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Oriental Orthodox Churches
Clockwise from top:
Etchmiadzin Armenian Apostolic Cathedral,
Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral,
Enda Mariam Eritrean Orthodox Cathedral,
Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral,
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Catholicate Palace,
Saint George Syriac Orthodox Cathedral.
Classification Non-Chalcedonian
Orientation Eastern Christianity
Theology Miaphysitism
Polity Episcopal
Structure Communion
Language Coptic, Classical Syriac, Ge'ez, Armenian, Malayalam, Koine Greek, local languages
Liturgy Alexandrian, West Syriac and Armenian
Founder Jesus Christ, according to sacred tradition
Separated from Roman state Church
Members 50 million
Other name(s) Oriental Orthodoxy, Miaphysite churches, Oriental Orthodox Communion

Oriental Orthodoxy means the group of Eastern Christian Churches that accept only the first three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the Council of Ephesus — and do not accept the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon. These Churches are also called Old Oriental Churches. Oriental Orthodoxy is one of the oldest branches in Christianity. Oriental Orthodox churches are different from the churches that call themselves Eastern Orthodoxy.

The Oriental Orthodox Churches are composed of six autocephalous churches: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch (Jacobite Syrian Christian Church), the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church. They consider themselves to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission, and that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles.

Oriental Orthodox Churches shared communion with the Roman Church before the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, and with the Church of the East until the Council of Ephesus in AD 431, separating primarily over differences in Christology.

The majority of Oriental Orthodox Christians live in Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, India, Syria, Turkey and Armenia, with smaller Syriac communities in Western Asia decreasing due to persecution. There are also many in other parts of the world, formed through diaspora, conversions, and missionary activity.


Oriental Orthodox Christians use a breviary such as the Agpeya and Shehimo, respectively, to pray the canonical hours seven times a day while facing in the eastward direction towards Jerusalem, in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus; this Christian practice has its roots in Psalm 119:164, in which the prophet David prays to God seven times a day. Before praying, they wash their hands and face in order to be clean before and to present their best to God; shoes are removed in order to acknowledge that one is offering prayer before a holy God. In this Christian tradition, it is customary for women to wear a Christian headcovering when praying.


Assouan cathedrale copte
Aswan Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Egypt

The Oriental Orthodox Churches are a communion of six autocephalous (that is, administratively completely independent) regional churches.

Below is a list of the six autocephalous Oriental Orthodox churches forming the main body of Oriental Orthodox Christianity. Based on the definitions, the list is in the alphabetical order, with some of their constituent autonomous churches and exarchates listed as well.

  • Alexandrian Rite
  • Syro-Antiochene Rite
    • Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
      • Jacobite Syrian Christian Church
    • Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
  • Armenian Rite
    • Armenian Apostolic Church
      • Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
        • Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople
        • Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
      • Holy See of Cilicia
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