Declaration of the Independence of the Greek Church

This post includes the full text of two important documents in the history of the autocephaly of the Church of Greece:

  • the Declaration of the Independence of the Greek Church by the King of Greece, which includes the constitution of the newly independent Church, and
  • the minutes of the meeting at which the Greek bishops declared their independence of any other church authority.

These documents were published in English in The Portfolio: A Collection of State Papers and Other Documents and Correspondence, Historical, Diplomatic, and Commercial, Vol. IV. (London: Frederic Shoberl, 1836).




According to the unanimous wish of the Metropolitan, Archbishops, and Bishops, of our Realm, that we should proclaim the independence of the Greek Church and institute a permanent Synod, we have decreed, by the advice and with the approval of our Ministers, and we do decree as follows:–

Art. 1. The orthodox Eastern Apostolic Church, in the Kingdom of Greece, whilst it acknowledges no other spiritual head than the Founder of the Christian Faith, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and recognises, in regard to the guidance and administration of the Church, the King of Greece for its superior, is free and independent of every other power, without prejudice to the unity of the dogma as it has been always recognised by all orthodox Eastern Churches.

Art. 2. The highest spiritual power is vested under the supremacy of the King, in the hands of a permanent holy Synod.

The King indicates, by an organic decree, the department of State which has to exercise this right of supremacy, and to which the Synod is in this respect subordinate.

The Synod holds its sittings in the department of State, and has a seal of its own, the arms of which are the Greek Cross of the Seal of State, with the words, “Holy Synod of the Kingdom of Greece.” 

Art. 3. The Synod consists of five members.

These are a President and at least two Councillors. The two other members may be equally Councillors; the Government of the State, however, reserves to itself, according to its judgment, to appoint one or two Assessors in their place.

Besides these, one or two Assistant-Councillors or Assessors may be named, who, however, will only act in the event of the impediment of an active member.

The nomination rests with the Government.

Art. 4. The President and the Councillors must be Metropolitans, Archbishops, or Bishops; the associates, however, Presbyters, or Hieromonks.

Every year a new nomination is to take place. The old members may, however, be nominated again.

Each acting Councillor and Assessor receives, besides the salary due to him from his ecclesiastical office, a sum of money according to the duration of his functions.

Art. 5. The march of business is collegial.

In the deliberations the majority decides.

When the votes are equal, the President has a deciding voice. All the members have to sign the decree.

If one or more member should differ in opinion, they may record their difference of opinion in the protocol of the sittings.

Art. 6. With the Synod are associated a Procurator and Secretary, named by the Government.

The remaining functionaries of the Chancellery are to be appointed by the Synod, but must be confirmed by the Government.

Art. 7. The Secretary is President of the Chancellery of the Synod, and conducts the Protocols of Proceedings.

He is empowered to take a part in the deliberations, without, however, having a deciding voice.

The State Procurator must assist at all the sittings, and represent the Royal Government in them.

Every decree resolved upon in his absence is ineffective.

He has also the right to lay before the Synod, on demand of a Royal Functionary or Magistrate, propositions on which the Synod must, without delay, deliberate and decide.

Art. 8. The following oath must be taken by the President, the Councillors, and the Assessors.

“I swear fidelity to the King, obedience to the laws of the Kingdom, a conscientious administration of the office entrusted to me, a faithful maintenance of the rights and liberties of the orthodox Eastern Apostolic Church in the Kingdom of Greece, the maintenance of its independence of every foreign power, a conscientious promotion of its welfare, with a careful removal of any temporal views, and the punctual fulfilment of all and each of the duties belonging to my office.”

The usual oath of office is to be taken by the State Procurator, the Secretary, and the other officers of the Chancellery.

The President, the Councillors, and Assessors, the State Procurator and the Secretary, take the oath in the hands of the King, but the remaining functionaries at a sitting of the Synod.

Art. 9. In all the internal affairs of the Church, the Synod acts independently of the temporal authority.

