Diocese of Sourozh

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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.

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 history

In the initial decades of the existence of the diocese, the diocese was centred in London and Oxford, consisting mainly of upper middle-class ex-Anglican converts and families of the first emigration from Russia. During these years, Metr. Anthony encouraged the development of a distinctive style, liturgical practice and ethos within the diocese which reflected the fusion of Franco-Russian emigres and Oxford-London ex-Anglicans in the diocese. This included native-language liturgy, frequent communion, discression over confession before each communion, a relaxed attitude to tradition Russian church dress (e.g. for women: skirts and headscarves), permission of marriage on Saturdays and an avoidance of celebrating the full hierarchical liturgy according to the standard typikon of the Russian Orthodox Church.

After Metr. Anthony's death in 2003, administration of the diocese was given by the Holy Synod of Moscow to Bishop Basil (Osborne) of Sergievo, who had been Anthony's auxiliary. He was never named as the ruling bishop of the diocese but remained temporary administrator until his removal by Moscow on May 9, 2006.

After the fall of Communism and breakup of the Soviet Union, a major influx of new Russian immigration came into Great Britain. Many of these immigrants found church life in the diocese to be foreign to them, owing to its adaptations to British life. A vocal minority of these new immigrants began working to re-Russify Sourozh such that conflict began to emerge between those who wished to remain as they had been and those who wished to "regularize" church life according to models elsewhere in the Russian diaspora.

Tensions between the establishment in Sourozh and the new voices came to a head in April 2006, when Bp. Basil requested from the Moscow Patriarchate that he and any in his diocese who wished to follow him be allowed canonical release to enter into the Ecumenical Patriarchate, specifically the Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe, a diocese of parishes of Russian tradition whose bishop answers to the Ecumenical Patriarch. The character of the Exarchate is similar to the course charted by Anthony in that its parishes are mainly using local languages and appealing to the cultures of Western Europe.

Before making the request, Basil provided for the canonical release of any of his clergy who wished to go elsewhere, and about half have petitioned the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain and received favorable response.[1] Basil's rationale for the request was that the patriarchate could continue to provide pastoral care for those who wished to duplicate Russian church life on British soil, while he could care for those who wished to continue life as it had been under Anthony.

Initially, the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexei II, asked to discuss the matter with Basil, but demanded that he retract his letter to Constantinople, in which he had broached the subject with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Basil refused to retract the letter.

In response to the request of Bp. Basil, Archbishop Innokenty (Vasilyev) of Korsun was dispatched by Moscow and 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 Constantinople if they have a dispute with their superior hierarch.[2]

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[3] and having authority over a vicariate of the parishes which have chosen to follow him into the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[4]

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