Documents Old Believers

The Decision of the Council of Bishops of the ROCOR Concerning the Old Ritual. 1974

The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has considered the question of the attitude of the Russian Church to the customs and rites which She observed in former days, known by the general name of the old ritual, and contained in the liturgical books printed before the middle of the 17th century, and also the interdicts and anathemas which were imposed by the Moscow Councils of 1656 and 1667, and by individual persons in respect to the observation of these customs.


  1. The Orthodox Church of Christ has from ancient times permitted variations in local usages on condition of unity in the truths of the Faith;
  1. The old rite does not express any un-Orthodox teaching of which the participants of the aforementioned councils accused them;
  1. The anathemas pronounced by these councils were the cause of many disasters for the Russian Church, and led not to peace in the Church, which was the aim of their authors, but to schism and the falling away from the Church of many adherents of the old ritual, in the midst of which intolerable “slanderous expressions” were employed by both sides, and also to the persecution of those who held differing views, as a result of which many zealots of the old rite suffered;
  1. The old rite comprises a part of our common heritage which should not be uprooted;
  1. From the year 1800, the use of the old ritual was permitted by the Russian Church, and the interdicts on active members were lifted and revoked;
  1. In the last century, the Russian Church, headed by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, took steps to revoke the anathemas on the old ritual, but this was not achieved due to misunderstandings;
  1. The Pre-Council Commission of 1906, in which Metropolitan Anthony [Khrapovitsky] actively participated, resolved to petition the future local Council “to revoke the anathemas on the faith who use two fingers to make the sign of the cross, as they were imposed because of bad feelings” and “to rescind [the anathemas], just as the Council of 1667 rescinded the anathemas of the Council of the One Hundred Chapters (Stoglav) on those who did not use two fingers in their devotions”;
  1. The Council of 1917-18, although it did not formulate a conciliar act concerning this question (since it had no possibility of peacefully concluding its business), still it resolved, on the testimony of Metropolitan Anthony, to rescind these anathemas, to accept into our Church the Old Ritualist bishops at the rank then held and to provide Old Ritualist bishops for the Orthodox Old Ritualists.  But Patriarch Tikhon, shortly after his accession to the patriarchal throne, appointed the first Orthodox Old Ritualist bishop (who was subsequently martyred) as bishop of Okhten, Simon (Shleyev), a defender of the old rite and supported of the rescinding of the anathemas;
  1. Their Beatitudes, Metropolitans Anthony [Khrapovitsky] and Anastas [Gribanovsky], themselves repeatedly served according to the old books in Orthodox Old Ritualist churches;
  1. The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, by a decree dated 26 August/8 September 1964, recognized the old rite as Orthodox, and blessed its use by those who so desired;
  1. The Third Council Abroad, with the participation of the clergy and laity, persistently request the Synod to life those anathemas….


  1. To consider the ancient liturgical customs and rites contained in the service books of the Russian Church before the middle of the 17th century as Orthodox and salvific;
  1. To consider the interdicts and anathemas imposed in the past of the Councils of 1656 and 1667, and also by certain individuals who took part in the Councils, because of misunderstandings, as null and void and rescinded AS IF THEY HAD NEVER BEEN;
  1. To permit the use of the old rite by who wish to observe it, and who are in communion with the Orthodox Church, provided, however, that this does not result in any confusion in the church life of existing parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
  1. Not to demand from those Old Ritualists, who wish to be accepted into liturgical communion, a renunciation of the Old Rite,  nor acceptance by them of contemporary rites.  Also, to appoint priests for them and, if necessary, bishops who will be obliged to observe accurately the ancient ceremonies;
  1. To call upon the Old Ritualists, on their part, to respect our rites as worthy of equal honor as the old;
  1. While grieving over the split that occurred and, in particular, over the persecutions inflicted on the adherents to the Old Rite, the Synod of Bishops, however, does not consider that it has the right to judge concerning the responsibility of specific individuals for what took place, since the participants have long ago appeared before the judgment seat of God to Whom they had to give an account for their deeds.  The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has never participated in inimical actions against the Old Ritualists.  Therefore, the Synod of Bishops appeals to them to forget those previous offenses and injustices, and instead of remembering this evil, to consider rather how to so arrange their church life in exile in the best way for the salvation of Christian souls
  1. The Synod of Bishops calls upon all Orthodox Christians not to resume, out of imaginary zeal for Orthodoxy, unnecessary disputes over ritual, and in particular, not to repeat the intolerable and censorious expressions, since both rituals have been sanctified.  Such expressions, whenever and by whomever used in the past, the Synod of Bishops rejects and considers rescinded.

+ Metropolitan Philaret

President of the Synod of Bishops

Members of the Synod

+Archbishop Nikon

+Archbishop Seraphim SF

+Archbishop Filofei

+Archbishop Vitaly

+Archbishop Antony

+Archbishop Antony LA

+Archbishop Antony SF

+Archbishop Seraphim

+Archbishop Theodosy

+Bishop Nektary

+Bishop Constantine


+Bishop Paul

+Bishop Lavr

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