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Eastern Christians

The United States has more than four million people who are members of Eastern Orthodox churches. The Greek and Russian branches of this church are the largest; there are also Serbian, Ukrainian, Carpatho-Russian, Syrian, Rumanian, Bulgarian, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian and other branches. Orthodoxy and Catholicism split officially in 1054. There are still great similarities in doctrine between the two churches, though Orthodox Christians do not accept the Pope in the same way that Catholics do. They believe the holy spirit proceeds from “the Father” and not from “the Son” as Roman Catholics do. They do not believe in the Roman Catholic purgatory.

Eastern Orthodox clergy may marry. Until very recent times they almost always wore beards so as to be more like Christ and the fathers of the church. Also until recently, worshippers would stand during services. One of the hallmarks of the Orthodox faith is the veneration of icons and holy relics. In addition, Orthodox Christians celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter according to the Julian calendar, thirteen days later than the Gregorian calendar most other churches use.

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