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Edited by Christine Chaillot

It is common knowledge that the majority of the population of Eastern Europe belong to the Christian Orthodox tradition. But how many people have an adequate knowledge of the past or even of the present of these Orthodox churches? This book aims to present an introduction to this history written for a general audience, both Christian and non-Christian.
After the 1917 revolution in Russia, communism spread to most of the countries of Eastern Europe. By 1953, at the time of Stalin’s death, the division between Eastern and Western Europe seemed absolute. However, the advent of perestroika at the end of the 1980s brought about political changes that have enabled the Orthodox Church to develop once again in Eastern Europe.
The foundation of the European Union in 1993 has had a broader significance for Orthodox communities, who can now participate in the future development of Europe. Some Orthodox Churches already have their representatives at the European Union in Brussels. These include the patriarchates of Constantinople, Russia and Romania, along with the Church of Greece and the Church of Cyprus.
Today, Europe is becoming increasingly religiously diverse, even within Christianity itself. A growing number of Orthodox Christians have come to work and settle in Western Europe. An understanding of the history of the Orthodox communities in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century will contribute, in a spirit of informed dialogue, to the shaping of a new united Europe that is still in the process of expansion.
This book is translated from the French version (published 2009).
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The Assyrian Church of the East

History and Geography

Christine Chaillot

The cradle of the Church of the East was in Mesopotamia (between the Tigris and the Euphrates), where it developed its first centre at Seleucia-Ctesiphon, then the capital of the great Persian Empire and today an archaeological site to the south of Baghdad. From the very beginnings of Christianity until the fourteenth century, this Church experienced a remarkable expansion in Asia, its missionaries carrying the Gospel from Persia to India, via the Persian Gulf, and even as far as China. The Church of the East reached China as early as the seventh century via Central Asia and the celebrated Silk Road that linked China to the Mediterranean world. Much later, in the late fourteenth century, the invasions of the Mongol conqueror, Timur Lang (Tamerlane), across Asia brought about a great decline of the Church of the East. Eventually, after the genocide suffered by Christians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, and the massacres that followed in Persia, the Church of the East and its people were on the verge of extinction. In 1940 the patriarchal seat was moved to Chicago (in the United States) and then in September 2015 to Erbil (in northern Iraq). Many of the faithful have left the Middle East and have formed diaspora communities throughout the world. The history of Christianity in the Middle East and well beyond, in Central and Eastern Asia, is very little known. In this book, the reader is invited to travel in time and space and undertake the fascinating discovery of a very ancient apostolic Church, the Church of the East, whose two-thousand year history constitutes an indispensable chapter in the history of the universal Church.