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.
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 an ecclesiology of “sick" and “healthy" churches, thus avoiding the repercussions that inevitably follow referring to the majority as subject to a schismatic body. Their ecclesiology is considered heretical by the more rigorist elements of the True Orthodox who have been influenced by Matthewite positions.
The Synod of Archbishop Makarios of Athens (Lamian Synod): In 1995, a resistance faction of six bishops formed within the synod of Chrysostom (Kiousis) and separated itself over what they claimed to be a series of canonical infractions, headed by Metropolitan Kallinikos of Lamia. The charges related to the trial of Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Euthymios (Orphanos), who had been charged with moral infractions, and the election of Bishop Vikentios (Malamatenios) of Avlona as Metropolitan of Peiraeus. By early 1997, the bishops headed by Kallinikos of Lamia had fragmented into three groups, one of which reconciled with Archbishop Chrysostom (Kiousis). A second group, Paisios Loulourgas (Met. of America) and Vikentios Malamatenios (titular Bp. of Avlona), submitted to the Ecumenical Patiarchate. Later that same year, Kallinikos of Lamia and Euthymios of Thessaloniki proceeded to ordain five titular bishops in an attempt to create a new synod. In 2003, they finally decided to elect a primate, and elected Makarios (Kavakides) of Athens. A good deal of their membership was then lost, as many who did not see themselves as separate from the Kiousis synod were forced to decide between the two.
Divisions within the Matthewites
For all the negative press the Matthewites have received over the years due to the strictness of their position, their church has been strangely free from long lasting schisms. Only two separations are worthy of note from the main body, and while they had the potential to destroy the unity that exists within the Matthewite True Orthodox Church of Greece, they did not.
The first Primate of Athens selected by the Matthewites was Agathangelos of Athens, who reposed in 1967. Andreas of Athens, one of the original three bishops made, was elected to the primacy in 1972; unitl his death in 2005 he was one of the oldest and longest-reigning of Orthodox bishops in the world.
The Synod of Archbishop Nicholas: In February, 2003, Archbishop Andreas of Athens retired, and Archbishop Nicholas of Athens, considered by many to have a progressive vision for the Matthewite church, was elected. Extremely popular with younger Matthewites, Archbishop Nicholas seems generally poised to keep the Matthewite synod united. However, it has been advanced that Archbishop Andreas retired in violation of the canons.
The Kirykite faction: Not a schism proper, Metropolitan Kirykos and two other bishops of the synod refused to recognize the retirement of Archbishop Andreas or the enthronement of the new Archbishop, but continued to remain a member of the Synod of Archbishop Nicholas. The risk of schism exists, but is small—one of Kyrikos' vocal supporters have since died; another Matthewite Bishop of the Synod has passed on recently in Metr Gorgonios, and there were rumors he too supported Metropolitan Kirykos.
The Gregorian Synod: Under the primacy of Andreas of Athens, there were virtually no divisions in the Matthewites until 1995, when Metropolitan Gregory of Messinia separated with a small majority of the synod (five versus four), ostensibly over the issue of the "God the Father" icon and the related issues of Western-style icons in general. However, with the deaths of three of their bishops, the remaining two split, one remaining completely alone from the eldest hierarch, and the with Gregorios of Messinia naming three more bishops (Abramios, Pavlos, and Nectarios).
For all intents and purposes, it would appear that there are still only two actual Matthewite synods.
There was once a list posted of over 30 True Orthodox Greek Churches. This is in fact an unrealistic number. The number comes from an Old Internet listing of Bishops and Synods, some of whom had no following, and had one, if any Bishop. A demented compilation designed to confuse as well as convert, this infamous list indicated even temporary unions as existing jurisdictions. As well, even the Moscow Patriarchate was involved in the formation of one of these Bishops (Joachim Souris), and so the author is limiting the discussion to True Orthodox Churches with actual memberships and hierarchies-- in other words, actual Churches.
