The Twentieth Century
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1904 Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny was consecrated bishop, responsible for all Orthodox Christians of Arabic descent in the United States.  Bishop Hawaweeny was canonized a saint of the Orthodox Church on May 28, 2000. 

1905 Assassination of the Grand Duke Sergei Romanov.  His wife, Elisabeth Feodorovna, daughter of the Grand Duke Louis of Hess-Darmstadt and Princess Alice of England, visited his assassin in prison.  Elisabeth later used her wealth to found the Sisterhood of the Myrophoroi Martha and Mary, who managed a convent, a hospital, and an orphanage.  Elisabeth was deported to Siberia in 1918 where she and other Romanovs were thrown down a mineshaft, where they died.  Her relics were later transferred to the Magdalene church at Gethsemane.  (Elisabeth was sister to Alexandra, wife of Tsar Nicholas II.)

1907 The papal bull Ea Semper curtailed the rights of Greek Catholics in the United States.  It required that all Ruthenian Clergy be celibate, forbade clergy from administering baptism and chrismation, made the Ruthenian church in the US report directly to Rome rather than to the leaders in Ruthenia and Galacia, mandated that bishops be appointed directly by Rome, required Ruthenian bishops to obtain permission from Latin Rite Bishop before visiting Ruthenian parishes, and allowed Ruthenians wishing to be priests to study at Latin seminaries, but only if they were celibate. 

1908  After the Young Turks seized power in Turkey, Armenians were allowed to bear arms, and so were conscripted into the military.  See 1915 below.

1909 Conservative American scholars published a series of twelve booklets defending fundamentalism under the title, The Fundamentals:  A Testimony of Truth.  The Scofield Study Bible was also published in this year, popularizing the system of dispensational premillenialism.

1910 Death of Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), the founder of Christian Science. 

1915 Armenian conscripts in the Turkish army were relieved of their weapons and made to serve in labor battalions.  They were forced to carry heavy loads extremely long distances.  Those who survived these labors were shot.

Rural Armenians were either killed or marched into the Syrian desert.  Armenians in Trebizond were loaded onto ships which were then sunk in the Black Sea.  Those who survived the march into the desert were interned at concentration camps in Mesopotamia and Syria.  Estimates of the number of those killed range from 300,000 (Turkish historians) to 1.5 million.  A further 800,000 were dispersed into foreign countries.

1917 The first phase of the persecution of the Orthodox Church in Russian began.  Much of the persecution in this period was conducted in a non-systematic manner by individual Bolshevik “war lords.”  Lenin intended to destroy the Church by abolishing private property, and thus eliminating the Church's income.

Between 1917 and 1935, 130,000 Orthodox priests were arrested.  Of these, 95,000 were put to death, executed by firing squad.

1915-17 Three children (Lucia Santos (born 1907), Francisco (1908) and Jacinta (1910) Marto) reportedly saw visions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal.  On Oct 13, 1917, 70,000 people were present when what has come to be called the “solar miracle” occurred:  the sun is said to have danced and to have shed blue and then yellow light.

1917 The Balfour declaration issued.  Gave British support to “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

1918-20 Outbreak of the Spanish Flu.  More died from the flu than were killed in World War I.

1918 The All-Russia Emergency Commission under Felix Dzerzhinsky executed over 3000 Orthodox clergymen of all ranks.  Some were drowned in ice-holes or poured over with cold water in winter until they turned to ice-pillars.

1918 The Greek Catholic church in the US was split in two:  the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

1919 Publication of Karl Barth’s Der Romerbrief (The Epistle to the Romans).  Barth’s theology was characterized by emphases on “the wholly otherness of God” and the notion that the Bible only becomes the Word of God as it is read.  Barth was one of the organizers of the Synod of Barmen (1934).

1919 Publication of Karl Barth’s Der Romerbrief (The Epistle to the Romans).  Barth’s theology was characterized by emphases on “the wholly otherness of God” and the notion that the Bible only becomes the Word of God as it is read.  Barth was one of the organizers of the Synod of Barmen (1934).

