A rather interesting question! The question could be, when did the Greeks start calling themselves Orthodox in the sense that they were a separate church as opposed to other churches who do not call themselves “Orthodox”? The answer is quite interesting and not as simple as you might think.

A little background is necessary. The evidence is that from the very early apostolic times (when the Apostles were still alive). Historical evidence is that those who followed Jesus Christ were simply called “Christians”. They were certainly called that by those who persecuted them as the Romans did and they also called themselves Christians.

One has to remember that, the Apostles, and in particular, Paul travelled around the known world at the time, to today’s Europe, Asia, and India, to spread the Gospel. As we all know Andrew visited Ukrainian lands. Where ever they went and preached the Gospel they set up local churches. These churches were very often very far from Jerusalem and, in fact, the ties between the local churches were very often infrequent. These churches were made up of local people, who had very different languages, customs, traditions, and histories, because of the very rare visits from the mother church in Jerusalem (do not forget that Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the Romans about 60 years after the resurrection of Christ).

The result of this is that we have over 20 different separate churches that are sometimes called “rites” today. They are the result of the missionary activity of the Apostles and Disciples of Christ. In those days, the various churches were called by the city they were located in. So we have the Church of Jerusalem, Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. Today we have continued this tradition. We have the Church of Moscow, Kyiv, and Kerala. It is actually a church tradition. You will know that our church in Australia is called the Eparchy (Church) of Melbourne even though our people live all around Australia.

In the year 330, a small city of Byzantium came into being, namely because of the fishing industry. It later was called Constantinople. Today it is called Istanbul. This small city which later grew became the place that officially gave Christianity to Ukraine in 988.

In 1431-35 at the Council of Basil, bishops came from all the churches. The Christians from Greece were called the “Greeks”, those from Rome were called the “Romans”. In the documents the word orthodox (small o – adjective) and catholic were used to signify Christianity in general.

By 1672 at the Synod of Jerusalem there appeared the use of the terms “Orthodox” (capital O – noun) religion, “Orthodox bishops”. There is evidence that they certainly were using the term to distinguish them from the Roman Catholics. Before that the term “we are orthodox” meant we are of the true faith, we are not heretics.

People point to 1054 as the year of the schism but there are documents and even church councils in the 1200s which indicate that the schism was not yet in force universally.

The question is often asked. Did Ukraine accept the Orthodox (noun – O) faith? The answer is no. It accepted the true orthodox (adjective – o) faith. Big difference!

So are the Greeks Orthodox? Yes, of course, but we do not know when they started to call themselves “Orthodox”.