Orthodox Church of the Gauls

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Orthodox Church of the Gauls
ClassificationWestern Orthodox
PrimateBishop Gregory of Arles
RegionWestern Europe, Poland, and Cameroon
LanguageFrench, Polish, Spanish, and English
LiturgyGallican Rite, Latin Rite, and West Syriac Rite
HeadquartersBois-Aubry in Touraine, France
Origin1936 as the Western Orthodox Church (French: Église Orthodoxe Occidentale)
RecognitionTwo Western Orthodox Churches
Branched fromOrthodox Church of France (1997)
Official websiteeglise-orthodoxe.eu

The Orthodox Church of the Gauls (OCG; French: Église Orthodoxe des Gaules, EOG) is a self-governing Orthodox church comprising two dioceses. It was formed in 2006 with a mission to return the Orthodox Christian faith to people of western lands, particularly through the use of restored forms of ancient Gallican worship. The OCG is part of the Communion of Western Orthodox Churches, and its primate is Bishop Gregory (Mendez), the Bishop of Arles and the abbot of the Monastery of St Michael and St Martin near Luzé in the Touraine region of France.[discuss]


The OCG maintains traditional Orthodox beliefs and practice and affirms the doctrinal teachings of the seven great councils. While affirming the theological statements of the latter four councils, the OCG rejects the application to the Oriental Orthodox Churches of those councils' condemnations of monophysitism.[1] Therefore, the OCG recognises both Oriental Orthodox Churches and Eastern Orthodox Churches as sister churches.


Eastern Orthodoxy[edit]

Bishop James Ingall Wedgwood, of the Liberal Catholic Church, consecrated Louis-Charles Winnaert [fr], a former Roman Catholic priest, as bishop.[2] However, Winnaert renounced the Liberal Catholic Church in 1924 over its occult Theosophical teachings after the publication of Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa's The Early Teachings of the Masters 1881–1883.[3] After Winnaert and his adherents separated from the Liberal Catholic Church, they established the Eglise catholique évangélique (Evangelical Catholic Church) in 1924.[4][3]

According to The Tablet, at the time of application to come into full communion with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in 1932, Winnaert's group had a membership of 1500 adherents, ministered by six priests and one deacon, in parishes located in Paris, Rouen, Brussels, Holland, and Rome.[5] The ROC agreed to receive Winnaert and his group into full communion in 1936.[5] The episcopal ordination of Winnaert was declared doubtful.[2] Winnaert was received into full communion as a priest in 1936 with the condition "that his irregular marriage be dissolved, and that he shall not be raised to the episcopate" but was raised to the rank of archimandrite in the ROC.[2][5] Winnaert became administrator of those parishes that were received into full communion with the ROC and was supervised by the ordinary of the Russian Churches in Western Europe.[5]

In 1936, the ROC received Winnaert's group, under the name l'Eglise Orthodoxe Occidentale (The Western Orthodox Church). Winnaert himself died in 1937 but his work was continued, with occasional conflict, by Eugraph Kovalevsky (1905–1970) and Denis Chambault, the latter overseeing a small Orthodox Benedictine community in Paris. After 1946, Kovalevsky began to restore the Gallican usage based on the letters of Saint Germanus, a sixth-century Bishop of Paris, as well as numerous early non-Roman Western missals and sacramentaries. The restored liturgy, which included some borrowings from the Byzantine tradition, is known as the Divine Liturgy according to St Germanus of Paris.

Also associated with the Kovalevsky group, Archimandrite Alexis van der Mensbrugghe, a former Roman Catholic priest, desired to restore an ancient Roman rite, by replacing mediaeval accretions with Gallican and Byzantine interpolations—though Mensbrugghe remained separate from the Western Rite Church. Mensbrugghe was eventually consecrated a bishop of the ROC in 1960, continued developing his Western rite under the auspices of the Moscow Patriarchate, and published a missal in 1962.[4](p276)[6]

Differences between the liturgical vision of Kovalevsky, on the one hand, and Chambault and Mensbrugghe, on the other, as well as news of the plans of Patriarch Alexis I of Moscow to have Kovalevsky consecrated as bishop of the Western Rite church led to conflict. False accusations by Chambault and Mensbrugghe in 1953 resulted in the decision being taken by the Patriarch to remove Kovalevsky from his function of oversight of the Western Orthodox Church without further investigation. When the deception was subsequently realised in September of the same year, an envoy was sent to Kovalevsky to apologise for the hasty judgement. However, by this time, Kovalevsky had already resigned from the Moscow Patriarchate, and the parishes and majority of the clergy of the Western Orthodox Church had departed with him.[7]

After some years of isolation, Kovalevsky's group, by this time known as the Orthodox Church of France, came under the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia between 1959 and 1966. In 1964, Kovalevsky was tonsured as a monk with the name Jean-Nectaire (John-Nectarius), and consecrated as the first modern Bishop of Saint-Denis. His principal consecrator was St John (Maximovitch) (the ROCOR representative in Western Europe at the time). John Maximovitch's death in 1966 was a serious blow to the Western Orthodox Christians in France, for no other sympathiser for the Western Rite was to be found on the ROCOR Council of Bishops.

