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Diocese of Sourozh

The Diocese of Sourozh is a diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate in the United Kingdom. The Diocese 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. The patron saint of the diocese is Stephen of Sourozh. The current ruling bishop is His Eminence Elisey (Ganaba) of Sourozh and the assistant hierarch is Archbishop Anatoly of Kerch. The diocese does not have jurisdiction over the stavropegic churches of the Moscow Patriarchate in Dublin and Manchester.

Archbishop Innocent (Vasilyev) of Korsun (head of Russia's diocese in Western Europe) served as the temporary ruling bishop the Diocese of Sourozh following the forced retirement of Bishop Basil (Osborne) of Sergievo. Before Bp. Basil, administrator of the Diocese of Sourozh from 2003 to 2006, was forced into retirement, the diocese had about thirty parishes in the United Kingdom. On May 31, 2010, the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia announced the addition of eighteen new parishes to the diocese. [[1]] The diocese publishes a journal, founded by Metr. Anthony in 1980, entitled Sourozh.


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 following the 1917 revolution. During these years the political situation between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union meant that the Moscow Patriarchate could exercise very little control over the Sourozh diocese. 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 traditional 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.

From the last years of the Soviet Union, large numbers of Russian Orthodox economic migrants arrived in the United Kingdom from the Russian lands. Many were surprised by and were uncomfortable with and unhappy at the idiosyncracies of ethos, style, and liturgical practice which were standard in the diocese. A vocal minority of these Orthodox from Russia began to complain vociferously to the Diocese and, later, to the Moscow Patriarchate itself. In their own eyes, they sought the conformity of the ethos and liturgical practice of the diocese with the standard typikon of the Russian Orthodox Church; in the eyes of the Oxford-London ex-Anglicans, this amounted to the Russification of the diocese. During the lifetime of Metr. Anthony, tensions reached a high-point during the 2002 when suffragan Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) was the suffragan Bishop of Kerch.

Shortly before his death, in a manner which is not standard in the Russian Orthodox Church (where bishops are normally appointed by the Holy Synod), Metr. Anthony nominated as his successor Bishop Basil (Osborne) of Sergievo. After Metr. Anthony's death in 2003, the Holy Synod of Moscow appointed Basil administrator of the diocese, but did not name him ruling bishop.

Tensions within the establishment of the Diocese of Sourozh worsened considerably in the years following Metr. Anthony's death. They escalated significantly in December 2005, with the suspension of Fr. Andrei Teterin by Bishop Basil, on grounds of disobedience, following a speech which Fr. Andrei made, in which he denied that Metr. Anthony was a Father of the Church, asserted that one must be loyal to the authorities of one's own jurisdiction, and insisted that the 'Russian Christian movement' should have the word 'Orthodox' in its name. After pressure from Moscow, Fr. Andrei was reinstated—although he continued to be an active agent undermining the local episcopal authority of Bp. Basil.

Matters came to a head in April 2006, when Bp. Basil, without first consulting his diocese or clergy, wrote to the Patriarch of Moscow, requesting that he and any clergy in his diocese who wished to follow him be granted canonical release to enter into the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to form a diocese parallel to the Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe—a diocese of parishes of Russian tradition whose bishop was under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and which used a liturgical style and ethos similar to the early days of Sourozh. Basil cited as his motivation (a) the active support of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department of External Church Relations for the group in Sourozh undermining him, something he took to constitute the non-canonical interference of one bishop in the diocese of another; (b) the desire to be able to provide adequate pastoral care for those who wished to continue in the earlier ethos and liturgical style of the Sourozh diocese. Shortly after writing to the Patriarch of Moscow, Basil wrote to the Ecumenical Patriarch, asking to be received with those clergy who followed him, as a diocese in the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Initially, the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexei II, asked to discuss the matter with Basil, but when he discovered Basil had already written to Constantinople, he demanded retraction of this letter and refused to meet Basil until he received such retraction. Basil refused to retract the letter and learned soon afterwards that the Moscow Patriarchate intended to retire him.

After learning of this intention, but before being retired, Basil issued letters of canonical release to all his clergy, letters either held back from, or backdated to, the beginning of February. This was interpreted by some as a deliberate attempt to sabotage the diocese, although this matter—like the canonical validity of the letters themselves—was contested between the pro-Moscow and pro-Paris Exarchate groups. (Moscow's objection was that letters of release are given by one bishop to another, releasing a priest from the first bishop's omophorion to go under that of the second bishop; these letters, however. were (a) given to the clergy themselves, en masse, and (b) did not specify to what bishop they were being released.)[1]

On May 9, 2006, the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia peremptorily announced Basil's retirement. Archbishop Innokenty (Vasilyev) of Korsun, as temporary administrator of the diocese, was sent by the Moscow patriarchate to read 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 the exarch of their diocese or to 'the throne of the imperial city of Constantinople'.[2] Bishop Basil and his supporters interpreted these canons to demarcate a general ecclesiastical principle that in general a dispute with a superior hierarch may be referred to Constantinople. This interpretation was rejected by Moscow.[3]

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 the Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe as an auxiliary bishop. The Holy Synod of the Church of Constantinople then elected him as the hierarch of his group with the title of Bishop of Amphipolis, serving as an auxiliary of Abp. Gabriel (de Vylder) of Komana[4] and having authority over a vicariate of the parishes which have chosen to follow him into the Ecumenical Patriarchate.[5] This represents a reduced acceptance of Basil's request (which was to be received as a diocesan bishop of a diocese alongside the Franco-Russian exarchate). Moreover, Constantinople's pronouncement was based not merely on the two canons cited by Bishop Basil in his appeal, but also by canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, the canon which, according to the Patriarchate of Constantinople's interpretation, grants jurisdiction of all 'barbarian' lands (i.e. all lands outside canonically defined territories) to Constantinople, an interpretation that has been disputed by Moscow.

On October 6, 2006, the Holy Synod in Moscow announced that Archimandrite Elisey (Ganaba), who was head of the Russian Spiritual Mission in Jerusalem, was to be consecrated Bishop of Bogorodsky, assistant bishop of the Diocese of Korsun, with responsibility for the administration of the Diocese of Sourozh.[6]

On December 27, 2007, Bp. Elisey was appointed the ruling Bishop of the Diocese of Sourozh and on February 2, 2010 he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop.

Ruling bishops


External links