Orthodox Churches

The Orthodox Church (also called Eastern, Greek and Byzantine) is a family of self-governing churches which includes four of the original five patriarchates of the early Christian era: Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and “national” churches. The fifth, the Patriarchate of Rome, had separated from the other four in 1054 over the issues of Trinitarian theology and nature of authority in the church. The “national” churches of Orthodoxy are the Churches of Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Lands and Slovakia, Georgia, Greece, Poland, Romania, Russia and Serbia, their daughter churches in Europe and North and South America, the Orthodox Church of America, and the autonomous churches of Finland, Japan, Sinai and Ukraine. Each patriarchate, while independent, is in full agreement with the rest on all matters of doctrine, and between them there is full sacramental communion. The Patriarch of Constantinople is accorded the status of first among equals by other Patriarchs and heads of other churches.

In Greek the word “Orthodoxy” has the double meaning of “right belief” and “right worship.” Orthodox believers consider themselves as guardians of the true faith of the early fathers of the Church. Unique attributes include: iconography, onion-domed architecture, emphasis on theosis, and distinctive spiritual disciplines. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church follow the Julian Calendar in their congregational-liturgical life, whereas the Greek Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church of America, and the Antiochian Church follow a modified Gregorian one. Each Orthodox community in Saskatchewan patterned itself after the churches of its country of origin in terms of church-building design, liturgical rubrics, and governance. The normal pattern was for a group of immigrants to get together to form a congregation and then send a request for the services of a priest to the bishop of their home diocese in their country of origin. There are currently 135 Orthodox congregations and missions in the province. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, an independent jurisdiction in eucharistic union with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, includes 108 congregations and missions. The Canadian Diocese of the Orthodox Church of America includes twenty-one congregations and missions; of these, six belong to the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America. The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada), under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, includes four congregations and missions. The Serbian Orthodox Church and the Antiochian Orthodox Church each have one congregation.

Orthodoxy was brought to Saskatchewan by East and Central European immigrant farmers and workers. The first Orthodox arrived in Saskatchewan in 1890. Thirty Romanian Orthodox families were homesteading in the Regina district in 1891; over the next two decades their numbers would swell to nearly 40,000. These Orthodox communities were scattered throughout settlements from the Manitoba border east of Yorkton to the Alberta border northwest of North Battleford, and southwest of Regina. Later, Greek, and more recently Bosnian, Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants joined them. Scattered communities of converts from Protestantism have also become Orthodox. In addition to providing liturgical services, sacraments and faith education, the Orthodox churches of Saskatchewan have developed cemeteries, parish halls and cultural centres, summer camps for youth, seniors’ complexes for their members and the community at large, student university residences, and cultural and language programs.

Yaroslaw Lozowchuk, Gerald Luciuk