Basil (Rodzianko) of San Francisco

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His Grace the Right Reverend Bishop Basil (Rodzianko) of San Francisco was a prominent Orthodox personality through his religious radio programs, by which he became a prominent voice for the Orthodox faith in the Soviet Union over a period of forty years in the late twentieth century period of unsuccessful efforts to eliminate Christianity there. He also lectured widely about Russian spirituality and Orthodox Christianity.

Early life

Born Vladimir Rodzianko on May 22, 1915, Bp. Basil was from a prominent Russian family. He was born on the family estate in Ekaterinoslav in what is now Ukraine. His grandfather, Mikhail Rodzianko, was the president of the Russian Imperial Duma during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. In 1919, following the Bolshevik coup, his family emigrated to Serbia in Yugoslavia to escape the communist regime. There, the young Vladimir attended Russian schools. His two interests, as he grew up, were the priesthood and the new technology of radio. He continued his education with a course of study in theology at the University of Belgrade from which he graduated in 1937. Also, in 1937 he married Marya Kolubayev. He then continued post-graduate studies at the University of London.

Returning to Yugoslavia, he was ordained a deacon and then a priest in Serbia in March 1941. Fr. Vladimir served as a priest in a number of villages in northern Yugoslavia until 1949 enduring first the Nazi occupation and then that of the communists. His life was more difficult under the communists and, for preaching about the ungodly government, he was arrested. The charge against him was the crime of promulgating illegal religious propaganda. Sentenced to eight years hard labor, Fr. Vladimir was stripped of his cassock and cross and shared the hard prison life with his fellow prisoners, enduring with them a plague of fleas. While forbidden to perform any divine services, with the help of even the non-Orthodox prisoners, he was able to fulfill the requests of the Orthodox prisoners in "blessing of the waters" on Theophany.

Radio broadcasts and world role

In 1949, with a change in policies by the Tito government and with the intercession of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Fr. Vladimir was released from prison and reunited with his wife, Marya, and their two sons, Vladimir and Michael. After his release they first traveled to France and then on to England where the family settled. Again functioning as a priest, Fr. Vladimir entered into his passion with radio when he was offered a position broadcasting on BBC services. With the BBC, and other radio facilities, he produced for the next forty years religious programs that were broadcast to the Soviet Union. He also lectured widely on Orthodoxy and was active with the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius.

The effectiveness of his broadcasts made him a target of the Soviet KGB. This attention would bring tragedy to the family when his teenage grandson was killed in an assassination attempt upon Fr. Vladimir's life. This tragedy was followed by the death of his wife, Mary, in 1978.

Following the death of his wife, Fr. Vladimir was tonsured a monk in 1979, taking the name Basil. After taking his vows in England, Hieromonk Basil was received by the Orthodox Church in America from the Moscow Patriarchate. Then, on January 12, 1980, after his arrival in the United States, Hieromonk Basil was consecrated Bishop of Washington as auxiliary to Metropolitan Theodosius, the primate of the OCA. In November 1980, Bishop Basil became bishop of the Diocese of San Francisco and West. He served the San Francisco diocese until his retirement on April 25, 1984, which was forced as a result of what Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov has described in his chapter on the bishop's life in his book Everyday Saints as opposition to him by a clique within the jurisdiction. Yet his stature within world Orthodoxy only continued to grow.

After his retirement Bp. Basil returned to Washington, DC where he again began his religious broadcasts to the Soviet Union. As conditions changed in Russia with the fall of the Bolshevik government Bp. Basil was able to present his broadcasts directly over the Russian radio and television facilities. Then, in May 1991, Patriarch Aleksei asked Bp. Basil to lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to bring back to Russia for a celebration commemorating Ss. Cyril and Methodius the holy fire from the tomb of Christ that miraculously ignites each Pascha. Bp. Basil and his pilgrims returned, first stopping in Constantinople for the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch, then traveling through the countries of southeastern Europe where SS Cyril and Methodius preached arriving at the Uspensky Sobor (Dormition Cathedral) in the Kremlin. After the Liturgy, the Patriarch with Bp. Basil led through the streets of Moscow a procession that had not been seen in Moscow for over seventy years.

Bp. Basil remained active among the Orthodox of Washington DC, especially among the new Russian immigrants, until his death on September 17, 1999. He was 84 years old. He was buried at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC.


The Washington, DC-based Holy Archangels Foundation has held annual retreats focused on his legacy and commemorating his life and works, starting in 2010, and maintains a website about him. The bestselling book Everyday Saints by Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov includes a chapter on him entitled "His Eminence the Novice." Bp. Basil's apartment in Washington is maintained much as he left it, and faithful gather for services often at his home chapel there.[1]


  1. "But as it happens, he ended up like a fish out of water, not so much for his energetic missionary activity as for his conflict with a very powerful lobby -- a group who advocated certain practices that have no place in the Orthodox Church. As a result, Bishop Basil had to retire on a very modest pension" (Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), Everyday Saints, (Pokrov Publications, 2012), p. 374). According to sources who knew Bishop Basil, a gay lobby is what Archimandrite Tikhon is referring to here.

External links

Succession box:
Basil (Rodzianko) of San Francisco
Preceded by:
Dmitri (Royster)
Bishop of Washington, D.C.
Succeeded by:
Theodosius (Lazor)
Preceded by:
John (Shahovskoy)
Bishop of San Francisco
Succeeded by:
Tikhon (Fitzgerald)
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