With regard to the supreme superintendence of the Government over all acts, and incidents, and relations within the State, it is justified in taking cognizance of what is done, and no resolution of the Synod can be made known or acted upon without the previous consent of the Government.

In the preamble of such resolutions, the consent of the Government thereto is always to be mentioned.

Art. 10. To the internal affairs of the Church belong, under Articles 11, 12, 17, the following provisions.

1. The doctrine of faith. 2. The form and ceremonies of the divine service. 3. The direction of the duties of the Priesthood. 4. Religious instruction. 5. The discipline of the Church. 6. The examination and ordination of the servants of the Church, 7. The consecration of the vessels, &c., and edifices destined to the service of God. 8. The exercise of jurisdiction in purely spiritual matters, namely, in affairs of conscience, or the fulfilling of the duties of religion and of the Church, according to the dogmas, the works on the dogmas, and the constitution founded on them.

Art. 11. The Synod watches over the preservation of the purity of the received dogmas of the Eastern Church, and over the contents of the books sold for the use of youth or destined for that of the Priesthood and treating of religious matters; and endeavours, when it learns with certainty that any one is endeavouring to injure the Church of the Realm through new doctrines or proselytism, or, in any other manner, to apply the temporal power, according to the temporal laws, to remedy the evil.

Art. 12. The Synod watches furthermore over the exact obedience to spiritual ordinances and uses, over the good order of the Church and of the Church ceremonies, and especially over the rites of the Church. It has the direction of all that refers to the preservation of the dignity of the Priesthood, and to its improvement, and has to take care that the Priest does not violate the spiritual and temporal laws by interfering in temporal matters.

Art. 13. All ecclesiastical affairs, having reference to the Church but not to its doctrines, but which rather (without exactly belonging to purely temporal affairs) relate to the State and to the temporal welfare of its inhabitants, come within the cognizance of the Synod, but no partial regulation of their’s can be carried into effect without the participation and approbation of the Government. The Government is even authorised, not only to take cognizance of the regulations of the Synod, but even by their own ordinances to prevent what might be injurious to the welfare of the people.

Art. 14. Amongst such subjects of a mixed nature (Art. 13.) are more particularly,

1. Regulations with regard to external worship, the time, place, frequency, &c., of the same. 2. The institution, suppression, or limitation, of convents. 3. The regulation, limitation, or suppression, of those ceremonies, processions, fêtes, &c., which do not belong to the essential part of worship. 4. The distribution of the offices of the Church, and the permission to consecrate Priests and Deacons. 5. The distribution, in the dioceses, of the Church orders. 6. Regulations respecting the institutions for spiritual improvement, instruction, and punishments. 7. Matters of health; discipline, in so far as it has reference to the regulations of the Church. 8. Extraordinary Church ceremonies— when these occur on work days and outside the Church. 9. Laws of marriage, in so far as they do not concern the civil contract,

Art. 15. Decrees respecting affairs of a mixed nature, concluded by the Synod and approved by the Government, have the force of laws, and as such are to be published by the Government in the Government Gazette.

Art. 16. All the Bishops of the Realm are under the superintendence of the Synod, receive commands from it, and inform it of all that affects the efficacy of the Synod. The number and extent of Bishoprics is to be regulated by the Government, according to the representation of the Synod. The Bishoprics shall be endowed in a suitable manner, and the Archbishops and Bishops shall be named by the Government on the recommendation of the Synod; on the representation of the Synod, in matters referring to canonical cases, they may be punished by removal or entirely deposed. With respect to the distribution and endowment of livings, as well as the nominations to them and to other spiritual offices, particular regulations will be framed.

Art. 17. In purely spiritual matters, the Synod exercises the highest jurisdiction over the whole Priesthood, and, according to the regulations of Art. 10, also over the Laity. Its decisions, however, can only be carried into effect after the approbation of the Government, and in conformity with the existing laws. In worldly matters, the Priests are under temporal laws, and subject to temporal civil punishment.

