Diocese of Sourozh

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The Diocese of Sourozh is the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in Great Britain and Ireland. It was founded in 1962 by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh and takes its name from a defunct diocese in the Crimea. Its patron saint is Stephen of Sourozh. Its temporary ruling bishop according to the Moscow Patriarchate is Archbishop Innokenty (Vasilyev) of Korsun (head of Moscow's diocese in Western Europe), but many in the diocese regard the rightful head as being Bishop Basil (Osborne) of Sergievo. The assistant hierarch is Archbishop Anatoly of Kerch.

The diocese has about thirty parishes in Great Britain and Ireland. It also publishes a journal, founded by Anthony in 1980, entitled Sourozh.

Recent history

During Metr. Anthony's tenure, he worked to make the diocese localized, that is, not merely a diocese for Russian immigrants, but a church viable and integrated into British and Irish life. This integration provided, among other things, for an increase in the use of English, according to the local pastoral needs of each parish.

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. 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.[1]

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