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The Eastern Orthodox Churches are a family of autonomous churches that share a faith based on the Bible, tradition, and the decrees of the seven ecumenical councils. All of them are in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which holds a place of honor but not of jurisdiction.

They may also be known as Eastern Orthodox Christianity or Byzantine Christianity.

The Eastern Orthodox Church came about as a result of the Great Schism of 1054 when the churches under the Pope of Rome and those in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople separated.

Orthodox Christianity is similar to Roman Catholicism in many ways. Orthodox Christians hold to the Nicene Creed but without the Filioque clause, which states that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, without additions of any kind, as this text was not in the original text of the creed. The Eastern Orthodox churches do not accept that the Bishop of Rome (pope) is the sole vicar of Christ on Earth or the doctrine of papal infallibility. The Eastern Orthodox churches honor the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos or Mother of God, but they have not accepted, as dogma, the belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The Virgin Mary, the saints, and the angels are venerated but carved representations of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints are rejected, while veneration is given to icons (pictures) representing them.

The Eastern Orthodox churches recognize the seven sacraments of the Church: baptism by triple immersion, chrismation, penance, communion, ordination, marriage, and the anointing of the sick.

The Eastern Orthodox Church has formulated the Theosis, which holds that human beings can become divinities through spiritual maturation, pointing to John 10:34-36 as justification.

The Eastern Orthodox believe that when a person dies, the soul is temporarily detached from the body. Although it may linger on Earth for a short period, it is eventually escorted either to paradise (Abraham's Bosom) or the darkness of Hades after the Temporary Judgment. They do not accept the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. The experience of the soul in Abraham's Bosom or Hades is only a foretaste, and experienced only by the soul, until the Final Judgment, when the soul and body are reunited.

Up until the Final Judgment, the state of the soul in Hades can be affected through the love and prayers of the righteous. For this reason, a special prayer for the dead is offered on the 3rd, 9th, 40th, and one-year anniversary of the death of an Eastern Orthodox Christian. Several other days throughout the year are set aside for commemoration of the departed, including nonbelievers.

The Eastern Orthodox Bible includes the Septuagint text of the Old Testament, with the Theodotion translation of the Book of Daniel. The Patriarchal text is used for the New Testament. The Church holds that the Bible is a verbal icon of Christ. As such, the holy scripture contains the foundational truths of the Christian faith as revealed by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to divinely inspired authors.

Referred to as the Anagignoskomena, ten of the Old Testament books rejected in the Protestant canon are considered by the Eastern Orthodox to be worthy to be read in worship services, although they carry less esteem than the thirty-nine books of the Hebrew canon.

Eastern Orthodox polity is episcopal, with a council and synod of bishops presided over by an elected archbishop, metropolitan, or patriarch. There are three orders in the Eastern Orthodox Church: deacons, priests, and bishops. Deacons, who assist the priests in the liturgy, are allowed to marry. Priests may also marry, but they must do so prior to ordination. Bishops are chosen from the male monastic clergy, who observe the same monastic rule of Saint Basil the Great, and take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Churches within the Eastern Orthodox fold have become fractured by nationalism, particularly in the Balkan Peninsula of Europe and Russia. To an extent, the Eastern Orthodox Church is divided among the four historic Patriarchates, which are the main heads of the Eastern Orthodox Church: Constantinople (Istanbul), Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. There are nine other autocephalous churches: Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Poland, Russia, and Serbia. There are also five churches affiliated with Eastern Orthodoxy that are largely autonomous but do not yet have full independence: the Czech Republic and Serbia, Sinai, Finland, and China.

Eastern Orthodox churches in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe tend to hold to the specific church of their nationality. The Orthodox Church of America is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church in North America, primarily in Canada and the United States. The OCA began when Russian Orthodox monks established a mission in Alaska, at a time when Alaska was part of Russian America.


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