1921 The second phase of the persecution of the Church in Russia.  The Orthodox Church was stigmatized as a subversive element loyal to the old tsarist regime, while other religions were tolerated.

1922 The Solovki Camp of Special Purpose, the world’s first concentration camp, established in the Solovki Islands in the White Sea.  Eight metropolitans, twenty archbishops, and forty-seven bishops of the Orthodox Church died there, along with tens of thousands of the laity.  (See 1922 for a related entry.)

1923 An Inter-Orthodox Congress authorized local churches to adopt the Gregorian calendar for most feast days.

1924 The Ecumenical Patriarch introduced use of the Gregorian Calendar within the Orthodox Church.  The Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Poland soon followed.

1925 The Scopes trial held in Dayton, Tennessee.  John Thomas Scopes was found guilty of violating a state law which required that only creationism be taught in the state's public schools.  Clarence Darrow’s defense of Scopes and press coverage favorable to the defendant turned public opinion in his favor.

1925 The Roman Catholic Church introduced the Feast of Christ the King into the calendar.

1928 Third phase of the Soviet persecution of the Church.  The New Economic Policy was discontinued in April, with the result that the Orthodox Church was considered a private enterprise, subject to excessive taxation.  Clergy were not allowed to vote or serve in the armed forces, but were taxed for failing to do so.  These taxes, in addition to the tax (up to 81%) on private enterprise, often resulted in taxation of the clergy in excess of their income.

1928 As an example of Soviet persecution of the Church, the Raifa monastery in Kazan, Tartarstan was shut down in this year.  The monks were executed.  The monastery itself became a labor commune.

1929 Pope Pius XI issued the bull Cum Data Fuerit, which regulated Greek Catholics in the United States.  The bull forbade Greek Catholics from ordaining married men to the priesthood and immigrant married priests from serving parishes in the United States.

1929 The Soviet government began a serious crackdown on religion.  All forms of religious “propaganda” were forbidden.  The expression of religion was restricted to the space within the church structure.  Clergy with incomes in excess of 3000 rubles per year were forced to vacate nationalized urban housing.  Clergy and their families were disenrolled from state insurance programs, including medical care.  A five-day work week was introduced in order to prevent worship on Sunday.

In the period between 1927 and 1940, the number of Orthodox Churches in the Russian Republic fell from 29,584 to 200-300.  Approximately 40,000 Orthodox clergy and millions of laymen were killed for their faith between 1917 and 1940.

1929 Publication of Rudolf Bultmann’s (Der Begriff der Offenbarung im Neuen Testament (The Concept of Revelation in the New Testament.)  Influenced by Existential philosophy, Bultmann argued that the New Testament should be demythologized – that New Testament “myths” should be de-emphasized.  To him, the historical Jesus was irrelevant.  Instead, Christian faith should be focused on the proclamation of the essential meaning of the New Testament.

1930/31 Three papyrus manuscripts were purchased.  Their point of origin is unknown.  Designated P45, 46 and 47, they are known as the Chester Beaty Papyri, after their owner, Chester Beaty of Dublin.

1931 The Old Catholics and the Anglicans established communion in the Bonn Agreement.

1931 The bishop of Rome relinquished all claims to territory within Italy except for Vatican City.

1934 The Synod of Barmen.  German Protestant leaders met at Barmen in the Ruhr to organize resistance to Hitler and National Socialism.

1938 Ruthenian Catholics, upset over Cum Data Fuerit (1929), had petitioned Ecumenical Patriarch Benjamin I in 1937 to be received into Orthodoxy.  In this year, Father Orestes Chornock was ordained as their bishop, and the group came under the authority of the Greek Orthodox archdiocese, thus partially healing the schism created in 1646.

1939 During World War II (1939-45), 700,000 Serbs were killed by the predominantly Roman Catholic Croats.  In Croatia, Serbs were forced to wear the Cyrillic character P for Provoslavets, or Orthodox.  The Catholic Archbishop of  Zagreb, who was indifferent to the treatment of the Orthodox, has recently been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Also, Orthodox in Poland were forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism at this time.

