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==Very brief history==
Almost two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and founded the Church, through His Apostles and disciples, for the salvation of man. In the years which followed, the Apostles spread the Church and its teachings and founded many churches, all united in faith, worship, and the partaking of the Mysteries (or as they are called in the West, the Sacraments) of the Holy Church. The churches founded by the Apostles themselves include the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome and Constantinople. The [[Church of Alexandria]] was founded by St. Mark, the [[Church of Antioch]] by St Paul, the [[Church of Jerusalem]] by Ss. Peter and James, the [[Church of Rome]] by Ss. Peter and Paul, and [[Church of Constantinople]] by St Andrew. Those founded in later years through the missionary activity of the first churches were the Churches of Sinai, [[Church of Russia|Russia]], [[Church of Greece|Greece]], [[Church of Serbia|Serbia]], [[Church of Bulgaria| Bulgaria]], [[Church of Romania| Romania]], and many others.
==Beliefs and Practices==
The Orthodox Church recognizes as authoritative the decisions of the seven ecumenical councils that met between 325 AD and 787 AD and defined the basic doctrines on the [[Trinity]] and the [[Incarnation]]. In later centuries Orthodox councils also made doctrinal definitions on [[Grace]] (1341 AD, 1351 AD) and took a stand in reference to Western teachings.
== Current Church structure ==
[[Image:World canonical territories.png|right|thumb|
250px|Map of the canonical territories of autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox jurisdictions. Click image to magnify.]]
The Eastern Orthodox Churches of today consist of a family of fourteen or fifteen [[autocephaly|autocephalous]] churches and five [[autonomy|autonomous]] churches, sometimes referred to as [[jurisdiction|jurisdictions]]. The number of autocephalous churches has varied in history. Autocephalous churches are fully self-governing in all they do, while autonomous churches must have their [[primate|primates]] confirmed by one of the autocephalous churches, usually its mother church. All the Orthodox churches remain in [[full communion]] with one another, sharing the same [[faith]] and [[praxis]]. There have been occasional breaks in communion due to various problems throughout history, but they generally remain brief and not developing into full [[schism]]. It is hoped that the [[Great Schism]], with the [[Church of Rome]], will someday be mended too.
The [[Church of Constantinople|Patriarchate of Constantinople]] is also the Ecumenical Patriarchate and has the status of "first among equals" among the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Church is not a centralized organization headed by a pontiff, but an organic community guided by the Holy Spirit in the world. The unity of the Church is visible in, and held together with, common faith and communion in the sacraments. No one but Christ himself is the real head of the Orthodox Church.
==Number of Adherents==
The most common
estimates of the number of Orthodox Christians worldwide is approximately 225-300 million individuals.<ref>[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_Church#Number_of_adherents Eastern Orthodox Church: Number of Adherents] at Wikipedia.</ref>.
Other estimates such as in ''The Encyclopedia of the Developing World''<ref>Thomas M. Leonard. ''Encyclopedia of the Developing World: Vol 3, O-Z Index''. Taylor & Francis, 2006.</ref>
places the number of overall Orthodox worshippers in 1996 at 182 million individuals, including the following breakdown:
* Russian Federation: 70-80 million