Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church

Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia
Founder Ss. Cyril and Methodius
Independence 1951, 1998
Recognition Autocephaly recognised in 1951 by the Russian Orthodox Church and in 1998 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Primate Metr. Rastislav
Headquarters Prague, Czech Republic
Prešov, Slovakia
Territory Czech Republic and Slovakia
Language Church Slavonic
Members 100,000[1]
Bishops 6
Parishes 172

Official website in the Czech Republic (in Czech)

Official website in Slovakia (in Slovak)

The Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia is a self-governing body of the Eastern Orthodox Church that territorially covers the countries of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Archbishop Rastislav of Prešov was elected by the Extraordinary Synod held on January 11, 2014, as the new primate.[2] On December 9, 2013 the Synod had removed Archbishop Simeon of Olomouc and Brno from his position as Locum Tenens (ad interim administrator following the resignation of the previous primate, Archbishop Krystof, over allegations of sexual relations with women),[3] and appointed Archbishop Rastislav in his place,[4] an action against which Archbishop Simeon protested[5] and which was deplored by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.[6]


Czech Orthodox Church in Olomouc
Orthodox church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Prague


The Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia presents both an ancient history as well as a very modern history. The present day church occupies the land of Great Moravia, where the brothers Ss. Cyril and Methodius began their mission to the Slavs, introducing the liturgical and canonical order of the Orthodox Church, translated into the Church Slavonic language, using mostly Greek calques to explain concepts for which no Slavic term existed.[7]:192 In doing this they developed the first Slavic alphabet, a mixture of Greek and Hebrew-based characters with a few invented characters of their own to represent unique Slavic sounds.[7]:190:191

This was done at the express inviation of the powerful ruler Rastislav of Moravia. Yet within the Moravian state there was a Frankish party among the nobility who desired closer ties with the Kingdom of Francia, whose ruler, Louis the German, was Ratislav's nominal suzerain, and a Frankish bishop had ecclesiastical jurisdiction over a small part of Ratislav's domain that had earlier converted to Christianity. Despite the Photian Schism, the churches of Rome and Constantinople still preserved some semblance of unity, and Pope Nicholas I did not want to see the formation of a large independent Frankish church in Central Europe. When an appeal of the ecclesiastical issue was made to Rome, Nicholas summoned both Cyril and Methodius and the complaining Frankish parties to his court to hear them out. Nicholas died before their arrival, but the new Pope Adrian II reached a compromise after hearing both sides: Old Church Slavonic was confirmed as a liturgical language alongside Greek, Hebrew and Latin, and Methodius was confirmed as bishop with a Frankish co-adjutor, Wiching. Adrian was convinced by Cyril's impassioned defence of the Slavic liturgy in which he cited 1 Corinthians 14:19 "Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." Cyril fell ill while the brothers were still at Rome, and on his deathbed he asked Methodius to swear to return to Moravia and complete the mission to the Slavs instead of returning to the monastic life on Mount Olympus as he had intended to do.[7]:192–4

Methodius kept his word and returned, but his mission was interrupted by the death of Ratislav, as the new ruler, Svatopluk I of Moravia sided with the pro-Frankish party and had Methodius imprisoned for almost three years, until he was freed through the intercession of Pope John VIII. For the next ten years, Methodius continued his work, but the death of John VIII in 882 removed his papal protection, and Methodius died in 885. After this, Pope Stephen V of Rome confirmed his Swabian co-adjutor Wiching as bishop.[8] Methodius's disciples were imprisoned, expelled to Bulgaria or enslaved. The expelled, led by Ss. Clement and Naum of Ohrid, formed the nucleus of the Slavic participation in the conversion of Bulgaria to Orthodoxy, after they were released from prison and escorted to the Danube.[7]:197

Survival and revival

The Orthodox order survived in present-day Slovakia due to its nearness and influence to Kievan Rus, especially among the population of Rusyn people, until the Union of Uzhhorod was brought about in the Kingdom of Hungary and its successors, the Habsburg and Austrian Empires..

After the legal restraints to Orthodoxy were removed with the end of World War I, many people left the Greek Catholic Church. Many looked to the Serbian Orthodox Church as parts of the Serbian church had been within the pre-war union. Among those seeking the Orthodox church was a Catholic priest, Matěj Pavlík, who had been interested in Orthodox Christianity for years. The Church of Serbia thus consented to consecrate Matěj Pavlík as a bishop of the Orthodox Church with the name Gorazd.

