Basileios of Smyrna
His Eminence Basileios of Smyrna was a hierarch under the jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople serving as Bishop of Anchialos and of Smyrna from 1865 to 1910. He was active in administrative issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and governance of the Theological school of Halki as well as the governance of the episcopal territories of which he was entrusted.
Basileios was born on March 25, 1835 in Zagoritsani or Zagoritsa of Kastoria province that later was renamed Vasileiada in his honor. His family included many priests. Nicholas, the father of his mother Aikaterini, was a priest who had settled in Constantinople and served in Vlaga for 25 years. Cosmas, the son of Nicholas, and nephew Emmanuel were priests. In 1847, after completing his basic education in his home town, Basileios was sent, at the age of 13, to Constantinople to the care of his grandfather and uncle where he completed his education at the municipal school of Vlaga, the preliminary school of Fanari, and the Great School of the Nation.
In 1853, Basileios entered the Theological School of Halki during the time when Bishop Constantine (Typaldos) of Stavroupoli, the founder and first director of the School, was still director. At Halki, he was inspired with a love for refined language, the study of the ancient Greek classics, and the fathers of the Church. He distinguished himself in ancient Greek and Latin and was entrusted by Bp. Constantine with the teaching of the certain subjects, notably Latin, to the School’s junior classes.
On March 13, 1860, Basileios was ordained deacon by Bp. Constantine. In July 1860 at the age of 26, he was graduated with a doctor of Theology degree and immediately was engaged as archdeacon by Bp. Ioannikios of Nicea. As Bp. Ioannikios was almost permanently occupied in Constantinople, the supervision of the diocese’s spiritual life fell upon Basileios. Thus, when Bp. Sophronius of Anchialos resigned in 1865 due to a chronic illness, Bp. Ioannikios recommended the election of Basileios on September 25, 1865 to the see of Anchialos, which was on what is now the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria. On September 27, the Holy Synod elected him Bishop of Anchialos, during the patriarchate of Sophronius III.
The richest of the Greek speaking inhabitants who developed commercial dealings with Constantinople, Romania (where there were rich settlements of people from Anchialos), and Russia helped promote the area’s educational levels. Within this relatively favorable climate, Basileios supported the foundation of new schools and the improvement of existing educational establishments. He also cared for his ailing predecessor Sophronius, who finally died in 1867.
In October 1870, Bp. Basileios was called by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to assume, temporarily, the directorship of the Theological School of Halki that, after the departure of its first director Bp. Constantine, was in turmoil due to confrontations among its students and the headmasters who succeeded him. Upon accepting the directorship on October 23, 1870, Bp. Basileios established firm discipline. Believing that their associations in Constantinople were the cause of the troubles at Halki, he prohibited the students traveling to Constantinople where a tense atmosphere had developed within the Ecumenical Patriarchate after the issuance of the decree of the February 27, 1870 by the Sublime Porte that established the Bulgarian Exarchate. The Orthodox Greek community of Constantinople split on the choice of an uncompromising or, respectively, a compromising attitude toward the Bulgarians’ demands for ecclesiastical autonomy. Naturally, this disunity affected the behavior of the pupils of the Theological School.
Appreciating Bp. Basileios’ actions on the issue, Patriarch Anthimos VI, recommended him as successor to the ailing Bishop Paisios of Caesarea. However, Bp. Basileios refused the appointment to everyones surprise. Bp. Basileios basically had two reasons for his refusal: 1) his firm opinion against movement of bishops because he believed that frequent transfers of prominent clergy promoted abuse and corruption and 2) that there was strong opposition to the Patriarch's choice by almost all the large community of Caesareans in Constantinople who supported and, finally, obtained Eustathios Kleovoulos as Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.
As Bp. Basileios had returned from Halki to Anchialos in September 1871, he was not present at the Local Synod that was called in August/September in 1872 that condemned the supporters of the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate as schismatic. While he had signed the patriarchal invitation for convening the Local Synod on April 27, 1872, he was skeptical that a hard political stance had to be maintained towards the Bulgarian side, a stance that finally led to the Schism. He favored ideas that had been proposed at the time by other important members of the Orthodox clergy, including Patriarch Cyril II of Jerusalem and the professors of the Theological School of Halki, Helias Tantalidis and Ioannis Anastasiadis (later Bishop of Caesarea). His stand led to a proposal by the Bulgarian Exarchate to Basileios to become part of the exarchate – a proposal Basileios refused.