Art. 18. We may enumerate as temporal matters, and to be judged by temporal laws, and exclusively to be ruled and judged by temporal authority, 1. Contracts, testamentary deeds, and other civil acts of the Priests. 2. Regulations with respect to movable and immovable goods, rents, profits, and other rights of the Church, convents, or spiritual persons. 3. Decrees and deeds of recognition upon all acts of the ecclesiastics which may be considered as common breaches of law, crimes, or errors. 4. Laws of Marriage, so far as they do not affect the civil contract or its operation. 5. Arrangements with regard to the institution of registries of births, deaths, and marriages; and, farther, to the regulation and authority of the Church books, and other ecclesiastical documents; and, finally, 6. All kinds of rules respecting the obligation for the building and maintenance of Churches and ecclesiastical edifices.

Art. 19. Neither the Synod, nor any other assembly of ecclesiastics, nor any individual priest, may enter into correspondence, or maintain any immediate relations with any foreign, civil, or ecclesiastical community. All such correspondence must pass through the competent Minister of State.

Art. 20. As long as the ecclesiastical authority does not overstep the sphere of its operation, it has a right to the protection of the civil power; and all the provinces of the realm are bound on its appeal to protect and support it, on any injury offered to its rights.

Art. 21. Every Greek who considers himself injured by the ecclesiastical authority, by a breach of the existing regulation, is authorized to appeal to the civil power. Complaints against the abuse of the ecclesiastical power may be brought directly before the Government, or before the civil power in any other place. It is to be investigated by the competent department of State, and only to be decided upon after the cognizance of it by the Synod, excepting in urgent cases, in which the disputed point can be arranged by the ministerial department, before the Synod takes cognizance of it.

Art. 22. The Government can, on solemn occasions, by informing the Synod of it, order public prayers and festivals of thanksgiving. It is also entitled to call upon the general assembly of the Church, under the Kingly protection, to make temporary regulations, viz. to name its presidents and secretaries, without, however, interfering in its dogmas.

Art. 23. The President, State Procurator, and the Councillors of the Synod, not excepting the assistant Councillors, have the rank of Councillors of State, the Assessors and Secretaries that of Ministerial Councillors. The President and State Procurators have, according to the collegiate order, precedence over the Councillors.

Art. 24. At all Church ceremonics, the Bishops are to pray, first for the King, and then for the Synod, in these words:— “Lord, remember, first, our holy Synod, which thou,” &c.

The department of the Secretary of State for religion and instruction is charged to make known and carry this into execution.

Nauplia, 4th August (23 July) 1833.

In the name of the King,


Count Armansperg, v. Maurer, v. Heideck, the Secretaries of State, S. Tricoupi, President. A. Mavrocordato, G. Psyllas, G. Praides, J. Coletti, v. Schmalz.




The Secretary of State for religion and instruction gives notice that, by a decree of 13th July, a commission will be named, consisting of the Minister of State for religion and instruction, and the two councillors of the said ministerial department, in order to direct the negotiations with the Metropolitans, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Kingdom, summoned and respectively invited under the decree of the 13th July.

To this end, four sittings have already been held, at which were present thirty-six prelates, viz. all those who have hitherto arrived, and who have unanimously decided upon the independence of the Greek Church of the Kingdom, and upon the establishment of a permanent Synod. The Protocol of these sittings, signed by the above-named Commissioners, is inserted herewith, according to the order of the day, so that in the signatures, the order is followed in which the Prelates signed their names, (without any prejudice to the relations of rank.)

Record of the Opinion of the Metropolitans, Archbishops, and Bishops, of the Greek Church of the Kingdom of Greece, on the political independence of the Greek Church, and the establishment of a permanent Synod.

