Πέμπτη 7 Απριλίου 2016

The Ancient Christianity (Orthodox Church) in Tunisia

...When Nero, the emperor of Rome, began to persecute Christians, Photini and her son Joseph were in Carthage, in Africa, where she was preaching the Christian gospel. After Jesus appeared to Photini in a dream, she sailed to Rome. Her son and many Christians from Africa accompanied her. Photini's arrival and activity aroused curiosity in the capital city. Everyone talked about her, "Who is this woman?" they asked. "She came here with a crowd of followers and she preaches Christ with great boldness." (St. Photini, The Samaritan Woman, from our post Sunday of the Samaritan woman (5th Sunday of Pascha): "Close to God is he who in his daily life becomes the light of Christ who enlightens his neighbours...")

Tunisia (OrthodoxWiki)

Tunisia (Arabic: تونس‎ - tunis, Berber: Tunes), officially the Tunisian Republic, is a country in the northwestern part of Africa in an area called Maghreb whose indigenous population had been Berber. Tunisia is bordered in the West by Algeria and in the East by Libya. In ancient times it was the site of the Phoenician city of Carthage that became part of the Roman province of Africa and a center of Orthodox Christianity.

Carthage entered history in the centuries before Christ as a rival of the emerging city-state of Rome. After the area was conquered by Rome, it was colonized by Roman settlers. As Christianity spread into the area in the first and second centuries, the Roman settlers and Romanized Berbers became Christians and the region became a center of Latin-speaking Orthodoxy under the Bishop and later Pope of Rome and produced such prominent Orthodox Christians as the writer Tertullian, the martyred Bishop Cyprian of Carthage (icon from here), the righteous Monica, and her son the Blessed Bishop Augustine of Hippo
During these early centuries the area was also shaken by various heresies and schisms. In the fifth century, the invading Vandals brought Arianism which created tensions between the Roman settlers and native Berbers. By the late seventh century, these tensions became welcoming sore points for the invading Muslim Arabs as the dissident Berbers gradually accepted Islam and the Latin-speaking people began migrating to Europe. By the end of the eleventh century, Christianity had virtually disappeared in the area that came to be known as Tunisia. Islam became the religion of Tunisia


During the past century or so, especially during the time of the French protectorate, an influx of European settlers entered Tunisia, bringing with them an enlarged, but still minor, Christian presence. The constitution of Tunisia, while making Islam the official state religion, establishes a guarantee of freedom to practice one's religion, although conversions by Muslims are disallowed.
Tunisia is within the jurisdiction of the Church of Alexandria, represented in the person of the metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Carthage, Alexios (Leontaritis). There are three Greek Orthodox and two Russian Orthodox parishes in Tunisia. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria also maintains jurisdiction in Tunisia. 

See more in
Episcopal see of Carthage
Councils of Carthage

The Council of Carthage, called the third by Denzinger, issued a canon of the Bible on 28 August 397. The primary source of information about the third council of Carthage comes from the Codex Canonum Ecclesiæ Africanæ, which presents a compilation of ordinances enacted by various church councils in Carthage during the fourth and fifth centuries [from here].

St Cyprian of Carthage, the leading bishop of the Church of Africa during the mid-third century 
The Calendar of Carthage, an ancient Orthodox Christian document from Tunisia

The saints of Massa Candida

The Massa Candida were 300 early Christian martyrs from Utica who chose death rather than offering incense to Roman Gods, in approximately 253-60 AD. They were put to death by Galerius Maximus, the governor of the province of Africa. The title "Massa Candida" or "White Mass or Lump" refers to their manner of death. [from here].
In Calendar of Carthage, feast day 18 August.

From Calendar of Carthage:
31 May. (Feast) of the saints of Timida [in Tunisia].
22 July. (Feast) of the saints of Maxula.
30 July. (Feast) of the saints of Thuburbo and of Septimia.

Saint Julia of Carthage

St John Orthodox Church, Memphis 
Iconographer: Dmitry Shkolnik

Saint Julia of Carthage (July 16) was born into a Christian family. As a child she was captured by the Persians and sold into slavery in Syria. St. Julia faithfully served her master, preserved her purity, kept the fasts and prayed often to God. On a journey to Gaul with her master, the ship stopped in Corsica where the saint’s master decided to participate in a pagan festival. St. Julia remained aboard the ship. Both the master and his companions became drunk with wine. While they were sleeping, the Corsicans absconded with Julia. Boldly confessing her faith, she was crucified by the pagans. An angel reported her death to monks in a nearby monastery who retrieved her body and buried it in a church in their monastery. The exact dates of her birth and death are not known; it is supposed that she lived sometime during the 5th-7th centuries.

The Holy Archdiocese of Carthage (from here)
Metropolitan Alexios of Carthage (from here)

The Holy Archdiocese of Carthage is a diocese under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. Its territory, in northwestern Africa, includes the parishes and missions located in nations of Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, and Morocco
The Archdiocese of Carthage was established as a archdiocese in 1931 by a Patriarchal and Synodal Decree.

