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The Apostles were sent by Christ to preach the Gospel of salvation to all nations, despite persecutions and adverse external conditions. Andrew, the First-called of the Apostles, according to reliable historical sources and the tradition of the Church, acted in Asia Minor, in the regions around the Black Sea, in Thrace and Achaia, where he was martyred. The action of the Apostle Andrew in these regions contributed to their Churches, such as those of Trebizond, Constantinople and Patras, honoring him especially as founder and protector. The Church of Constantinople has established the day of the Apostle’s memory (November 30) as her Throne Feast.

The apostolicity of the Throne of Constantinople can also be seen from the activity in Asia Minor of the Apostle and Evangelist John, who addressed the book of the Apocalypse «to the seven churches in Asia» (Revelation 1:4), to the Churches, that is, of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea, which have been under the jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople since the 4th century. The double apostolicity of the Ecumenical Throne was invoked by Patriarch Ignatius at the Prime-Second Council (861).

Before Constantine the Great, the small city of Byzantium was a diocese subject to the Metropolis of Herakleia (of Thrace). Its first bishop, appointed by Apostle Andreas himself, was Apostle Stachys. The political and cultural glamor with which Constantinople was surrounded, as the new capital of the Christian empire, caused significant rearrangements in the organization of the Church as early as the 4th century. The formation of the high ecclesiastical position of Constantinople as the spiritual center of the Christian world took place rapidly. The official inauguration of Constantinople, as the new capital, took place in the year 330. 

During the period between the First and Second Ecumenical Councils (325-381), within about fifty years, Constantinople developed into a leading Church, as can be seen from the leading role of its Bishops during the Triadological heresies. The second Ecumenical Council regulated the already established in practice capital position of the Church of Constantinople above the patriarchates of the East. The Fourth Ecumenical Council completed the ecclesiastical elevation of the Church of Constantinople.

This privileged position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, based on express canonical provisions, ended up in the history of the Orthodox Church, beyond a legal foundation, in its physical nature. Orthodox civilization cannot be understood without Constantinople, which became the great center of Orthodoxy throughout its dynamic historical course. In the period of prosperity and power, the Ecumenical Patriarchate took the lead in the formation and formulation of doctrines, in the convening of Ecumenical Councils, in the development of Monasticism, in the imbuing of the entire life of the empire with the Christian spirit, in harmonious cooperation with the political power, so that, indeed, that Byzantium constitutes a unique example in world history of genuine living of the Gospel of Christ. He also carried out missionary work with great success from the time of Saint John Chrysostom, which culminated in the 9th and 10th centuries with the missionary expedition to the Slavic world. Constantinople transmitted to the Slavic peoples the Orthodox spirit accumulated by long historical experience and with it ontologically imbued the depths of Slavic culture, which is impossible to understand without reference to its spiritual progenitors. With this missionary activity, it became the Mother Church of all the peoples who came to the Christian faith through it.

After the loss of external glamor and power, due to contemporary actions, the Ecumenical Patriarchate undertook, as a loving mother, the task of protecting and caring for the enslaved Orthodox peoples. With much prudence and wisdom, he moved in the new conditions of the times and managed to preserve the Orthodox faith and the self-awareness of the Orthodox. The appearance of a large number of New Martyrs during this period is a boast and glory for the Orthodox Church, which connects it with the ancient Church of the first centuries, of persecutions and martyrdoms.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, together with the Orthodox faith, preserved the national consciousness of the peoples of the Balkans. Orthodoxy does not suppress healthy love for the country, but harmoniously integrates it into the multitude of other characteristics that make up the human side of the God-human body of the Church. Under the umbrella of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Orthodox peoples cultivated their national languages, developed their own ecclesiastical literature, and heard the Gospel in their own language (Acts 2:8), as on the day of Pentecost. 

In 1872, the Ecumenical Patriarchate condemned «ethno-phylitism» as a dangerous innovation, when nationalism claimed a dominant position and placed itself at the head of the characteristics that constitute the Church, thus threatening its spiritual, supranational character and its unity based on spiritual characteristics.

The formation of independent national states in the Balkans had as a direct consequence the creation of autonomous local Churches. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, although seeing its vast jurisdiction shrink, granted through the canonical route autocephalous status to the Churches of the new Balkan countries. He reacted only in cases of insult to the normal order and exaggeration of ethno-racial criteria. However, this division into national Churches was a new phenomenon in the life of the Orthodox Church. Centuries ago the concession of the autocephaly to the Church of Russia (1589) had not created problems in the relations of the Orthodox, a fact that is also due to the docility of the daughter towards the Mother Church, but also to the fact that the principle of the ethnicities, which, as it formed the basis of the existence of the new states and was connected to the national claims between them, contributed to the cooling of the relations between the autocephalous Churches, especially during periods of long-term military conflicts.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, watching with pain this lack of unity among the Orthodox, made, from the beginning of the 20th century, a diligent effort to strengthen Orthodox relations, to revise the unity between them, which, by the grace of God, was crowned with complete success. The innumerable Orthodox meetings and – above all – the crucial event of the convening and holding of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016) prove that the era of alienation is now a simple historical memory. The historic initiatives of the Church of Constantinople and the willing response of the other autonomous Churches created favorable conditions for the continuation, on this road, of the Orthodox Church.

The achievement of orthodox unity facilitated the work of reconciliation with the heterodox, for the purpose of achieving the union of all. Truly, united the Orthodox Church provides the testimony of the Orthodox faith, engaging in dialogue with the heterodox with love and truth. In no other era have there been as many theological dialogues as there are today. The result of these dialogues and in general the participation of the Orthodox in the so-called Ecumenical movement, as long as this participation is based on the principles of Orthodox faith and life, is left to the grace of God, who is true with love and loves with truth.

The Church of Constantinople, throne among the autocephalous Churches and having, historically and theologically, the right and the responsibility of initiating and coordinating actions of orthodox importance, does not cease to be a local Church, whose jurisdiction is limited to a specific geographical area. 

The vast jurisdiction of Constantinople gradually began to decrease with the granting of autocephaly to local Churches: the Church of Russia (1589), the Church of Greece (1850), the Church of Serbia (1879), the Church of Romania (1885), the Church of Poland (1924), the Church of Albania (1937), the Church of Bulgaria (1945), the Church of Georgia (1990), the Church of the Czech and Slovak lands (1998) and the Church of Ukraine (2019).

More serious was the shrinking of the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that resulted from the flight of the Orthodox populations from their ancestral homes in Pontus, Thrace and Asia Minor, which, as we have seen, constituted the historical and geographical area of the Church for centuries of jurisdiction. This flight took place after the Asia Minor War of 1922 and continues to this day. Thus, from these areas, the Archbishopric of Constantinople and four Metropolitanates of Chalcedon, Derka, Princes Islands and Imbros and Tenedos remained in Turkey today, while in recent years the liturgical life was revived in other historically important ecclesiastical Provinces of the country such as the Metropolitanates of Pisidia, Vryoula, Smyrna, Adrianople, Bursa and Ganos and Chora.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, as foreseen by the Holy Canons, established new Archbishoprics and Metropolises in Europe, America, Oceania and Asia, which are distinguished by particular dynamism.

Outside the borders of the Turkish state, the Metropolises of the Dodecanese (Greece), the semi-autonomous Church of Crete, the Patriarchal Exarchate of the holy island of Patmos, the Monasteries of Mount Athos and other Patriarchal Institutions and Homes throughout the world remain also under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In addition, the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate also includes the Metropolises of the so-called «New Territories», whose administration was given in 1928 on a commission basis to the Church of Greece.

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