The Church and the Infidel State

Hanging of Patriarch Gregory V

Sir Paul Ricaut, an Englishman of Spanish descent, who had travelled widely in the East, wrote at the request of King Charles II a book entitled The Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches, Anno Christi 1678. In it he states that the election to the Patriarchate was vested ‘rather in the hands of the Turks than of the bishops’. He was deeply moved by the position of the Greeks. ‘Tragical’, he writes, ‘the subversion of the Sanctuaries of Religion, the Royal Priesthood expelled from their Churches, and these converted into Mosques; the Mysteries of the altar concealed in secret and dark places; for such I have seen in Cities and Villages where I have travelled, rather like Vaults and Sepulchres than Churches, having their roofs almost levelled with the Superficies of the Earth, lest the most ordinary Exsurgency of Structure should be accused for Triumph of Religion, and stand in competition with the lofty Spires of the Mahometan Mosque.’ Ricaut well understood the difficulties that faced the Greek Church. Indeed, knowing what he did, he was amazed that it should survive at all. ‘It is no wonder’, he wrote, ‘to human reason that considers the Oppression and the Contempt that good Christians are exposed to, and the Ignorance in their Churches occasioned through Poverty in the Clergy, that many should be found who retreat from the Faith; but it is, rather, a Miracle, and a true Verification of those Words of Christ, That the Gates of Hell shall not be able to prevail against his Church, that there is conserved still amongst so much Opposition, and in despite of all Tyranny and Arts contrived against it, an open and public Profession of the Christian Faith.

Ricaut, pp. 12-13 (from The Great Church in Captivity, Steven Runciman)

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2 thoughts on “The Church and the Infidel State

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