Church of Finland

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The Church of Finland is an autonomous Orthodox church whose primate is confirmed by the Church of Constantinople. It is the second official state church of Finland, beside the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

Orthodox Archdiocese of Finland
Founder(s) Tsar Alexander I
Autocephaly/Autonomy declared 1918
Autocephaly/Autonomy recognized 1923 by Constantinople, 1957 by Russia
Current primate Archbishop Leo
Headquarters Kuopio, Finland
Primary territory Finland
Possessions abroad Estonia
Liturgical language(s) Finnish
Musical tradition Russian Chant
Calendar Gregorian
Population estimate 60,000[1]
Official website Church of Finland


The Orthodox faith was the earliest form of Christianity to arrive in Finland. It spread to southern Finland and to the people of Karelia around Lake Ladoga through trade and other contacts with the East over 1,000 years ago. The founding of monasteries on the islands of Lake Ladoga contributed significantly to the spreading and establishment of the Orthodox faith in eastern Finland. The monasteries were important missionary centres.

During Russian rule in the 19th century, in Helsinki, Viipuri and the Karelian Isthmus, Orthodoxy was associated with the country's ruling elite. However, many rural Finns, Sami, and Karelians were also members of the Orthodox Church.

Shortly after Finland declared independence from Russia in 1917, the Finnish Orthodox Church declared its autonomy from the Church of Russia. In 1923, the Finnish Church completely separated from the Russian Church, becoming an autonomous part of the Church of Constantinople. The New Calendar was also adopted, including the Gregorian Paschalion, making it distinct from the rest of the Orthodox churches, whether following the New or Old Church calendar. Other reforms introduced after independence include changing the primary liturgical language from Church Slavonic to Finnish (also other languages are used depending on parish and situation, e.g. Church Slavonic, Swedish, English) and the transfer of the Archepiscopal seat from the multicultural city of Viipuri to the Finnish speaking city of Sortavala.

Until World War II, the majority of the Orthodox Christians in Finland were in Karelia. As a consequence of the war, many residents of that border province evacuated to other parts of the country. The monastery of Valaam was evacuated in 1940 and the monastery of New Valaam was founded in 1941 at Heinävesi. Later, the monks from Konevitsa and Petsamo monasteries also joined the New Valaam monastery. The nunnery of Lintula at Kivennapa (Karelian Isthmus) was also evacuated, and re-established at Heinävesi in 1946. A new parish network was established, and many new churches were built in the 1950s. After the city of Viipuri was lost to the Soviet Union, its Diocesan seat was moved to Helsinki. A third Diocese was established at Oulu in 1979.

Finnish Orthodoxy Today

To this day, Orthodoxy is practiced mostly by Russians, Karelians and the Sami (Koltta Tribe), although it has shed the image of the privileged class with which it was once associated. The Church of Finland has about 60,000 members. In recent decades, the membership has been steadily growing.

Its current primate is His Eminence Leo, Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland.

Church structure

Within the one autonomous Church of Finland, there are three metropolia:

  • Metropolis of Helsinki
  • Metropolis of Karelia
  • Metropolis of Oulu

Related articles

Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches of Orthodoxy
Autocephalous Churches
Four Ancient Patriarchates: Constantinople · Alexandria · Antioch · Jerusalem
Russia · Serbia · Romania · Bulgaria · Georgia · Cyprus · Greece · Poland · Albania · Czech Lands and Slovakia · OCA* · Ukraine*
Autonomous Churches
Sinai · Finland · Estonia* · Japan* · China* · Ukraine*
The * designates a church whose autocephaly or autonomy is not universally recognized.

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