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Priestly Old Believers or Popovtsy are those Old Believers who in principle consider such churches who have adopted the ritual observations rejected by the Old Believers to be heretics, but not necessarily apostate. All Old Believers consider the practices of the post-Nikonitan Russian Church and other similar churches to have a ritual observance alien to what they consider truly Orthodox. However, the Popovtsy do consider it possible to receive "new ritualists" with myrrhon, since Popovtsy discern between apostates and heretics. As a consequence of the fact that some priests never accepted the ritual changes and had kept myrrhon consecrated before the schism, which could be mixed with olive oil, the Popovtsy received Nikonians (followers Patriarch Nikon) with myrrhon and sometimes also got the opportunity to receive priests and finally also, like in the example of, Metropolitan Ambrosii of Belo-Krinitsa, (known as Ambrosii of Belaya Krinitsa by Old Believers) was able to re-establish an episcopal hierarchy.

Popovtsy do, up to this day, receive Nikonitans who have been properly baptized with myrrhon, whereas the priestless always baptize converts including Popovtsy.

Some Popovtsy accepted the "edinover" Church which is a branch of the established Russian Church using the pre-Nikon rite, but the majority of Popovtsy never accepted this, since they consider the post-Nikon Church to be Heretics and thus not Orthodox, although not necessarily apostate.

On dogmatic issues Popovtsy have many things in common with "conservative" Nikonians; however, many differences do exist, such as: Old Believers always baptize converts from the Roman Catholic Church since this Church is considered apostate.