Countries With The Most Orthodox Christians

A Traditional Procession By The Members Of The Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church
A Traditional Procession By The Members Of The Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church

Orthodox Christianity is one of three distinct branches of the Christian religion (the other two being the Catholic and Protestant branches). Being an Orthodox Christian means following the earliest known set of Christian doctrines. Believers follow the Homoousian doctrine which declares that Jesus is both God and man. The Great Schism of 1054 brought on a separation of the Orthodox religion due to the difference of opinion on such things as the Holy Spirit, bread for the Eucharist, use of images, and the date of Easter. This separation created what today is the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church. The Orthodox Church is one of the oldest religious institutions and attempts to follow the original Christian faith as established by Jesus. By the 4th century, the faith had spread throughout the Roman and Byzantine Empires, a fact that is reflected in the current list of countries with the largest number of Orthodox Christians.

Orthodox Christianity In Some Of The World's Countries

Orthodox Christianity In Russia

Of all the countries on the list, Russia is the largest both in land mass and the number of Orthodox Christian followers. Here, there are 101 million followers of the faith. The Russian Orthodox Church has had strong political influence over the country for nearly 1,000 years. In 988, Prince Vladimir made it the official language of Russia. By 1453, the Byzantine Empire had fallen and in 1589, Moscow became the patriarch. The Church, however, continued to involve the head of state in religious-administrative affairs. Separation of Church and State was not recognized. Antireligious campaigns began in the 1920’s and remained until World War II when the government needed the Church to help strengthen patriotism.

Orthodox Christianity In Ethiopia

Ethiopia also has a high number of Orthodox Christians - 36 million. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church dates back to the 4th century when the nation was converted to Christianity and today its followers make up nearly half the population. This church has slightly different beliefs than other Orthodox Churches; they believe that King Solomon fathered a son with Queen Sheba. That son, Menelik I, brought Moses’s Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia as a treasure. However, since only the priest can enter the room where the Ark is stored, nobody can confirm its existence. The religion plays a large part of daily life throughout the country and chants fill the morning air.

Orthodox Christianity In Greece

Followers of the Greek Orthodox Church number 10 million. While that is significantly less than the Orthodox populations in Russia and Ethiopia, it represents 98% of the population of Greece. The church descends from the original churches of the 1st century, those that the Apostles founded. The Orthodox Church everywhere actually follows the Greek translation of the New Testament. In Greece, the separation between Church and State is not expressly written in the Constitution and therefore, the Church has significant influence over the society.

Modern Significance

Although unfamiliar to many people around the world the Orthodox Church continues to hold importance in many countries around the world. Observers praise its adherence to original Christian principles, but this observance of ancient tradition does not make the Church irrelevant in modern times. Recently, both the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Pope have put aside differences in their beliefs and centuries-long disagreements to discuss the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and religious disputes in the Ukraine.

Countries With The Most Orthodox Christians

RankCountries With The Largest Orthodox Christian PopulationsOrthodox Christians
1Russia 101 million
2Ethiopia 36 million
3Ukraine 35 million
4Romania 19 million
5Greece 10 million
6Serbia 6.7 million
7Bulgaria 6.2 million
8Belarus 5.9 million
9Egypt 3.9 million
10Georgia 3.8 million

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