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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
FounderLouis-Charles (Archimandrite Irénée) Winnaert and Eugraph Kovalevsky (Saint John of Saint Denis)
Origin1936 as the Western Orthodox Church (French: Église Orthodoxe Occidentale)
RecognitionTwo Western Orthodox Churches
Branched fromOrthodox Church of France (1997)

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]

In 1924 Louis-Charles Winnaert [fr], a former Roman Catholic priest, along with his adherents, formed the Eglise catholique évangélique (Evangelical Catholic Church), an Independent Catholic church.

Winnaert had been consecrated as a bishop two years earlier by Bishop James Ingall Wedgwood of the Liberal Catholic Church. However, Winnaert later renounced the Liberal Catholic Church over its occult Theosophical teachings after the publication of Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa's The Early Teachings of the Masters 1881–1883.

In 1932, Winnaert sought entry into the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) for both himself and his Evangelical Catholic Church. According to The Tablet, at the time of application, Winnaert's group had a membership of 1500 adherents, ministered to by six priests and one deacon, in parishes located in Paris, Rouen, Brussels, Holland, and Rome. The ROC agreed to receive Winnaert into its fold. However, the episcopal ordination of Winnaert was declared doubtful. He was received into the ROC 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 he was raised to the rank of archimandrite and given the monastic name of Irénée (Irenaus).

In the same year, the ROC also received Winnaert's group, under the name l'Eglise Orthodoxe Occidentale (The Western Orthodox Church), with permission to continue to worship according to the Roman Rite with minor revision. Winnaert became administrator of the WOC and was supervised by the ordinary of the Russian Churches in Western Europe.

Winnaert himself died in 1937 but his work of restoring a western liturgical and spiritual life to the Orthodox Church was continued by Eugraph Kovalevsky (1905–1970), (later St John of Saint-Denis) and Denis Chambault, the former being named as Winnaert's successor as administrator of the WOC and the latter overseeing a small Orthodox Benedictine community in Paris. After 1946, Kovalevsky began to restore the Gallican usage, which was indigenous to France, while Chambault preferred to continue to use the Roman Rite.

Also associated with the Kovalevsky group was Archimandrite Alexis van der Mensbrugghe, a former Roman Catholic priest who 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.

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 WOC, led to conflict. False accusations of impropriety by Kovalevsky, brought by Chambault and Mensbrugghe in 1953, resulted in the decision being taken by the Patriarch to remove Kovalevsky from his role of administrator of the WOC, without further investigation. When the deception was subsequently realised after an eventual investigation in September of the same year, an envoy was sent to Kovalevsky to apologise for the hasty judgement. However, it was too late. Kovalevsky had already resigned from the ROC, and the parishes and majority of the clergy of the WOC had departed with him.[2]

In 1959, after some years of isolation, Kovalevsky's group, by this time known as the Orthodox Church of France, came under the care of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. 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 Archbishop John (Maximovitch) (the ROCOR bishop in Western Europe at the time, later St John the Wonderworker). John Maximovitch's death in 1966 was a serious blow to the Western Orthodox Christians in France, for no other supporter for the Western Rite was to be found on the ROCOR Council of Bishops, and once again they found themselves in a state of isolation.

While the ROC's Western Rite mission under Mensbrugghe and Chambault withered and ended, Bishop John (Eugraph Kovalevsky)'s church continued to thrive. Bishop John died in 1970, but in 1972, the church found a new home 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. During this time the OCF grew considerably in France and elsewhere.

However, in 1993, after long conflict resulting from growing antipathy among the Eastern Orthodox churches towards a western liturgical and cultural 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 and returned him to the lay state. 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 descendants 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.

Bishop Germain stepped down from the episcopal throne to avoid further scandal. However, existing in a state of isolation due to the 1993 decision of the Romanian Synod, the OCF could rely on no other Eastern Orthodox church to provide it with a bishop. Therefore, after a year, when the pragmatic 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 the fold of the French Coptic Orthodox Church (FCOC) in 2000.[3] 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 adherence to western forms of worship, music, and spirituality was enshrined in the conditions and protocols for their reception into the FCOC and was signed by Abba Marcos El Amba Bichoi, then Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan of Toulon and all France. This 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.

However, some years later, in 2005, Abba Marcos issued a letter insisting that the clergy must adopt the Coptic rite and, moreover, making the claim that the use of the western liturgies had never been authorised by him. 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.[5][discuss]

Western Orthodoxy[edit]

The 2005 decision of Abba Marcos led to a brief period of ecclesiastical isolation for these Western Orthodox Christians. Considering the history of hostility towards the Western Rite among the eastern churches and the repeated difficulties that this had caused, the clergy and laity who had separated from the FCOC, along with a number of other clergy and laity, gathered to form the Orthodox Church of the Gauls and elected Father Michel Mendez as bishop.[6] 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 Communion of Western Orthodox Churches.

In the years of stability 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.[7]

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.[8]


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 Western Orthodox Church in 1936, the priest Eugraph 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 version of this Liturgy as used in the Orthodox Church of the Gauls contains minor variations reflecting the past association of the OCG with the Coptic Orthodox Church. One of these variations is the adoption of the orans position by all of the clergy and the entire congregation during the praying of the Our Father. The other relates to the Rite of Preparation and the Fraction, during which the original version of the Liturgy of St Germanus heavily mirrors the elaborate Byzantine ceremonial involving the cutting the bread in a prescribed way with a liturgical knife known as the spear, both during the Preparation and at the Fraction. The rubrics of this Liturgy as in the OCG call for no cutting at all during the Rite of Preparation, when the loaf is blessed and left intact. At the Fraction the consecrated bread is broken into pieces by hand. This reflects the Coptic tradition that a knife must not be taken to the Body of Christ. It is also in keeping with wider western liturgical practice across rites.

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 St John of Saint-Denis. Much of his music for the propers and ordinary of the mass and divine office is an adaptation 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. Some of the music in this tradition is performed non-liturgically in the United Kingdom by the Cantors of Saint Radegund, a small vocal ensemble formed under the auspices 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.[9][lower-alpha 1]

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.[10]


  1. "Manifesto of the Orthodox Church of the Gauls".
  2. The canonical rupture of 1953 between The Orthodox Church of France and the Moscow Patriarchate, or "How the murderers accuse the victim"
  3. Abba Marcos; Goettmann, Alphonse (2000-11-30). "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]. (in français). Etudes sur l'Orthodoxie Copte en France. p. 1/2. Archived from the original on 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2016-04-29. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help) Additional pages archived on 2016-04-29: p. 2/2.
  4. Nottingham, Theodore J. "Bethanie: a place of renewal". Gorze, FR: Centre de Rencontres Spirituelles. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2016-04-29. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. "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]. (in français). Etudes sur l'Orthodoxie Copte en France. Archived from the original on 2014-10-31. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  7. "Annuaire de l'Eglise" [Directory of the Church]. (in français). Luzé: Eglise Orthodoxe des Gaules. Archived from the original on 2016-08-01. Retrieved 2016-09-12. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  9. "Interjurisdictional intercommunion". Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America. Archived from the original on 2016-04-24. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  10. "A history of our jurisdiction". Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America. Archived from the original on 2014-02-24. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
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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