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    Kenworthy, Scott M. 2016. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to World Christianity.

    Ames, Christine Caldwell 2012. Medieval Religious, Religions, Religion. History Compass, Vol. 10, Issue. 4, p. 334.

    Cameron, Averil 2011. THINKING WITH BYZANTIUM. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 21, p. 39.

  • Volume 5: Eastern Christianity
  • Edited by Michael Angold, University of Edinburgh

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Book description

This volume brings together in one compass the Orthodox Churches - the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian, Armenian, Ethiopian, Egyptian and Syrian Churches. It follows their fortunes from the late Middle Ages until modern times - exactly the period when their history has been most neglected. Inevitably, this emphasises differences in teachings and experience, but it also brings out common threads, most notably the resilience displayed in the face of alien and often hostile political regimes. The central theme is the survival against the odds of Orthodoxy in its many forms into the modern era. The last phase of Byzantium proves to have been surprisingly important in this survival. It provided Orthodoxy with the intellectual, artistic and spiritual reserves to meet later challenges. The continuing vitality of the Orthodox Churches is evident for example in the Sunday School Movement in Egypt and the Zoe brotherhood in Greece.


'It is easy and enlightening to follow the historical treat through the chapters of this book, which in a clear language defines the the technical terms, and produces very sound explanations on practically all aspects of Orthodoxy and Eastern Christianity. The book is written not only with scholarly precision, but also with love and dedication.'

Source: Neotestamenica

'Scholars we owe a debt of thanks to the editor of this impressive work. Michael Angold, professor emeritus of Byzantine history at the University of Edinburgh, has done a magnificent job of touching on the highlights of Eastern Christianity in its many forms, including the Oriental churches. Chapters on the Copts, Melkites, Nestorians, and Jacobites make this volume a comprehensive history.'

