EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCHES. There are many parallels between the beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox church and those of the Roman Catholic church, but there are also fundamental differences. Some of the beliefs and traditions unique to Eastern Orthodoxy help to explain both the role of the church in the life of Cleveland's Orthodox immigrants and the impact of American society on the churches. Eastern Orthodox Christians contend that all bishops have equal authority, rejecting Roman Catholicism's claim of universal supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, i.e., the Pope. During the Middle Ages, Eastern Orthodoxy evolved into several independent exarchates and patriarchies, with the patriarch of Constantinople as honorary leader. However, each of the other patriarchies was a separate entity with its own leader or patriarch (autocephalous). Supreme authority resided in the Ecumenical Council. Each patriarchy was identified by region or nationality, such as Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox. Such designations were really a convenient but inaccurate way of saying, for example, the "Eastern Orthodox churches of the Greek Rite." Thus, the Orthodox churches in immigrants' homelands were closely tied to regional, national, and cultural heritage, in some areas representing the people's sole expression of nationality.
Many Eastern Orthodox immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Near East settled in Cleveland between 1880-1924. They brought strong allegiances to their homelands' mother churches and soon formed parishes which maintained ties to the mother churches and helped preserve ethnic traditions. Liturgies continued to be performed in the languages of the first-generation immigrants, and priests were generally born and educated in the Old World. The tradition of autonomy was observed among Cleveland Eastern Orthodox churches; ethnic-language liturgies discouraged multi-ethnic congregations. Gradually, however, changes occurred. Communist takeovers of certain countries in Eastern Europe strained relations between the mother churches and their American branches. Questions of allegiance and politics divided parishioners. In one case, that of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, such a dispute found no resolution short of schism within the church and a lengthy legal battle. Second- and third-generation descendants, no longer fluent in the language of their ancestors, found it difficult to understand ethnic-language liturgies. Many churches requested bilingual priests, and some adopted English for the liturgy. At the same time, assimilation of ethnic descendants into mainstream American culture and a weakening sense of identity with European nationalities produced a sense of religious community across nationality lines among some members. One expression was the creation of the Orthodox Church of America, which several Cleveland churches joined.
Another challenge faced by early Eastern Orthodox churches in Cleveland involved the movement of parishioners to the
Although all of the Eastern Orthodox churches in Cleveland shared many of the same experiences, each church also enjoyed a unique ethnicity. Thus, church responses to the various pressures from within and without differed. Although the homelands of the
The first Orthodox parish in Cleveland was St. Theodosius, founded in 1896. In 15 years this Russian Orthodox church grew from a simple frame structure on Literary Rd. at W. 6th St. to the
Cleveland's only Byelorussian parish was formed in 1950 and conducted worship in a W. 25th St. residence until a new Belarusian Autocephalic Orthodox church, Our Lady of Zyrovicy, was constructed (W. 25th Street and Scranton Rd. SW). Fifteen immigrant Greeks started the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation in 1912 in the Arch Hall at the corner of Ontario and Bolivar. One year later the church moved to a hall at W. 14th St. and Fairfield. The building was razed in 1917 and replaced in 1919 by the present
the suburbs. In 1904 immigrant Romanians organized
Serbian immigrants founded a Serbian school-church congregation and named it St. Sava in 1909. The parish soon outgrew the small house in which services had been held, and the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church relocated to E. 36th St. and Paine Ave. in 1918. After World War II, as the church grew and more Orthodox
Continuing Americanization is evident in several local Eastern Orthodox churches. The first parish in the U.S. to call itself the American Orthodox Church was Cleveland's Christ the Saviour American Orthodox Church. It was founded in 1964 in Parma by Rev. Stephen Jula, assoc. pastor of St. Theodosius. In 1976 the 250-member church relocated to
Nicholas J. Zentos
Lorain County Community College
Cuyahoga Community College
See also specific Orthodox immigrant groups.