This day, the 15th (27) July, the undersigned Metropolitans, Archbishops, and Bishops, appeared at 10 A. M. before the Commission, summoned by the Royal Rescript, consisting of the Secretary of State for Religion and instruction, S. Tricoupi; the two Ministerial Councillors, Constantine Demetrius Schinas, and Scarlatos Byzantios. The reason for their summons and invitation was first explained to those present by the Chairman of the Commission, and then by the two Ministerial Councillors; and it was minutely explained to them that “The Government intends to ameliorate by every means the situation of the Greek Church, and to secure it in perpetuity. That the Government aims at restoring to the Greek Church that necessary outward dignity, which it possessed before the conquest of the country, and must again of itself assume, in the interests of the Greek religion; and the principal means to attain so great an end, and in a manner, the foundation of all others, are the two following. 1. The solemn and immutable declaration of the defacto independence of the Greek Church of every foreign power, with regard to its external deportment (without injury to the unity of the Dogmas, as they have been hitherto acknowledged, by every Church of Eastern rites.) 2. The establishment of a permanent holy Synod, to be named by the King, as the highest spiritual power, after the example of the Russian Church. Although the Commission established under the decree of 15th (27) March, for the investigation of the state of the Greek Church, as also the entire Cabinet have unanimously resolved upon this, yet the Government intends to take no steps before having the advantage of the opinion of the reverend Prelates, as the spiritual representatives of the Church, upon both of these questions, und this is the reason of their summons and invitation.”

After the undersigned Metropolitans, Archbishops, and Bishops had listened to all this, they considered the thing at length. — Upon this, the Secretary of State for Religion and Instruction remarked to the assembled gentlemen that they might consult peacefully and alone upon this subject, because it was necessary that their opinions should proceed from a clear conscience and full conviction; and for this purpose the members of the Commission retired from the Council Chamber. On the invitation of the assembly, after a long time, the Commission returned, and gave new explanations of the subjects upon which they were to consult, which were admitted by the assembly itself, which, however, demanded to reflect alone again upon the questions laid before them. The Commission once more retired, returned again after a length of time, and received for answer from the assembly that the questions laid before them were fully acquiesced in ; that in consequence the assembly ardently desires that the Government should solemnly declare, —

1. That the Orthodox Eastern Apostolic Church of the kingdom of Greece, as it spiritually acknowledges no other head than the founder of the Christian faith, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is free and independent of every other power, with a reservation of the integrity of the dogmas, as they are acknowledged by all Eastern and orthodox Churches. In so far as regards the direction and government of the Church which appertain only to the royal throne, it acknowledges, as no ways interfering with the laws of the Church, His Majesty the King of Greece as her supreme head. 2. That a Synod, composed only of Prelates, and to be named by the King, may be established, which, according to the laws of the Church, shall conduct the affairs of the Church.

This Protocol was read before them by the Councillor of State, C. D. Schinas, and approved and signed by all present.— The Session ended at 4 p.m.

Nauplia, 15 July, 1833.


Kyrillos, Metr. of Corinth.
Jacob, M. of Eubaea.
Parsios, M. of Thebes.
Gerasimus, M. of Egina and Hydra.
Dionysius, M. of Rheon and Praestos.
Kyrillos, late M. of Iarissa.
Nicodemos, M. of Kea and Thermia.
Jonas, B. of Damala.
Neophytos, Bishop of Talanda.
Agathangelos, late M. of Autrysa.
Makarios, late M. of Silivria.
Dionysios, M. of Tripolis.
Kyrillos, B. of Karyoupolis.
Ignatz, B. of Adramedion.
Paisios, B. of Elaa.
Meletios, B. of Metra.
Anthimos, B. of Heliopolis.
Joannikios, B. of Bethymna.
Gregorios, B. of Eudokias.
Prokopios, S. Bishop of Paramytha.
Gregorios, J. B. of Mendenitza, for the
Bishop of Meschonisi.
Bartholomeus, Metropolitan of Larissa.

The Commission, S. Tricoupi.
C. D. Schinas.
Scarl. D. Byzantios.

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