Source: International Bulletin of Missionary Research

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Page 1 of 2

  • 1 - The Byzantine Commonwealth 1000–1550
    pp 1-52
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    The Constantinopolitan patriarchs had reasons of their own for insisting on respect for the imperial majesty, now that they played a unique part in the inauguration ritual of emperors. It may be to Orthodox employees of the Egyptian sultans that one owes a fairly explicit formulation of the 'Byzantine Commonwealth' in the shape of address-formulae for diplomatic letters sent by the Mamluks to the basileus. The issue of the succession to Metropolitan Aleksii reveals the diverse forms of influence still available to Byzantium north of the steppes. A Bulgarian-born monk writing among the Serbs around 1418, Constantine of Kostenets, remarked that there were only two centres producing Slavonic texts that faithfully reproduced the style and content of their Greek originals: one of these was Mount Athos and the other was Veliko T'rnovo. A change in settlement-patterns is a salient feature of the forest zones of Rus in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Commonwealth lacked both substance and theoretical formulation.
  • 2 - Byzantium and the west 1204–1453
    pp 53-78
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    One episode presents many of the recurring features of the last phase of Byzantine relations with the west. The Byzantines remembered the sack of Constantinople as a deliberate insult towards Orthodoxy. The union of Lyons set in motion a struggle within Byzantium that was superficially about the Latins but really about the Byzantine identity. The union of Lyons cast its shadow over Orthodox relations with the west. Barlaam came under attack from the hesychast leader Gregory Palamas, who was acting as a spokesman for a group of Athonite monks. In the face of the rapid advance of the Ottomans Demetrios Kydones engineered a rapprochement with the west. The impact of Aquinas's thought on Kydones was immediate: it had the power of revelation and led very quickly to conversion to Rome. The reception of Plethon at the council of Florence opened the way for other Byzantine scholars to make their mark on the Italian scene.
  • 3 - The culture of lay piety in medieval Byzantium 1054–1453
    pp 79-100
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    A wide range of churches of different form and function marked the small villages of rural Byzantium. Important in considering the physical accommodation of sacred rite and prayer in terms of lay piety, were the numerous chapels that were embedded in fortifications or associated with other elements of the empire's infrastructure. Churches saw their greatest attendance on important feast days, which were numerous. Saints' feast days fully engaged the Byzantine laity and every city and village participated in the celebration. Pilgrimage to holy shrines and holy men played an important role in the spiritual life of the Byzantine laity. Devotional practices were also incorporated into many aspects of home life, in city and countryside alike. In addition to lifecycle rituals observed in the home, other rites of passage brought laymen and women into the church and engaged them in pious practices. In Byzantium, anxiety about salvation was an important factor in developing close links between the laity and monastic institutions.
  • 4 - The rise of hesychasm
    pp 101-126
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    This chapter explores the processes that led to the construction of the canonical narrative of late Byzantine spirituality. It clarifies the link between hesychasm and the Byzantine spiritual tradition and determines the nature of the debates between hesychasts and non-hesychasts in order to arrive at a more balanced understanding of the rise of the new movement. Any discussion of hesychasm starts with the two treatises. The first treatise, which the manuscripts wrongly attribute to the eleventh-century mystic Symeon the New Theologian, can only tentatively be dated to the late twelfth or early thirteenth century. By comparison, the author of the second treatise is a well-known historical figure, Nikephoros the Italian, who lived as a monk on Mount Athos during the reign of Emperor Michael VIII (1259-82) to whose pro-western religious policy he was fiercely opposed. In Barlaam's direct opponent Palamas, one finds that his treatises share many traits with the Words of Gregory of Sinai.
  • 5 - Art and liturgy in the later Byzantine Empire
    pp 127-153
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    The Byzantine liturgy and its commentators have continually wrestled with notions of earthly and heavenly time. This chapter focuses on the two main components of Byzantine rite: the Eucharistic rite and those rites connected with the cycle of the church year. It discusses the monastic Divine Office, that is, the Hours of the day, and the hymnography that accompanies them. The two components, those of the Eucharist and the calendar, correspond to the spatial division of a Byzantine church of this period into the naos, or nave, which is the space of the laity, and the sanctuary, the space reserved for the ordained clergy. They also correspond to two conceptions of time: the Eucharist aiming to transcend time, while for the church calendar time is its fundamental organising principle.
  • 6 - Mount Athos and the Ottomans c. 1350–1550
    pp 154-168
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    Holy mountains were a characteristic feature of Byzantine monasticism. The decline of the monasteries of Asia Minor worked to the advantage of Mount Athos. Under Ottoman rule the monasteries of Mount Athos continued their life fairly undisturbed. Mount Athos continued to flourish economically under its new masters and remained a centre of education, culture and spiritual life. The number of the monks increased in Mount Athos as many settled there to save themselves from the tribulations of continual warfare. During the years 1420-22, when the Italian humanist Cristoforo Buondelmonti visited the Holy Mountain, its monastic life was very well organised, to judge from the warm praises he lavished on it. Even after 1453 the monasteries of Mount Athos provided members of the Byzantine aristocracy with a good place to finish their days. Sultan Selim II's confiscation of the Athonite estates marks a watershed in the history of the Holy Mountain.
  • 7 - The Great Church in captivity 1453–1586
    pp 169-186
