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Western Rite Orthodoxy

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Western Rite Orthodoxy

Western Rite Orthodoxy or Western Orthodoxy or Orthodox Western Rite are terms used to describe Orthodox congregations and groups which are in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church or Oriental Orthodox Churches, but which use traditional Western liturgies rather than adopting Eastern liturgies such as the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. While there are some ancient examples of Western Rite churches in areas predominantly using the Byzantine Rite (the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Latins, often referred to as Amalfi, is a common example), the history of the movement is often considered to begin in the nineteenth century with the life and work of Julian Joseph Overbeck.

Currently, there are Western Rite parishes within the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America as a part of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate (AWRV), and within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR-MP). Among the Old Calendarists, the former Western Rite Exarchate of the Holy Synod of Milan and the Metropolia of North and South America and the British Isles both use the Western Rite. Western Rite parishes are found almost exclusively in countries with large Roman Catholic or Protestant majorities. There are also numerous devotional societies and publishing ventures related to the Western Rite. Despite having a place within many Orthodox jurisdictions, the Western Rite remains a contentious issue for some.[1]


Western Orthodox Christians look back to times before the Great Schism when the Eastern Orthodox and Western Churches were united. At that time a variety of different liturgies were used in the West, with no specific move towards ritual uniformity, although the Roman Rite was most influential. In the East, the Byzantine Rite was the most prominent of a variety of different local rites. When the Latin-speaking Western Church and the Greek-speaking Eastern Church parted, many of the Churches in communion with Constantinople used the Byzantine Rite, though there were still places where other liturgies (including the Roman Rite) were used. The Byzantine Rite, especially after the thirteenth century, came to dominate the Orthodox world almost to the point of exclusion of any other liturgy. This began to change slowly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as western Christians converting to Orthodoxy retained their familiar forms of worship.

Nineteenth century

During the 1840s, the Rev. William Palmer corresponded with Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow and Alexei Stephanovich Khomiakov. The initial reason for the correspondence was to consider establishing a Western Orthodox church in England. The project was not carried out due to lack of funds.

The modern reemergence of an Orthodox Western Rite bore its first fruits in 1864 with the work of Julius Joseph Overbeck, a former Roman Catholic priest. Overbeck had left the priesthood, converted to Lutheranism and married, though it is uncertain whether he ever functioned as a Lutheran pastor. He emigrated to England in 1863 to become professor of German at the Royal Military Academy. There he studied the Church of England and Orthodoxy. Concluding that both the Papacy and Anglicanism were on the verge of collapse, Overbeck was received into the Orthodox Church at the Russian Embassy in London by Father Eugene Poppoff, the embassy chaplain, in 1865. Overbeck was received as a layman because he had married following his ordination.[2]

As a part of his conversion to the Orthodox Church, Overbeck had requested permission from the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to begin a Western Orthodox church in England. Initially, Metropolitan Philaret was hesitant about Overbeck’s request, but did not rule out the idea entirely. Overbeck outlined his rationale for a Western Orthodox Church in his 1866 book Catholic Orthodoxy and Anglo-Catholicism, a largely polemical work describing why the established Western churches should be rejected.[3] In 1867 Overbeck also began to publish The Orthodox Catholic Review a journal for the advancement of Western Orthodoxy.

Overbeck had also begun to convince others of the feasibility of a Western Orthodox church and was ultimately able to submit a petition of 122 signatures, many of them Tractarians, to the Holy Synod in 1869 asking for the creation of a Western Rite.[4] A synodical commission was established to investigate the question and Overbeck was invited to state his case before the commission in St. Petersburg in 1870. Overbeck’s idea received the approval of the commission and he was instructed to present a revised Western liturgy for evaluation by the commission, which he did in December of that year which was subsequently approved for use – specifically in the British Isles.[5]

The next several years were spent with further developing the Western liturgies for administration of the other sacraments as well as the praying of the Divine Office. Overbeck also attempted to woo Old Catholics to his scheme since they had just recently gone into schism from the Roman Catholic Church over Vatican I’s definition of Papal infallibility, though to little avail. During this time, he continued to criticize Roman Catholics and Anglicans as well as those Western converts to Orthodoxy who utilized the Byzantine Rite.

By 1876, Overbeck began to make appeals to other Orthodox Churches for their recognition of his plan. In 1879 he was received in audience by the [7]

In 1898, the Holy Synod of Russia organized a diocese in Czechoslovakia using the Western rite.

Twentieth century

While Overbeck did not live to see his dream successful, the idea of a Western Orthodox church did not disappear. The early part of the twentieth century was characterized by a series of false starts. In 1911, Arnold Harris Matthew (a former Roman Catholic priest, later consecrated an Old Catholic bishop), entered into union with the Oriental Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch under Metropolitan Gerasimos (Messarah) of Beirut and, in 1912, with the Eastern Orthodox Pope Photios of Alexandria. Bishop Mathew's 1909 Old Catholic Missal And Ritual may have been approved as a Western Rite liturgy by Pope Photios of Alexandria, who wrote: "...We have thanked God...that you omit the Filioque clause, and that you do not accept money for celebrating Masses. We agree with you as to the observance of your autonomy, and of the Latin Rite in actual use, so long and so far as they agree with the Holy Dogmas and with the canonical ordinances of the Seven Oecumenical Synods, which form the basis of the Orthodox Faith."[8] Both unions were contracted in quick succession and only lasted for an effective period of a few months. Though the union was protested by the Archbishop of Canterbury to Photios and the Patriarch of Antioch, Matthew’s group claimed that communion was never formally broken off.[9]

