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Missionary Politics in Late Ottoman Palestine

The Stance of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem

In: Social Sciences and Missions
Author:
Konstantinos Papastathis Leiden University

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Abstract

The aim of the paper is to elaborate on the Jerusalem Orthodox Patriarchate’s missionary work in late Ottoman times, paying special attention on its incapacity to counteract the activities of its rivals within the religious market of Palestine. In particular, the article addresses the following research questions: What was the extent of the Patriarchate’s missionary activity, and its stance vis-à-vis the work of the other Church missions, i.e. the Roman-Catholic, and Protestant? Was its policy effective; and if not, why? Overall, the article argues that neither the missionary enterprise nor the blocking of the western missions’ conversion activities were at the top of the patriarchal agenda. It is suggested that the causes of this stance were mainly: a) the financial and political disadvantageous position of the institution; b) the centrality of the custodianship of the Holy Places as the primary aim of its function; and c) the development of Greek nationalism as the nodal point of the discourse.

Résumé

L’ objectif de cet article est de revenir sur le travail missionnaire du patriarcat orthodoxe de Jérusalem à la fin de la période ottomane, en nous focalisant plus spécifiquement sur son incapacité à contrer les activités de ses rivaux sur le marché religieux de Palestine. L’ article s’ intéresse en particulier aux questions suivantes: de quelle ampleur était l’ action missionnaire du patriarcat, et quelle était sa position envers le travail des autres églises missionnaires, catholique romaine et protestantes? Est-ce que sa stratégie était efficace; et si ce n’ était pas cas, pourquoi? L’ article montre avant tout que ni l’ entreprise missionnaire ni l’ idée de contrecarrer les missions occidentales ne figuraient en tête des préoccupations du patriarcat. Il suggère que les causes de cette attitude sont principalement: a) la situation financière et politique désavantageuse de cette institution; b) l’ accent mis sur sa fonction première de gardienne des lieux saints; et c) le développement du nationalisme grec comme point central de son discours.

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