Ruling Bishops

Orthodox patriarch’s visit in Tunisia, June 2014
& the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George

al-monitor.com (phoro from here)

As Tunisia undergoes major political changes breeding new visions about the country’s fate, the question of identity is being raised by parties advocating the supremacy of the Arab-Muslim identity of Tunisians. However, reducing the Tunisian identity to this mere dimension omits the diversity of the ethnic and religious communities that make up the Tunisian people’s identity anchor, such as the Greek Orthodox community, which has long lived in Tunisia.
This is evidenced by the visit of Theodore II, Pope of Alexandria and Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy See of St. Mark and all of Africa, which was announced at the meeting held last May between the Tunisian minister of religious affairs and the Greek ambassador to Tunisia, Anna Corca.
On this occasion, Corca was eager to salute Tunisia’s intention to receive Theodore on its soil, paying tribute to the Tunisian people for the spirit of tolerance that characterizes them and for their respect for all religions and consecration of the principle of living together.

The Orthodox patriarch was born on the Greek island of Crete. He was elected by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in October 2004, and succeeded Patriarch Peter VII. As an iconic religious figure leading the churches and the Greek Orthodox community throughout Africa, particularly in Tunisia, he was received by President of the Republic Moncef Marzouki, on Friday, June 6, 2014, and led Mass the following Sunday at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George.
A religious building with a strong architectural influence of Byzantine style is on Rome Street (Rue de Rome) in downtown Tunis. It is the Church of St. George, built under the reign of Mohamed Sadok Bey around 1862, upon the initiative of then Prime Minister Mustapha Khaznadar, who is himself a native of the island of Chios in Greece. The church would serve as a place of worship for the Greek Orthodox community in Tunisia, which has almost disappeared today, thus recalling a whole section of the country's history.
According to a study published by Habib Kazdaghli, a professor of contemporary history and dean of the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Humanities at the University of Manouba, the Greek community was formed in Tunisia in the wake of the Ottoman conquests during the 15th century.

The Greek Orthodox Church of st. George the Great Martyr in Tunis, photo from here (more photos)

Standing at the regency of Tunis, the first Greek Orthodox Church was founded in 1645 by the Patriarch of Alexandria. Having the status of millet (an autonomous religious group), which was granted by the Ottoman authorities, the Greek Orthodox enjoyed several advantages over other Christians. The course of Tunisia’s Greeks has undergone several changes until the departure of the majority of the community during the years following the proclamation of independence in Tunisia.

“Today, what interests us is to show the variety and the richness of Tunisia,” Kazdaghli said during an interview with Business News. Each Tunisian carries a part of the history of his country: Berber, Jewish, Roman, Byzantine, Turkish and Andalusian.
The Greek community is part of the Tunisian memory, “Although infinitely small, it is immeasurable when it comes to the civilizational richness,” he said. The Tunisian Jews, of which 1,500 are still in the country, is an example. However, apart from the figures, there is the symbolism and the whole history of the strata or the so-called beautiful Tunisian mosaic fragments. Kazdaghli said that each piece of the mosaic has its own place: “If a single piece of the picture is removed, a part of the Tunisian identity will be forgotten.”
The idea of Theodore’s visit is designed to firmly establish and revive the enrooted memory in the Tunisian identity. One regret is that the word “Mediterranean” no longer exists in the preamble of the new constitution. Yet, a part of our foundations is linked to the Mediterranean culture, according Kazdaghli.
In addition, the media coverage of the visit shows that Tunisia is changing and will remain true to its past at the same time. This visit is a reflection of the evolving nature of Tunisia that has a pluralist identity, and is not a secluded country that has a singular identity. On June 8, 2014, Kazdaghli will be receiving an award in recognition of his studies on the Greek Orthodox community. In the future, popes who visit Tunisia will only be able to learn about their own history through these writings, since the community has greatly diminished.

Kazdaghli said that the most important thing was to preserve ties with the diaspora abroad, and gave as an example Jacques Alexandroupolos, a professor of history at the University of Toulouse, who never misses an opportunity to develop exchanges with Tunisia. “We must see the benefits identified with Tunisia. What matters are the emotional ties with Tunisia. The most important thing is that the benefits and ties are preserved with Tunisia,” Kazdaghli added.
Several communities have undoubtedly assumed a role worth mentioning in our history, regardless of their number today. According to Kazdaghli, it is both important and rewarding for the people — such as the actress Helen Katzaras or the writer Laris Kindynis, who were born in the Greek community in Djerba — and for Tunisia that is also thankful for all its components. On the occasion of the pilgrimage to El-Ghriba or the visit of Theodore II, Tunisia has the chance to show this correlation with its environment and minorities. Kazdaghli said that there are people in Rhodes, Crete, Thessaloniki and even Athens who identify themselves with Tunisia.
The Greek Orthodox churches in Tunis, in Djerba and Sfax testify to this aspect of Tunisian history, where different communities have long coexisted. The country’s independence in 1956 certainly resulted in the departure of the Greek Orthodox from Tunisia, who have left a mark and reflection of the cultural diversity that Tunisians need to defend at present, despite the claims of the Arab-Muslim component.

See also 
Ancient Christian faith (Orthodox Church) in Africa
The Scillitan Martyrs of Numidia, the Protomartyrs of Africa
The Saints Forty Africans Martyrs of the Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Church of Alexandria & the Patriarchate of Alexandria

Orthodoxy in Africa 
The Last Christians of North-West Africa 

Further Vandalism of Orthodox Church in Tunis
Islam (tag)
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)

4 July 2010, first Orthodox Priest in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (& about Religion in Mauritania)

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