His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, Orthodox and Roman-Catholic Bishops, Austrian state officials, and other personalities attended Tuesday evening a festive event in Vienna marking the 50th anniversary of the Orthodox Law (Orthodoxengesetz) adopted on 23 June 1967, by which the Orthodox Church in Austria has received a new legal basis for its ecclesiastical and social activities.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew thanked the Austrian state for the good communication and cooperation with the Orthodox Church in Austria.
The event began with the officiating of Vespers at St George Greek Orthodox Church in Vienna, which operated as place of worship for all Orthodox believers in the capital city of Austria-Hungary. Next, the participants gathered at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church where officials delivered speeches regarding the life of the Orthodox Church in Austria.
The Chairman of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, conveyed Pope Francis’ greetings. Pope Francis participated with a donation of 100,000 Euro to the construction of the first Orthodox Monastery in Austria. The Pope had supported the construction from the beginning.
The “Federal Act of 23 June 1967 on the External Legal Relations of the Greek-Oriental Church in Austria” (BGBl. No. 229/1967) has become known as the “Orthodox Law”. It is one of the legal milestones of the handling of the Second Republic with its legally recognized churches and religious communities and is of essential importance for the position of the Orthodox Church in Austria. As such, it enjoys international recognition in pan-Orthodox circles, as evidenced by the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the ceremony.
In Austria live between 400,000 and 450,000 Orthodox Christians. Seven Orthodox Churches have ecclesiastical structures here and are represented in the existing since 2010 Orthodox Episcopal Conference: the Patriarchate of Constantinople (Greek Orthodox), the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church , the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Georgian Orthodox Church. The Diocese of the Georgian Orthodox Church for Austria is currently vacant.
Photography courtesy of Romanian Orthodox Church in Vienna