In 1890, the very first Western Rite Orthodox community in North America, an Episcopal parish in Green Bay, Wisconsin, pastored by Fr. René Vilatte, was received by Bishop Vladimir Sokolovsky. However, Vilatte was soon ordained a bishop in the Jacobite Church, which is not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Other small groups following the Western Rite have been received, but usually have either had little impact or have declared their independence soon after their reception. Western rite parishes were established in Poland in 1926 when a half-dozen congregations were received into Eastern Orthodoxy; however, the movement dwindled during World War II.[10]

Orthodox Church of France

In 1936, the Church of Russia received a small group led by a former Liberal Catholic bishop, Louis-Charles Winnaert (1880–1937), as l'Église Orthodoxe Occidentale, or Western Orthodox Church.[11] Winnaert, who was received as Archimandrite Irénée, died shortly after. Winnaert's work was continued, with occasional conflict, by one of his priests, Eugraph Kovalevsky (1905–1970) and Denis (Chambault), the latter of which oversaw a small Orthodox Benedictine community in the rue d'Alleray 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 Western missals, and sacramentaries and with a few Byzantine modifications, developing what would become the Divine Liturgy according to St Germanus of Paris.[12]

Archimandrite Alexis (van der Mensbrugghe), who taught at the Western Church's St. Denys Theological Institute but who remained in the Eastern rite, attempted to restore of the ancient Roman rite, replacing medieval accretions with Gallican and Byzantine forms. Eventually, Alexis was consecrated as a bishop of the Church of Russia in 1960, continuing his Western Rite work under the auspices of the Moscow Patriarchate.[13]

In 1953, pressured by Moscow to change to the Eastern rite, the Western Orthodox Church went its own way, changing its name to the Orthodox Church of France. After some years of isolation, the Church was recognized as an autonomous Church by Metropolitan Anastassy of ROCOR[12] and was in communion with ROCOR between 1959 and 1966. Archbishop John (Maximovitch) (the ROCOR’s representative in Western Europe at the time), became the archpastor of the Church of France. At this time, Archbishop John had the Church change its name to l'Église Orthodox Catholique de France (ECOF), or "The Orthodox Catholic Church of France." He was also the principal consecrator when Kovalevsky was ordained in 1964 as Bishop Jean-Nectaire of Saint-Denis. Archbishop John'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, after John's death, Bishop Jean was left without canonical protection until his death in 1970. In 1972, the Church found a new canonical superior in the Church of Romania. Gilles Bertrand-Hardy was then consecrated as Bishop Germain of Saint-Denis. In 1993, after long conflict with the Romanian Synod regarding alleged canonical irregularities within ECOF, the latter withdrew its blessing of the French Church and broke off communion.[12] The Romanian Orthodox Church made the decision, which is contested by ECOF, to depose bishop Germain from all sacerdotal functions. This decision (which was never accepted by ECOF) 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 ECOF 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.[14][15]

In 2001, after the scandal caused by the revelation inside the Church of the marriage of Bishop Germain in 1995, which was then annulled, ten parishes left ECOF and 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 Church of Serbia 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 clergy, into the French diocese of Serbian Patriarcate in 2006.

Although the name of the Church legally remains the Orthodox Catholic Church of France, it usually goes by its previous name, the Orthodox Church of France.

North America

Saint Tikhon of Moscow's contribution to the Western Rite has been more enduring. While he was head of the Russian mission in America, some Episcopalians were interested in the possibility of joining Orthodoxy while retaining Anglican liturgies. Tikhon, sent the 1892 Book of Common Prayer, enquired as to the viability of such an idea. In 1904, the Holy Synod concluded the idea was a possibility and provided including many notes on how the Book of Common Prayer could be used in an Orthodox manner.[16] Tikhon did not receive any Episcopalians as none approached him for reception into the Orthodox Church, but his efforts laid the groundwork for the later reception of Episcopalians into the AWRV following the revision of the Book of Common Prayer in 1975.

The most successful and stable group of Western Rite parishes originated within the Orthodox Church under Bishop Aftimios (Ofiesh) in the 1930s as part of the American Orthodox Catholic Church. In 1932, Bishop Aftimios consecrated an Episcopal priest, Ignatius Nichols, as auxiliary Bishop of Washington and assigned him to the Western Rite parishes. However, due to complaints from Episcopalians that the Episcopal Church was the "American" Orthodox Church,[17] the American Orthodox Church that Aftimios and Nicholas were a part of became estranged from what would become the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). The subsequent marriages of Aftimios and Nichols, both in violation of Orthodox canon law, left the church and its subsidiaries without canonical recognition.[18]

In 1932, Nichols founded the Society of Clerks Secular of Saint Basil as a devotional society for clergy and laity dedicated to the celebration of the Western Rite. Nichols also consecrated Alexander Turner as a bishop in 1939. Turner pastored a small parish in Mount Vernon until Nichols' death in 1947, when he assumed leadership of the Society and concluded that there was no future for the Society of Saint Basil outside of canonical Orthodoxy. Turner described the situation the Society found itself in by saying:

It was ... during the tempestuous days following the Bolshevik Revolution that the Society had its inception as a missionary organ of the nascent federation of American Orthodox colonies under Russian suzerainty, though of local Syrian administration. With the collapse of that plan and the submission of the ethnic groups to the churches of their homelands, the Society was left in isolation.[19]

