Did Orthodox Christians persecute others?

Many people are familiar with how the Catholic Church persecuted Protestants, heretics, and other Catholics; but is there a similar history to the Orthodox Churches? Did the Orthodox persecute other groups (or even themselves)? I have no clue, I hope some of you can fill me in. Thanks.

Yes, unfortunately, at least with some of the Eastern (Chalcedonian) Orthodox churches. The Oriental Orthodox (non-Chalcedonians) might have different stories. The Russian Orthodox Church persecuted the Old Believers and actually burned some at the stake for disputes about how to make the sign of the cross, changing the service books, etc. Actually, I’m not sure if it was the church or the tzars that had this carried out, or if the church officially approved.

Roman “Byzantine” emperors like Theodosius, Justinian and others were known for persecuting others, but many times that was as political as anything, not purely religious in nature.

Every majority has persecuted a minority at some point. Some examples include the sack of Venice, a number of inquisitions against heretics, and etc. Also the previously mentioned persecutions of Old Believers.

“Established Churches” (Churches with official sanction of the State) have often confused religion and politics and this has sometimes led to persecution of minority religious groups within the state. Examples can be cited for Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches…

Persecution does not belong to any particular group. While any group may be intolerant and attempt to stamp out dissenters as history has shown. The church of england ferociously persecuted catholics’ killg thousands including priests and confiscated all catholic churches. Today’ catholics are being killed for their faith in the middle east and in Africa, china, n. Korea, too. Not too much is made of this In main stream media.

This is very true! With this in mind it ought to be recognized that the Ukrainian Catholic Church was heavily persecuted in the past Century by Russian Orthodox believers who confused religion and politics. Similarly the Ukrainian Catholic Church was also persecuted by Polish Roman Catholics, who also confused religion and politics. Both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches have done their fair share of persecuting one another, sadly enough.

Almost every religion has persecuted members of other faiths. However these persecutions are not evidence of the truth or falsehood of a particular religion. It just confirms that human beings are not perfect.

Define persecution.

Oooops. Some fact checking might be in order here. If memory serves, it was the Polish Catholic Church that was instrumental in the establishment of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (Uniate) It there were tensions among the two, they were based on politics and economics, not church policy. (It is too easy to dump on the Catholics)

And it was the RUSSIAN ORTHODOX that banned the Uniate church in the 1830’s. ( I believe it was 1837) What little remained of the Uniate churches in Russian occupied Eastern Europe went underground or into exile.

The official Tsarist policy was that all Uniates were really Orthodox and should behave as such. There was a lot of persecution and some bloodshed, which effectively eliminated the Uniate church.

To reiterate, it was the RUSSIAN ORTHODOX church that destroyed the Uniate church that was originally set up with the help of the Catholic Church in Poland.
Hope this helps.

Well said.

Hi Ontheway. (Edit: Am I showing my age by greeting you with “Hi” rather than “Oooops”?) I gather that you are already familiar with e.g. the 1910 “New Catholic Dictionary” (anyone who’s unfamiliar can find it online here and enjoy such entries as

Non-Uniat Churches: eight groups of schismat-
ical or heretical Churches, which separated from
Rome at various periods since the 4th century

.) However, have you read more recent documents, such as Uniatism, Method of Union of the Past, and the Present Search for Full Communion, also known as the Balamand Statement?

Hi Peter J

I am no spring chicken either and still remember the more traditional “HI” :slight_smile:
Thank you for the link to the New Catholic Dictionary. I have always referred to the Cath. Encyclopedia, but there is always room for more.
I am not sure about your reference (in the quote) to the schismatic churches. As far as I know, the Ukrainian Catholic was not among those.

I can’t discuss the Balamand Statement without reading it more closely. Does it contradict anything I have written so far?


Yes. Some of the main examples include (drawing from the entire history of the Eastern Church):

Persecution of Jews, pagans, and heretics (particularly Monophysites in Egypt) by Justinian and Heraclius (6th and 7th centuries)

Vicious persecution of the Paulicians and later Bogomils by the medieval Byzantine Empire

The persecution of the Old Believers in 17th-century Russia

Persecution of Stundists, Doukhobors, Molokans, and other dissenting groups in 19th-century Russia

Persecution of the “Lord’s Army” during the Communist years in Romania–admittedly the Communist government was the main actor here, but the Orthodox hierarchy stood back and even aided and abetted the persecution

Persecution of Byzantine Catholics in several Eastern European countries, including Romania (the one I know best)

Discrimination against various non-Orthodox groups, especially “neo-Protestant sects,” in post-Communist Orthodox countries (in Romania, mob violence against Baptists is fairly common in the more rural areas, or was in the 90s)


Here is a link that could be of interest to the debate on the Orthodox persecution of the Catholic church.


P.S. I want to clarify that I quote the 1910 New Catholic Dictionary, not to claim that it’s statements contain factual errors, but to show the bias (to put it mildly) in its approach. The particular article I reference is, naturally, one example among a great many.

Perhaps some Jewish historians could speak of their history with the Orthodox Church in numerous countries. It’s pretty much ‘beyond the Pale.’

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