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    The Orthodox Church survived under the Seljuq sultans with metropolitans and bishops established in several Anatolian towns. The patriarch of Constantinople together with the holy synod nominated metropolitans and bishops in the various towns of Asia Minor and the Balkans; but the latter were then obliged to obtain permission from the sultan before settling among their flock. The three eastern patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, which had been under Islamic rule since the seventh century, provided the necessary precedents that allowed the conqueror to take decisions according to the principles of his religion. The sultan reckoned correctly that the presence in Constantinople of the ecumenical patriarch would encourage Greek settlement. Gennadios endured several months' captivity in the Ottoman capital of Adrianople before the intervention of rich and influential Byzantines employed in the palace or the Ottoman financial administration secured his release. Gennadios's reorganisation of the patriarchate was part of the transformation of the derelict Byzantine city into Ottoman Istanbul.
  • 8 - Orthodoxy and the west: Reformation to Enlightenment
    pp 187-209
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    The conquest sealed off Greek-speaking Orthodoxy for almost a century and a half and interrupted all interchange with western culture. The conquest of 1453 destroyed the Orthodox Church as an institution of the Christian empire inaugurated by Constantine. Retrospective considerations and appraisals of Cyril Loukaris's presence in the history of the Greek East and of the Orthodox Church have stressed almost exclusively the politics of his grand strategy against Rome, a strategy that was premised on an Orthodox-Protestant alliance, which, however, eventually turned the patriarch into a prisoner of the Protestant powers. Loukaris never conceded the Reformation's claims to Orthodoxy, not even in its Calvinist version, but recognised that it had opened up a path to Christian renewal. The story of the Athonite Academy under Voulgaris in the 1750s was the classic test case of the possibilities and limits of the encounter of Orthodoxy with the Enlightenment.
  • 9 - Bars’kyj and the Orthodox community
    pp 210-228
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    On leaving L'viv, Vasyl Hryhorovyc-Bars'kyj set out on foot for the shrine of St Nicholas at Bari, going on from there to Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice. The first section of Bars'kyj's travel journal is characterised by the exceptional richness of autobiographical and topographical information. In the early part of his travel journal one encounters a number of Bars'kyj's expressed attitudes to various nationalities, in part reflecting his personal experiences, but also in part determined by their attitudes to the Orthodox religion. In the second part of his travel journal, Bars'kyj started to rely less on oral sources and to lean more heavily on literary sources. The third and final parts of Bars'kyj's travel journal deal with events that took place between 1730 and late 1744. Changes to the model that Bars'kyj employed for his text will reflect his exposure to Greek education. Bars'kyj, who himself had difficulties in paying the kharadj, identified himself with the oppressed Orthodox community.
  • 10 - The legacy of the French Revolution: Orthodoxy and nationalism
    pp 229-250
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    The Greek Revolution of 1821 had important effects on the condition of the church and on canonical order. In an act of 4 August 1833 the regency imposed an ecclesiastical settlement that declared the Orthodox Church in Greece independent of the mother church in Constantinople. In contrast the Greek model of unilateralism found ready imitators among the Romanians and the Bulgarians, leading to serious conflicts and fractures in the body of Orthodoxy. The conflict between Orthodoxy and nationalism was not limited to the dramatic confrontations between aspiring national churches and the ecumenical patriarchate but also disturbed intra-church affairs at a local level. Andreiu Saguna rose to the leadership of the Orthodox Church and more generally of the Romanian nation in Transylvania through the struggle for the restoration of a Romanian diocese in the region, thus cutting it off from the jurisdiction of the Serb archbishop of Carlowitz head of all Orthodox in the Habsburg domains.
  • 11 - Russian piety and Orthodox culture 1380–1589
    pp 251-275
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    This chapter begins with the victory of Grand Prince Dmitrii of Moscow over a Tatar army at Kulikovo Field. The extent to which hesychasm influenced Russian piety is debated, as is its impact on Russian culture. In broad terms Muscovite culture remained, culturally and to a large extent politically, a medieval society throughout the period under discussion and, as one might expect, its cultural monuments of written literature, visual art, architecture and notated music are intimately bound up with the purposes and expressions of religion. The historiography, personal and diplomatic correspondence, and legal-administrative texts that remain to us are also coloured by Orthodox Christianity. As the cultural traces of this period bear witness, the dominant form of piety was monasticism, in part the spiritual legacy of St Sergii of Radonezh. Sergii revitalised both the cenobitic tradition of Russian monasticism and the eremitic tradition, the practice of a solitary monastic life.
  • 12 - Art and liturgy in Russia: Rublev and his successors
    pp 276-301
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    Regional variations in religious art were intensified by political fragmentation. In Novgorod a number of striking local features developed. Novgorodians prayed to icons for all aspects of their lives. In 1325 the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Peter, established his residence in Moscow at the court of Prince Ivan I, which gave a major boost to the arts. The iconostasis remains integral to Russian Orthodox worship in church. Among the artists attracted to Moscow in the late fourteenth century was Feofan Grek from Constantinople. Specialists disagree about the extent of Feofan's influence on Russian painters. Indeed, it has been argued that the Greek's later works bore evidence of the influence of Russian artists, notably Andrei Rublev. Art, architecture and liturgy combined at their most impressive in the Moscow Kremlin, where local cults gave way to a national expression of the supreme role of Moscow's princes, supported by the hierarchs of the church.
  • 13 - Eastern Orthodoxy in Russia and Ukraine in the age of the Counter-Reformation
    pp 302-324
