Official statistics for the religious groups in the country today are not available because the Statistical Service of Greece has not been including the declaration of religious affiliation in the census since 1951. There are, however, estimates but these are also constantly changing because of migration flows into the country over the last twenty years. From 1950 to 1990 the nominally Orthodox in Greece were estimated at over 95% of the total population. Although between 1950 and 1974 more than a million Greeks emigrated abroad, most of them Orthodox, many of them returned after 1980 and from 1985 many Greeks came from the countries of the Soviet Union, mainly from the area of ‘Pontos’ (the Black Sea).
With the collapse of the socialist bloc a sudden and massive wave of immigration started mainly from Albania but also from Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. This influx of immigration affected the religious composition of the country as most of the immigrants were non-Orthodox. In addition to the immigrants from ex-socialist countries there have been Muslim inflows from the Middle East and from North Africa.
Muslims constitute by far the largest non-Orthodox religious group in the country but of these only around 100,000 (those who live in the Western Thrace), are recognized officially as a religious minority. Their rights have been clearly established by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), and they are all Greek citizens. Ethnically 50% of them are of Turkish origin, 35% are Pomaks (Slavic speaking) and 15% are Roma (http://www.mfa.gr/foreign/musminen.htm). The rest of the Muslims (over 500,000) came recently as immigrants from Albania, the Middle East, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Africa. These are not Greek citizens and many of them are not regularized as they have not acquired yet a residence and work permit. The majority of them live in Attica and other big cities and some live in the rural areas. Most of them are practicing but they do not have mosques.
The second major non-Orthodox group in the country is the Catholic minority. Again about 50,000 are ethnic Greeks and Greek citizens and live mainly in Athens and in the islands of Syros and Tinos. To these must be added about 5,000 Catholics of the Eastern right (Uniates). In additions there are of 100,000 Catholics, immigrants who came from the Philippines, Poland and other countries.
The third religious minority in Greece are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are ethnic Greeks and Greek citizens and recognized as minority. The fourth group is the Protestant Churches consisting of various denominations amounting to around 30,000 members. The fifth group is the Jews, around 5000, also Greek citizens. Finally there is an assortment of small groups such as: the Baha’i Faith, the Adventists; the Unification Church, Scientology, Followers of the Greek Pantheon, etc. None of these groups exceeds 1,000 members and they are Greek citizens.
A major Orthodox group (over 500,000), which is not considered a minority, is that of the Old Calendarists. These have separated from the Church of Greece from 1923 when the country and the Church adopted the new Gregorian calendar.
The official organization and recognition of all religions in Greece falls within two major categories: Legal Persons of Public Law and Legal Persons of Private Law. In the first category belong: the Orthodox Church of Greece; the Jewish community, and the Muslim Community of Thrace. In the second category belong all the other groups mentioned above as long as they have an officially recognized place of worship by the Ministry of Education and Religions. Another categorization is ‘known religions’ (Greek Constitution, Article 13, 2) and ‘other religions’. ‘Known religions’ are: the Orthodox Church, the Old Calendarists, the Catholic Church, Islam, Judaism, the Protestant Churches, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Adventists. ‘Other religions’ applies to any other religion. For ‘other religions’ to become known they must be granted a license for a place of worship by the Ministry of Education and Religions after consultation with the local bishop of the Orthodox Church in whose diocese the official place of worship is going to operate.
Nikos Kokosalakis & Effie Fokas,
"Greece: Overview of the National Situation",
Anders Bäckström (Coordinator),
Welfare and Values in Europe: Transitions related to Religion, Minorities and Gender (National Overviews and Case Study Reports)
Volume 2, Continental Europe: Germany, France, Italy, Greece,
Faculty of Theology at Uppsala University, 2012.