Old Calendarists

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Old Calendarists are groups of Orthodox Christians who are in various levels of "resistance" against the mainstream Orthodox churches, identified mainly by their insistence on the use of the Julian Calendar. They are to be distinguished from the mainstream churches which simply follow the Julian Calendar yet remain in full communion with most or all of world Orthodoxy. Many Old Calendarists today say that their concerns about ecumenism are more significant than calendar issues.

The mainstream churches have varying positions on different Old Calendarist churches, ranging from an active desire to restore unity to a denial of the Old Calendarists' Orthodoxy.

Some Old Calendarist groups are styled as True Orthodox or Genuine Orthodox, and both terms are used in this article. Some may also style themselves Traditionalist Orthodox.

Contents

History

Greece

In 1924, the bishops of the Church of Greece implemented the calendar change discussed at the pan-Orthodox congress. Afterwards, the former Primate of the Church of Greece, Germanos of Demetrias, retired in protest. Lay groups and brotherhoods formed to keep the use of the Julian calendar (or the "Orthodox calendar," as they prefer it to be called) alive, despite state persecution (Greece was an Orthodox country, and the Church enjoyed certain privileges from the state) and finally, in 1935, three bishops, certain that waiting for a reversal of the calendar change was irresponsible to their flocks, immediately declared their separation from the official Church and declared that the calendar change was a schismatic act.

The Florinite/Matthewite Schism

By the 1940s, two parties had formed within the Church of Greece: the Florinites (under Metropolitan Chrysostom of Florina) and the Matthewites (under Bp. Matthew of Bresthena). The issue had been the former's vacillation on whether the mysteries of the State Church were still grace-filled. Both sides had their respective justifications for their positions, and both were violently persecuted by the state. The Matthewites were holding a more consistently applied position. That they labelled the Florinites as a whole as opportunists who were trying to ingratiate themselves with the state was unfortunate, and not altogether true for the followers of Metropolitan Chrysostom, and so the parties became psychologically distinct.

In the end, a real physical division was formed, whereas a real doctrinal division ended: Bishop Matthew singlehandedly consecrated another bishop, and together they made more new bishops. After the death of Bishop Matthew, however, Chrysostom of Florina reaffirmed the decision of 1935 declaring the New Calendar State Church as schismatic. (The reasons for this are unclear, and speculations give various answers.) In any case, the Matthewites proceeded to elect Archbishop Agathagelos to the rank of Primate of Athens in 1958.

We will deal first with the major divisions of the Florinites, since their divisions have generally been larger and more permanent in nature, and then the Matthewites.

Divisions within the Florinites

After the death of Metropolitan Chrysostom, the Florinites had no bishops, and Metropolitan Chrysostom advised his flock to go under the protection of the Matthewite bishops. Fearing the repercussions, however, the Florinites opted to seek a new hierarchy and appealed to Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia to help them. In 1960, Archimandrite Akakios Pappas was made a bishop with the title of Bishop of Talantion for these communities without the official blessing of the ROCOR Synod by Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago and Bp. Theophilos Ionescu, a Romanian New Calendar Bishop under the ROCOR. The following year, the ROCOR elected and ordained Archimandrite Petros Astyfides as Bishop of Astoria in order to serve as archpastor of the Greek Old Calendarist immigrant communities in the United States and Canada. Later Bp. Akakios of Talantion and Archbishop Leonty of Chile (ROCOR) ordained five more bishops in Greece. Thus in 1961, Akakios of Talantion became the new First-Hierarch of the restored Florinite Synod. He died, however, in 1963. The Synod thus proceeded to elect Auxentios Pastras, Bishop of Gardikion, to be their new leader as Archbishop of Athens. The ROCOR under Metropolitan Philaret eventually recognized the validity of the secret consecrations in 1969.

All of the current divisions of the Florinites come from one of the groups below:

The Auxentios Synod: The First Florinite Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece was fraught with problems by the 1970s, and two major separations occurred during the lifetime of Archbishop Auxentios. However, few doubt that Archbishop Auxentios himself was of a saintly character, albeit a poor bishop. Recently there have been attempts to rehabilitate his memory (Archbishop Auxentios died in 1994); most of his synod, barely held together by the 1980s, dissolved after his death into the three jurisdictions listed below. In 1986, Auxentios was removed from the Archdiocese of Athens and the leadership of the Old Calendar Church of Greece by a majority the Florinite bishops on account of a series of controversial episcopal ordinations conducted in the early 1980s with his apparent censent. Having the support of the dissenting minority of bishops, Auxentios proceeded to re-form his Synod. He died in 1994, having failed to reconcile with the rest of the Florinite Synod, under Chrysostom Kiousis. The remaining parishes of the Auxentios Synod, however, elected Archbishop Maximos of Kephalonia to the throne of Athens on January 7, 1995. In North America and Europe, the parishes loyal to Auxentios under the American Bishops organized around Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston (see HOCNA), left the Synod, and elected Makarios of Toronto as locum tenens of the see of Athens.

The Chrysostomite Synod: Amidst charges of maladministration, the majority of the Florinite synod chose in 1986 a new leader in Archbishop Chrysostom (Kiousis), who demonstrated rather effectively that the True Orthodox in Greece were a force to be reckoned with. Choosing to take on the Greek legal system, court cases were held where it was demonstrated that the Old Calendarists of Greece were not schismatics. Though their public reputation had been tarnished over nearly two decades of divisions, their legal existence was, and is presently, safe. The synod of Chrysostom of Athens is today the largest synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece.

The Synod-in-Resistance of Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili: While this church's official ecclesiology is peculiar, the amount of work that Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili and his synod have done to assist True Orthodox throughout the world is impressive, and must be noted. The church itself is rather small, but has been very effective in presenting intellectual arguments against the New Calendar State Church. It is headed by another defector from the Auxentios Synod, Cyprian (Koutsoumbas) of Fili, and holds a unique ecclesiology of “sick

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