Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, Bishop Auxentios of Etna and Portland, Cobleskill New York, Constantine Cavarnos, CTOS, Discernment, Elder Philotheos Zervakos, Etna California, Freemasons, Genuine Orthodoxy, Holy Elder Philotheos of Paros, Julian calendar, Metropolitan Demetrios of America, Monastery of St. Gregory Palamas, Monastery of St. John the Wonderworker, Old Calendarists, Photios Kontoglou, St. Katherine Routis the New Martyr of Greece, St. Philotheos of Paros
Photios Kontoglou’s sympathetic views of the Old Calendar movement can be found in succinct form in the following two letters, which were both quoted in an article that appeared in one of Greece’s more important conservative religious periodicals, Ὀρθόδοξος Τύπος (Orthodox press).1 In the first, dated March 1957, he writes to a friend:
I saw what struggles you are going through, and with justification, over Church matters. But do not fear. There is faith among our people. The Old Calendarists truly are the most genuine Orthodox. However, I think that there is no schism; simply a division. May the Lord make ‘the rough ways smooth.’2
In the second, dated 28 April 1965, he writes the same friend:
As for the Old Calendarists, you are right about everything. But they are also split into countless parties and, as you say, all you have to do in order to be reckoned an Orthodox Christian, if not a Confessor [of the Faith], is state that you are on the Old Calendar. But be that as it may, on account of the mess that the New Calendarists have created, our stand leans toward the former.
Kontoglou’s first letter was written on the heels of the repose of Archbishop Spyridon (Blachos) of Athens (1873–1956), to whose disgraceful and vicious prosecutions of the Greek Old Calendarists Kontoglou was an eyewitness and of which he was acutely aware. This regrettable Primate served the Church of Greece from 1949 through 1956 and did, admittedly, do so with some positive accomplishments. He strove to improve the educational level of his clergy, to see that they received adequate remuneration (albeit from the Greek State, unlike the Old Calendarists), and to rebuild the numerous Churches that had sustained damage during the German occupation (1941–1944) and the ensuing civil war (1946–1949). He also did much to further the work of Apostolike Diakonia, the publishing arm of the Church of Greece.
But these good and impressive deeds stood in sharp contrast to the unparalleled brutality of Archbishop Spyridon’s treatment of the Old Calendarists; that is, of those Orthodox Christians in Greece who refused to accept the imposition of the “Revised Julian Calendar” (in reality, an incongruous combination of the Gregorian or Papal Calendar and the Orthodox Paschalion) on the Church of Greece in March of 1924. The brief entry for the Archbishop in the Θρησκευτικὴ καὶ Ἠθικὴ Ἐγκυκλοπαιδεία (Encyclopedia of religion and ethics) states that he “dealt firmly with the Old Calendarists”—a veritable understatement.3 In fact, not long after his election, “the basement of the Archdiocese in Athens was filled with the clerical robes of the True [Old Calendarist] Orthodox clergy who were taken there, shaved and shorn, often severely beaten, and then cast out onto the street in civilian dress.”4
Spyridon fostered rumors about the original Old Calendarist leaders, accusing them of political motivations (which he knew to be untrue), often alluding to non-existent documentation for his charges, which were repeated by various polemicists in the public media and by careless scholars. He unfairly created an ugly image of the Old Calendarist minority that still persists in certain circles of Greek society, marginalizing and understandably radicalizing its adherents. As Bishop Ambrose notes, at the beginning of Spyridon’s archiepiscopate, “all the [Old Calendar] Churches in Athens were sealed and their holy vessels confiscated, and a few Churches in other parts of Greece were even demolished. Soon no Old Calendarist Priest could circulate undisguised, and even monks and nuns were not immune to these profane attacks.”5 In one egregious instance of outright violence, on the evening of Great Thursday in 1952, during the Service of the Twelve Gospels, the Athens police, at the behest of the Archdiocese, burst into a local Old Calendarist parish and forcibly dragged away the Priest, who later that night was imprisoned. Whether the Archbishop was acting out of inexplicable personal animus or for political reasons, one cannot say. The legacy of his bigoted and prejudicial actions, however, sadly overshadows the perhaps finer aspects of his character and his better deeds.
As we see from his second letter, penned in 1965, shortly before his death, Kontoglou was aware of the disarray into which the Old Calendar movement had fallen, both in terms of factionalism (which is at long last subsiding) and an attachment by some of its adherents to the superficies of the movement, but nonetheless leaned towards it because of its traditional and genuine character. Like the revered Elder Philotheos (Zervakos), the Abbot of the famous Monastery of Longovarda (1884–1980) on the Greek island of Paros, Kontoglou sincerely hoped that the staunchly traditionalist Archbishop Chrysostomos II (Hatzestavrou) of Athens (1888–1968), who served as Primate of the Church of Greece from 1962 until 1968, would succeed in carrying out his express intention to restore the Julian (Church) Calendar to the State Church of Greece. He was prevented from doing so when the military dictatorship (the “Junta”) came to power in Greece, in April of 1967, and unlawfully removed him from office, replacing him with Archimandrite Hieronymos (Kotsones) (1905–1988), an ecumenist and modernist. As Dr. Cavarnos commented in an interview some years ago, in expectation of a change “from the top” in the Church of Greece, “Photios consoled himself and was at peace with his conscience by attending services at a church in his neighbor– hood that followed the Old Calendar.”6
—Excerpt. Kontoglou on the Old Calendarists. Two Modern Greek Titans of Mind and Spirit
1 “Ὁ Φώτης Κόντογλου μέσα ἀπὸ τὶς ἐπιστολές του” (Pho– tes Kontoglou from his letters), Ὀρθόδοξος Τύπος, July 1966, p. 1.
2 Cf. St. Luke 3:5.
3 Vol. XI (Athens: 1967), col. 398.
4 Archbishop Chrysostomos, Bishop Ambrose, and Bishop Auxentios, The Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece, Fifth edition (Etna, Ca: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2009), p. 23.