Through Father Paul Schneirla, he began unofficial dialogue with Metropolitan Antony Bashir. Even before this, Turner had been promoting Western Rite Orthodoxy through his periodical Orthodoxy. In 1961, the Society (consisting of three parishes at the time) was received into the Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese on the basis of Metropolitan Antony's 1958 edict. Upon reception, Bishop Alexander Turner became a canonical priest of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, guiding the group as Vicar-General until his death in 1971, thereafter he was succeeded by Schneirla. However, after Turner’s death, the sole surviving Basilian, William Francis Forbes, returned to the American Orthodox Catholic Church and was consecrated a bishop in October 1974.[20]

Besides the original communities associated with the Society, a number of other parishes have been received into the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Archdiocese, particularly as elements within the Episcopal Church became dissatisfied with liturgical change and the ordination of women. The first Episcopal parish to be received into the AWRV was the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Detroit, Michigan.[21] Additionally, several Western Rite missions have been founded within the AWRV, some growing into full parish status. Furthermore, when parishes of the Evangelical Orthodox Church joined the Antiochian Archdiocese in 1987, a few parishes joined as Western Rite congregations. However, many of these former EOC congregations subsequently switched to the Byzantine Rite.

Among Old Calendarist groups, the sole jurisdiction utilizing a Western Rite is the Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of North and South America and the British Isles, with approximately two dozen parishes. Due to their generally stricter stance, only older rites such as the Sarum are permitted.


In 1995, the Church of Antioch also established a British Deanery to absorb converts from the Church of England, though none of these congregations is now Western Rite.[22]

Western Rite Orthodoxy, in Australia and New Zealand, has arisen mostly from Anglican and Continuing Anglican communities. Archbishop Hilarion (Kapral) of Sydney of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (now Metropolitan Hilarion, primate of the ROCOR), received some communities into communion (both from outside Orthodoxy and from other Orthodox jurisdictions) while others have been received by Bishop Gibran (Ramlawey) and Metropolitan Archbishop Paul (Saliba), both under the Church of Antioch. Metropolitan Paul has recently received around 30 Western Rite parishes in the Philippines.

Some Western Rite parishes are also a part of the Oriental Orthodox churches. The Syrian patriarchate of Antioch consecrated Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvarez as Archbishop of Ceylon, Goa and India in 1889, authorizing a Roman rite diocese under his supervision. Additionally, in 1891 the Syrians consecrated the aforementioned Vilatte as archbishop for the American Old Catholics.

Current status in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

As of July 10, 2013, the recognition and status of the Western Rite parishes within the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) significantly changed. At an extraordinary meeting of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR, presided over by the First Hierarch, it was decreed that all ordinations of new Wesern Rite clergy would cease, that Bishop Jerome Shaw of Manhattan, of the Vicariate of the Western Rite would be censured, that recognition of certain ordinations performed by Shaw would not be recognized and would be subject to regularization following a thorough examination of the candidates. It was decided that Shaw would be released from all duties, including those of Vicar of the President in administering Western Rite parishes. It was also decreed that a commission would be established to examine the means of integrating Western Rite clergy and communities into the Russian Orthodox Church proper.[23]

Orthodox Church in America

Talk about the Western Rite has often occurred in the Orthodox Church in America, the most prominent being in a speech by its then-primate, Metropolitan Jonah during an April 2009 speech in Dallas, Texas.[24]


An altar prepared according to the rubrics for the Tridentine Rite. Many Western Rite Orthodox congregations celebrate a revised version of the Tridentine mass under the name Divine Liturgy of Saint Gregory.

Western Rite parishes do not all utilize the same liturgy, but often use a particular liturgy depending upon their individual affiliations prior to entering Orthodoxy. At present, there are six different Uses available to Western Rite parishes:

  • Divine Liturgy of Saint Tikhon – This liturgy is currently used by approximately two-thirds of congregations in the AWRV. The Rite of St. Tikhon was developed utilizing the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican Missal. The Book of Common Prayer was altered by removing the filioque from the text of the Nicene Creed, and to include prayers for the dead, the invocation of the saints, and strengthening the epiclesis within the Eucharistic prayer, and by adding the pre-communion prayers from the Byzantine Rite. It is utilized primarily by parishes formerly of an Anglican/Episcopal background.
  • Divine Liturgy of Saint Gregory – Utilized by the remainder of the AWRV as well as some communities in ROCOR, this rite is a version of the Roman Tridentine Mass which has been altered to remove the filioque and inserting a Byzantine epiclesis. It is used primarily by parishes formerly of a Lutheran, Roman Catholic, or Old Catholic background, including those incorporated from the Society of Saint Basil in 1961. In the Russian Orthodox Church, there are three versions in common use: that of Overbeck (The Overbeck text was printed in full in the 1960 ROCOR yearbook), the Use of Mt. Royal (based upon the Carthusian use, itself adapted from the old rite of Grenoble), and the derivative use of Christminster (Usus Providentiae) which includes an epiclesis from the Gothic Missal.
  • Sarum Liturgy – A British use of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Gregory, which retained many local Anglo-Saxon, Gallican, and Celtic elements. Saint Petroc Monastery, a ROCOR monastery; some of its dependencies; and the Hermitage of the Holy Cross; celebrate the Sarum Liturgy. The Sarum is occasionally celebrated at St. Nicholas ROCOR Monastery in Ft. Myers, Florida.[25] The text is based upon a nineteenth-century Pearson English translation of the Sarum Missal, corrected of post-Schism insertions. An epiclesis from the Gothic Missal is included. St. Hilarion Press and St. Gregory's Press editions of Sarum services were also blessed for canonical use, in September 2008 and December 2008 respectively.
  • English Liturgy – The Russian adaptation of the 1549 English Book of Common Prayer according to the criteria set forth by the Holy Synod of Russia in 1907. This liturgy has been augmented with material from the Sarum Missal, Gothic Missal, York rite, and 1718 Scottish Non-Juror liturgy. An epiclesis from the Gothic Missal is included. This liturgy is not the same rite as the Liturgy of Saint Tikhon, and the two rites differ in many respects.[26]
  • Liturgy of Saint Germanus – Utilized by some parishes of ROCOR and the Serbian and Romanian Patriarchates. The liturgy of St. Germanus is a reconstructed version of what was presumed to be Gallican rite, but which has been supplemented with elements from the Byzantine, Celtic and Mozarabic rites
  • The Liturgy of Saint John the Divine – Utilized by a monastery of the Moscow Patriarchate, and in publication within ROCOR. A reconstructed version of the first millennium Celtic British Isles rite after the Stowe Missal and other sources – intended for modern use. The name is from the origin asserted by the Church in the British Isles before the Great Schism.
  • Mozarabic Rite-- The Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of North and South America and the British Isles as well as the Holy Synod of Milan permits use of the Mozarabic Rite as well as the Sarum use.

