Orthodox Church of France
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Orthodox Church of France
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The Orthodox Church of France (l'Eglise Orthodoxe de France, formerly l'Eglise Orthodoxe Catholique de France, a.k.a. l'ECOF) is an autonomous diocese of Western Rite parishes in France formed in 1936 by the Church of Russia.
In 1937, the Church of Russia received a small group under the former Liberal Catholic bishop, Louis-Charles (Irénée) Winnaert (1880-1937), dubbing them l'Eglise Orthodoxe Occidentale ("Western Orthodox Church"). Upon his repose, the leadership of the Church was turned over to Evgraph Kovalevsky (1905-1970). Also in the French Church were Lucien Chambault, who oversaw a small Orthodox Benedictine community in the rue d'Alleray in Paris (as Pére Denis), and the former Benedictine monk, Archimandrite Alexis van der Mensbrugghe (1899-1980), who favorably viewed the restoration of the ancient Roman rite cleansed of medieval accretions and supplemented by Gallican and Byzantine interpolations. In 1948, he published his Liturgie Orthodoxe de Rite Occidental and in 1962 the Missel Orthodoxe Rite Occidental.
Fr Evgraph worked for several years on restoring the ancient rite of the Gauls, which came to be known as the Divine Liturgy according to St Germanus of Paris. After the French church broke with Moscow to preserve the Western character of its liturgy, Archimandrite Alexis remained with the Church of Russia and was consecrated to the episcopacy in 1960, continuing his Western Rite work under the auspices of the Moscow Patriarchate.Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia between 1959 and 1966, and Kovalevsky himself was consecrated with the title of Bishop Jean-Nectaire de Saint-Denis in 1964. During this time, the Eglise Orthodoxe de France received considerable encouragement from St. John Maximovitch (who was ROCOR's representative in Western Europe at the time), and his death in 1966 was a serious blow to these French Orthodox Christians, who had enjoyed an influential and holy advocate in St. John.
Meanwhile, the Moscow Patriarchate's Western rite withered and came to an end, but Bishop Jean's church continued to thrive, though after St. John's death in 1966, they were again isolated from the other churches. Bishop Jean died in 1970, and then in 1972 the Church of Romania took the Eglise Orthodoxe de France under its omophorion. Gilles Bertrand-Hardy was consecrated as Bishop Germain de Saint-Denis, and the restored Gallican rite became the regular liturgy used in the many small French Orthodox parishes established throughout France.
In 1993, after a long conflict with the Romanian holy synod regarding canonical irregularities, the Romanian Synod withsdrew its blessing from and broke communion with the Church, which again found itself in isolation from other Orthodox Churches. The Romanian patriarchate established a deanery under Bishop Germain's brother Archpriest Gregoire to minister to those parishes formed by the priests and laity that chose to stay with Romania.
In 2001, after the scandal caused by the revelation inside the Church of the marriage of Bishop Germain in 1995 (which was later legally annulled), some priests and parishes led by Archpriest Jean-Pierre Pahud left the the Church of France and formed the Union des Associations Cultuelles Orthodoxes de Rite Occidental (UACORO) (the Union of Western Rite Orthodox Worship Associations). Many of these have subsequently been received on an individual basis into the Church of Serbia in 2006. The Orthodox Church of France currently functions as an independent body, and is not recognized any of the Orthodox Churches in communion with the ancient patriarchates.