Old Calendarists are small separatist communities formed in Greece, Romania, Cyprus, Bulgaria and elsewhere after the adoption of the Revised Julian liturgical calendar (which is essentially the Gregorian calendar combined with the Orthodox Paschalion) in the early 20th century. Citing the 16th century anathemas against the Gregorian calendar issued by three endemousa (or "Patriarchal") synods in Constantinople, as well as various condemnations by multiple local synods, they have become some of the most vocal critics not only of the new liturgical calendar, but of ecumenism in general, which is seen as the ultimate cause of the calendar revision.
Some have erroneously categorized multiple separatist movements in Russia and elsewhere as "Old Calendarist" on the basis of their opposition to ecumenism and modernism. However, these groups (usually referred to as True or Genuine Orthodox Churches) are not strictly speaking Old Calendarists, since their separation from their respective national churches is not the result of disputes over the liturgical calendar.
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", 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. 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
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.
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).
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 Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens: 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
- Holy Synod of Milan (Unclear whether "In Resistance" or not)
These are divisions and dioceses of larger Synods in other continents.
- Genuine Greek Orthodox Church of America, under Metropolitan Pavlos of Astoria, the "Chrysostomite" Metropolitan Diocese for America
- American Archdioceses of the Holy Synod of Milan
- The Center For Traditionalist Orthodox Studies: Spiritual and monastic center for the Synod in Resistance in the U.S.
- Matthewite Parishes in America under Abp Nicholas of Athens
- Matthewite Parishes in America under Metr Kirykos of Mesogaia
Groups claiming "Autonomous" status within America
These are bodies which claimed independence from their parent churches.
- Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA), under Metropolitan Makarios of Toronto
- Genuine Orthodox Church of America, under Archbishop Gregory of Denver
- The True Orthodox Church: A Brief Overview (major portions of text used by permission)
- Anti-Patristic: The Stance of the Zealot Old Calendarists by Monk Basil of the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregory (Grigoriou), Mount Athos
- A Response to the above link from the Synod in Resistance
- Paradosis: The Original Internet E-mail Forum for Traditionalists
- The Euphrosynos Café: A Portal and Forum for all Old Calendar Orthodox Churches
- Abbot Gabriel of Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos, Greece, on the calendar issue and the Old Calendarists
- 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