Liturgical development

Most of the present Western Rite liturgies have been developed along the guidelines given to Saint Tikhon by the Holy Synod in 1904/07. As noted above, Saint Tikhon’s request to the Holy Synod concerned accepting Episcopal parishes into the Orthodox Church while permitting them to retain the liturgies of the Book of Common Prayer. While Saint Tikhon’s request was specifically concerned with Anglicans converting, its recommendations came to be implemented for those parishes who did not have a specifically Anglican background. The two most important required changes included the removal of the filioque from the Nicene Creed and the addition of an epiclesis which specifically invokes the Holy Spirit and a petition for the Spirit to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

When the Antiochian Western Rite Edict was issued, it became necessary to determine what additions or corrections to western liturgies would need to be made to bring those rites into conformity with the 1904 Russian Synodal decree as well as the Ukase of 1936. To that end, the Antiochian Western Rite Commission was convened in 1958 composed of Fr Paul Schneirla, Stephen Upson, Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff for the purpose of determining “the mode of reception of groups desiring to employ the Western Rite, and the character of the rites to be used, as well as the authorization of official liturgical texts.”[27] Meyendorff, Schmemann, and Schneirla were already familiar with the Western Rite both from having been in contact with members of the ECOF while teaching at Saint Sergius Theological Institute. Schmemann actively followed the Liturgical Movement in the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church and was an advocate for renewal of the Orthodox liturgy.[28]

In January 1962, the official Western Rite Directory was issued, "establishing liturgical usages and customs and discipline," drawing on principles of the 1904 Moscow Synodal response to Saint Tikhon, the authorization of Western Rite offices by Metropolitan Gerassimos (Messarah) of Beirut, and the 1932 Russian Ukase of Metropolitan Sergius.[29]

Liturgical books

Officially, the AWRV provides one liturgical book, The Orthodox Missal through its official publishing arm, St. Luke’s Priory Press. This volume contains both the Liturgy of Saint Tikhon and the Liturgy of Saint Gregory, with appropriate propers for seasons, feasts, saints, and prayers before and after Mass. The Antiochian Archdiocese publishes the Saint Andrew Service Book (SASB), which was developed by Saint Michael’s Church in California under the leadership of the late Father Michael Trigg; the SASB also has received official sanction from Metropolitan Philip for the 1996 and 2005 editions, with the latter containing explicit reference to the authorized nature of all previous editions of the SASB.[30] In addition to duplicating the contents of The Orthodox Missal, the SASB also includes forms for Matins and Vespers, the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the threefold Amen common to the Byzantine epiclesis but absent in The Orthodox Missal. The SASB was produced by the Antiochian Archdiocese without the participation of the AWRV.[31] The Orthodox Missal is an official publication of the AWRV and is the Vicariate's standard and approved text with the SASB authorized by the Archdiocese as an approved text.

Parishes within the AWRV are permitted to use either the Liturgy of Saint Tikhon or that of Saint Gregory. While most parishes use the Tikhonite liturgy, several use the Gregorian liturgy on weekdays or on specific Sundays of the year. Presently, there is no breviary specifically designed for the Orthodox Western Rite, though priests of the AWRV who celebrate the Liturgy of Saint Gregory are expected to pray as much of the Breviarium Monasticum as possible.[32] The entire breviary in English is available in two volumes from Lancelot Andrewes Press.[33] The same hours, in English or Latin, are approved for Christ the Savior Monastery under the ROCOR. However, priests who celebrate the Liturgy of Saint Tikhon pray a form of Morning Prayer and Evensong approved by the AWRV.

Also in common use within the AWRV, though not officially approved, are St. Dunstans’s Plainsong Psalter[34] and the St. Ambrose Hymnal. The Plainsong Psalter, a publication of Lancelot Andrewes Press, sets the Psalter and selected canticles to Gregorian and British Chant and includes orders for Morning Prayer, Evensong, and Compline. The St. Ambrose Hymnal, which is currently out of print, provides musical settings of classic Western hymns as well as post-schism and modern hymns which are judged “not to contradict the Orthodox faith.” Despite being out of print, parts of the hymnal are available on-line in pdf format.