While Moscow's Western Rite mission withered and ended, Bishop John (Eugraph Kovalevsky)'s church continued to thrive, however, without canonical protection after St John's repose. Bishop John reposed in 1970, but in 1972, the church found a new canonical superior in the Church of Romania. Gilles Bertrand-Hardy, a priest of the OCF, was then tonsured as a monk with the name Germain and consecrated as Bishop of Saint-Denis.

However, in 1993, after long conflict resulting from growing antipathy among the Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions towards a western liturgical and cultral expression of Orthodoxy, the Romanian Synod issued a letter to Bishop Germain and his church, communicating its decision to withdraw its oversight of the OCF and to sever all ties with it, inviting individual parishes of the OCF to be absorbed into the local diocese of the Romanian Church.

Some eight years later, in 2001, the Romanian Orthodox Church claimed to have deposed Bishop Germain from the episcopate. However, in the original 1993 letter to Bishop Germain, which was copied to all of the clergy of the OCF, no mention was made of such a decision. On the contrary, the Romanian Synod had addressed him with all of the honorifics due to an Orthodox Bishop and had referred to him as bishop of the See of Saint-Denis. They had simply suspended him from performing episcopal functions, and in the same letter had relinquished all authority over him and his church. Consequently, the OCF and its descendents have never accepted the 2001 revisionist narrative of the Romanian Synod.

Oriental Orthodoxy[edit]

After the revelation in 1995 that Bishop Germain, a monk, had secretly married, the Orthodox Church of France was thrown into disarray. Existing in a state of isolation due to the 1993 decision of the Romanian Synod, the OCF could rely on no other local church to provide it with a bishop. When the decision was ultimately taken by the majority of the clergy and communities of the OCF to remain under Bishop Germain's oversight, three groups of parishes and clergy left this church. Two groups were eventually admitted into the local dioceses of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church, respectively, on condition that they adopt the Byzantine Rite in their worship. They were granted permission to use their Western Liturgy only a limited number of times each year.

After a period of negotiation, a third group was welcomed into full communion by the French Coptic Orthodox Church (FCOC) in 2000.[8] The group comprised the following communities, as well as a number of other disparate clergy:

The clergy and communities which were received into the FCOC were initially encouraged to use their existing Gallican Mass and the Daily Office (Hours) of the ancient Western Church. This use of ancient western forms of worship, music, and spirituality was in keeping with Article 1 of the charter of the FCOC, which states that the mission of the church is to restore Orthodox faith to the French population. This was enshrined in the protocols for their reception and signed by Abba Marcos El Amba Bichoi, then Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan of Toulon and all France.

However, some years later, in 2005, Abba Marcos issued statements, making the claim that the use of the western liturgies had never been authorised, and insisting that the clergy must adopt the Coptic rite. Having been afforded no opportunity to appeal against this decision, the affected clergy petitioned Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria in February 2006 for an audience to discuss the matter further. When they had not received a response by June of the same year, it became clear that remaining with the FCOC would mean abandoning their Western Orthodox liturgical and spiritual heritage. Therefore, the clergy resigned from the FCOC, taking their communities with them.[10][discuss]

Western Orthodoxy[edit]

After a brief period of independence, and considering the history of antipathy towards the Western Rite that had led to repeated difficulties within the eastern churches, the clergy and laity who had separated from the FCOC, along with a number of other clergy and laity, formed the Orthodox Church of the Gauls and elected Father Michel Mendez as bishop.[11] Mendez took the religious name Gregory and was consecrated on 16 December 2006 by two bishops of the French Orthodox Church, namely Bishop Vigile (Valentin Morales) of Paris (formerly of the Old Calendar Church of Greece) and Bishop Martin (Laplaud); as well as Bishop Maël (de Brescia) and Bishop Marc (Jean-Claude Scheerens), both of the Celtic Orthodox Church. Of the groups that left the Orthodox Church of France, the OCG is the only one which has retained its Western Orthodox heritage and original mission.

In 2007, the Orthodox Church of the Gauls, the French Orthodox Church, and the Celtic Orthodox Church came together to form the Commnion of Western Orthodox Churches.

In the years since then, through organic expansion and the founding of new communities, the OCG has grown numerically and today comprises a number of parishes, missions and monastic communities in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, the United States of America, Catalonia, and the United Kingdom.[12].

In August 2018, the clergy of the Priestly Fraternity of Ss Cyril and Methodius, along with their congregations, were received by Bishop Gregory and established by his decree as the Polish exarchate of the OCG, with Bishop Gorazd-Stanislaus Sawickiego as its exarch.[13]


The OCG is primarily a Western Rite church, whose worship is supplemented with some eastern sources. Clergy wear western vestments and the primary eucharistic rite of the church is the Divine Liturgy of St Germanus of Paris, being a 20th-century reconstruction of the Gallican rite Mass. The Polish Exarchate worships according to the Latin Rite.

