Diocese of Sourozh
m (→Recent history: typo)
Revision as of 02:14, September 7, 2006
The Diocese of Sourozh is a diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1962 by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh and takes its name from an ancient diocese in the Crimea which no longer has a bishop. Its patron saint is Stephen of Sourozh. Its temporary ruling bishop is Archbishop Innokenty (Vasilyev) of Korsun (head of Russia's diocese in Western Europe), following the forced retirement of Bishop Basil (Osborne) of Sergievo. The assistant hierarch is Archbishop Anatoly of Kerch. The diocese does not include the stavropegic Moscow Patriarchate churches of Dublin or Manchester.
Before Basil was forced into retirement, the diocese had about thirty parishes in the United Kingdom. Also before Basil's retirement, the diocese published a journal, founded by Metr. Anthony in 1980, entitled Sourozh. The activities of the journal are currently suspended.
Recent historytypikon of the Russian Orthodox Church.
From the last years of the Soviet Union, large numbers of Russian Orthodox economic migrants arrived in the United Kingdom from Russian lands. Many were surprised by and uncomfortable with and unhappy at the idiosyncracies of ethos, style and liturgical practice which were standard in the diocese. A vocal minority of these Orthodox from Russia began to complain vociferously to the Diocese and, later, to the Moscow Patriarchate itself. In their own eyes, they sought the conformity of the ethos and liturgical practice of the diocese with the standard typikon of the Russian Orthodox Church; in the eyes of the Oxford-London ex-Anglicans, this amounted to the Russification of the diocese. During the lifetime of Metr. Anthony, tensions reached a high-point during the 2002 when Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) was Bishop of Kerch.
Shortly before his death, in a manner which is not standard in the Russian Orthodox Church (where bishops are standardly appointed by the Holy Synod), Metr. Anthony nominated as his successor Bishop Basil (Osborne) of Sergievo. After Metr. Anthony's death in 2003, the Holy Synod made Basil administrator of the diocese, but did not name him ruling bishop.
Tensions between the establishment in Sourozh worsened considerably in the years following Metr. Anthony's death. They began to escalate significantly in December 2005, with the suspension of Fr. Andrei Teterin by Bishop Basil, on grounds of disobedience, following a speech which Fr. Andrei made, in which he denied that Metropolitan Anthony was a Father of the Church, asserted that one must be loyal to the aurthorities of one's own jurisdiction, and insisted that the 'Russian Christian movement' should have the word 'Orthodox' in its name. After pressure from Moscow, Fr. Andrei was reinstated - although he continued to be an active agent undermining the local episcopal authority of Bp. Basil.
Matters came to a head in April 2006, when Bp. Basil, without first consulting his diocese or clergy, wrote to the Patriarch of Moscow, requesting that he and any clergy in his diocese who wished to follow him be granted canonical release to enter into the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to form a diocese parallel to the Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe—a diocese of parishes of Russian tradition whose bishop answers to the Ecumenical Patriarch, and which is similar in liturgical style and ethos to the early days of Sourozh. Basil cited as his motivation (a) the active support of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department of External Church Relations for the group in Sourozh undermining him, something he took to constitute the non-canonical interference of one bishop in the diocese of another; (b) the desire to be able to provide adequate pastoral care for those who wished to continue in the earlier ethos and liturgical style of the Sourozh diocese.Shortly after writing to the Patriarch of Moscow, Basil wrote to the Ecumenical Patriarch, asking to be received with those clergy who followed him, as a diocese in the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Initially, the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexei II, asked to discuss the matter with Basil, but when he discovered Basil had already written to Constantinople, demanded the retraction of this letter, and refused to meet Basil until he received such retraction. Basil refused to retract the letter, and learnt soon afterwards that the Moscow Patriarchate intended to retire him.
After learning of this intention, but before being retired, Basil issued letters of canonical release to all his clergy, letters either held back from, or backdated to, the beginning of February. This has been interpreted by some as a deliberate attempt to sabotage the diocese, although this matter—like the canonical validity of the letters themselves—is contested between the pro-Moscow and pro-Paris Exarchate groups. (Moscow's objection was that letters of release are given by one bishop to another, releasing a priest from the first bishop's omophorion to go under that of the second bishop; these letters however were (a) given to the clergy themselves, en masse, and (b) did not specify to what bishop they were being released.)
Archbishop Innokenty (Vasilyev) of Korsun was sent by the patriarchate to read out a patriarchal decree at the Sourozh cathedral in London retiring Basil and placing control of the diocese under Innokenty. Basil's response was to appeal to the arbitration of the Ecumenical Patriarch, citing canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which grant to clergy the right of appeal to the exarch of their diocese or to 'the throne of the imperial city of Constantinople'. Bishop Basil and his supporters have interpreted these canons to demarcate a general ecclesiastical principle that in general a dispute with a superior hierarch may be referred to Constantinople. This interpretation is rejected by Moscow.
On June 8, 2006, the holy synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had considered Basil's appeal and unanimously decided to receive him into its Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe as an auxiliary bishop. It then elected him to this position with the title of Bishop of Amphipolis, serving as an auxiliary of Abp. Gabriel (de Vylder) of Komana and having authority over a vicariate of the parishes which have chosen to follow him into the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This represents only a partial acceptance of Basil's request (which was to be received as a diocesan bishop of a diocese alongside the Franco-Russian exarchate). Moreover, Constantinople's pronouncement was based not merely on the two canons cited by Bishop Basil in his appeal, but also by canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the canon which, according to the Patriarchate of Constantinople's interpretation, grants jurisdication of all 'barbarian' lands (i.e. all lands outside canonically-defined territories) to Constantinople. (The interpretation of this canon is also disputed by Moscow.) The significance of the addition of this canon is at present unclear.
The situation has not yet been resolved.
- Official diocesan website, under Abp. Innokenty
- Sourozh.info, including news, information and statements from Abp. Innokenty
- Dioceseinfo.org, including news, information and statements by those loyal to Bp. Basil (Osborne)
- Cathedral website
- Diocese of Sourozh, Wikipedia entry