Within ROCOR, the Saint Colman Prayer Book has been authorised by Metropolitan Hilarion for use within Australia and New Zealand. It has since received permission in other dioceses. The Book includes the Sarum, English and Gregorian Liturgies, together with a simplified version of the monastic hours. Most of the occasional services required by a Parish Priest through the course of the year are there, as well as the Rites of Holy Week and a Lectionary. In September 2008, Metropolitan Hilarion blessed the St. Hilarion Press series of Sarum books, originally published under the auspices of the Holy Synod of Milan and edited by Hieromonk Aidan (Keller), for liturgical use. The Holy Synod of Milan also published approximately 30 volumes of texts of pre-schism services. They contain complete forms for celebration of the Liturgy or Mass, the Divine Office, the Mysteries or Sacraments, and many other services, with full chant notation. In December 2008, the St. Gregory's Press edition was also blessed for actual usage; these contains full forms, with complete chant notation, for the celebration of the Liturgy or Mass and of the Divine Office, i.e., the Canonical Hours.


Priests of the Western Rite utilize standard Western vestments as a part of their liturgy, whether celebrating one of the Western liturgies or (as far as Antiochians are concerned) when concelebrating a Byzantine liturgy, with some exceptions (See Criticisms below). Antiochian Byzantine Rite Orthodox priests who concelebrate Antiochian Western Rite liturgies wear Byzantine style vestments and hierarchs wear Byzantine vestments when participating in Western liturgies.

Those clergy using the Sarum or English liturgies use the vestments commonly known as "Sarum" but which were actually used throughout north-western Europe and the British Isles. These are typified by "apparels' of the seasonal colour, added to the alb and amice for priest, deacon, subdeacon, clerk and servers in certain groups, although there is no evidence this was done before the thirteenth century.


Unlike Eastern Catholic Churches which have an independent hierarchy and separate Code of Canon law, Western Rite Orthodox congregations of the Antiochian jurisdiction fall under the jurisdiction of their local Orthodox bishop. In North America, the Antiochian Church has established the Western Rite Vicariate and the Western Rite Commission for the purpose of coordinating the activities of Western Rite congregations and to provide a single point of contact for persons and groups concerning Western Rite Orthodoxy. However, all the Western Rite congregations remain under the direct supervision of their normal diocesan bishop, with Bishop Basil (Essey) of Wichita being the "hierarch of reference" and advocate for Western Rite issues within the synod of Bishops. In the ROCOR, as of November 2009, all Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic houses fall under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan.

The Old Calendarists have two hierarchies which consider themselves "Western" jurisdictions and therefore have no liaison, citing the canonical responsibility of bishops to their local territories, opting to simply treat all parishes of Western and Eastern Rite equally. Of these, the larger Western Rite Presence is the that of the Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of the Americas, with the presiding hierarch, Metropolitan John LoBue of New York and New Jersey, the only Orthodox bishop in North America who regularly employs Western usage in his monastery.

Publishing houses

The official publishing arm of the AWRV is St. Luke’s Priory Press, located in Stanton, New Jersey. Among their publications are The Orthodox Missal, the official service book of the AWRV; The Orthodox Ritual, the official source for the administration of all the sacraments in the vicariate; and the annual Ordo Kalendar. They also publish several apologetic works concerning the Western Rite.

Lancelot Andrewes Press is the publishing arm of the Fellowship of Saint Dunstan and publishes material which is utilized by congregations and individuals in the Western Rite. The primary mission of Lancelot Andrewes Press is to publish material for the “advancement of historic Christian orthodoxy, as expressed by the liturgical and devotional usages of traditional English Christianity.”[35] Among their publications are the Monastic Diurnal and St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter.

While not official publishing houses, St. Petroc Monastery, Christminster, and St. John Cassian Press have published copies of liturgies for the use of Western Rite congregations within the ROCOR. St. John Cassian Press distributes former St. Hilarion Press publications (see "Organizations" above) blessed for ROCOR usage, including "Orthodox Prayers of Old England" (omnibus service book), "The Holy Psalter" (core of the divine office), "Old Sarum Rite Missal," "The Companion" (epistle and gospel book), "Chant Ordinarium" (a kyriale), and "Westminster Benedictional" (a book of blessings), in all some 2,500 pages of approved texts, with chant. This body of work includes several apologetic works concerning the Western Rite and Orthodoxy in general.

The most voluminous texts of the Western Rite in English, however, have been produced by Old Calendarists: recently 10,000 pages of text of the Western monastic psalter in traditional English were placed online for free download and use.[36]

Devotional societies

There are also devotional societies within the Western Rite Vicariate:

  • The Orthodox Christian Society of Our Lady of Walsingham – dedicated to encouragement of devotion to the Theotokos, particularly under the title of Our Lady of Walsingham (and the preservation of the replica of the shrine of Walsingham).[37]
  • The Fellowship of Saint Dunstan – dedicated to historic Christian Orthodoxy particularly traditional English Christianity.

Parishes and missions

The largest numbers of Western Rite parishes are located in North America as a part of the AWRV, though there are Western Rite congregations to be found in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and England.

