→Current Church structure: 14 autocephalous churches
The '''Orthodox Church''' is the
same [[Ecclesiology|Church]] founded by [[Jesus Christ]] and his [[apostles]], begun at the day of [[Pentecost]] with the descent of the [[Holy Spirit]] in the year 33 A.D. It is also known (especially in the contemporary West) as the '''Eastern Orthodox Church''' or the '''Greek Orthodox Church'''. It may also be called the Orthodox Catholic Church, the Orthodox Christian Church, the [[One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church|one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church]], the [[Body of Christ]], the [[Bride of Christ]], or simply '''the Church'''.
The [[bishop]]s of the Orthodox Churches trace unbroken [[Apostolic succession|succession]] to the very [[apostles]] themselves, therefore ultimately receiving their consecrations from our [[Lord]] [[Jesus Christ]]. All the bishops of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, no matter their titles, are equal in their [[sacrament]]al office. The various titles given to bishops are simply administrative or honorific in their essence. At an [[ecumenical council]], each bishop may cast only one vote, whether he is the Ecumenical Patriarch or simply an [[auxiliary bishop]] without a [[diocese]]. Thus, there is no equivalent to the [[Roman Catholic Church|Roman Catholic]] [[pope|papacy]] within the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
As with its [[Apostolic succession]], the
[[faith ]] held by the Church is that which was handed by [[Jesus Christ|Christ]] to the [[apostles]]. Nothing is added to or subtracted from that deposit of faith which was "handed once for all to the saints" ( [[Book of Jude |Jude]] 3). Throughout history, various [[heresy|heresies]] have afflicted the Church, and at those times the Church makes [[dogma|dogmatic]] pronouncements (especially at [[ecumenical councils]]) delineating in new language what has always been believed by the Church, thus preventing the spread of [[heresy]] and calling to repentance those who [[schism|rend asunder]] the Body of Christ. Its primary statement of faith is the [[Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed]].
==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|
Serbia]], [[Church of Romania| Serbia]], and many others.
Each church has always had independent administration, but, with the exception of the Church of Rome, which finally separated from the others in the year 1054, are united in faith, doctrine, Apostolic tradition, sacraments, liturgies, and services. Together they constitute what is called the “Orthodox Church”, literally meaning "right teaching" or "right worship", derived from two Greek words: orthos, "right," and doxa, "teaching" or "worship."
The growing disputes between East and West reached another peak in 1054 AD, when mutual anathemas were exchanged. The sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade (1204 AD) intensified Eastern hostility toward the West.
Attempts at reconciliation at the councils of
[[Lyon ]] (1274 AD) and [[Council of Florence|Florence]] (1438-39 AD) were unsuccessful. When the papacy defined itself as infallible ( [[First Vatican Council ]], 1870 AD), the gulf between East and West grew wider. Only since the [[Second Vatican Council ]] (1962-65) has the movement reversed, talks are bringing serious attempts at mutual understanding.
==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 ==
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