Greek Old Calendarists
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (September 2010)|
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Greek Old Calendarists (Greek: Παλαιοημερολογίτες, Paleoimerologites) are groups of Orthodox Christians that separated from the Orthodox Church of Greece or from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, precipitated by disagreement over the abandonment of the traditional Julian Calendar.
Up until the early 20th century, the Eastern Orthodox Church used the Julian Calendar universally, not accepting the calendar reform by Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced the modern Gregorian Calendar. Currently, there is a difference of 13 days between the two calendars.
Traditionally, Orthodox Christian territories spanning Russia, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Romania, Egypt, and Ottoman Palestine, did not use the Gregorian Calendar for civil and governmental affairs until after the first decade of the 20th century. The Gregorian calendar was introduced in Communist Russia in 1918 by a decree of the Council of the People's Commissars, but the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as a majority of Orthodox Churches, have continued to use the Julian calendar liturgically to this day. Greece did not adopt a civil Gregorian calendar until 1923. In response, in 1924, the Synod of Bishops of the Church of Greece voted to accept an altered form of the Gregorian calendar that both maintained the traditional Julian calendar Paschalion for calculating the date of Pascha and all of the moveable feasts dependent on it, but adopted a system of dates which will agree with the Gregorian Calendar ("New Calendar") dates until 2800, when the two will start very slowly to diverge, due to slightly different methods of calculating leap years. The result was the so-called Revised Julian calendar.
The calendar change was not without controversy. Dissent arose from among both clergy and laity, encouraged by countless priests and monks from all over Greece and Mount Athos who traveled throughout Greece preaching in churches and serving as confessors, or spiritual guides, to thousands of Christians. In 1935, three Bishops from the Church of Greece returned their dioceses to the Julian calendar, consecrated (ordained) four like-minded clergy to Episcopal dignity, created the church of the "Genuine Orthodox Christians" (Greek: Εκκλησία των Γνησίων Ορθοδόξων Χριστιανών - Γ.Ο.Χ.), and declared that the official Orthodox Church of Greece had fallen into schism. By 1937, the movement split within itself over the question of whether or not Orthodox jurisdictions that had adopted the Revised Julian calendar were still Orthodox.
After a largely successful grassroots effort to resist the Greek state's new doctrine and the Gregorian calendar that originated in Western Christendom, the popularity of the Old Calendar was attacked. The Church of Greece is the official state church and resorted to the use of state power to suppress the movement. By the 1960s and 1970s, the ecumenical activities of a number of Orthodox leaders infused the Old Calendar Church with new followers in Greece, particularly from 1965-1972 when the monasteries of Mount Athos broke communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Old Calendarists were relatively more successful in the United States, where religion is not regulated by the state.
The Old Calendarists went their own way without further official recognition from the broader Orthodox communion until 1960, when the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) consecrated new Bishops for one of the two major Old Calendarist jurisdictions. ROCOR recognized the other major jurisdiction in 1971. However, no official intercommunion exists between the Greek Old Calendarists and ROCOR at the present day, due to the recent reunification of ROCOR and the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) except with that part of ROCOR which did not unite with Moscow.
In 1998, plagued by moral and financial scandals, two bishops that had broken off from the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians in the United States were re-baptized and re-ordained by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and put under the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church in the U.S. (which uses the Revised Julian calendar). In exchange, the few priests that went with them were accepted as Orthodox priests, and their churches were allowed to maintain their use of the Julian calendar. Later these parishes were then forced to switch to the Revised Julian calendar.
In the present day, there are three major Old Calendarist divisions present in Greece, all of which have parishes in many other countries. The first one is the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece (GOC), the second are generally known as "Matthewites" as they derive from Archbishop Matthew, and the third and smallest are called the Makarians (formerly called the Lamians) who broke off from the GOC in 1995. Relationships between the Matthewites and GOC are warming but the Makarians are not accepted by either of these Orthodox Churches.
Greek Old Calendarists adhere to traditional Greek Orthodox practices. While they are called (and might informally call themselves) "Old Calendarist," many maintain that they have not separated over a mere calendar. Instead, the calendar is a symptom of what has been called "the pan-heresy of ecumenism." Old Calendarist Orthodox Christians hold that the participation of many local Orthodox Churches in the modern ecumenistic movement is theologically problematic. Many have argued that even the calendar is a matter of dogma since it has historically manifested the unity and catholicity of the Church and that the reformation of the Church Calendar in 1924 was unilaterally adopted and was connected with the beginning of Orthodox participation in the modern ecumenical movement. The adoption of the Gregorian calendar has been anathematized by three Pan-Orthodox Councils in the 16th century. Some Old Calendarists maintain that they have "walled themselves off" from larger Orthodox jurisdictions to protect Orthodoxy from heretical innovations in practices and doctrine.
Other than the calendar issue, Old Calendarists generally maintain the rites and beliefs of the Church of Greece, although there are other important differences on Baptism and the Oriental Orthodox. Each church rejects the leaders of the other. Some accept baptisms performed by the other church. Officially, however, each side receives the members of the other through chrismation (confirmation).
Dimitri Kitsikis - The Old Calendarists and the Rise of Religious Conservatism in Greece - Etna, California,Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1995.
See also 
- Matthewite True Orthodox Christians in the United States
- Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece
- Genuine Greek Orthodox Church of America
- Saint John the Forerunner Hellenic Orthodox Church
- The Euphrosynos Café — Old Calendarist Forum & Resources
- "Cyprianite" Greek Orthodox Synod in Resistance
- (Lamian/Makarian Synod) Genuine Orthodox Church of Greece