Orthodox Church Bans Modern Greek in Liturgy

Rejects Bishop’s Initiative to Do Away with “Koine”

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ATHENS, Greece, SEPT. 20, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Greek Orthodox Church has rejected a proposal to introduce modern Greek in the liturgy.

The great majority of the Holy Synod opted to keep Koine Greek as it was spoken 2,000 years ago and used in New Testament texts. Koine has contributed to the “mystery” of the liturgy, the Orthodox bishops emphasized.

Bishop Apostolos of Kilkision sparked the debate after he had translated liturgical texts into modern Greek and celebrated the liturgy in that language.

The bishop hoped to do something similar to what the Second Vatican Council did for the Catholic Church, allowing the use of the vernacular to celebrate Mass, although the council retained Latin as the liturgical language par excellence.

The bishop, who was reported by 31 faithful, was called to account by the Holy Synod. He said he does not see anything wrong with his decision, which seeks “to make the liturgy accessible to the people.”

“The majority of people do not understand the language of the liturgy. They don’t understand one word,” the newspaper Kathimerini reported the bishop as saying.

“It is one of the reasons why many people, particularly youth, do not go to church,” Bishop Apostolos added.

He was supported in the Holy Synod by two brother bishops. When he saw the opposition of the other bishops, he promised not to use modern Greek to celebrate the liturgy.

Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Orthodox Church in Greece, wrote Bishop Apostolos saying that, “if he believed changes should be made, he should send his proposals in writing to be examined” by a special commission of the Holy Synod.

Defenders of Koine do not think it is a good idea to attract people to church by using modern Greek. With “its beauty, strength and splendor,” the traditional liturgy of the Orthodox does much more for the faith than what precise understanding of the words might do, ecclesiastical sources explained.

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