Orthodox Church of France

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The Orthodox Church of France (l'Eglise Orthodox de France) was a group of Western Rite parishes in France formed under the auspices of Vladimir Lossky and Evgraph Kovalesky in the 1930s and 1940s. It has suffered several internal breaks, and the main extant body is now known as the Union des Associations Cultuelles Orthodoxes de Rite Occidental (UACORO) (the Union of Western Rite Orthodox Worship Associations).


In 1937, the Church of Russia received a small group under the former Liberal Catholic bishop, Louis-Charles (Irénée) Winnaert (1880-1937), dubbing them l'Eglise Orthodoxe Occidentale ("Western Orthodox Church"). The work of Winnaert was continued, though not without some occasional conflict, by Evgraph Kovalesky (1905-1970) and Lucien Chambault (later known as Pére Denis), the latter of which oversaw a small Orthodox Benedictine community in the rue d'Alleray in Paris. Also associated with them was the former Benedictine monk, Archimandrite Alexis van der Mensbrugghe (1899-1980), who favorably viewed the restoration of the ancient Roman rite cleansed of medieval accretions and supplemented by Gallican and Byzantine interpolations. In 1948, he published his Liturgie Orthodoxe de Rite Occidental and in 1962 the Missel Orthodoxe Rite Occidental.

After 1946, the Eglise Orthodoxe de France was developed by Kovalesky specifically with the intention to restore the ancient Gallican usage of the pre-Carolingian Roman rite, basing his work on the letters of St. Germanus, a 6th century bishop of Paris. During this troubled period, the Orthodox community in Paris went through several jurisdiction changes, but eventually Fr. Alexis returned to the Church of Russia and was consecrated to the episcopacy in 1960, continuing his Western Rite work under the auspices of the Moscow Patriarchate.

After some years of canonical limbo, Kovalesky's group came under the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia between 1959 and 1966, and Kovalesky himself was consecrated with the title of Bishop Jean-Nectaire de Saint-Denis in 1964. During this time, the Eglise Orthodoxe de France received considerable encouragement from St. John Maximovitch (who was ROCOR's representative in Western Europe at the time), and his death in 1966 was a serious blow to these French Orthodox Christians, who had had an influential and holy advocate in St. John.

Meanwhile, the Moscow Patriarchate's Western rite withered and came to an end, but Bishop Jean's church continued to thrive, though after St. John's death in 1966, they were again on canonical hiatus. Bishop Jean died in 1970, and then in 1972 the Church of Romania took the Eglise Orthodoxe de France under its omophorion. Gilles Bertrand-Hardy was consecrated as Bishop Germain de Saint-Denis, and the restored Gallican rite became the regular liturgy used in the many small French Orthodox parishes established throughout France. The full splendor of that liturgy can be seen in the Cathedral of St. Irén&eacutee in Boulevard Auguste-Blanqui in Paris. In 1994, after a lengthy conflict with the Romanian Holy Synod regarding various canonical irregularities, the Eglise again found itself in canonical limbo with the deposition of Bishop Germain. The Romanian patriarchate established a deanery under Bishop Germain's brother Archpriest Gregoire to minister to those parishes which chose to stay with Romania.

Ten other parishes that did not wish to remain under the deposed Germain (and presumably did not want to remain with Romania) formed the Union des Associations Cultuelles Orthodoxes de Rite Occidental (UACORO) (the Union of Western Rite Orthodox Worship Associations) and began negotiations with the Church of Serbia to be taken under its omophorion. Talks officially began in September of 2004.[1] The intended outcome of these negotiations is that the UACORO be accepted as part of the Church of Serbia's Diocese of France and Western Europe.[2]

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