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.

The term Old Calendarist, however, is potentially misleading, as can be seen below, since all Russian churches of any note, including the Moscow Patriarchate, use the older calendar, and so the calendar was never an issue. However, the Old Calendarists have, in general, always considered themselves spiritually united to the Russian Catacomb church, as defined below. In correspondence with and concerning each other they are usually styled as True Orthodox or Genuine Orthodox, and both terms are used in this article. Some may also style themselves Traditionalist Orthodox.

Most Old Calendarists today say that their concerns about ecumenism, modernism (and in the case of the Russian churches, Sergianism) are more significant than calendar issues, which they believe have their origin in the former. 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.


In response to various currents within Protestantism to In 1920, the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, Dorotheus of Prusa, issued the Encyclical "Unto the Churches of Christ Everywhere"[1], which officially marked the entrance of Orthodox participation in the Ecumenical Movement. (See Ecumenism.) The Encyclical, tied to the formation of the League of Nations and with that end in mind, gave eleven suggestions so "that above all, love should be rekindled and strengthened among the churches, so that they should no more consider one another as strangers and foreigners, but as relatives, and as being a part of the household of Christ and “fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise of God in Christ” (Eph. 3:6)." (par. 6.) The first of the suggestions was "By the acceptance of a uniform calendar for the celebration of the great Christian feasts at the same time by all the churches."

In 1921, a council was called in Athens, led by Metropolitan Germanos of Demetrias, the Vice-President of the Holy Synod, deposing Archbishop Meletios (Metaxakis) of Athens, who had previously known for ecumenical activity, for recognizing the revolutionary Venizelos government in Greece[2]. In a bizzare twist, Meletios was recognized as Patriarch of Constantinople on November 21, 1921, where he began his programs anew, though previously his candidacy was declined by the Holy Synod of Constantinople in 1912.

In 1923, a "Pan-Orthodox Congress" was held under the presidency of Meletios which comprised members-- six Bishops, two laymen, and an archimandrite-- of a few of the local Churches (none of the members of the Pentarchy save Constantinople sent representatives). Metropolitan Anastassy of the Russian Church Abroad attended its initial meeting, having been in the area, declared that the Synod had given him no instructions on the matter, and soon departed. In total, less than half of the local Churches were represented by so much as a layman. (see Bishop Photii of Triaditsa, "The 70th Anniversary of the Pan-Orthodox Congress", Orthodox Life, 1&2, 1994). The purpose of the meeting was to implement the suggestions of the 1920 document, along with other uncanonical changes which were largely rejected, such as the elevation of married men to the Episcopate and the remarriage of widowed priests (sessions three and four). Finally, the Anglicans were present at the final meetings in the person of former Bishop Gore of Oxford, where it was decided that nothing stood in the way of reunion. In response, a five-member commission in Greece (of whom then Archimandrite-- and later Archbishop-- Chrysostom Papadopolous of Athens) determined to study the question of the use of the New Calendar and determined "Not a single one of them [local Orthodox Churches] can separate from the others and adopt the New Calendar without becoming schismatic in relation to the others." (Journal of the Government of the Greek Kingdom, chapter 1, 24/25. 1. 1923, No. 8, see also OEM, 1989, Chapter 17, p. 73, as noted in Bishop Photii.)


The True Orthodox Church of Greece

An artist's rendering of the appearance of the Sign of the Cross near Athens, 1925

In 1924, the bishops of the Church of Greece, under Archbishop Chrysostom (Papadopolous), implemented the calendar change discussed at the pan-Orthodox congress of 1923. In response, Metropolitan Germanos of Demetrias, retired in protest. Lay groups and brotherhoods formed to keep the use of the Julian calendar alive, despite state persecution (Greece was an Orthodox country, and the Church enjoyed certain privileges from the state).