1942 The National Association of Evangelicals formed.

1942 Friar Tomislav Pilipovic Majstorovic, aka Fra Satona or Brother Satan, led Ustashe (Croatian) forces as they killed 2500 Serbian residents of Banja Luka.

1944 Soviet authorities began to pressure Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic bishops to dissolve the Union of Brest-Litovsk (see 1596).

1945 The Nag Hammadi library discovered.  It consists of 12 papyrus books and 8 leaves from a thirteenth book.  The fifty-two tractates these books contain cover a variety of religious subjects, many from a Gnostic perspective.

1946 A Ukrainian Greek Catholic synod, which met from 8-10 March, broke the Union of Brest-Litovsk (see 1596).  The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was banned and its property turned over to the Russian Orthodox Church.  Those who disagreed with the synod were forced underground (~1300) or imprisoned (~1600).  Those arrested were either shot or deported to Siberia.  Approximately eleven hundred returned to Orthodoxy.

1950 During the 50s and early 60s, a group of New Testament manuscripts known as the Bodmer Papyri (after Martin Bodmer of Geneva) were discovered and published.  These include P66, 72, 73, 74, and 75.

1952 Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser led a coup that replaced Egypt's monarchy.  During the 1950s, Nasser's economic reforms tended to transfer wealth away from Egypt's Coptic minority, which had enjoyed relative affluence. 

1962 The Roman Catholic Church convened the Second Vatican Council in October of this year.  The council closed in December, 1965

1964 On Jan. 5, 1964, Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI (1963-78) met in Jerusalem.  Their “embrace of peace” and declaration of reconciliation was the first official act by the two churches since the Schism in 1054.  Then in 1965 both churches lifted the anathemas and excommunications placed against one another in 1054. 

1967 Though persecution had begun in 1944, the government of Albania prohibited all religions in this year.  The country had been perhaps 35 percent Orthodox, 10 percent Catholic, and the remainder Moslem.  When the persecution ended at the end of 1990, there were only 22 Orthodox clergy in the country, down from 440 sixty years earlier.

1970 Publication of a definitive Roman missal containing the revised liturgy.

1979Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) decreed that the “New Vulgate” version was to be considered “typical” and used in the liturgy.  The New Vulgate took into account the former Vulgate’s wording, but adhered to the most recent critical editions of the original texts.

1979 The Episcopal Church in the US adopted a new prayer book.

1979 Archimandrite Philumen, keeper of the Orthodox monastery at Jacob's Well in Nablus, was murdered.  One week earlier, his life had been threatened by Israelis who demanded that the cross and icons be removed from the church of Jacob's Well.  Father Philumen's murderers also desecrated the church.  Philumen's remains were subsequently exhumed and found to be without decay.

1981 Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish national, attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) in Rome.

1989 The Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church was legalized.  Very soon, Ukrainian Greek Catholics began seizing property from the Russian Orthodox Church, with the complicity of state authorities and often by violence.  These buildings had belonged to to the Ukrainian Greek Catholics prior to that group’s suppression in 1946. 

1995 Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) issued the encyclical Orientale Lumen, encouraging reunion between East and West.

1996  The Holy Synod of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in a resolution called for the establishment of communion with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.  The resolution seems to have been inspired by the statements of the retired Melkite Archbishop of Baalbeck, Lebanon, Elias Zoghby.  Zoghby said that he believed everything that the Orthodox Church believes, and that he was in communion with Rome “in the limits recognized to the first among the bishops by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium before the separation.”  The Orthodox replied that they could not establish communion on those terms.  The issue, they said, could not be separated from that of “restoring communion between the see of Rome and all Orthodox Churches.”

1998 In August, two Copts were murdered in El-Kosheh, a villiage in Upper Egypt.  Instead of arresting the perpetrators, whose identity was well-known, the police seized and tortured many of the local (70% Christian) populace.  The police responsible for this brutality were promoted.  On New Year’s Eve 1999, more violence erupted in El-Kosheh, leaving 19 Christians and 2 Muslims dead.  Copts account for approximately 16% of Egypt’s population.

2000 Some historians estimate that as many as 50 million Christians were put to death during the twentieth century, primarily in Communist Russia and China.