Reflecting its position as a crossroads between western and eastern forms of Christianity, the Orthodox Church of Finland has more than 60,000 active members and is seeing membership and attendance steadily rise. Moreover, the church forms an important part of the nation's spiritual and cultural life. The Orthodox faith was actually the first form of Christianity to reach Finland, arriving in the nation's southeast periphery more than 1,000 years ago through merchants and fur traders travelling from the east. In time, monasteries were founded in the Karelia region of Finland, with many being located on lake islands. These monasteries became key missionary centres. Orthodox churches came to be built in villages and by the 15th century the Orthodox faith extended as far north as Lapland. The second world war turned the Orthodox Church of Finland's houses of worship into sanctuaries for evacuees, but after the conflict Finland was obliged to cede a vast amount of territory to the Soviet Union. As a result, in a matter of weeks during 1945, the church lost 90 per cent of its property and 70 per cent of its members were displaced from their homes. The Orthodox population became dispersed throughout Finland and the monasteries of Karelia were re-established at new locations. The Finnish government helped during this transitional phase by enacting the Reconstruction Act, under which new parishes were founded to replace those lost in Karelia. During the post-war period, numerous new churches, rectories and cemeteries were built, funded by the government. Finally secure in its homeland again, the Finnish Orthodox Church, under Archbishop Paavali and his successor Archbishop Johannes, forged links internationally within the Orthodox world, reconnecting with the faith in countries and territories including Russia, Estonia, Belarus, Romania and Greece. The church has actively participated in inter-ecclesiastical international work since the 1960s and is a member of the World Council of Churches. The church also engages in theological debates with other denominations of the Christian faith. In 2001, Metropolitan Leo was elected Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland, and today he continues down the devotional path courageously travelled by his predecessors. Today, the Orthodox Archdiocese of Finland is an autonomous church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The church enjoys a high degree of independence in internal matters. It is free to organise its affairs within the bounds of the law of the land, provided that such arrangements do not conflict with accepted Orthodox traditions. The supreme body of the church is the synod, which includes both clergymen and lay members. Bishops are members of the synod by virtue of their office. The convocation of bishops must approve any decisions taken by the synod regarding the spiritual life or canons of the church. Finland's beautiful Orthodox churches are an awe-inspiring aspect of the nation. Every visitor should make time to visit a least a couple of these remarkable houses of worship on any tour of this remote but captivating Nordic country, as most are them are repositories of fabulous ecclesiastical art.