In 1925, perhaps the most well-known phenomenon in the Old Calendar movement occurred: a large cross over an secret Old Calendar Church in 1925 during the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross, witnessed by approximately two thousand people, including police intent on arresting the clergy of the group, many of whom converted that night.[3]

In 1935, after more than 10 years, three Metropolitans, Germanos of Demetrias, the former Metropolitan of Florina, Chrysostom (Kavouridis) and Chrysostomos (Demetriou) of Zakynthos declared the Archbishop of Athens as schismatic and declared:

"Those who now administer the Church of Greece have divided the unity of Orthodoxy through the calendar innovation, and have split the Greek Orthodox People into two opposing calendar parts. They have not only violated an Ecclesiastical Tradition which was consecrated by the Seven Ecumenical Councils and sanctioned by the age-old practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church, but have also touched the Dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Therefore those who now administer the Greek Church have, by their unilateral, anticanonical and unthinking introduction of the Gregorian calendar, cut themselves off completely from the trunk of Orthodoxy, and have declared themselves to be in essence schismatics in relation to the Orthodox Churches which stand on the foundation of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Orthodox laws and Traditions, the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Serbia, Poland, the Holy Mountain and the God-trodden Mountain of Sinai, etc....That this is so was confirmed by the Commission made up of the best jurists and theologian-professors of the National University which was appointed to study the calendar question, and one of whose members happened to be his Blessedness the Archbishop of Athens in his then capacity as professor of Church History in the National University...Since his Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens has by his own signature declared himself to be a Schismatic, what need do we have of witnesses to demonstrate that he and the hierarchs who think like him have become Schismatics, in that they have split the unity of Orthodoxy through the calendar innovation and divided the Ecclesiastical and ethnic soul of the Greek Orthodox People?" (Cited in Moss, New Zion in Babylon, Part 3, p. 92)

From April 23rd to April 26th 1935 the ordination of four new bishops took place. Ordained were the Archmandrites: Germanos (Barikopoulos) as Bishop of Kyklades, Christoforos (Hatzis) as Bishop of Megaris, Polycarp (Liosis) as Bishop of Diavleia, and Bishop Matthew (Karpathakes) of Bresthena).[4]

The Florinite/Matthewite schism

By the 1940s, two parties had formed within the Church of Greece: the Florinites (under Metropolitan Chrysostom (Kavourides) 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, but were accused of ignoring the existence of flexibility within the Church's tradition. 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. Two basic motivations have been given, neither of which has been universally accepted for why this was done: (1) Political-- That the move was primarily political to stop any growth among the Matthewites and (2) Irenic-- the more commonly accepted, that he did so in the hope of uniting all the True Orthodox Greeks into one jurisdiction. 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 consent. Having the support of the dissenting minority of bishops, Auxentios proceeded to re-form his Synod, appealing for help to the Bishops of the West, then independent, but under his omophor, for assistance. He died in 1994, having failed to reconcile with the parishes 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 response to Maximos' request to revisit the ROCOR investigation of Fr Panteleimon (Metropoulos) of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston, 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 some of the more rigorist elements of the True Orthodox, although they were only officially condemned on an ecclesiological basis by the Synod under Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens.

In 2008, the two bodies met for a number of high-profile meetings in the hope of developing closer ties.[5]

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 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).

The Synod of Metropolitan Kirykos: Originally 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. Finally, in 2005, after several attempts, the Synod of Abp Nicholas endeavored to depose Metropolitan Kirykos, who has since added five Bishops to his Synod in a number of countries.


The Catacomb Church of Russia

With the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927, Orthodox bishops in Russia began to apply Ukaz No. 362 of Patriarch St. Tikhon and became administratively independent until such time as they could operate freely. With Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd in prison, Metropolitan Sergius, the last of those named as locum tenens for the Patriarchal throne, began to negotiate with the Soviet authorities in what many considered to be the subordination of the Orthodox faith to the atheist state.

