Western Rite and Old Calendarists

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Western-rite communities make up a substantial portion of the Old Calendarists in the United States. Numerically, it has been claimed that Western-rite Old calendar communities outnumber every other jurisdiction of traditionalist Orthodox communities in the United States, Western Europe and Australia, and make up the second largest Western-rite Orthodox community in the United States. This number is disputed, however. The majority of these parishes are under the Holy Synod of Milan. There is one American parish under the Orthodox Church of France using the Old Calendar, though how important the use of the Old Calendar is among them is the subject of debate.

There are two monasteries (and dependencies) in Canada and Australia, under the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia using the Sarum Rite as well as other Western rites.


The earliest restored Western-rite communities (beginning with the work of Dr Julian Joseph Overbeck) were originally hostile to their antecedent heterodox bodies, due to their long-standing estrangement from Orthodoxy. By the time Overbeck began his famous petition to the Russian Synod, the Anglican establishment was horrified at the scheme; Overbeck notes that the authorities busied themselves "as with a great army," when the petitioners numbered only a few dozen. Overbeck's stated goal was to see a restoration of the various national Orthodox Churches in the West. Thus, we could label Overbeck without exaggeration as catastrophist. As Overbeck's position was to see the Western Christian communions overtaken by Orthodoxy, wishing nothing but their conversion, by the end of the 19th century, it is a given that we would eventually see by the 20th century a Western-rite following develop within the atmosphere of the Orthodox Traditionalists.

By 1895, the Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized this developing opportunity for Orthodoxy in the West and responded to Pope Leo XIII in the sharpest tones concerning the possibility of union: "With these and such facts in view, the peoples of the West, becoming gradually civilized by the diffusion of letters, began to protest against innovations, and to demand (as was done in the fifteenth century at the Councils of Constance and Basle) the return to the ecclesiastical constitution of the first centuries, to which, by the grace of God, the orthodox Churches throughout the East and North, which alone now form the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ, the pillar and ground of the truth, remain, and will always remain, faithful. The same was done in the seventeenth century by the learned Gallican theologians, and in the eighteenth by the bishops of Germany; and in this present century of science and criticism, the Christian conscience rose up in one body in the year 1870, in the persons of the celebrated clerics and theologians of Germany, on account of the novel dogma of the infallibility of the Popes, issued by the Vatican Council, a consequence of which rising is seen in the formation of the separate religious communities of the Old Catholics, who, having disowned the papacy, are quite independent of it." (Encyclical to Pope Leo XIII on Reunion.)

Within twenty-five years of that letter, however, two historical realities had become very clear: a substantial Western-rite following had developed under Fr Alexander Turner's "Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil", or "Basilian Order", a Western-rite Orthodox group, and the Patriarch of Constantinople recognizing the validity of Anglican orders.

Between the diversity found among Old Catholics, a sudden interest in the Moscow Patriarchate to found Western-rite parishes (the motivations for this were at the time unclear) beginning with Bp Dosistheus (Ivanchenko) in 1962, and the above developments, the two streams of thought-- developmental and catastrophic-- mentioned above began to color the philosophy of the Western-rite communities in America and Europe. By 1961, the Basilian Order was under the Antiochian Dioceses in America, and a number of Old Catholic bodies and disaffected Roman Catholics had joined the Moscow Patriarchate.

Ecumenism and the Western Rite

It naturally followed that Western Orthodox would have the same fear that Uniates had during ecumenical discussions between Rome and the Orthodox during and after the Second Vatican Council: that the bodies they had abandoned for reasons of faith would somehow re-absorb them. The Moscow Patriarchate took the unique step of completely abandoning their Western-rite structures, leaving them orphaned, the majority of which joined the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church (Americas) or the Romanian Church (France).

This actually placed these Western Rite communities in the position of having to exist on their own, in some cases perpetuating their hierarchy (Church of France), in some cases expanding it (Milan Synod parishes in the Americas, while with the Ukrainian Church), but these bodies continued to exist in a manner basically unchanged from that which they had been formed earlier. This fact introduced a new reality into Western Orthodoxy that had not previously existed: since their original mission was not simply to become a "Western branch" of the "Eastern Church", but to actually become organically Western Orthodox bodies, these parishes set to work restoring every pre-schismatic usage available that was Western, and by the mid-1970's, there were fully Orthodox bodies using completely pre-schismatic rituals in origin, which were, by historical circumstance, no longer in communion with anyone.

The Old Calendarists. By 1969, ROCOR intervened in the Old Calendarist situation by recognizing the consecrations on her part of six Bishops for the Florinites. In 1984, fifteen years later, the Primate of the Greek Old Calendarists at the time, Archbishop Auxentios of Athens, established a provincial Missionary Synod for Western Europe and the Americas (known as the "Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe and the Americas", lated the Milan Synod) which eventually absorbed the various American communities using a Western rite in 1997. In Europe, the Synod uses the Ambrosian rite annualy and Mozarabic rites in certain Spanish chapels.

ROCOR. In Europe, the ROCOR's role in the formation of the Church of France is undisputed, as the French Church, part of the Western Rite Mission of the Moscow Patriarchate, was given a Bishop by St John of Shanghai and San Francisco. However, the Church of France's parishes (in France) are on the New Calendar. The ROCOR also received the petition of Mount Royal Monastery of New York under Abbot Augustine (Whitfield) into the ROCOR in 1975. In 1979, HTM-Boston (which later left ROCOR) purported that the Synod had made a decision against the Western rite. However, Western rite in ROCOR continued unopposed in Eastern America until Archbishop Hilarion (Karpral) of Washington and Florida was transferred to Sydney, Australia in 1995. In 1993, Christminster monastery was also blessed to open by Archbishop Hilarion (Kapral), who later became the First-Hierarch of the ROCOR. In 1997, Saint Petroc monastery was received in the archdiocese of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand and charged with mission work.

In 1979 a document was circulated claiming to be a Synodal decision against the Western rite. However, Western rite continued within ROCOR including Eastern America up through the time that Archbishop Hilarion (Kapral) was the bishop of Washington and Florida. According to ROCOR historians, members of the Synod at the time did not remember the matter being discussed and it is widely believed the document originated from Holy Transfiguration Monastery - Boston (which later left ROCOR.) The document, no matter its origin, was never acted upon.

See also