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The Orthodox Church in the US

During a visit to the United States this month, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the church's US presence.

Orthodox Christianity traces its origins in the US to 1794, when Russian monks traveled to Alaska to minister to fur traders. Later, waves of Orthodox immigrants from Europe and the Middle East sought work in factories and mines.

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Instead of uniting, the US church formed along ethnic lines; immigrants kept ties to churches in the lands they had left. Today, there are some 15 Orthodox jurisdictions in America, ranging from large groups such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, and the Orthodox Church in America to smaller churches with ties to Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and the Middle East.

There is no consensus on the number of Orthodox Christians in the US. Church officials estimate up to 6 million, but most polls find fewer than 1 percent (2.6 million) of Americans call themselves Orthodox.

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