Pro Oriente
The Orthodox Church / The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa

Number of faithfulapprox. 1.3 million, exclusively in Africa
Title of First HierarchPope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
See of the First HierarchAlexandria (Egypt)
Current incumbentTheodoros II (Horeftakis), born 1954, in office since 2004
Bishops and dioceses43 bishops; 37 dioceses


Liturgical LanguageGreek (partially also African languages)
Calendarmixed calendar (Gregorian/Julian)
Presence in Austrianone
Presence in Germanynone

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria originally comprised the predominantly Greek minority of Christians in Egypt who followed the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451). Due to their adherence to the church policy of the Byzantine emperors, the opponents of Chalcedon called them "Melkites" (loyal to the emperor). Although the Melkite patriarchate was never formally abolished, for a substantial amount of time, the patriarchate remained orphaned, especially, after the Arab conquest of Egypt in 642. During Ottoman rule (from 1517), the Greek patriarchs of Alexandria usually resided in exile in Constantinople. It was not until 1846 that a Greek Orthodox patriarch was able to take his seat in Alexandria again. While the Greeks initially celebrated the liturgy like the Copts according to the Alexandrian rite, from the 10th century onwards, the Byzantine rite gradually prevailed.

In the first half of the 20th century, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate managed to secure its position as an independent church within the Egyptian state. At the same time, it increasingly developed missionary activities, first in East Africa and later in the southern parts of the continent. Nowadays, in addition to Egypt, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria has dioceses in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Congo, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Uganda. Black African Christians now make up the majority of the faithful in the patriarchate, while most of the bishops continue to be Greeks. In December 2021, the Patriarchate of Moscow founded its own Exarchate in Africa, which exploits the dissatisfaction of some priests towards the Greek hierarchy and actively seeks to poach priests previously belonging to the Patriarchate of Alexandria. In the background of these events, stands the conflict over the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

From an ecumenical perspective, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria is considered to be very open: it was one of the founding members of the World Council of Churches in 1948 and maintains good contacts with the other Christian churches on the African continent. The Patriarch Parthenios III (1987-1996) and Patriarch Petros VII (1997-2004) were both actively involved in the ecumenical movement. The current Patriarch Theodoros II, who has been in office since 2004, has primarily tried to mediate the intra-Orthodox conflicts. The patriarch attracted international attention when he ordained six women in Congo in February 2017 as deacons. Also noteworthy are the efforts of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to inculturate Eastern Christianity in Africa, which is demonstrated, among other things, by the fact that the liturgy is partially celebrated in African languages.


  • W. Hage, Das Griechisch-Orthodoxe Patriarchat Alexandria, in: Idem, Das orientalische Christentum, Stuttgart 2007, 70-78.