Portal:Eastern Christianity

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The Eastern Christianity Portal

Holy Qurbono in Syro-Malankara Rite


Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity.

The term is generally used in Western Christianity to describe all Christian traditions that did not develop in Western Europe. As such, the term does not describe any single communion or common religious tradition, and in fact some "Eastern" Churches have more in common historically and theologically with "Western" Christianity than with one another. The various "Eastern" Churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern," with one exception (the Church of the East).

The terms "Eastern" and "Western" in this regard originated with divisions in the Church mirroring the cultural divide between the Hellenistic east and Latinate west and the political divide between the weak Western and strong Eastern Roman Empires. Because the most powerful Church in the East was what has become known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the term "Orthodox" is often used in a similarly loose fashion as "Eastern", although strictly speaking most Churches consider themselves part of an Orthodox and Catholic communion.

Eastern Christians do not have shared religious traditions but many of these groups have shared cultural traditions. Christianity divided itself in the East during its early centuries both within and outside of the Roman Empire in disputes about Christology and fundamental theology, as well as national divisions (Roman, Persian, etc.). It would be many centuries later that Western Christianity fully split from these traditions as its own communion. Today there are four main branches or families of Eastern Christianity, each of which has distinct theology and dogma.

Selected article

Emperor Manuel I
The Second Crusade (1147–1149) was the second major crusade launched by the Roman Catholic Church, called in 1145 in response to the fall of the County of Edessa the previous year. The Second Crusade was announced by Pope Eugene III, and was the first of the crusades to be led by European kings. The armies of the French and the German kings marched separately across Europe and were somewhat hindered by Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus. Prior to the arrival of the Crusaders, Manuel had broken off his military campaign against the Sultanate of Rüm and signed a truce with his enemy Sultan Mesud I. This was done so that Manuel would be free to concentrate on defending his empire from the Crusaders, who had gained a reputation for theft and treachery since the First Crusade and were widely suspected of harbouring designs on Constantinople. Some of the French were outraged by Manuel's truce with the Seljuks and called for an alliance with Roger II of Sicily and an attack on Constantinople, but they were restrained by their King.

After crossing the Byzantine Empire into Anatolia, both the French and German armies were separately defeated by the Seljuk Turks. The remnants of their armies reached Jerusalem and, in 1148, participated in an ill-advised attack on Damascus. The crusade in the east was a failure for the Crusaders and a great victory for the Muslims. It would ultimately lead to the fall of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade at the end of the 12th century.

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Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey
Credit: Arild Vågen

Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.

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Anna of Kashin, icon about 1910

Selected biography

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem - a centre long shared and disputed between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches which  Zoghby attempted to reunite.
Elias Zoghby (January 9, 1912 – January 16, 2008) was the Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Baalbek and a leading advocate of Roman Catholic-Eastern Orthodox ecumenism. He is best known for his ecumenical interventions during Vatican II and his 1995 Profession of Faith, known as the Zoghby Initiative, which attempted to re-establish communion between the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church while maintaining communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Zoghby's views on topics such as Roman Catholic–Eastern Orthodox "double communion" and dissolution of marriage were controversial.

Although Zoghby's proposal of double communion has not been accepted by Rome or the Orthodox Church, the initiative focused greater attention on ecumenical discussions and renewed efforts for East–West unity. Zoghby also suggested a solution which considers adultery and abandonment as causes for the dissolution of marriage. Melkite Patriarch Maximos IV declared that, while "Archbishop Zoghby, like all Fathers of the council, enjoys full freedom to say what he thinks ... [Zoghby] speaks only for himself personally. With respect to the heart of the problem, the Church must hold fast to the indissolubility of marriage." Critics labeled him the enfant terrible of his church, while supporters lauded him as an energetic visionary who sought to re-unite the Eastern Churches.

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