The Orthodox Church of France (OCF, French : Église orthodoxe de France), formerly the Orthodox Catholic Church of France (French : Église catholique orthodoxe de France), is an Orthodox church in France comprising three dioceses and using the Western Rite. Though the OCF has been in communion with various canonical Orthodox churches during its history, at present it is not.
Louis-Charles Winnaert p273) Winnaert, along with a group of parishioners, separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1918 and joined the Anglican Church. Winnaert and his adherents then separated from the Anglican Church and joined the Old Catholic Church in 1921. Winnaert and his adherents then separated from the Old Catholic Church and joined the Liberal Catholic Church in 1922. Their group, Église libre-catholique de France (Free Catholic Church of France), was registered as a religious association in April 1922. Bishop James Ingall Wedgwood, of the Liberal Catholic Church, consecrated Winnaert as bishop. Winnaert renounced the Liberal Catholic Church in 1924 over its occult Theosophical nature after the publication of Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa's The Early Teachings of the Masters 1881–1883. After Winnaert and his adherents separated from the Liberal Catholic Church, they established the Eglise catholique évangélique (Evangelical Catholic Church) in 1924. 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. The ROC agreed to receive Winnaert and his group into full communion in 1936. The episcopal ordination of Winnaert was declared doubtful. 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. Winnaert became administrator of those parishes that were received into full communion with ROC and was supervised by the ordinary of the Russian Churches in Western Europe., Roman Catholic priest, was a Modernist. (
In 1936, the ROC received Winnaert's group, under the name l'Eglise Orthodoxe Occidentale (Western Orthodox Church). Winnaert's work was continued, with occasional conflict, by Evgraph 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 medieval accretions with Gallican and Byzantine interpolations – though Mensbrugghe remained separate from the OCF. 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. p276)(
The Orthodox Church of France is not to be confused with the French Orthodox Church.
After some years of isolation, Kovalevsky's group 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, and consecrated as the first modern Bishop of Saint-Denis. His principal consecrator was St. John (Maximovitch) (the ROCOR's representative in Western Europe at the time). John Maximovitch’s death in 1966 was a serious blow to the Western Orthodox Christians in France.
While Moscow's Western Rite mission withered and ended, Bishop Jean's church continued to thrive, however, without canonical protection after St. John's repose. Bishop Jean reposed in 1966, but in 1972, the church found a new canonical superior in the Church of Romania. Gilles Bertrand-Hardy was then tonsured as a monk with the name Germain and consecrated as Bishop of Saint-Denis. In 1993, after long conflict with the Romanian Synod regarding canonical irregularities, the latter withdrew its blessing of the French church and broke communion with OCF. The Romanian Orthodox Church took the decision, which is contested by OCF, to depose Bishop Germain from all sacerdotal functions. This decision (which was never accepted by the OCF) is applied by the canonical dioceses of the AEOF (Assemblée des Evêques Orthodoxes de France). The sanction was confirmed and explained in 2001 by another document, "Avis d'expertise canonique", from the Secretary of the Romanian Synod (a document which the OCF considers to have no value). The Romanian patriarchate established a deanery under Bishop Germain's brother, Archpriest Gregoire Bertrand-Hardy, to minister to those parishes which chose to stay with the Romanian Patriarchate.
Over the course of 2000/2001, after the scandal caused by the revelation inside the church of the marriage of Bishop Germain in 1995 (which had been subsequently annulled in the meanwhile), a number of parishes left the OCF. Ten formed the Union des Associations Cultuelles Orthodoxes de Rite Occidental (UACORO - the Union of Western Rite Orthodox Worship Associations) and began negotiations in 2004 with the Serbian Orthodox Church to be canonically recognized, with the intention of the UACORO entering the Diocese of France and Western Europe. The UACORO was received individually, laity and priests, into the French diocese of the Serbian Patriarchate in 2006. Two further communities that left at around the same time later went on to form the Orthodox Church of the Gauls.
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