North America

  • St. Joseph Orthodox Church – Sarasota, Florida – ROCOR
  • Our Lady of Walsingham Orthodox Church ; Allison Park, PA – ROCOR
  • St. Nicholas of Myra Russian Orthodox Church – Acworth, Georgia – ROCOR
  • Christ the King Orthodox Church – Tullytown, Pennsylvania – ROCOR
  • Christ the King Orthodox Mission – Omaha, Illinois – AWRV
  • Christ the Saviour Orthodox Mission Church – Jacksonville, Texas – AWRV
  • Emmanuel Orthodox Church – Warren, MA – AWRV
  • Holy Apostles Orthodox Church – Tyler, Texas – A
  • Holy Incarnation Mission – Detroit, MI – AWRV
  • Holy Trinity Orthodox Church – Lynchburg, Virginia – AWRV
  • Our Lady of Glastonbury Orthodox Church – Hamilton, Ontario – ROCOR
  • Our Lady of Grace Orthodox Mission Church – Melville, New York – AWRV
  • Our Lady of Regla – Miami, Florida – AWRV
  • Our Lady of Walsingham Church – Mesquite, Texas – AWRV
  • Saint Andrew the Apostle Church – Miami, Florida – AWRV
  • Saint Benedict Orthodox Church – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – ROCOR
  • Saint Benedict of Nursia Antiochian Orthodox Church Wichita Falls, Texas – AWRV
  • Saint Columba Church – Lafayette, Colorado – AWRV
  • Saint Cuthbert's Orthodox Mission – Pawtucket, Rhode Island – ROCOR
  • Saint George Church – Lawrence, MA – AWRV
  • Saint Gregory the Great Church – Washington DC – AWRV
  • Saint James of Jerusalem Orthodox Church – Hanceville, AL – ROCOR
  • Saint John the Baptist Mission – Lewistown, MD – AWRV
  • Saint John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church – Carlsbad, CA – ROCOR
  • Saint John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church – Des Moines, IA – ROCOR
  • Saint John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church – Simcoe, Ontario – ROCOR
  • Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco Orthodox Church – Peoria, Illinois – ROCOR
  • Saint Katherine of Alexandria Orthodox Church – Pelion, South Carolina – ROCOR
  • Saint Mark’s Church – Denver, Colorado – AWRV
  • Saint Mary the Virgin Orthodox Church – Barrie, Ontario – ROCOR
  • Saint Michael and All Angles Orthodox Church – San Antonio, Texas – ROCOR
  • Saint Michael’s Church – Whittier, California – AWRV
  • Saint Michael Archangel Mission – Wichita, Kansas – AWRV
  • Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church – Spokane, WA – AWRV
  • Saint Nicholas of Myra Orthodox Church; – Bush, LA – ROCOR
  • Saint Patrick's Chapel – Northville, Michigan – ROCOR
  • Saint Patrick Church – Warrenton, Virginia – AWRV
  • Saint Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church – Houston, Texas – AWRV
  • Saint Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church – Kenosha, WI – ROCOR
  • Saint Peter’s Antiochian Orthodox Church – Fort Worth, Texas – AWRV
  • Saint Peter’s Church – North Miami, Florida – AWRV
  • Saint Stephen Orthodox Church – West Springfield, MA – AWRV
  • Saint Vincent of Lerins Church – Omaha, Nebraska – AWRV
  • Saint Patrick Orthodox Church - Bealeton, Virginia, Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate (AWRV)


  • Saint Dyfan Monastery Mission, Hobart, Tasmania – ROCOR

New Zealand

  • Saint Simon and Saint Jude Church – Rangoria, Canterbury – Antiochian
  • Saint George’s Mission – Waiwhetu, Lower Hutt – Antiochian

United Kingdom

  • ROCOR Western Rite UK website
  • Saint Edmund the Martyr Mission - Nottingham - Nottinghamshire - ROCOR
  • Saint Aldhelm Mission – Bournemouth – Dorset – ROCOR
  • Saint Nectan Mission – Weston-Super-Mare – Somerset – ROCOR

Monasteries and hermitages

There are a few monasteries and hermitages which utilize the Western Rite, all associated within the ROCOR and with very few professed monastics.

  • Assumption of Mary Benedictine Monastery, Eisbergen / Porta Westfalica, Germany – ROCOR
  • Ascension Orthodox Monastery, Riverview, Florida, United States –; ROCOR
  • Christminster/Christ the Savior Monastery – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada – ROCOR

In addition to the established monasteries, some parishes also have among their members Benedictine “oblates”. Some are associated with Christminster Monastery, while others are not associated with any particular monastery and thus are not oblates in the traditional (seventeenth-century Roman Catholic) sense. These latter oblates are individuals who utilize the Benedictine rule as a means of fostering spiritual development.

"Non-canonical" Western Rite churches

"Western Orthodox" is a description taken by several Church bodies that follow claim to be Orthodox or have the word "Orthodox" in their names, but are unconnected to the worldwide Eastern Orthodox Church. Many have not arisen out of contacts with Eastern Orthodoxy and are likened to those bodies known as Independent Catholic Churches or to Continuing Anglicanism. Some have had relationships with bodies that broke away from Eastern Orthodoxy, or were cut off by Eastern Orthodox hierarchs for irregularities. The praxis and ecclesiology of "non-canonical" Orthodox churches are not acceptable to the Eastern Orthodox Churches in that often they have a married episcopate, ordain women to the priesthood or diaconate, or otherwise have a theology divergent from canonical Orthodoxy.

Canonical missionary societies

These groups are Canonical missionary societies with a core of canonical Orthdox laity served by canonical Orthodox clergy within the Orthodox Church with the goal of future reception of converts into the Western Rite of Orthodoxy. The societies themselves were formed inside the Orthodox Church for reception of converts, and not for the reception of the societies themselves. The Orthodox Church they are currently under the guidance of is also listed alongside it.

  • Saint Brendan OSS – Panama City Florida – ROCOR.


Despite the fact that the Western Rite is an established part of the Orthodoxy in North America, it does not exist without the presence of some vocal critics. These criticisms run the gamut from objections of a liturgical or historical nature to direct claims that members of the Western Rite are not actually Orthodox in their praxis.

