According to the latest 2011 census there are over 45 thousand Orthodox Christians in Ireland, reports Interfax-Religion.
This figure is two times larger than it was in 2006 and four times larger than in 2002. Thus according to the official data Orthodoxy is the fastest growing religion in Ireland, says the website Russianireland.com.
The largest center of Orthodoxy in the country is Swords, the county town of Fingal, where 1168 Orthodox Christians reside according to the 2011 census data.
The census also showed that the majority of the Orthodox Christians in Ireland are Romanians (26%), followed by Irish (20%) and Latvians (12.5%).
“Orthodoxy is not something new or strange In Ireland; it has always existed here. It is well-known that Irish Christianity before the 11th century was very similar to ours. But after Ireland was conquered by the British this denomination had been intentionally removed by the Pope. That is probably why many Irish perceive Orthodoxy as something special and dear”,
said the Rector of the Patriarchal representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Dublin, priest Michael Nasonov.
According to him, there are seven parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ireland already.
The most common religion in Ireland is Roman Catholicism (3.86 million people, 84.2% of the population), followed by Protestantism (over 134 thousand people) and Islam (over 49 thousand people).
Being of Irish extraction myself, it was with some interest I read this article. Many people would be surprised to know that Orthodoxy is growing in Ireland at the rate it is, though on closer examination it is perhaps, not so surprising. As we all know and for reasons that need no reiterating here, the Catholic Church in Ireland now has an image problem comparable with that of British beef after Mad Cow Disease, and unsurprisingly while Ireland is still 84% Catholic on paper, the number of practicing Catholics has plummeted.
I think Orthodoxy’s appeal to the Irish is that it is not perceived as ‘alien’ the way that Pentecostalism and other evangelical Protestant denominations would be. Indeed many more of the more historically knowledgeable would simply see it as the Church as St Patrick and the other Celtic saints knew it.
Ben in SoCal says
The fact that there are so many adherents to Islam in Ireland is horrifying. Mass immigration is a double-edged sword, for sure.
Val W. Finnell, MD, MPH says
Any inforamtion on what the actual numbers are for the Orthodox?
AMEN Ben, but they [Islam] are gaining strength in this country as well and it is indeed horrifying.
Gabe Martini says
This is great news. May the Lord continue to restore Orthodox-Catholic Christianity to his green isle.
Those who call themselves Islamicists are indeed horrifying. They move in with mass immigration, take over an apartment building, then a town, then a major region , then a country–and Europe SLEEPS while this is happening. I have to hand it to one Orthodox Priest I heard saying ” We do NOT worship the same “god” as Islam. The fruits of that culture should be obvious but the snooze alarm has been hit over and over. It is horrifying! ” Amen to that. Dear Eastern Brethren of Orthodoxy–continue to speak the truth. God have mercy on all Christians and Jews. The Gospel of Jesus is the Truth—not the sword of mohammed.
Pauline Pujol says
Hello Greg, email dated 7/13/2013.
I agree with you 100%. The World is Sleeping Walking and Islam, a Religion NOT of PEACE, is taking over full steam ahead!! WAKE UP AMERICA!! Anyone interested in learning more regarding Islam, please subscribe to Atlas Shrugs or Jihad Watch. Authors and experts of both websites were most recently denied entrance into the UK because the government is SPINELESS!!
Thank the Lord for the presence of the Orthodox Church in Ireland and wherever else it gains a strong footage.
The Catholic Church in Ireland has become a “laughing stock”.
Philip Pughe-Morgan says
Can’t comment on the number of Moslems in Ireland, living on this side of the Irish Sea, but I must comment on the original remark by Fr Michael that Ireland was Orthodox until invaded by the English from the time of Henry II in the early C11th, when papal Catholicism was introduced. This is true, but we should remember that England was also Orthodox until overthrown by the Norman Conquest in the previous century. If we’d had any choice, we would have remained Orthodox, in which case the history of Ireland might have been very different.
Christopher William McAvoy says
This is a very good website for sharing inspiring stories of evangelization. I am pleased that the Orthodox Church is growing in Ireland, however I must say that I think western rite Orthodoxy in Ireland would be even less alien than the eastern rite. I strongly feel that there should be a latin rite mission there, otherwise it will forever appear to many to be a Church of immigrants – a Church for foreigners.
You can’t celebrate St. Patrick’s or St. St. Bridget feast days without the Gregorian chant propers.
It’s not the same feeling doing it in the byzantine rite, it seems alien to myself. In the same way that to celebrate St. Nektarios feast would be alien in the Latin rite. There is no need to make up new byzantine hymns to them when we already have ancient latin ones for them.
Just as it would to somewhat strange expect greeks to worship under the latin rite, it is also somewhat strange to expect the irish to do so in the byzantine rite.
So I am happy for the Church on one hand, but I’m also somewhat conflicted.
