Phyletism or ethnophyletism (from Greek ἔθνος ethnos "nation" and φυλετισμός phyletismos "tribalism") is the principle of nationalities applied in the ecclesiastical domain: in other words, the conflation between Church and
After their emancipation from Ottoman rule, the Balkan churches freely developed both their national identities and their religious life. Theological faculties were created in
The term phyletism was coined at the Holy and Great pan-Orthodox Synod that met in
On 10 August 1872 the Synod issued an official condemnation of ecclesiastical racism, or "ethno-phyletism", as well as its theological argumentation:
We renounce, censure and condemn phyletism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers which "support the holy Church and the entire Christian world, embellish it and lead it to divine godliness.”[
In condemning phyletism, the Synod in Constantinople had, in fact, defined a basic problem of modern Orthodoxy.
Both the Bulgarians and Greeks have been accused of phyletism during this period, the Greek clerics in particular for trying to impose the Greek language on non-Greek ethnic groups, such as the
“Both you [Greeks] and the Bulgarians can equally be accused of phyletism, that is, of introducing ethnic interests into Church questions, and in the use of religion as a political weapon; but the difference lies in the fact that Bulgarian phyletism is defensive, while yours is offensive. Their phyletism seeks only to mark out the boundaries of their tribe; yours seeks to cross the boundaries of Hellenism...