In September 1873, during Patriarch Joachim's second patriarchate of 1873 to 1878, Bp. Basileios was recalled to the directorship of the Theological School at Halki after the failure of the director, Gregorios Foteinos, to maintain discipline among the School’s students. He remained the director until July 1876. While he was director, the Patriarchate assigned Bp. Basileios and Ioannis Anastasiadis to determine, separately, the validity of the ordinations that were being made by the clergy who had joined to the Bulgarian Exarchate. Based on the principle of leniency, Bp.Basileios’ opinion supported the validity of the ordinations in question.
In 1876, Bp. Basileios returned to the Diocese of Anchialos, to a tense situation caused by the Eastern Crisis of 1875-78. In June 1877, he was directed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to leave Anchialos and retire to the Monastery of St. Anastasia in Sozopoli. This came after demands by the Porte for dismal from his duties because of the sympathy he had allegedly shown toward the advancing Russian troops during the Turkish-Russian war of 1877-78. After intervention by the banker Georgios Zarifis, Bp. Basileios returned to Constantinople during the patriarchate of Joachim III and became a patriarchal supervisor. During his stay of three years in Constantinople he became a close friend of Joachim III. On February 11, 1881, the Holy Synod reinstated him as bishop of Anchialos.
After the death of Bishop Meletius of Smyrna in December 1884, the Holy Synod elected Bp. Basileios to the vacant position. Intense backstage activity had taken place before his appointment. The election of Bp. Basileios was supported by the archdeacon of Smyrna, Stefanos Soulidis, who had been a pupil of Bp. Basileios at Halki. Soulidis convinced the leading members of the Greek Orthodox community in Smyrna to ask for the transfer of Bp. Basileios to Smyrna, while members of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were able to persuade Bp. Basileios to accept the transfer over his strongly held opinions against the movement of bishops. On December 22, 1884, Basileios was finally elected Bishop of Smyrna. He was enthroned in his new diocese in March 1885.
As the Diocese of Smyrna formed the center of the ecclesiastical and communal administration of the city, the bishop led the general meetings of the Elders of the Orthodox Greek community as well as the community’s Ecclesiastical and Mixed Courts. In assuming these duties, his administrative capabilities that had already been tested at the Diocese of Anchialos, coupled with his knowledge of foreign languages, that included French, German, and Ottoman Turkish, proved valuable.
Among his activities he led the restoration and reinforcement of the educational movement in Smyrna. During his episcopate the large Girl’s School “Agia Foteini” was moved, in 1886-7, to a new location, financed by Smyrna’s great benefactors Dimitrius and Sofia Kioupetzoglou. In 1889, new boy’s and girl’s schools were established in the Terevinthos (Tsikoudia) neighborhood, where also a church was built during 1894 to1904. Also, Bp. Basileios initiated the upgrade, in 1907, of the primary school next to the Church of St. Dimitrius to Chatzeantonion Six-Form School, that was funded by a bequest from Mimikos Chatzeantoniou.
During the latter years of his life, Bp. Basileios, in addition to leading his diocese, was again called to synodal duties at the patriarchate in Constantinople. During the 1895 to 1997 years of the patriarchate of Anthimus VII, his duties in Constantinople included membership in the Continuous National Mixed Council and presidency of the board of the Great School of the Nation, as well as participation in the 1897 election of Metropolitan Constantine of Ephesus as the new Ecumenical Patriarch, Constantine V.
On his return to Smyrna in 1897, Bp. Basileios was confronted with the clash that had become more intense between the Elders and the Central Committee for control of community issues, issues that over the next three years he tried to sooth the community feelings.
In 1901, he was again called to Constantinople, as a member of the Holy Synod. As previously, he participated in the election of Joachim III as Ecumenical Patriarch for a second time, an election in which he also was a candidate. In 1902, Bp. Basileios was also elected president of the board of the Ioakeimeio girl’s school.
In 1904, he returned to Smyrna where he found community relations still in conflict. Bp. Basileios also tried to solve the serious problem in the diocese of payment of wages to the lower levels of the clergy. In February 1905, he forecasted that the organization “Eusebeia” would take over the payment of wages to parish priests and deacons and, in return, the Eusebeia would collect the so-called “chance” incomes that included payments for such services as christenings, weddings, and funerals. During the following years, he initiated administrative functions aimed at improving governance in the community including a committee, in January 1906, to supervise the functioning of the Greek Orthodox Schools in Smyrna and, in 1907, a committee of schoolmasters from the lyceums of the city to examine the “abilities and conduct of all applicant” teachers.
Bp. Basileios reposed on January 23, 1910, a death that caused great grief among the inhabitants of Smyrna.
Basileios of Smyrna
|Bishop of Anchialos
|Bishop of Smyrna