On September 25, 1921, Archimandrite Gorazd was consecrated Bishop of Moravia and Silesia at the Cathedral of the Holy Archangel Michael in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, by Serbian Patriarch Dimitrije. Bp. Gorazd (Pavlik) is considered to be in the succession from Archbishop Methodius of Moravia and bears the name of one of St. Methodius's disciples and successor, Bp. Gorazd.

As the Orthodox leader in the new nation of Czechoslovakia, Bp. Gorazd laid the foundations of the Orthodox Church throughout Bohemia, Moravia, and into Slovakia. In Bohemia, he oversaw the building of eleven churches and two chapels. He also published the essential books for the conduct of church services that were translated in the Czech language. He provided aid to those in Slovakia and Subcarpathian Rus' which then were part of Czechoslovakia, and who wanted to return to Orthodox faith from the union with Rome. Thus, in the interbellum period, Bp. Gorazd built the small Czech church that during World War II would show how firmly it was connected to the Czech nation.

In 1938 the Third Reich succeeded in annexing the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia during the Munich Conference. The following year it annexed the remainder of the Czech lands into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and installed a pro-Nazi regime in Slovakia. By 1942 Reinhard Heydrich, architect of the Final Solution, had become governor of the Protectorate. After the May 27, 1942, assassination attack on Heydrich's car in Prague, Czech partisans took refuge in the crypt of the Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral before continuing their escape. They were aided by senior church laymen, who kept Bp. Gorazd informed. However, their presence was discovered by the Nazis, and on June 18 the Nazis attacked their hiding place in the cathedral, forcing them to commit suicide. The Orthodox priests, laymen, and Bp. Gorazd were arrested and killed by firing squads on September 4, 1942.

In reprisal the Nazis forbade the church to operate in Bohemia and Moravia. Churches and chapels were closed, and a rounding up of Czechs was conducted, including the whole village of Lidice, whose inhabitants were either killed or sent to forced labor camps. For the Orthodox the whole church fell under the Nazi persecution and was decimated. A total of 256 Orthodox priests and laymen were executed, and church life came to a stop.

After World War II the Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia began its recovery without its bishop. On December 9, 1951, the Patriarch of Moscow granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia, though this action was not recognized by Constantinople, which regarded the Czechoslovakian church as being autonomous under its authority. The Patriarch of Constantinople later issued a Tomos, or official proclamation, of autocephaly in 1998.[9]

The martyrdom of Bp. Gorazd was recognized by the Serbian Orthodox Church on May 4, 1961, which glorified Gorazd as a New Martyr. Subsequently, on August 24, 1987, he was glorified at the Cathedral of St. Gorazd in Olomouc, Moravia.


After the Czech and Slovak Republics separated into independent republics in 1993, activity continued in each country as separate legal entities: in the Czech Republic as the Orthodox Church in the Czech Lands and in the Slovak Republic as the Orthodox Church in Slovakia, but canonical unity was maintained as the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. The church is now organized into four eparchies divided into two administrative centers: the Metropolitan Council for the Czech Republic resident in Prague and the Metropolitan Council for the Slovak Republic in Prešov. Under the Council of the Czech Lands (Prague) are the eparchies of Prague and Olomouc-Brno, while the eparchies of Prešov and Michalovce are under the Council of Slovakia (Prešov).

After the death of Metropolitan Dorotheus of Prague and All Czechoslovakia, Archbishop Nicholas of Prešov was elected the new metropolitan, and the church's primatial see was moved from Prague to Prešov. Metr. Nicholas reposed on January 30, 2006, and was replaced by Archbishop Christopher of Prague and the Czech Lands (elected May 2, 2006).

In the Czech Republic there are 82 parishes, with 51 in Bohemia and 31 in Moravia and Silesia. In the Republic of Slovakia there are 90 parishes, with 69 in the eparchy of Prešov and 21 in the eparchy of Michalovce. The Orthodox Theological Faculty of the University of Prešov provides an education for future priests of combined Church. The faculty maintains a detached branch in Olomouc.

The Monastery of St. Procopius of Sazava is located in Most, and that of the Dormition in Vilemov.

The current primate of the Czechoslovak Orthodox Church is Rastislav of Prešov (born Ondrej Gont), Metropolitan of the Czech Lands and Slovakia (2014-).

Arcdioceses and Archbishops

Vicar Dioceses and Bishops


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