Byzantine Rite only

Many commentators argue that the only rite which is and can be acceptable to Orthodoxy is the Byzantine Rite, whether in its Greek or Slavic usages. Many Orthodox Christians currently boast of the Church's liturgical homogeneity, claiming that, no matter where one might go in the Orthodox world, the liturgy will be familiar, even if it's in another language.

In addition, even if the claim of the homogenous celebration of the Byzantine Rite could be claimed for the modern period, this has historically not been the case. During the period of separation of the Eastern and Western Churches, it would have been impossible to speak of the Byzantine Rite as being the only liturgy in use, even in the Eastern Church. The Rite of Constantinople only acquired dominance in the Eastern Church through a slow process that was not complete until at least the thirteenth century.

Lack of liturgical continuity

In continuation of the above criticism, many commentators argue that while the Western Rite was at one time Orthodox, its Orthodoxy ceased after the Great Schism. This argument essentially states that, because the Western Rite died out in the Church, and because a continuous living tradition is a necessary element of liturgical practice, the Western Rite ought to be abandoned and only the Byzantine Rite should be utilized.

Western Rite advocates have pointed out that there is nothing inherently unorthodox about creating a new rite for the Church provided that the Orthodoxy of the rite is sound. The Byzantine Rite has grown in ways which have caused liturgies and devotions to develop in one location without subsequent universal practice. Such services would have been invented from scratch based on pastoral need at some point, yet few Western Rite critics would say that such services or devotions should be abandoned, thus perceiving to lend to the legitimacy of restoring an ancient rite of the undivided Church. Western Rite supporters say that Western Rite never actually lost continuity of use in Orthodoxy, since on Mount Athos, during history, on special occasions the Liturgy of St. Peter the Apostle was served. It was used even in Russia prior to reformations of patriarch Nikon, and later by "old believers".

Furthermore, it is also argued that the Divine Liturgy of St. James, once nearly extinct except in Jerusalem and the island of Kephalonia, has in the present time enjoyed resurgence outside of its traditional strongholds for use on October 23 to celebrate the Feast of St. James.

Western Rite is reverse uniatism

The situation of Western Orthodox parishes has been compared with the status of the autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches (often called "Uniate" by Orthodox Christians) in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. For centuries, there have been hierarchical churches in full communion with Rome. Eastern Catholics, despite usages in continuity with, and closely resembling, those of the Orthodox, largely share a common dogma with Latin Catholics, a situation that is called "uniatism". Analogously, the Western Rite Orthodox share the same faith as their Byzantine Rite Orthodox brethren despite a different liturgical rite.

However, unlike most Eastern Catholic churches, Western Rite Orthodox congregations are not the result of historically complex political and ecclesiastical developments, but rather of small-scale conversion to Orthodoxy by individuals and congregations. Also, Western Rite congregations all adhere to the same bishops as their Byzantine counterparts; they do not constitute a separate church of their own, nor do they maintain their own seminaries or observe their own canons, as do the Eastern Catholic churches. Furthermore, many Eastern Catholic churches represent communities grafted directly from Orthodoxy, often as a result of internal schisms in a local Orthodox church. These churches were (at least theoretically) permitted to retain their ancient liturgical traditions, and retained some of their ecclesiastical structures (e.g., diocesan sees and claims, such as the Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch and Ukrainian eparchy of Kyiv, prior to its suppression). By contrast, most modern Western Rite communities rarely emerge directly from the jurisdictional structures of the Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican communions, and celebrate reconstructed liturgies with ahistorical additions (e.g., supplementary prayers grafted from the Byzantine, Celtic, Mozarabic rites, etc.), often new to the community entering Orthodoxy.

Western Rite is divisive

Another criticism is that the Western Rite is inherently divisive. Following different liturgical traditions than their neighboring Byzantine Rite Orthodox Christians, those using the Western Rite do not share liturgical unity with them and present an unfamiliar face to the majority of Orthodox Christians. This sentiment is expressed most famously by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), who was particularly concerned about the further fragmentation of Orthodoxy in non-Orthodox countries, in this case in Britain.[38]

Whether the Western Rite survives in the Orthodox Church and will be accepted by the majority who follow the Byzantine Rite remains yet to be seen. In the meantime, the Byzantine Rite bishops who oversee Western Rite parishes and many who oversee no Western Rite parishes continue to declare the Western Orthodox to be Orthodox Christians and regard them as fully in communion with the rest of the Church. Though there have been negative appraisals on both sides of the Western Rite issue, supporters of the Western Rite claim that there is nothing inherently divisive about having a separate liturgical practice, particularly since these churches remain under the pastoral care of their diocesan bishop rather than a Western Rite bishop. As yet, there are no schisms within the episcopacy of the Orthodox Church regarding the issue of Western Rite parishes.

Conversion without conversion

Another criticism often leveled against the Western Rite is based on the fact that the majority of the members of Western Rite parishes are converts to Orthodoxy. The argument states that Christians want to be Orthodox but "not too Orthodox" so they keep their familiar rites under a new bishop. The unstated assumption behind this argument, however, is similar to the argument against all non-Byzantine liturgical traditions: that the Orthodox Church includes only the Byzantine Rite and if people want to be truly Orthodox they must also be Byzantine.