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    Several central themes in the history of Orthodoxy in the age of the Counter-Reformation can be traced to pivotal events at the very end of the sixteenth century. The revitalisation of Orthodoxy in Ukraine reached its culmination under Peter Mohyla, metropolitan of Kiev. Although Muscovite Russia experienced serious political crises and social upheavals in the mid-seventeenth century, the Orthodox Church carried out its ministry in far more predictable circumstances than its counterpart in Ukraine, in part because of its very close ties with the tsars' government. During his tenure in Novgorod Nikon made it clear that, in his opinion, the ultimate responsibility for the spiritual wellbeing of Russia lay with the church's leaders, not the secular ruler. By 1700, the Uniate Church controlled all of the once-Orthodox dioceses in Ukraine west of the Dnieper and, to the east, the Old Believers had withdrawn from the official church into their own refuges of conservative Russian Orthodoxy.
  • 14 - The Russian Orthodox Church in imperial Russia 1721–1917
    pp 325-347
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    Emerging from a period of relative toleration in the 1820s, a newly assertive Russian Orthodox Church was challenged by religious rivals. Though developments such as the social formation of the clergy inevitably reflected changing patterns of secular reform and counter-reform, this chapter suggests that the main motor of ecclesiastical change lay in complex currents of religious rivalry, driven from within and beyond Russia's multinational empire. The church's response to these challenges created as many difficulties for its mission as the restrictive framework imposed by the state. Superficially, the reign of Nicholas I was a period of militant Orthodox regeneration marked by diocesan expansion and state-sponsored conversion campaigns. In an attempt to strengthen the church, scholars intensified the quest begun by Filaret (Drozdov) for an authentic Russian Orthodoxy. The Orthodox response to the challenge of heterodoxy had made signal advances by the end of the nineteenth century. Yet pastoral initiatives founded on theological research had never lacked critics within the church.
  • 15 - Russian piety and culture from Peter the Great to 1917
    pp 348-370
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    By the mid-nineteenth century the political, social and cultural landscape of Russia was on the verge of radical transformation. Even though, the new dynamics of the church-state relationship briefly augured well for Orthodoxy in Russia, the triumph of the Bolsheviks soon demonstrated the limits of organised religion's authority, as well as the resilience of piety among rank-and-file Russians who considered themselves believers. In a very basic way Orthodox piety provided a rhythm to the prosaic western calendar that Peter imported into Russia, as well as meaning to the stages of human life. For the majority of Russia's Orthodox Christians, the faith's rich variety of symbols and rituals provided the foundation for a proto-national identity that began with the local parish or village and expanded to include the entire empire. Language, literature, religion and myth helped to unite the diverse ethnic populations of the European part of the Russian Empire, as they did in the west.
  • 16 - Eastern Christianities (eleventh to fourteenth century): Copts, Melkites, Nestorians and Jacobites
    pp 371-403
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    The Coptic, Melkite, Nestorian and Jacobite communities possessed distinctive features, which set them apart from the other Orthodox churches. The history of Christian communities in the lands of Islam normally focuses on these different churches. This chapter begins with a short introduction on their history and geography. At a time when the demographic, cultural and social influence of Christianity was on the wane, Islam set the social norm, which meant the strict application of Muslim law and of dhimma status. Besides developments peculiar to the lands of Islam, two other factors, conspired to undermine the position of Christian communities: the crusades and the Mongol conquests. One general feature characterised the future development of Christian communities in the lands of Islam. This was arabisation, which in turn led to the emergence of a truly Arabic Christianity. The central role of monasticism and of monasteries in the religious and intellectual life of eastern Christianities is well known.
  • 17 - The Armenians in the era of the crusades 1050–1350
    pp 404-429
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    A novel feature of the late eleventh century was the opening of Armenian relations with the Latin church, which unfolded over the next four and a half centuries against the backdrop of the twelfth-century papal policy of drawing the various 'schismatic' Eastern churches into union under Roman primacy. The patterns of spirituality practised in Armenian monasteries had significantly changed from the external asceticism of the earlier period to a more pronounced concern for interiority. In this it reflected a widespread preoccupation of the era also evidenced in Byzantium and in the developing sufi tradition of Islam, which in turn seems influenced by earlier Christian mystical writers like St Isaak of Nineveh. In the thirteenth century the popular poet Frik gave voice to point of view on Christian unity: he argued that its absence had been a major factor in Muslim advances and proceeded to list the key foibles of each communion, which had militated against greater cohesion and cooperation.
  • 18 - Church and diaspora: the case of the Armenians
    pp 430-456
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    During the past four centuries of its existence the Armenian Church has ministered to an increasingly diversified society whose geographical dispersion now embraces every continent apart from Antarctica. The commercial power of the Armenians led to a treaty being signed between the Armenian trading company of New Julfa and Russia in 1667. The first stable Armenian community was founded on the subcontinent in the sixteenth century as merchant networks fanned out from Armenian centres, such as Julfa, around the same time as the Portuguese reached India. Seventeenth-century Catholic missionary activity culminated in the establishment of two institutions in the following century, the Mxit'arist order and the Uniate patriarchate, both still incorporated within the single Armenian millet. Building on earlier internal tensions within the Armenian polity, the increased polarisation between capitalist and communist ideologies produced a growth of factionalism within the Armenian diaspora.
