The Holy Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy
The Holy Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Exarchate of Southern Europe, which includes the Greek Orthodox communities, brotherhoods and parishes of the Republic of Italy was created on 5 November 1991 by a Patriarchal and Synodical Tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The creation of the Archdiocese was the first canonical act of the newly elected Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (22 October 1991).
The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate also elected, on the same day, a Metropolitan for the newly created Archdiocesan See. The second Metropolitan elected was Bishop Gennadios of Cratea, who was solemnly installed in the historic cathedral of St. George of the Greeks (San Giorgio dei Greci) in Venice on October 27 1996.
The Greek Orthodox Church constitutes a traditional ecclesiastical presence on Italian soil. Upon initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, she began once again, during the 20th century, to organize herself in a compact ecclesiastical entity: initially, as an Exarchate of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain (1922-1963), and then as an Exarchate of the Archdiocese of Austria-Hungary (1963-1991), before a proper archdiocesan see was finally created for the Orthodox of Italy in the historic "Campo dei Greci" in Venice.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy aims at providing spiritual care to the Orthodox Christians of the country by means of creating parishes, churches, monasteries, societies and philanthropic associations, as well as institutions for the training of the Clergy anf for the religious education of the Orthodox youth. Another important aim of the Archdiocese is to develope ecumenical ties with other Christian Churches and Confessions which are active in the country so as to contribute to the cause of restoring unity amongst all Christians.
At the time of the creation of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy there were eight Greek Orthodox church communities (brotherhoods, communities and parishes) in the country: those of Venice, Naples, Trieste, Barletta, Brindisi, Genoa, Milan, and Rome. In the four years after its creation the Archdiocese has founded new parishes in the cities of Udine, Padua, Ferrara, Torino, Pisa, Livorno, Parma, Perugia, Aquila, Catania, Messina, Quartu Sant'Elena, Cagliari-Pirri, and a Romanian speaking parish in Rome. In addition, it opened the Monastery of St. John Theristis near the village of Bivongi in Calabria. At the moment, there are also new parishes in the process of being created in the cities of Verona, Pavia, Varese, Florence, Ancona, Bari and Lecce.
At the moment, the church communities of the Archdiocese come to twenty-two, of which nineteen are Greek speaking, two are Italian speaking and one is Romanian speaking. Of those seven parishes which are being formed at the moment, one is Italian speaking. There are eleven churches and eight chapels which are served by the eighteen clerics of the Archdiocese: 12 Greeks, 5 Italians and one Romanian.
There are various bodies operating within the church communities of the Archdiocese, such as parish councils, catechetical schools, courses in Modern Greek, libraries, women's auxiliary groups, cultural and philanthropic committees, student associations, Greek-Italian Social Clubs etc.
It is estimated that the faithful of the Archdiocese of Italy, together with students from Greece, number about one hundred eighty thousand (180,000) persons. The Greek Orthodox living in the country are almost exclusively Italian citizens of a high social, economic and cultural level.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy carries out its missionary task by means of the following bodies: the Archdiocesan Council, the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, the Commission for Ecumenical Relations, the Commission for Religious Education, the Commission for Pubblications, the "Historical Archives for Hellenism in the Italian Peninsula", the well known "Diaconia Pastorale" which publishes, among others, the Annual Calendar of the Archdiocese in Greek and Italian, the monthly newsletter "Notiziario Ortodosso" in Italian and the bimonthly "Orthodox News Bulletin" in English. Moreover, within the Archdiocesan sphere are based 1) the Secretariat of the Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church (Rome), and 2) the Chairmanship of the Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the World Lutheran Federation (Venice).
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy
Castello 3422 - 30122 Venice - Italy
Tel. 0039-41-52.39.569 - Fax 0039-41-52.27.016
The Orthodox Church is one of the traditional religious entities which has always been present and active on the Italian peninsula. Flourishing Archdioceses existed in the southern part of the peninsula: in Calabria, Puglia and Sicily, which for centuries fell within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
After the Norman conquest of these regions in the 11th and 12th centuries, the number of Greek Orthodox slowly diminished, even if their presence is still testified to until the beginning of the 17th century; without, however, the ecclesiastical structure and activity that characterized them during the previous periods.
The number of Greek Orthodox had begun to increase once again by reason of mass immigrations due to the gradual conquest of the Orthodox East by the Ottomans. The Orthodox immigrants came initially from Epirus and the Peloponnese, and later from Crete, Cyprus, the islands of the Ionian and Egean Seas, Macedonia, Asia Minor, etc. These migratory movements were directed mainly towards the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (Naples, Barletta, Brindisi, Messina, Catania), the Duchy of Tuscany (Livorno-Pisa), the Venetian Republic (Venice, Zara, Pola), the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Trieste, Fiume), as well as toward Ancona, Genoa and Corsica.
The various states which at that time existed on the Italian peninsula received benevolently the Orthodox immigrants who reactivated whole regions economically and culturally, leaving indelible signs of their creative presence and activity (i.e. in Venice, Naples, Trieste, Livorno, and Barletta)
The Orthodox immigrants brought to Italy the most precious of all their possessions: their faith and their Greek Orthodox tradition. Following this century-old tradition, they organized themselves into brotherhoods and communities with their own churches, schools, cemetaries, hospitals, and came to have juridical recognition from the local authorities which often conceded them special privileges as well.
The role played by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was decisive in the survival of the Greek Orthodox world not only in the Christian East under Ottoman domination, but also in the diaspora. It never ceased to contribute to the affirmation of the religious faith of its emigrant children and to closely follow their problems, sending them worthy clerics and teachers, and even nominating a Metropolitan, that of Philadelphia, who resided for more than two hundred years in Venice (1537-1797).
There was at the beginning of the 19th century a notable dimunition of the number of Greek Orthodox in Italy. The phenomenon can be traced to two reasons: a) the gradual assimilation of the Orthodox by the Roman Catholic majority, and b) the emigration of thousands of Orthodox Greeks, mostly during the last half of the 18th century, towards new important centers of the Greek diaspora (mainly in Austria, Hungary, Wallachia, Moldavia, Transylvania, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia).
A considerable growth in the number of Greek Orthodox in Italy is noted again after World War II. New migration waves brought a great number of Orthodox Greeks from Northern Epirus, the Dodecanese, Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, etc. These, together with numerous Greek students enrolled in Italian universities, contributed to the revival of old communities and to the creation of new important parishes and religious centers (Rome, Milan, Genoa, Bari, etc.)
In order to provide for a more articulated structure for the Greek Orthodox communities in Italy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate erected, in November of 1991, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy and Exarchate of Southern Europe, with its headquarters in the historic "Campo dei Greci" in Venice.