  1. ^ Cf. Alexander Schmemann, "Some Reflection Upon 'A Case Study'" St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 24.4 (1980), pp. 266–269; Gregory H. M. Dye, "Some Reflections on the Western Rite – II" St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 27.2 (1983), pp. 125–126; and Chrysostomos H. Stratman, The Roman Rite in Orthodoxy (Chicago: The Orthodox Christian Education Society, 1957), for examples.
  2. ^ David F. Abramtsov. “The Western Rite and the Eastern Church: Dr. J. Julius Overbeck and His Scheme for the Re-Establishment of the Orthodox Church in the West”, Unpublished MA thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1961, p. 5.
  3. ^ Parry, Ken et al. (editors). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Malden, MA: 1999. Blackwell Publishing, p. 364
  4. ^ Parry, Ken et al., The Blackwell Dictionary, p. 365.
  5. ^ Sobranio mnenii i otzyvov Filareta, mitropolita moskovskago i kolomenskago, po uchebnym i tserkovno-gosudarstvennym voprosam, ed. Archbishop Savva, Tome V, Part II (Moscow, 1888), 711–713.
  6. ^ Abramtsov, “The Western Rite in the Eastern Church,” p. 26
  7. ^ Georges Florovsky, “Orthodox Ecumenism in the Nineteenth Century,” St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, 4, No. 3–4, 1956, 32.
  8. ^ John Kersey, Arnold Harris Mathew And The Old Catholic Movement, pp. 108–110, European-American University: London, 2010.
  9. ^ Peter F. Anson. Bishops at Large, pp. 186–188. Berkeley: Apocryphile Press, 2006.
  10. ^ Parry, Ken et al., The Blackwell Dictionary, p. 515.
  11. ^ Parry, Ken et al., The Blackwell Dictionary, p. 514
  12. ^ a b c Frédéric Luz. Le Soufre & L'encens. Paris: Claire Vigne, 1995. pp. 34–36. ISBN 2-84193-021-1
  13. ^ W. Jardine Grisbrooke, “Obituaries: Archbishop Alexis van der Mensbrugghe” in Sobornost 4.2 (1981), 212–216.
  14. ^ The Orthodox Church of France: Canonical Restoration, November 1998. Last accessed February 14, 2008.
  15. ^ Jean de la Rosa, The Orthodox Church of France: Her Canonical Situation. Last accessed February 14, 2008.
  16. ^ "Observations on the American Book of Common Prayer"
  17. ^ Gary L. Ward, Bertil Persson, and Alan Bain. Independent Bishops: An International Directory, xi. Apogee Books, 1990. ISBN 1-55888-307-X
  18. ^ Gary L. Ward et al., Independent Bishops, 295–96, 301–02.
  19. ^ Society of Clerks Secular of St. Basil
  20. ^ Gary L. Ward et al., Independent Bishops, 143–44.
  21. ^ Benjamin J. Andersen, "An Anglican Liturgy in the Orthodox Church: The Origins and Development of the Antiochian Orthodox Liturgy of Saint Tikhon," Unpublished M.Div. Thesis, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, 2005, p. 7.
  22. ^ Les Tentatives de Creation d’Un Rite Orthodoxe Occidental Esquisse historique, Religioscope, 2002. Accessed June 21, 2007
  23. ^ "An Extraordinary Session of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops is Held : A Russian Orthodox Church Website". Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  24. ^ Jonah's April 2009 speech transcript, mentioning Western Rite Orthodoxy
  25. ^ Sarum Liturgy
  26. ^ English Liturgy
  27. ^ Benjamin Andersen, Western Rite History, Part 8, September 18, 2004. Last accessed March 16, 2007.
  28. ^ Alexander Schmemann, “Notes and Comments: The Western Rite” in St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, 2.4 (1958), 37–38.
  29. ^ Western Rite History, Part 8, September 18, 2004. Last accessed March 16, 2007.
  30. ^ Michael Trigg, et al. The Saint Andrew Service Book. Stanton; St. Luke’s Priory Press, 1996.
  31. ^ Andersen, “An Anglican Liturgy in the Orthodox Church,” p. 19
  32. ^ The Lion: St. Mark’s Parish Newsletter, May 2003.
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ About Lancelot Andrews Press
  36. ^ "The Rites of Orthodox England". 4 November 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  37. ^
  38. ^ Bishop Kallistos. “Some Thoughts on the ‘Western Rite’ in Orthodoxy” in The Priest: A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco, 5, May 1996.

External links

  • List of Orthodox Churches
  • Western Orthodoxy
  • Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
  • Christ the Savior Monastery ROCOR Hamilton, ON
  • Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome


  • Text of the Liturgy of Saint Gregory
  • Text of the Liturgy of Saint Tikhon
  • Office and Prayers of the Oblates of St. Benedict (PDF) – Western Rite oblates.

Apologetic sites

  • Met. PHILIP (Saliba)'s Promise: Western Rite churches will not be Byzantized.
  • Comments on the Western Rite by Bishop Basil (Essey) of Wichita
  • Lux Occidentalis The Orthodox Western Rite and the Liturgical Tradition of Western Orthodox Christianity, with reference to The Orthodox Missal, Saint Luke's Priory Press, Stanton, NJ, 1995 by the Rev'd John Charles Connely (PDF)
  • On the Question of Western Orthodoxy, by Patriarch Sergius I (Stragorodsky) of Moscow in a letter to Vladimir Lossky


  • The Western Rite, by Alexander Schmemann
  • Notes and Comments on the "Western Rite", Alexander Schmemann.
  • Correspondence on the Western Rite between Bishop Anthony (Gergiannakis) of San Francisco and Fr. Paul W.S. Schneirla
  • The Western Rite – Some Final Comments, by Fr. Steven Peter Tsichlis
  • The "Western Rite": Is It Right for the Orthodox?, by Fr. Michael Johnson

News and views

  • Western Orthodoxy – Breaking news and views on the Western Rite.
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