Basil Osborne

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Bishop Basil (Osborne)

His Grace the Right Reverend Bishop Basil (Osborne) of Amphipolis is a titular bishop attached to and under the Ecumenical Patriarchate and is formally known as one of "the bishops of the Throne." He serves as an auxiliary 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. 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 authority is over a newly-formed vicariate of parishes in the British Isles entitled the Episcopal Vicariate of Great Britain and Ireland, which currently consists 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).[1] As part of this role, he sits on the council of the Exarchate.[2]

He was forcibly retired from his position as administrator of the Sourozh diocese after requesting release from Moscow and incardination into the Ecumenical Patriarchate, along with those of his flock who wished to follow him.[3] The announcement of his retirement came upon his refusal to withdraw his letter to Constantinople (sent after his request for release from Moscow) which requested incardination and noted his request for release from Moscow.[4] After his forced retirement was announced in the Sourozh cathedral in London, Basil immediately appealed the decision to the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the basis of Canons 9[5] and 17 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and also Canon 28[6] of the same Council, such canons, it is argued, 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. For example, regarding Canon 9 of Chalcedon, St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain comments:

"So it is evident that the Canon means that if any bishop or clergyman has a dispute or difference with the Metropolitan of an exarchy, let him apply to the Exarch of the diocese; which is the same thing as saying that clergymen and metropolitans subject to the throne of Constantinople must have their case tried either before the Exarch of the diocese in which they are situated, or before the Bishop of Constantinople, as before a Patriarch of their own. It 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…. That is why Zonaras too 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 (interpretation of c. XVII of the present 4th C.). And in his interpretation of c. V of Sardica the same authority says: "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." [7]

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. At the time, the Moscow Patriarchate does 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.[8] 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)'.[9]

At least by implication the Moscow Patriarchate did not recognize the act of Constantinople in accepting Basil, and regarded him as remaining under its jurisdiction. Holy Synod on June 13, 2006. Bishop Basil was summoned to appear before the MP synod on July 17,[10] Bishop Basil declined to appear. Since 19 July 2006 the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate had 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'.[9]

The resolutions of the Moscow Patriarchate of the July 19, 2006, made Bp. 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 wishes to remain faithful to the decisions of his hierarchy may knowingly participate in a liturgy at which Basil celebrates as a bishop, nor may they receive Holy Communion from him. Similarly, after these resolutions, no Moscow Patriarchate priest may concelebrate with Basil.[3]

The ancient Patriarchates of Alexandria (June 19, 2006)[11] and Jerusalem (June 6)[12], along with the Church of Cyprus (June 14)[13] and the Church of Albania (August 12)[14], have recognized the reception by Constantinople of Bp. Basil.

(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.)

In March of 2007 negotiations took place in Geneva which concluded with Moscow giving Basil a canonical release to the jurisdiction of Constantinople.[15]

Succession box:
Basil Osborne
Preceded by:
Anthony (Bloom)
Bishop of Sergievo,
Administrator of the Diocese of Sourozh

Succeeded by:
Innokenty (Vasilyev)
Preceded by:
Bishop of Amphipolis
Succeeded by:
Help with box


  1. Parishes of the Vicariate
  2. Communiqué N° 12-06 du Conseil de l'Archevêché et Déclaration
  3. 3.0 3.1 Letter "To all the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Sourozh" - Abp. Innokenty of Korsun, July 23, 2006
  4. Letter to Patriarch Bartholomew I - Bp. Basil (Osborne), May 2, 2006
  5. "If any Clergyman has a dispute with another, let him not leave his own Bishop and resort to secular courts, but let him first submit his case to his own Bishop, or let it be tried by referees chosen by both parties and approved by the Bishop. Let anyone who acts contrary hereto be liable to Canonical penalties. If, on the other hand, a Clergyman has a dispute with his own Bishop, or with some other Bishop, let it be tried by the Synod of the province. But if any Bishop or Clergyman has a dispute with the Metropolitan of the same province, let him apply either to the Exarch of the diocese or to the throne of the imperial capital Constantinople, and let it be tried before him." (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. 253)
  6. "Everywhere following the decrees of the Holy Fathers, and aware of the recently recognized Canon of the one hundred and fifty most God-beloved Bishops who convened during the reign of Theodosius the Great of pious memory, who became emperor in the imperial city of Constantinople otherwise known as New Rome; we too decree and vote the same things in regard to the privileges and priorities of the most holy Church of that same Constantinople and New Rome. And this is in keeping with the fact that the Fathers naturally enough granted the priorities to the throne of Old Rome on account of her being the imperial capital. And motivated by the same object and aim the one hundred and fifty most God-beloved Bishops have accorded the like priorities to the most holy throne of New Rome, with good reason deeming that the city which is the seat of an empire, and of a senate, and is equal to old imperial Rome in respect of other privileges and priorities, should be magnified also as she is in respect of ecclesiastical affairs, as coming next after her, or as being second to her. And it is arranged so that only the Metropolitans of the Pontic, Asian, and Thracian dioceses shall be ordained by the most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople aforesaid, and likewise the Bishops of the aforesaid dioceses which are situated in barbarian lands; that is to say, that each Metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the Bishops of the province, shall ordain the Bishops of the province, just as is prescribed try the divine Canons. But the Metropolitans of the aforesaid dioceses, as has been said, are to be ordained by the Archbishop of Constantinople, after the elections have first been conducted in accordance with custom, and have been reported to him."(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. 271-276) Concerning the meaning of the reference to "barbarian Lands", St. Nicodemos writes "Not only are the Metropolitans of the said dioceses to be ordained by him, but indeed also the bishops located in barbarian regions that border on the said dioceses, as, for instance, those called Alani are adjacent to and flank the diocese of Pontus, while the Russians border on that of Thrace" (p. 276). And so the canon does not refer to all unclaimed territory on the planet, according to St. Nicodemos, but only to a specific area on the border of a specific area.
  7. 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. One might also point out the absurdity of not reading the canon as St. Nichodemos suggests. You would have to conclude that Constantinople could even overrule Rome... something that even the pre-schism Roman Church would never have accepted, nor is it likely that any other Patriarchate of that time would have either.
  8. Press Release for the Election of Bishop Basil of Amphipolis - Ecumenical Patriarchate, June 8, 2006
  9. 9.0 9.1 Decision of the Holy Synod concerning Bishop Basil (Osborne) - Moscow Patriarchate, July 19, 2006
  10. [ Russian Church: It considers Osborn's move to Constantinople's jurisdiction invalid as he is still one of its bishops fax, June 14, 2006
  11. Letter from Pope of Alexandria concerning Bp. Basil Osborne - June 19, 2006
  12. Letter from Patriarch of Jerusalem concerning Bp. Basil Osborne - June 6, 2006
  13. Letter from locum tenens of the Archbishop of Cyprus concerning Bp. Basil Osborne - June 14, 2006
  14. 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
  15. Canonical conflict over Bishop Basil Osborn’s going over to Constantinople settled - Metropolitan Kirill

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