using various theoretical perspectives, this paper will highlight and analyse the efforts of the primate of the Orthodox Church to organise this Council as a form of resilience. In other words, how is the Pan-Orthodox Council a question of power for the Ecumenical Patriarchate? What does this say about its views on modernity, nationalisation and globalisation?

Sebastian Rimestad

Using History as a Weapon – Jurisdictional Conflicts on the Periphery of the Orthodox World

In the Orthodox Church, there is a plethora of jurisdictions, each claiming to constitute the church in its entirety. This is particularly noticeable in those cases where two or more jurisdictions co-exist, each purporting to be the legitimate local Orthodox Church. This pertains to, for example, Estonia, Moldova, Ukraine and former Czechoslovakia, where competing churches exist, variously supported by one Patriarchate or the other. Such conflicts are often the result of disparate views of the way politics and religion are related, a result of the rise of various ideologies in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Church representatives reacted variously to these ideological challenges, which sometimes resulted in church splits. The decreasing power of church officials to control the interpretation of history in the mediatised world of today also heightened the conflict potential. Using discourse analysis, this paper will analyse and compare the four cases mentioned above, particularly the deployment of twentieth-century history as an ideological tool in their arguments and overall discursive policies.


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