With the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927, Orthodox bishops in Russia began to apply Ukaz 362 of Patriarch St. Tikhon and became administratively independent until such time as they could operate freely.
Ukaz 362 was written to preserve the Orthodox Church in times of persecution so that the Churches could survive. It gives the bishops of the Russian Church, temporarily, the right to self-govern apart from each other until such time as they can organize. It is considered by some to be a masterpiece of self-preservation in a time where the rules of canonical order could not be followed to the letter due to the difficulty of travel and so forth.
The number of catacomb churches in Russia is to date fairly large, and even today no one knows where all of them are. The history of the different catacomb episcopates since 1927 is still not completely documented. There are also questions as to the legitimacy of certain catacomb bishops. Sadly, these questions will have to be determined by a future all-Russian Council.
The True ("Free") Russian Orthodox Church
In 1990, ROCOR had announced that a bishop had secretly been consecrated to assist the believers in Russia (Bishop Varnava of Cannes), who then proceeded, with the blessing of the Synod, to make more bishops for Russia, the most prominent being Bishop Valentine of Suzdal and Lazarus of Tambov.
The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church: The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) is by far the largest of the Russian True Orthodox Churches, with hundreds of parishes in Russia and abroad, and also one of the most controversial. Headed by Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir, the synod has twelve bishops and is enjoying a period of intense persecution on the part of the state church. One bishop, Gregory (George/Abu Asaly) of Colorado, recently parted ways with the ROAC synod after having been both canonically retired and excommunicated. He initially took 2 parishes in America with him but they have now left him along with most of his monastics and parishioners. His group is the self-styled the Genuine Orthodox Church of America (Not to be confused with the newly autonomous Genuine Greek Orthodox Church in America headed by Metropolitan Pavlos of Astoria that is in communion with its mother Church, the GOC headed by Archbishop Chrysostomos II.) Gregory and his believers numbering in the teens believes himself to be the last bishop left in America.
The True Russian Orthodox Church: Bp. Lazarus of Tambov, himself well-known in Russia, rejoined the ROCOR after the Free Russian Orthodox Church broke communion with ROCOR then later left again after the formation of Metropolitan Vitaly's Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (ROCOR-V). He and Bishop Benjamin of Kuban consecrated a new set of bishops and currently have a couple dozen parishes in Russia.
Russian True Orthodoxy Today
Today the situation is considerably clearer than it was 20 years ago; many of the groups that exist today have either been merged into other jurisdictions or have formed small, independent groups, administratively separate from the rest of the church. Much of their current history is tied together with ROCOR, as most of the original Catacomb bishops had been killed during state persecutions or died in hiding.
The History of the Russian church outside Russia is best summarized by St. John (Maximovitch), Archbishop of Shanghai and San Fransisco, who reposed in 1966:
- In November of 1921 in Sremsky-Karlovtsy in Yugoslavia the first Sobor abroad was held, in which in addition to 24 bishops, representatives of the clergy and laity took part. Being thus the voice of all Russians who had succeeded in leaving the Soviet authority, the Sobor considered itself obligated to express its opinion regarding the situation in Russia, where all the rest of the population of Russia was languishing under the oppression of that authority. The Sobor appealed to the Genoa Conference with the request not to support the Bolshevik regime and to help the Russian people to become free of it.
Thus was formed the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), which held, until recently, the banner of Russian True Orthodoxy outside of the Russian territory.
Divisions within Russia Abroad
The Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR) enjoyed relative stability until after the death of Metropolitan Philaret of New York (+1985) and is currently in the process of uniting with Moscow. Since the death of Metropolitan Philaret (regarded as a saint by many Old Calendarists), three major groupings of True Orthodox Churches can be categorized.
