Catholic Church in Greece

(Redirected from Roman Catholicism in Greece)

The Catholic Church in Greece is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome. Indigenous Roman Catholic Greeks number about 50,000-70,000[1] and are a religious and not an ethnic minority. Most of them are a reminiscence of Venetian and Genoese rule in southern Greece and many Greek islands (in both the Aegean and Ionian seas) from the early 13th until the late 18th century, Greeks who converted to Catholicism or descendants of the thousands of Bavarians that came to Greece in the 1830s as soldiers and civil administrators, accompanying King Otto. One very old but still common term to reference to them is Φράγκοι, or "Franks", dating to the times of the Byzantine Empire, when medieval Greeks would use that term to describe all Catholics.

Catholic Church in Greece
Greek: Καθολική Εκκλησία στην Ελλάδα
03.Καθολικός Ναός Αγίου Διονυσίου GR-IA10-0058.jpg
TypeNational polity
GovernanceCatholic Bishops' Conference of Greece
Apostolic NuncioSavio Hon
LanguageEcclesiastical Latin
FounderApostles Andrew and Paul
Origin1st century

Since the early 1990s however, the number of Catholic permanent residents of Greece has greatly increased; as of 2002, they number 200,000 at the very least, and probably more.[1] These Catholics are immigrants from Eastern Europe (especially Poland) or from the Philippines, but also include Western European expatriates that live permanently in Athens, Thessaloniki or the Greek islands (especially Crete, Syros, Rhodes and Corfu).

Today, the majority of Catholics live in Athens, a city of about four million people; the rest of them can be found all over Greece. Most indigenous Catholics live in the islands, and especially the Cyclades, where Syros and Tinos in particular have some entirely Catholic villages and parishes. Catholics can be found also in Corfu, Naxos, Santorini, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Rhodes, Kos, Crete, Samos, Lesbos and Chios. In the mainland, Catholic communities are smaller, and include those of Patras (a city that was home to a large Italian community until World War II), Thessaloniki, Kavala, Volos etc. In addition to the Roman Catholics (Latin Rite) who represent the vast majority of the faithful, there are about 5,000 of the Greek Rite,[1] and a few hundred Armenian Catholics.


Before the division of the church in 1054, there were structures of the Western Latin Rite Church in Greece. Since the 5th century, the Latin archbishop of Thessalonica led the Illyrian Vicariate of the Roman Church. Until 1054, there was mutual recognition between the Latin and Byzantine rite communities in Greece.

After the separation of churches in 1054, a split occurred between these communities. After the church split and the conquest of Greece, the Ottoman Empire, the Greek Catholics began to be called "Franks" (Greek Φράγκοι). This name of local Catholics came from the Latin faith professed by the Franks. Orthodox Greeks, distinguishing themselves from the Franks, called themselves the "Romans" (Greek Ρωμαιοι), identifying themselves with the Byzantine Empire, which considered itself the successor to the Roman Empire.

After the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the residence of the Latin patriarch with 12 dioceses subordinate to him was established in Constantinople. In 1205, Pope Innocent III established the Latin Archdiocese in Athens. Other Latin church structures were established at the same time. In Greece, various Western monastic orders also operated.

After the conquest of Byzantium by the Ottoman Empire in 1453 in Greece, the activity of the Latin structures gradually ceased and the dioceses of the Latin rite became titular. At the same time, until the 18th century, there were numerous Venetian colonies in Greece, which possessed considerable freedom.

In 1830, a gradual restoration of Latin church structures began in Greece. That year, Pope Gregory XVI established the first church structure for Catholics of the Latin rite, which was called the apostolic delegate. In 1834, Bishop Blancis was appointed apostolic delegate and the Holy See entrusted him with the care of Latin Catholics living in Greece. On July 23, 1875, Pope Pius IX established the archdiocese of Athens and the Peloponnese.

In 1856, a community of Greek Eastern Catholics was formed in Constantinople, which became the basis of the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church.

In 1979, the Holy See established diplomatic relations with Greece.

Popes from GreeceEdit

A map of Emperor Justinian's Pentarchy. Almost all of modern Greece was under the jurisdiction of the Holy See of Rome. Emperor Leo III moved the border of the Patriarchate of Constantinople westward and northward in the 8th century.[2][3]

Bishops' ConferenceEdit

The Bishops' Conference of Greece (Hiera Synodos Katholikis Hierarkhias Hellados) has six members:

  • The archbishop of Corfu and apostolic administrator of Thessaloniki
  • The archbishop of Naxos and Tinos and apostolic administrator of Chios
  • The archbishop of Athens and apostolic administrator of Rhodes
  • The bishop of Syros and Santorini and apostolic administrator of Crete
  • The exarch of the Greek Catholics of Byzantine Rite (based in Athens)
  • The ordinary of the Armenian Catholics (based in Athens)

Papal representatives to GreeceEdit


Catholic Dioceses in Greece

Roman CatholicEdit




Notable Greek Roman CatholicsEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Religious Freedom in Greece (September2002)" (RTF). Greek Helsinki Monitor Minority Rights Group - Greece. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
  2. ^ Deno John Geanakoplos, Byzantium: Church, Society, and Civilization Seen Through Contemporary Eyes (University of Chicago Press, 1984), p. 203
  3. ^ A.P. Vlasto, The Entry of the Slavs into Christendom (Cambridge University Press, 1970, p. 308

External linksEdit