  • 19 - Church and nation: the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahedo Church (from the thirteenth to the twentieth century)
    pp 457-487
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    The foundations of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church were laid in the three centuries following the conversion of the royal court. In many ways the definitive Ethiopian state and nation were formed in the two centuries following the establishment of the Solomonic dynasty in 1270. The royal churches also played useful roles within the diffuse structure of ecclesiastical organisation, which, in many respects, was minimal. The principal monastic orders had national visibility, but were held together by informal fraternal ties, rather than by any tighter governance. The metropolitan bishops had hierarchical prestige, but the hierarchy was extremely flat and prestige was hard to translate into real power. Thirteenth-century monasticism in central Ethiopia saw itself continuing a monastic tradition which reached back to Aksum. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church had become autocephalous. Since all the newly created bishops were drawn from the ranks of the monks, the process ended the tension between episcopal and monastic poles of authority in the church.
  • 20 - Coptic Christianity in modern Egypt
    pp 488-510
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    The Coptic Church in Egypt has experienced a profound change during the modern era. A survey of the long process of arabisation and islamisation of Egypt shows a regional distribution of Copts, who can be found in small pockets surrounded by areas where Christianity is almost non-existent or in predominantly Christian areas. For more than four decades large numbers of young Copts have retreated into the desert, reviving the ancient monasteries once founded in the fourth and fifth centuries. The monasteries have been enlarged and modernised, and provision made for a monastic life suited to women. Following a golden age in the fourteenth century, Coptic theological writing almost ceased until the beginning of the nineteenth century. The election of Shenûda III as patriarch coincided with the change in political regime which followed the death of Nasser and the election of Sadat. A major characteristic of the Coptic revival is a renewed emphasis on the monastic and ecclesial traditions.
  • 21 - Syriac Christianity in the modern Middle East
    pp 511-536
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    The term Syriac Christianity refers to the various Middle Eastern and Indian churches which belong to the Syriac tradition. From the seventeenth century onwards the history of the Syrian Orthodox Church has seen a struggle between a romanising party and one opposed to all union. Remnants of the Syrian Catholic Church found refuge in the mountains of Lebanon, where they received support from the French, the Maronite Church and the Druze Emirs. The origins of the Chaldean Church go back many centuries. In the thirteenth century, Catholic missionaries, Dominicans and Franciscans, were active among the faithful of the Church of the East. The greatest challenge and the most important achievement of the bilateral and multilateral ecumenical theological dialogues that have taken place among Syrian churches has been the opportunity for each church to express its theological tradition and understanding of its theology, history, role in Christological disputes, sacraments, liturgy and modern contribution to Christendom.
  • 22 - Diaspora problems of the Russian emigration
    pp 537-557
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    The question of diaspora is proposed for the agenda of the long-delayed great and holy council of the Orthodox Church. The diaspora takes on a new identity and ceases to be a mere extension of its parent body. At the same time it seeks to be independent of nationalisms. The Russian diaspora in America was initially the result of migration in search of income, which, as in Alaska, could also take the form of colonial expansion. Constantinople accepted the autonomy of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1832 and its autocephaly in 1879. The starting point of the post-revolutionary diaspora was a common homeland, but access to its persecuted church was precluded in the pre-war years. Soviet rule prompted and perpetuated the divisions of the Russian emigration. The Russian diaspora in Europe made its impact on the western world by means of scholarship. Several decades later, in 2004, the patriarch of Antioch conceded effective autonomy to his own American diaspora.
  • 23 - The Orthodox Church and communism
    pp 558-579
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    The most remarkable feature of the Orthodox Church over all the countries where it was subjugated to communism was the survival, and eventually the revival, of spirituality, especially in Russia, but also to a certain extent in Romania. If one is to look for the root of that revival, it will be found deep in the period of physical persecution of the Lenin-Stalin period. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is riven by a schism which has its origins in communist times. The Romanian Orthodox Church was able to embark on a period of quiet reform without secular interference and remains unquestionably the most potent symbol of the nation. In order to understand the history of the Serbian Orthodox Church during the period of almost half a century when it coexisted with a communist government, it is necessary to appreciate the state in which it was left at the end of the Second World War.
  • 24 - Modern spirituality and the Orthodox Church
    pp 580-599
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    Modern spirituality begins with meditation on the church and its worship. The Orthodox liturgy is also an effective agent of mission, and many first are attracted by and then become committed to the Orthodox Church through the richness, power and sheer beauty of the worship. If the liturgy is the action which creates the church, then the monastery is the place where the church is sustained. All Orthodox churches value education and the empowerment of lay members of the church and are equipping a growing number of articulate and committed church members to carry out the mission and teaching work of the church. The Orthodox Church has responded to the challenges and opportunities offered by new political freedom with dramatic results. For the Orthodox Church, modern spirituality has a clear identity. The strength of Orthodox spirituality is shown by its ability to locate itself in varying cultures and settings, including traditional Orthodox areas and new mission fields.

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