The beginning of the Catacomb Church as a body is usually considered to be defined as the declarations of St Joseph of Petrograd, who was one of the signers of the statement of the Petrograd vicars: "In separating from Metropolitan Sergius and his acts, we do not separate from our lawful Chief Hierarch, Metropolitan Peter, nor from the Council, which will meet at some time in the future, of those Orthodox hierarchs who have remained faithful. May this Council, our sole competent judge, not then hold us guilty for our boldness. May it judge us, not as despisers of the sacred canons of the Fathers, but only as fearful to violate them. Even if we have erred, we have erred honestly, out of zeal for the purity of Orthodoxy in the present evil age. And if we turn out to be guilty, then may we be even especially deserving of condescension, and not of deposition."[6]

Ukaz No. 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 "Atheists Dictionary" (Moscow, 1966) contained the information the Soviet government was able to ascertain about the Catacomb Church, under the heading "True Orthodox Church": "TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH (TOC): An Orthodox-monarchist sect, originating in the years 1922-26, which was organized in 1927, when Metr. Sergius proclaimed the principles of a loyal relation to Soviet authority. Monarchist elements, united around the Metropolitan of Leningrad Joseph (Petrovykh), or JOSEPHITES, in 1928 established a directing center of the TOC, and united all groups and elements which had come out against the Soviet order. In the country the TOC had support among the kulaks and together with other anti-Soviet elements came out against collectivization and organized terroristic acts against Party and Soviet activities, uprisings, etc. It directed into the villages a multitude of monks and nuns who roamed about the countryside spreading anti-Soviet rumors. The TOC was a widely ramified monarchist-rebellious organization. In its compositions were 613 priests and monks, 416 kulaks, 70 former tsarist officials and officers. The more fanatical members, crazy women, passing themselves off for prophets, saints, healers, members of the imperial family, spread monarchist ideas, conducted propaganda against the leadership of the Orthodox Church, called on people not to submit to Soviet laws. Basic characteristics of the sect: (1) rejection of the Orthodox Church headed by the patriarch as having 'sold itself to Antichrist,' to the world; (2) recognition as canonical of only those clergy who have been ordained by followers of Tikhon; (3) acceptance of Orthodox rites; (4) propaganda of the approaching 'end of the world;' (5) cult of members of the imperial family of Romanov: their portraits are preserved as holy objects, and believers in secret make prostrations in front of them; (6) assumption of the names of tsars and their relatives by the leaders of the sect; (7) preservation and spread of counter-revolutionary monarchist literature; (8) establishment of catacomb churches and monasteries in houses." (Ibid [7])

As late as 1979, the Catacomb Church was, with difficulty, able to continue communications with the Russian diaspora through Russians who emigrated from the USSR. An interview with one such emigre claimed that the members of the Catacomb Church numbered in the millions[8]. The number of unaffiliated 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 and its divisions

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 refers to itself currently as the Genuine Orthodox Church of America[9] (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.)

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.

Outside Russia

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, until recently, refused to recognize the elections of the Patriarchs of Moscow as coerced by the Soviet regime.

Divisions within Russia abroad

The Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR) enjoyed relative stability until the death of Metropolitan Philaret of New York (+1985, regarded as a saint by many Old Calendarists); the divisions noted below occurred until the very date of union with Moscow Patriarchate in 2007. Since the death of Metropolitan Philaret, parishes of the Russian Church Abroad separated in waves noted below.

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.[[10]] These same clergy had also expressed concerns over violations of the Anathema Against Ecumenism which all the bishops of ROCOR had signed in 1983.[[11]] Several days before the monks were called to spiritual court [[12]] they left the ROCOR [[13]] 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 Archbishop Auxentios. This led to a condemnation of the monastery on the part of Metropolitan Akakios.(the full condemnation is cited in Moss, A Short History of the True Orthodox Christians, 2005.) Although the Synod of Archbishop Chrysosostom II in 1986 considered Archbishop Auxentios deposed, in 1998 they rehabilitated him [[14]]. 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.[[15]] It is worthy of note that HTM changed its opinion on Archbishop Auxentios after Akakios and Gabriel broke communion with each other-- raising the obvious question of whether they were intent on creating their own Synod.

After obtaining 2 bishops and two suffragan bishops, the group left the successor of Archbishop Auxentios, Archbishop Maximos, after claiming they had deposed him for uncanonically consecrating two individuals to the episcopate without the permission of the rest of the synod.[[16]] It is worth noting that Maximos claimed the "Americans were trying to take control" by not assisting in the consecrations of Bishops for Greece, which at this point were becoming sorely needed. After the "defrockment" (it is virtually impossible to defrock the first-hierarch without a majority of the votes, which in this case would have been required, as well as a canonical trial, which was also not done) they elected Athanasios of Larisa to be their Bishop, until Athanasios learned that members of the "American Church" had questioned his qualifications as a Bishop. Alone at last, the American parishes 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.