After the formation of the Orthodox Church of France in 1936, the priest Jean-Nectaire (Kovalevsky), later Saint John of Saint-Denis, set about restoring the Gallican rite for use by the French Church. The principal documents he used that had been unavailable to his predecessors in restoring the Gallican Mass were two letters ascribed to Saint Germanus of Paris (496-576) that describe the liturgy in sixth-century Paris. Kovalevsky drew on the writings of numerous Gallican saints of the same era that provide information on Gallican liturgical practice, as well as extant missals, sacramentaries, lectionaries, and antiphonaries of related rites. The restored liturgy has gone through several editions and, in the face of criticism, was declared an authentic representation of Gallican tradition by a commission chaired by Archbishop John Maximovitch, (later Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco), in its official report of 1961. It has been approved for use in the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, the Romanian Orthodox Church, and the Serbian Orthodox Church, in addition to being the standard form of the mass used in the Orthodox Church of France, the French Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox Church of the Gauls.

The music generally used in the restored Gallican rite Mass and other services is largely the composition of Maxim Kovalevsky (1903-1988), a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church and the brother of Bishop Jean-Nectaire. Much of his music for the propers and ordinary of the mass and divine office is a hybrid of classical western plainsong melodies, often harmonised, with some of the ordinary being variants on traditional Russian and Greek chants, adapted according to Kovalevsky's trademark style. Other pieces are entirely his own composition, including such examples as the ancient hymns, Gloria in Excelsis Deo and Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, as well as an a cappella arrangement of the popular Christmas carol, Il Est Né, le Divin Enfant. Bishop Gregory (Mendez) studied under Maxim Kovalesky and is himself an accomplished composer of liturgical music, some of which is used in the worship of the OCG.

The West Syriac Rite is also in use in the OCG, solely in the Barcelona parish, where it is used in Spanish translation, and where music and vestments proper to that rite are adopted.

Relations with other churches[edit]

The OCG is in full communion with the French Orthodox Church and the Celtic Orthodox Church since 2007 through the Western Orthodox Church, whose bishops meet regularly to strengthen their bonds of unity, and are committed to a common way of life, including recognition of each other's saints, liturgical rites, and customs, as well as the free interchangeability of clergy.

Since April 2009, the OCG is in full communion with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America.[14][a]

While not formally recognised by these larger Orthodox communions, the OCG considers itself to be in a communion of faith with the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, and there have been occasions of concelebration between OCG clergy and Oriental Orthodox clergy.


  1. ^ This organization has used the legal name Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America since 2005.[15]


  1. ^ "Manifesto of the Orthodox Church of the Gauls".
  2. ^ a b c Cite error: The named reference Brandreth1987 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  3. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference Guenon2004 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference Mayer2014 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ a b c d Cite error: The named reference Tablet1937 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  6. ^ Mensbrugghe, Alexis van der (1962). Missel ou Livre de la synaxe liturgique: approuvé et autorisé pour les églises orthodoxes de rit occidental relevant du Patriarcat de Moscou. Contacts (in French). 38–39/supplement (revue and typ. ed.). Paris: Contacts. OCLC 716494134.
  7. ^ http://sainte-genevieve-paris.fr/la-confrerie-saint-photius-la-rupture-de-1953-conference-ete-2013-complement-de-janv-2014 The canonical rupture of 1953 between The Orthodox Church of France and the Moscow Patriarchate, or "How the murderers accuse the victim"
  8. ^ Abba Marcos; Goettmann, Alphonse (30 November 2000). "Protocole de reception dans l'Église Copte Orthodoxe de France de la Communauté Ecclésiale Notre-Dame & Saint Thiébault" [Reception protocol of the Ecclesial Community Our Lady & St Thiebault into the Coptic Orthodox Church of France]. eocf.free.fr (in French). Etudes sur l'Orthodoxie Copte en France. p. 1/2. Archived from the original on 29 April 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016. Additional pages archived on 2016-04-29: p. 2/2.
  9. ^ Nottingham, Theodore J. "Bethanie: a place of renewal". centre-bethanie.org. Gorze, FR: Centre de Rencontres Spirituelles. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Dossier rupture d'un groupe de prêtres avec l'Église Orthodoxe Copte Francaise" [Record of the separation of a priests groups from the French Coptic Orthodox Church]. eocf.free.fr (in French). Etudes sur l'Orthodoxie Copte en France. Archived from the original on 31 October 2014.
  11. ^ http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2lguf_extrait-du-sacre-de-monseigneur-gre_news
  12. ^ "Annuaire de l'Eglise" [Directory of the Church]. eglise-orthodoxe.eu (in French). Luzé: Eglise Orthodoxe des Gaules. Archived from the original on 1 August 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  13. ^ http://www.eglise-orthodoxe.eu/exarchat_pologne.htm
  14. ^ "Interjurisdictional intercommunion". uaocamerica.org. Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America. Archived from the original on 24 April 2016.
  15. ^ "A history of our jurisdiction". uaocamerica.org. Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America. Archived from the original on 24 February 2014.
This article incorporates text from Orthodox Church of the Gauls at OrthodoxWiki which is licensed under the CC-BY-SA and GFDL.

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