The Holy Orthodox Church in North America: In 1986, after the monks of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, MA were accused of moral crimes and called to spiritual court. The entire New England Deanery of ROCOR, with the exception of one priest, had repeatedly asked for a canonical investigation of the trustworthiness of the persons making the moral accusations for a period of 11 months.[] These same clergy had also expressed concerns over violations of the Anathema Against Ecumenism which all the bishops of ROCOR had signed in 1983.[] Several days before the monks were called to spiritual court [] they left the ROCOR [] and were received by Metopolitan Akakios and Metropolitan Gabriel, two bishops who had not attended the Synod meetings of Archbishop Auxentios because of various administrative problems. The monks had lost confidence that the bishops would be unbiased since they were receiving testimony from witnesses that cannot make accusations against a clergyman according to the Sacred Canons (see above). Several weeks later approximately one-thirteenth of the North American parishes of the ROCOR and one-sixth of the clergy, following Holy Transfiguration Monastery's example, also went under Metropolitans Akakios and Gabriel.
Later, when cooperation ceased between Metropolitans Akakios and Gabriel in 1997, the clergy of HOCNA asked to be received directly under the then allegedly deposed Archbishop Auxentios. Although the Synod of Archbishop Chrysosostom II in 1986 considered Archbishop Auxentios deposed, in 1998 they rehabilitated him []. Another group of bishops formerly under Archbishop Chrysostom II, but now known as the Lamian Synod presently under Archbishop Makarius also declared the deposition of Archbishop Auxentios uncanonical and void on April 1/14, 1997.[]
After obtaining 2 bishops and two suffragan bishops, the group left the successor of Archbishop Auxentios, Archbishop Maximos, after they had deposed him for uncanonically consecrating two individuals to the episcopate without the permission of the rest of the synod.[] They incorporporated themselves as Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA) in 1987. Currently the HOCNA synod, which in 2001 declared itself administratively independent of its extant mother Church in Greece, has five bishops.
The True ("Free") Russian Orthodox Church: In 1994, the majority of the parishes of the Free Russian Orthodox Church (see above) broke communion with the ROCOR over their sudden inclination towards union with the Moscow Patriarchate, made manifest by their desire to "break apart" the Russian parishes. In time, a number of American parishes have joines the FROC, now known as the ROAC.
In 2001, after the ROCOR made a clear commitment to union with the Moscow Patriarchate, the head of the ROCOR synod, Metropolitan Vitaly, retired from the proceedings.
Almost immediately afterwards, Metropolitan Vitaly, Archbishop Varnava of Cannes, and two of the Russian bishops of ROCOR, separated with the rest of the ROCOR synod and made new bishops. The proceedings that led up to these events are well documented on the Internet and the treatment of the retired head of the ROCOR has been regarded as shameful by many in the majority group, including allegations that Vitaly is unfit for service and is being used as a figurehead. Since then, Metropolitan Vitaly has headed the reorganized ROCOR from his home in Mansonville. Until recently, they were known as the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, having since returned to the original name of ROCOR in many documents.
The Russian Church in Exile: The Russian Church in Exile has since primarily split into three parts—the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (North America), an independent European branch that the other branches to not accept, and the True Russian Orthodox Church in Russia. Both claim to be under the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Vitaly. However, the Russian Church in Exile immediately made new bishops for Russia; most of the Russian parishes of the ROCOR are still under the RTOC. Most recently, in 2004, the community of Esphigmenou (the sole monastery of the Holy Mountain that still refuses to commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch since the calendar change) has declared its recognition of Metropolitan Vitaly as the only possible legitimate First-Hierarch of ROCOR.
The amount of confusion among the remaining Russian True Orthodox parishes is not really worthy of note, as most have almost no visible membership, though two groups of historical value are the church under Ambrose (Von Sievers) and the Seraphimo-Gennadite Orthodox Church. Questions about their legitimacy and ecclesiology abound, however, and due to their small membership, there is a serious question as to how much discussion such groups actually merit, since they are usually reabsorbed into larger churches. Another new group that is worthy of note is the Russian True-Orthodox Church (Metropolitan Vyacheslav) which actually derives its episcopate from the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church.
Other National Churches
Other countries have been given True Orthodox hierarchies by the above groups.
