Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Greek Old Calendarist Movement /

Το Ελληνικό Κίνημα των Παλαιοημερολογιτών

«In 1920, the Patriarchate of Constantinople issued the “Encyclical of 1920,” which the Old Calendarists would later qualify as the first promulgation of an “ecumenical ecclesiology of dialogue and union based on ecumenical precepts.” Bishop Ambrose of the Holy Synod in Resistance explains the motivation of the Constantinople Patriarchate toward ecumenism by its desire to recover Istanbul as Greek territory, exploiting the occupation of Constantinople by the Entente powers that continued from 1918 to 1922. In 1924, the Greek Church adopted the Gregorian Calendar as its festal calendar, thus abandoning the traditional Julian Calendar. This move was followed by the Romanian and Bulgarian Orthodox Churches, as well as by the patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria, while the Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches and the Jerusalem Patriarchate continued to use the Julian Calendar. The change of the festal calendar exhausted Greek society, which, even without it, was disturbed by the massive immigration of Ottoman Greeks and confrontation between the monarchists and republicans.

Monks from Mount Athos, which continued to use the Julian Calendar, initiated the Old Calendarist movement in Greece, which attracted bishops and priests, too. Before long, they began to theorize their position, arguing that what they stood against was not just the Gregorian Calendar but the ecumenist tendencies of the Constantinople Patriarchate and the official Orthodox world. The Old Calendarist movement became a formidable critic of the World Council of Churches, which church leaders agreed to establish in 1937.

By 1934, the Old Calendarists had organized over eight hundred communities throughout Greece. During the same 1930s, however, the Old Calendarist movement split around the issue of whether the Greek State Church was still holding grace and mysteries. The radical wing, the so-called Matthewites, denied this. The differences in the understanding of the official state church continue to be a stumbling block hindering the Greek Old Calendarists’ unification. There are four groups of Old Calendarists in Greece today. The Greek government, supporting the state church, continued to suppress the Old Calendarists until the 1950s. Having realized that this policy only destabilized the political situation of the country, the Greece government not only tolerated the Old Calendarists, but also recognized their sacraments (for example, marriage) as being effective in civil law, which is quite important under the state-church system. The Old Calendarist movement also emerged in Romania and Bulgaria, where the calendar reform took place.

In the 1970s, the Greek Old Calendarist movement significantly discredited itself by endless splitting and mutual accusations. For example, in 1976, they lost the traditional communion with the ROCA that they had had since 1934. The situation began to change in 1985, when Cyprian, abbot of the Monastery of Sts. Cyprian and Justina in Fili, Attika (20 km from Athens), founded the Holy Synod in Resistance. Cyprian consolidated a moderate ecclesiology that argues for the validity of the liturgies and mysteries performed by the Greek State Church and that the Old Calendarists only “walled” themselves in against the official state church to resist ecumenism and that, therefore, their movement is by no means a schism. Cyprian's Holy Synod established communion with the Old Calendarists in Romania and Bulgaria, resumed communion with the ROCA (lost in 1976), and, what is perhaps most important, began to attract sympathizers in official Orthodoxy, such as the Jerusalem Patriarch, clerics of the ROC, and the Serbian OC.

Since the State Church of Greece does not have communion with the Holy Synod under Cyprian, the South Ossetian clerics’ assertion that the Cyprianists are an “inseparable part of the Greece Church.” is not correct. On the other hand, relations between the official State Church of Greece and the Cyprianists are much more complex than ROC leaders often construe. First, as already noted, the Greek state recognizes the sacraments conducted by the churches under the Holy Synod in Resistance as effective in civil law. Second, numerous bishops, clerics, and flocks, formally belonging to the state church, sympathize with the Old Calendarists and participate in authentic and traditionalist liturgies conducted by the Holy Synod in Resistance. It is strange that ROC leaders do not seem to know that the Cyprianists are pro-Russian by nature, because of their anti-ecumenism. They supported South Ossetia in the August war of 2008, when the whole mass media in the West (including Greece) were mobilized to support Saakashvili. A living example of the Cyprianists’ pro-Russianness is Vassilios Gaitanis, professor of Philosophy and Orthodoxy of the University of Athens, who kindly guided me to the Sunday prayers of the Monastery of Sts. Cyprian and Justina in Fili. Professor Gaitanis wrote a dissertation on Dostoevsky's theology and is a hereditary fan of the Lada (an automobile produced by the Triatti Automobile Factory of Russia). He named his daughter Matrona after a Russian popular saint, and even desires that a Russian become the Patriarch of Constantinople to prevent the evils of ecumenism and dependence on Turkey, although this seems impossible under the existing composition of the Synod of the Constantinople Church.»

* Kimitaka Matsuzato,
«South Ossetia and the Orthodox World: Official Churches, the Greek Old Calendarist Movement, and the So-called Alan Diocese»,
Journal of Church and State,  2010, Volume/Τόμος 52, Issue/Τεύχος 2,
doi: 10.1093/jcs/csq063,
pp./σσ. 271-297.

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