The Communion of the Western Orthodox Churches
Details and information
The Communion of the Western Orthodox Churches (C.W.O.C.) was created on December 25, 2007. It unites three Churches: the French Orthodox Church (F.O.C.), the Orthodox Church of the Gauls (O.C.G.), and the Celtic Orthodox Church (C.O.C.). The C.W.O.C. was created because it brought together three Churches which stem from the same ancient Western tradition and which share the same concept of the undivided Church.
It is a question of mutual recognition, a response to the moving of the Holy Spirit who guided us. We continue to deepen the prophetic dimension of this work which we know to be of divine origin. This is a very demanding alliance and nothing would be more untrue than to believe that it is easy to grow within our differences. We are constructing in time and learning to build on a solid foundation with these materials: faithfulness to our Fathers, mutual respect, charity and truth in the Orthodox faith according to the spiritual intuition that animates us.
Each of our three Churches has its own history. They made their way separately over a long period of time, but Providence had destined them to come together. It took a long route bristling with pitfalls and trials, full of courage, tenacity and humility in order to keep the legacy of our respective Fathers faithfully. Hardly understood and sometimes not at all, ordinarily interpreted as our cultivating a spirit of independence, faithfulness to our traditions has earned us many a difficulty and occasional humiliations. Quite the contrary, it is a precipitous road where we are often put to the test in our permanent quest to once again appropriate our spiritual inheritance and update it for our times. Men and women have suffered and given their lives so that this tradition might come down to us. We could not possibly be unfaithful to it.
Our refusals to enter into one of the historical Churches when we were asked to deny our spiritual tradition have no other motive than this loyalty regarding our Fathers. This faithfulness is obedience to the Will of God, not self-will. Yet the desire for unity is at the heart of our faith. As our Father Saint Tugdual taught, the Church-Body of Christ is absolutely undivided. Each one of our Churches is the Church in its plenitude but would be unable to exist without the other two—and surely not without the other Churches whose faith and traditions are “catholic” according to the term consecrated by the Church Fathers. We desire full communion with the entire Church, but not at the cost of sacrificing our heritages, our spirit and our ways and customs.
Communion as we have desired it is only possible when the Holy Spirit leads us there. Many do not understand the deep meaning of the unity of the Church and the ecclesial consciousness that this implies in a life in Christ where all personal interest must be abandoned. Unless it is built on the Rock (Cf. Mt 7:24-27), no “communion” can last in time. It would not be possible to integrate another Church into our Communion as long as it does not possess the criteria set out in the “Charter” and in the “Counsels, Customs and Directives” of the C.W.O.C. It is not enough to have “orthodox faith”. It is also necessary to have this faith in the right line of a tradition, rite and apostolic filiation to restore a Church of apostolic origin, thanks to a lineage of “apostles” of modern times called by God. We could not establish bonds with “Churches” in whom we do not feel a true ecclesial awareness, an authentic tradition and a same spirit.
The purpose of this brief reflection is to outline the profoundly ontological nature of what unites our three Churches. The Communion of the Western Orthodox Churches is not a mere alliance; rather, it is a communion in the image of the Holy Trinity. Our charter specifies: “At the heart of this Communion our respective spiritual heritages recognize one another and are fulfilled in the image of the Holy Trinity in which the Persons are united without confusion and distinct without separation.”
The last meeting of the episcopal college took a step further in this direction by establishing a ministry that emphasizes the union without confusion of our three Churches. A bishop chosen among his peers will be elected “in order to safeguard and demonstrate” the unity of the Communion, “to see to it that peace is maintained within the episcopal college,” and to represent the Communion “in its relations with the other Churches or with civil institutions.”
You will find all necessary information in our Web Sites, as well as the directories of our parishes and those of the Churches with which we are in communion. Besides these, we have no connections with other ecclesiastical groups, even if they were to claim the same apostolic lineages, the same rites or the same traditions which characterize our Western Orthodoxy, or were to utilize materials such as photos or writings “drawn from” our Sites.