The history of True Orthodoxy in Romania has a rich history and goes back to 1924. Most of the faithful are currently under the omophor of Metropolitan Vlasie of Romania and his subordinate bishops. Romania was given Bishops by the synod under Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili (see above).
One parish is under the Lamian Synod (see above).
The majority of the faithful are under the Cyprianites (see "Cyprian of Fili" above) and comprise a few dozen parishes, their bishop being Photios of Triaditsa.
Two churches are under Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal, and two left with Bishop Gregory of Colorado during his departure.
In Georgia, dozens of monastics fled the official Patriarchate of Georgia in protest over ecumenism in 1998. HOCNA (see above) absorbed many of them, and they style themselves the True Orthodox Church of Georgia. They currently have no bishop and are administratively under North America.
The situation in Ukraine deserves its own paper and is beyond the scope of this article. The churches there deserve mention, however, since most of the Russian groups have parishes in Ukraine (ROAC has two Bishops in Ukraine.) Worthy of note is the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) under Metropolitan Methody Kuriakov; while the ecclesiology of the UAOC is not particularly firm, they consecrated bishops for at least one True Orthodox group in Russia.
Churches "in resistance"
These churches refrain from concelebration with the mainstream Orthodox churches, but do not consider themselves schismatic, nor have they declared a break in communion with the mainstream churches. They will also commune the faithful of those churches.
- Holy Synod in Resistance ("Cyprianites"), a Florinite church
- Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Romania
- Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria
- Holy Synod of Milan, a Florinite church
Churches which are "walled off"
These churches refrain from both concelebration and communion with the mainstream Orthodox churches, regarding the hierarchies of the official churches to have apostasized and placed themselves outside Orthodoxy. The view of these Old Calendarists, commonly self-designated as "True Orthodox" towards official Orthodox priests and laity varies.
- Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, FROC/ROAC ("Suzdalites"), under Metropolitan Valentin of Suzdal
- Seraphimo-Gennadite Orthodox Church, under Metropolitan Theodosie
- Russian True-Orthodox Church (Lazarus), under Archbishop Lazarus of Tambov
- Russian True-Orthodox Church (Vyatcheslav), under Metropolitan Vyatcheslav
- Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church in America, the FROC/ROAC in the United States of America
- Russian Orthodox Church in Exile (ROCE), also known as ROCOR (V), under Metropolitan Vitaly of Montreal
- Genuine Orthodox Church of America, under Archbishop Gregory of Denver
- Genuine Greek Orthodox Church of America, under Metropolitan Pavlos of Astoria, the "Chrysostomite" Metropolitan Diocese for America
- Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA), under Metropolitan Makarios of Toronto
The ecclesiastical and canonical status of the various Old Calendarist jurisdictions is complex. Some regard themselves as being the only true Orthodox Christians and thus view the mainstream Orthodox Church as being in apostasy. As such, they do not share either communion or concelebration with the mainstream churches. Other Old Calendarists (typically those "in resistance") have suspended concelebrations with mainstream clergy, but will still commune the faithful of mainstream jurisdictions. They thus see themselves as a reform movement within the Orthodox Church. The question of canonicity follows much the same sort of patterns.
Views from the mainstream Orthodox on the Old Calendarists range from trying to heal the various breaks in communion or concelebration to outright declarations that such groups are themselves apostates, that is, no longer Orthodox.
- The True Orthodox Church: A Brief Overview (major portions of text used by permission)
- Eastern Christian Churches: The Old Calendar Orthodox Churches by Ronald Roberson, a Roman Catholic priest and scholar
- Paradosis: The Original Internet E-mail Forum for Traditionalists
- The Euphrosynos Café: A Portal and Forum for all Old Calendar Orthodox Churches by Father Nikolai Stanosheck, a ROAC deacon
- Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church
- Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church in America
- Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece, official website of Chrysostomite Synod
- Genuine Greek Orthodox Church of America, diocesan website of the Metropolis of America (Chrysostomite)
- Swedish Exarchate of the Holy Synod in Resistance