Old Calendarists are Orthodox Christians in Greece, Romania, Cyprus, Bulgaria that oppose the use of the Revised Julian liturgical calendar (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 Patriarchal and Pan-Orthodox 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.
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 (Papadopoulos), implemented the calendar change discussed at the Pan-Orthodox Congress of 1923. In response, Metropolitan Germanos of Demetrias, retired in protest. The "Old Calendarist" movement arose to oppose the adoption of the Revised Julian Calendar. The movement was sustained by Athonite monks that encouraged the rejection of the calendar change, hundreds of parish clergy that refused to recognize the calendar change, as well as dozens of monasteries throughout Greece. Lay groups and brotherhoods formed to keep the use of the Julian calendar alive, despite state persecution.
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 (Karpathakis) of Bresthena). The schism originated in Metropolitan Chrysostom's hesitation to consider the mysteries of the State Church as graceless, whereas the adherents of Bishop Matthew (the "Matthewites") maintained the rigorist position: that State Church was schismatic and therefore graceless.
In 1948, Bishop Matthew singlehandedly consecrated another bishop, and together they made more new bishops, furthering the rift and causing many former Matthewite clergy to join ranks with the Florintes. After the death of Bishop Matthew, however, Chrysostom of Florina reaffirmed the decision of 1935 declaring the New Calendar State Church as schismatic. The declaration had as its motivation to heal the Matthewite schism. Nonetheless, the irenic gesture went unheeded and the Matthewites proceeded to elect Archbishop Agathagelos to the rank of Primate of Athens in 1958.
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 (Ivanov) of Chicago and Bishop 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 Bishop Akakios of Talantion and Archbishop Leonty (Filipovich) of Chile of 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.
Divisions within the Florinites
The Restored 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. In 1979, two Florinite Metropolitans, Kallistos of Corinth and Antonios of Attica, unilaterally consecrated seven Archimandrites to the episcopacy in an attempt to counteract the irregularities they perceived in the administration of Archbishop Auxentios. This led to the formation of the short-lived Kallistite Synod, most of whose members reconciled themselves with the main body of the Florinite Synod by 1985.
The Auxentios Synod: 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. He died in 1994, having failed to reconcile with the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom. The remaining parishes of the Auxentios Synod, however, elected Archbishop Maximos of Kephalonia as president in 1995. However, after a series of questionable ordinations and maladministration by Archbishop Maximos, the Auxentios Synod dissolved in the mid 1990's. In 2006, clergy and a bishop (Metropolitan Athanasios of Larissa) from the Auxentios Synod reconciled themselves with the main body of the Old Calendar Church in Greece and were admitted into the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom. In North America, the parishes loyal to Auxentios under the American Bishops organized around Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston (HOCNA), left the Synod, and elected Makarios of Toronto as locum tenens of the see of Athens. Since 2008, HOCNA has been in a cordial dialogue with the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom in hope of establishing closer ties.
The Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens: After the removal of Auxentios, 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 Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens represents today the main body of the True Orthodox Church of Greece.
The Synod-in-Resistance of Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili: The Synod in Resistance has its origins in the short-lived Kallistite Synod of 1979-1985. While its 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 condemned on an ecclesiological basis by the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom of Athens in 1986. In 2008, the Synod in Resistance and the Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom met for a number of high-profile meetings in the hope of developing closer ties.
The Makarian (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 (Hatzis) 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 movement 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.
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.
Divisions within the Matthewites
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.
In 1924, Metropolitan Miron of the Church of Romania introduced the New Calendar for use in the Church. Although most Romanians accepted the change, the skete of the Protection of the Theotokos in northern Moldavia rejected it. In 1925, led by Hieromonk Glicherie, some of the brethren left the skete to start an Old Calendarist group. When, in 1926 and 1929, Metropolitan Miron ordered Pascha to be celebrated according to the Gregorian Paschalion, a large number of faithful, including Russian émigrés, left the Church of Romania and joined the Old Calendarists. By 1936, the Old Calendarists numbered about 40 parishes. Beginning in 1935, at the order of Metropolitan Miron, the Old Calendarists were under persecution. By 1940, ten Old Calendarist priests had died in prison, and all of the Old Calendar churches had been shut down. Hieromonk Glicherie was imprisoned, but, at the beginning of World War II, released. By 1950, with the release of Hmk Glicherie and other priests from prison, many of the churches were rebuilt. In 1955, Metropolitan Galaktion left the Church of Romania to serve the Old Calendarists, and immediately ordained new priests and deacons. However, he was soon arrested, and placed under house arrest in Bucharest. While under house arrest, Metropolitan Galaktion consecrated three other bishops, including Hmk Glicherie, who, in 1957, became the Metropolitan of the True Orthodox Church of Romania. Since 1980, the Synod has been in full communion with the Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece presided by Metropolitan Kallistos of Corinth, then with the Holy Synod in Resistance presided by Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili. The Synod also maintains communion with the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, headed by Bishop Photii. From 1994 to 2007 there was full communion with the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia (ROCOR), but with the rapprochement between the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, communion with the ROCOR was severed.
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
These are the dioceses of larger Synods in North America:
- Genuine Greek Orthodox Church of America, Metropolitan Diocese of America (Synod of Archbishop Chrysostom)
- 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
- Vladimir Moss, New Zion in Babylon: A History of the Orthodox Church throughout the World in the Twentieth Century (2010), Part II
- Vladimir Moss, New Zion in Babylon: A History of the Orthodox Church throughout the World in the Twentieth Century (2010), Part III
- Paradosis: The Original Internet E-mail Forum for Traditionalists
- The Euphrosynos Café: A Portal and Forum for all Old Calendar Orthodox Churches
- Fr. Basil Sakkas, The Calendar Question.
- Fr. Maximos Marretta, The Problem of Conservative New Calendarism".
- Abbot Gabriel of Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos, Greece, on the calendar issue and the Old Calendarists
- Anti-Patristic: The Stance of the Zealot Old Calendarists by Monk Basil of the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregory (Grigoriou), Mount Athos]
- Old Calendarist Responses to the above link: