Dr. Basil Osborne, formerly of Amphipolis, was a titular bishop under the Ecumenical Patriarchate from 2006 until February of 2010, and was formally known as one of "the bishops of the Throne." He served as an assistant bishop in its Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe, charged with the care of its flock in Great Britain and Ireland, until his retirement in late 2009 and his subsequent defrocking in February of 2010. He previously served as the temporary administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate's Diocese of Sourozh (August 2003 - May 2006) with the title Bishop of Sergievo.
In his position in the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Exarchate in Western Europe, Bishop Basil's had authority over a newly-formed vicariate of parishes in the British Isles entitled the Episcopal Vicariate in Great Britain and Ireland, which consisted of a small number of parishes and some smaller Eucharistic Communities that elected to follow him in his departure from the Diocese of Sourozh (these are enumerated and discussed here). As part of this role, he sits on the council of the Exarchate.
He was forcibly retired from his position as administrator of the Sourozh diocese after seeking incardination into the Ecumenical Patriarchate without receiving release from Moscow. In a letter sent to the Patriarch of Moscow without notice to his clergy, Bishop Basil requested that he and the whole of the Diocese of Sourozh (and not simply those members who wished to follow him) be released from the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, to be received into the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch as a new diocese existing alongside Constantinople's Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe. Without awaiting a full response from the Patriarchate of Moscow, he wrote to the Ecumenical Patriarch on May 2, 2006, again repeating his desire to establish a new diocese under Constantinople. Announcement of Bishop Basil's retirement by the Synod of Moscow followed upon his refusal to withdraw this letter to Constantinople. Following announcement of his retirement in the Sourozh cathedral in London, Basil immediately appealed the decision to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the basis of Canons 9 and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and also Canon 28 of the same Council. Such canons, some argue, endow the Constantinopolitan Patriarch with the privilege of the "ekkliton" (read, hearing appeal) and granting it jurisdiction over regions not already subject to the other four senior Patriarchates, Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. It should be noted, however, that this interpretation of these canons is not undisputed, and runs contrary to the classical interpretations of the canons found in the canonical commentaries of the Church.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate subsequently accepted Bishop Basil into its jurisdiction on the basis of his appeal which followed, although Moscow had not issued a canonical release and had instructed him not to be received into another patriarchate until matters could be looked into by an appropriate commission. Additionally, it requested his presence in person numerous times, which Bishop Basil refused to heed on all occasions, instructing others to do likewise. Given these circumstances, the Moscow Patriarchate did not regard his incardination into the Ecumenical Patriarchate as valid, nor did it recognize the title Bishop of Amphipolis given to him by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on June 8, 2006. Considering him still a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, but in retirement, it referred to him in official correspondence without titular connection, as 'The Right Reverend Bishop Basil (Osborne)'. Similarly, it did not regard as valid the 'letters of release' issued by Bishop Basil to all his former clergy in the Diocese of Sourozh - letters either backdated or prepared earlier, in early February. Bishop Basil was summoned to appear before the MP synod on July 17, Bishop Basil declined to appear. From 19 July 2006 the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate placed him under temporary suspension, forbidding him 'from celebrating divine services until his repentance or until the decision of the matter by a court of bishops'.
The resolutions of the Moscow Patriarchate of July 19, 2006, therefore made Bishop Basil's canonical stature a matter of intense dispute between Moscow and Constantinople. According to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Basil could legitimately celebrate as a bishop; according to Moscow, he was forbidden to do so. Accordingly, no communicant of the Moscow Patriarchate who wished to remain faithful to the decisions of his hierarchy could knowingly participate in a Liturgy at which Basil celebrated as a bishop, nor could they receive Holy Communion from him. Similarly, after these resolutions, no Moscow Patriarchate priest could concelebrate with Basil.
The ancient Patriarchates of Alexandria (June 19, 2006) and Jerusalem (June 6), along with the Church of Cyprus (June 14) and the Church of Albania (August 12), later confirmed their support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's authority to act in the manner that it had.
In March of 2007 negotiations took place in Geneva between representatives of the two patriarchates. These concluded with the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate releasing Bishop Basil from its jurisdiction on March 27. Commenting to the media on the synod's decision, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department of External Church Relations, "The problem arose because Bishop Basil went over to Constantinople illegally, without any request from Constantinople and without any consent from the Moscow Patriarchate. Now Constantinople has requested his documents, which customarily include a letter of release. This means that the Moscow Patriarchate has granted Bishop Basil a canonical leave".
In late 2009, Bishop Basil requested retirement, which was granted him, and in February of 2010, at the age of 72, he requested to be defrocked and laicized in order to have the option of marrying and starting a family, a request which was then granted.
Dr. Osborne was returned to the laity and the parishes which he formerly lead as a Vicariate were then demoted to the status of a deanery.
Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh
|Bishop of Sergievo
|Bishop of Amphipolis
- Parishes of the Vicariate
- Communiqué N° 12-06 du Conseil de l'Archevêché et Déclaration
- Letter "To all the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Sourozh" - Abp. Innokenty of Korsun, July 23, 2006
- See Bishop Basil's letter of 24 April, 2006. On taking this decision without consulting his clergy or diocesan council, see his statements online.
- So the text of his brief letter to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In this letter, unlike his original letter to the Moscow Patriarchate, he indicates that the new diocese would be made up of himself, "together with those clergy and parishes that wish to follow me."
- For a canonical commentary on this canon, see: Prerogatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As an example of the variances in interpretation, regarding Canon 9 of Chalcedon, St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain comments: "[This canon] did not say that if any clergyman has a dispute or difference with the Metropolitan of any diocese or parish whatever, they must be tried before the Bishop of Constantinople…." Zonaras likewise says that the Bishop of Constantinople is not necessarily entitled to sit as judge over all Metropolitans, but (only) over those who are judicially subject to him, and that "The Bishop of Constantinople must hear the appeals only of those who are subject to the Bishop of Constantinople, precisely as the Bishop of Rome must hear the appeals only of those who are subject to the Bishop of Rome." In D. Cummings, trans., The Rudder of the Orthodox Catholic Church: The Compilation of the Holy Canons Saints Nicodemus and Agapius (West Brookfield, MA: The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1983), p. 255.
- Facts that were eventually reported by the commission established to investigate the issue. This report also noted the bishop's use of the internet to propagate information on the disputes outside of official channels.
- Press Release for the Election of Bishop Basil of Amphipolis - Ecumenical Patriarchate, June 8, 2006
- Decision of the Holy Synod concerning Bishop Basil (Osborne) - Moscow Patriarchate, July 19, 2006
- As noted in a Letter by Archbishop Innokenty - 22 May 2006.
- [http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=1559 Russian Church: It considers Osborn's move to Constantinople's jurisdiction invalid as he is still one of its bishops fax, June 14, 2006
- Letter from Pope of Alexandria concerning Bp. Basil Osborne - June 19, 2006
- Letter from Patriarch of Jerusalem concerning Bp. Basil Osborne - June 6, 2006
- Letter from locum tenens of the Archbishop of Cyprus concerning Bp. Basil Osborne - June 14, 2006
- Circular Letter from the Primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania on the subject of the election of Bishop Basil, addressed to His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew II - August 12, 2006
- Refer to ORDOs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the latest being that of 2006, for the official designation of titular bishops as "bishops/hierarchs" of the "Throne" and to the text of canons 9, 17 and 28 for the rights and privileges of Constantinople regarding extraterritorial appeals and jurisdiction in the "varvariki", regions beyond the borders of the other senior patriarchates.
- So the report of the Metropolitan's remarks by Interfax, also available in Russian.