From 1999 to 2001 the Lamian Synod approached HOCNA to establish full administrative unity, but this attempt failed for various reasons. [[17]]

In 2001, the HOCNA declared itself incapable of declaring a successor to Archbishop Auxentios, and finally declared itself independent of Greece, which led to another separation, most notably that of the majority of the Russian metochia of Archbishop Auxentios, administered by Father Victor Melehov.(See Open Letter of Fr Victor Melehov, distributed over the internet.)

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 joined the FROC, now known as the ROAC.

As the number of parishes and bishops of the FROC increased in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, conflicts among them likewise increased, as well as conflicts between the leaders of the Synod of ROCOR and the bishops in Russia. Bishops of the Free Russian Orthodox Church, who were under the jurisdiction of ROCOR, i.e., Archbishop Lazar and Bishop Valentine, were ultimately removed from their sees. They chose to separate from ROCOR administratively and form an autonomous, self-governing Church, citing as their canonical basis Ukaz No. 362 of St. Patriarch Tikhon of November 20, 1920. They also consecrated three bishops for the Russian church, Theodore, Seraphim, and Agafangel.

A year later, after unsuccessful attempts to find an acceptable means of self-government for the Russian parishes, on February 11/24, 1995, the Synod of ROCOR suspended five bishops of the FROC at one time. The result was a schism between the Synod of ROCOR and a large portion of the FROC.

In 1995, Abp. Lazarus, with Bishops Benjamin and Agafangel, came back to ROCOR, while three bishops, with Abp. Valentine at the head, remained in schism. In May 1995 the long-term secretary of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR, the famous church historian and canonist, Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), visited Suzdal. He approved the decisions of the Russian bishops to withdraw from administrative subordination to the ROCOR synod just before he passed away. Some attributed this to his age, while others claimed this was due to his belief that they were following the historical course of ROCOR.

The Russian Church in Exile: 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 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 "continuing Russian Orthodox Church Abroad" parishes under Bishop Agafangel of Odessa: After the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion in 2007, the majority of parishes within the Ukraine, and a minority of parishes elsewhere, went under Bishop Agafangel of Odessa and Ukraine, and are currently preparing to ordain new Bishops for their rival synod.

Other groupings

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, which appears to claim to be a "Josephite" (followers of New Martyr Joseph of Petrograd group while having no apparent connection to any Josephite parishes.

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 in communion with the Synod in Resistance (see "Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili" above) and the Romanian Old Calendar Orthodox Church, but are an autonomous Church - The Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria - and comprise a few dozen parishes under Bishop Photii 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, as does the RTOC.

In 2007, Bp Agafangel of Odessa formed the ROCOR-PSCA (see above), and maintains the largest presence 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.

Ecclesiastical status

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.

Alternative Hierarchies

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. In response, they have fully developed Synods in contrast to the official Church: for example, as there is an Archbishop of Athens, a rival Archbishop of Athens is elected to the see. With few exceptions, the Russian groups have not done the same due to the political climate, although the Rus-OC under Metropolitan Damascene of Moscow claims jurisdiction over the territory of the Patriarch of Moscow.

Such a claim is usually accompanied by the position that the corresponding official body is completely schismatic.

Churches "in resistance" or "walled off"

These churches refrain from concelebration with the mainstream Orthodox churches, but do not consider themselves schismatic, nor have they formally declared the mainstream churches without grace. In general, they set up alternative hierarchies that use the names of sees that are not used by the state Church in question[18].

It is said that they would also communicate the faithful of those churches after confession. A notable exception is the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Romania, who receive members of the New Calendar Churches by Chrismation.

Churches listed by Country or Jurisdiction






Western Europe


These are divisions and dioceses of larger Synods in other continents.

Groups claiming "Autonomous" status within America

These are bodies which claimed independence from their parent churches.


External links