The priest Michael Nasonov is also mistaken that Ireland had a loyalty to the Pope introduced by the British. That loyalty had been there since St. Patrick’s time, even if it was of a less developed degree in the 5th century. The growth of the role of the Pope occurred everywhere in Western Europe, slowly and gradually, it was not an overnight process. There was no way for anyone to notice any drastic change. The british and normans had nothing to do with changing or elminating Orthodoxy in Western Europe. Western Europe was oblvious to the fact that it was no longer considered Orthodox by its Eastern Neighbors.
Orthodox Christians need to know there was not any single part of the West that chose to be in communion with the Orthodox Church, that is a myth. It was unfortunately a uninamious decision that happened because of centuries of theological , political and cultural distinctness from the byzantine rite and eastern european allies of byzantium. Culture, Theology and Politics gradually fused together to create two rival systems that conceptualized themselves as the Church. The situation is complex.
Robert Benson says
Two friends of mine whom I had convinced to look at Orthodoxy seriously (they are both English Roman Catholics), and whom I had assured that Eastern Orthodoxy does not employ historical falsehood and propaganda etc in the ways that many (if not all) protestants do, have read this thread and immediately turned away from any notion of conversion! I am extremely angry and disappointed about it!
I’m sorry, but both the original quote by Fr Nasonov, and Philip Pughe-Morgan’s ‘expansion’ upon it are both utter nonsense and are fruits of the most shallow historical revisionism.
Orthodox Catholic Christianity was practiced in the British Islands until the Schism, certainly, but this falsifying of historical fact is utterly ridiculous and can be shown to be so by anybody with an internet connection or access to a public library. I, myself, am Greek Orthodox and do not wish to see our faith discredited – which it has been, and will be – by such blatant and unnecessary falsification.
Prior to the Schism the Church, East and West’ was ONE. There were Latin Monks on Athos in the eleventh century. Western Rite Christianity was practiced in both Ireland and England just as with the rest of Western Europe. The Pope didn’t have to ‘do’ anything to Ireland or the Irish – their practices remained exactly the same, and they answered to the same ‘Patriarch’ they had always answered to – the Bishop of Rome. I would love to see Philip’s sources for the ‘English wanting to remain Orthodox'(?!) The English petitioned the Bishop of Rome on all matters ecclesiastical or religious both before and after the Norman conquest – their ‘religion’ did not change, the political situation did.
Fr. Michael Shanbour says
I would like to respond to Robert Bensen. I am very sorry about your two friends. However, I’m wondering if they could have really converted to Orthodoxy without a willingness to abandon something of what they currently believe and practice. No one can truly convert to Orthodoxy without some humility and the understanding that there is some change of that needs to occur. I’m sure you know more than I about Celtic Church history. However, did not the Roman Church through the Normans replace many/most of the bishops after the invasion. Did they not imprison or exile or send to monasteries those bishops who protested what was happening. That’s my reading of history. Certainly the Roman view of papacy had already evolved radically by the time of the invasion, it was not the same Roman Orthodox Church that converted Ireland. And, certainly by that time and since that time Roman liturgy has changed and adopted practices and theological assumptions that were not a part of the original Roman Orthodox practice.
Converting from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy is not a matter of adopting a new liturgical rite or casting off a couple doctrines (filioque, immaculate conception), there is a whole ethos that has developed in the West that must be cast aside. The residue created by Satisfaction Atonement, Original Guilt, the lack of understanding regarding the essence and energies of God, uncreated grace, all of this has radically changed the atmosphere and approach of Western Christianity. Forgive me, but there is more involved here in my opinion.
There is really no such thing as “Western Rite Christianity.” There is only (Orthodox ) Christianity which at one time was organically practiced in the West. But is there really any continuous Orthodox Christian liturgical practice in the West? No, there is no Christianity practiced organically through the centuries along with an Orthodox theological understanding like it was at the time of St. Gregory the Great for instance. For centuries, until Vatican II, the Roman liturgy did not even include the calling down of the Holy Spirit upon the gifts. And it wasn’t just an innocent mistake, they argued with St. Nicholas Cabasilas about it and rejected the need for it.
I pray for your friends. This should not become an excuse not to look at Orthodoxy. Even if it is completely revisionist (and I don’t think it is) they should know we Orthodox people are not perfect, nor is this an official position of the Church. Our theology however is perfect in that it preserves the original apostolic faith and life in Christ.
Donna Farley says
What is missing in this story is the cause or causes of the doubled numbers. Immigrants? Children being born? Conversions? Probably some combination, but that is only a guess……Also, is regular weekly church attendance up, or only the numbers who self-identify as Orthodox on the census?
More data is needed for a fuller picture.
Fr. John says
Sadly, none of that information is available to us, but the increased numbers of Orthodox is, at least, a cause for joy.
Joshua Wherley says
It should be noted, as well, that early Irish monasticism was often modeled on that of the Desert Fathers, and when I attended a talk given by Fr. Moses Berry he mentioned that early Celtic Christian art resembles Ethiopian iconography.