Orthodox Christian





It has been published in the Web Site www.sourozh.org


1st  FEBRUARY 2003

The EGM was called to consider the implications of Metropolitan Anthony's wish to resign and his desire that the Holy Synod should appoint Bishop Basil of Sergievo as the ruling bishop of the Diocese of Sourozh.

Two motions were put forward and voted on. The first accepted in sorrow and understanding Metropolitan Anthony’s wish to retire on grounds of failing health. It was passed with one abstention.

The second motion stated that ‘the Diocesan Assembly supports Metropolitan Anthony's desire to see Bishop Basil appointed by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church as ruling bishop of the Diocese of Sourozh, and furthermore expresses its own wish to see him appointed to this position.’ After numerous expressions of support for Bishop Basil and appreciation for the work he has done in his ten years as Assistant Bishop, the motion was passed by an overwhelming majority. This decision is naturally subject to confirmation by the Holy Synod. Archbishop Anatoly declined a proposal by one or two members that he should become ruling bishop. He accepted, however, Metropolitan Anthony’s proposal that he should exercise special oversight of the pastoral care of the Russian-speaking community in the Diocese of Sourozh.



Announcement by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh – made after the Liturgy on Sunday 2nd February, 2003


We have had a meeting yesterday of our Diocesan Assembly, representatives of all the parishes and all the clergy in order to face a new turn in the life of our diocese.  First of all, I announced that I am going to ask the Patriarch to set me free.  I am coming in a year and a half to ninety years of age.  I am now the oldest in age and the most ancient in consecration of all the bishops of the Russian Church.  I have tried to work as best I could, not well, but as I could, for fifty-four years now.  And I cannot continue.  Age is breaking me down.  But not only age.  My health has been brutally shaken in the last months.  And I have to undergo both operation and treatment.  And I will not be able to continue to work as I worked so far.  These reasons the Assembly has accepted with love, with warmth, with the love and warmth which, I believe, I do not deserve but which I accept with deep, deep gratitude.

            The next step is the appointment of my successor.  I have suggested, only suggested to the Assembly the name of Bishop Basil.  He is my choice.  He has been for me a help for me for a number of years.  He has been faithful.  He has been loyal.  He has worked hard to fill the gaps which I left right and left because of age and health.  The decision is not ours.  It is for the Patriarchate to decide whether he will or not be the ruling bishop of this diocese.  So we are offering him, I was about to say, as a victim, because to rule means is to carry a very heavy cross.  We offer him as a victim to the Patriarchate which is to decide.  Whatever the decision, we will take it as an act of God.  The acts of God are very strange at times.  I never thought that God could have an idea so weird, so unexpected, as to appoint me to this place.  Bishop Basil will accept the nomination.  But he will also need a great deal of support if someone else is appointed instead of him.  Because he is prone to think that he is not worthy of the functions he fulfils, that he is not worthy of being of what he has been for us and with us all these years.  And the appointment of another man he will probably take as evidence that he is not worthy.  We must then give him all the support, all the courage, all the inspiration we can because he is worthy of them.  He has been faithful, loyal and inspiring to many.

            In addition to this, as our parish has increased enormously in Russian-speaking people, I am going to ask the assent of the Assembly for Archbishop Anatoly to be put in special charge of all Russian-speakers.  It will not mean dividing the parish or the diocese.  But each of them will fulfil better than the other, one function or the other.  Support them both and support me also.  I have come to the end of my tether.  I will still try to do all there is in my power - but they are at the beginning of a very complex period of life when all the tensions, all the disagreements, all the misunderstandings that have grown in the course of the last nine months  in this parish and partly in the diocese must be faced and overcome not by rules, not by disciplinary measures but by a mutual love, by supporting one another, by building the Church of God.  So pray that the decision of the Patriarchate should be the decision of God, pray that strength be given to Bishop Basil and Archbishop Anatoly, pray that our parish in particular, and our diocese should grow into a unity more mature, more complete, more perfect than we have achieved with me.






AT ALL SAINTS CATHEDRAL ON THE 16th February  2003.  



Orthodox churches in the Russian diaspora throughout the world have usually joined one of three jurisdictions: (1) the Moscow Patriarchal jurisdiction; (2) the Russian Church in Exile; or (3) a third jurisdiction centred either in Paris or New York. The Paris jurisdiction is under Constantinople. The New York jurisdiction was granted autocephaly by the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1970.


These three divisions in the past were often given what was basically a political interpretation: the Church in Exile was said to be made up of monarchists and anti-communists; the Patriarchal church was thought to be filled with communists and their sympathisers; and the ‘Metropolia’ and the ‘rue Daru’ were the ‘democrats’.  The Patriarchal Church was not, of course, filled with communists, but it did attract people who wished to express solidarity with the suffering Mother Church.


The three jurisdictions should also be analysed in relation to the MOSCOW COUNCIL (SOBOR) of 1917-18. This Council, the first to be held in Russia for more than 200 years, was called in order to renew the life of the Russian church. This it did. First of all it re-established the Patriarchate, which had been abolished by Peter the Great. It also introduced other important new elements into Church life:  the establishment, for the first time, of a parish council in every parish; the introduction of consultation with the parishes in connection with the assignment of priests; the establishment of independent Church courts.  Another very important measure was the introduction of the election of diocesan bishops by the diocese themselves.


Because of the 1917 Revolution it was impossible to implement all these changes. Only the election of a Patriarch was effected, and the communist regime was not happy even with this.  The three divisions in the Russian diaspora can best be understood in terms of their relationship to the Council (Sobor). The Church in Exile has sometimes seemed to behave as if the Council had never taken place. Their concerns have been elsewhere. The Patriarchal Church recognised that it was impossible to introduce these new measures, but its members put loyalty to the Patriarchate above the implementation of the changes. The ‘Metropolia’ in the United States and the ‘rue Daru’ jurisdiction in France, however, decided that they would introduce these changes, with the local autonomy that they implied, even if this meant separating themselves from Moscow.


It is against this background that one can understand what has taken place in Britain. It is important to notice that there are only two jurisdictions here: the Moscow Patriarchal jurisdiction and the Church in Exile.  This is because Metropolitan Anthony was able to reconcile in his own person – and in the Diocese – two of the three tendencies. He remained loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate AND introduced into the Diocese the changes called for by the 1917-18 Council.  This he was able to do because he was able to maintain the independence - or rather, the local autonomy - of the Diocese vis-à-vis  the Patriarchate and encourage the Diocese to develop along the lines indicated by the Moscow Council of 1917-18.  An indication of the merit of this path is the fact that only in Britain is the Patriarchal jurisdiction the largest of the local Russian diaspora jurisdictions. Everywhere else the Patriarchal jurisdiction is the smallest.


It seems absolutely clear to me that the only way forward is to follow the path shown us by Metropolitan Anthony, and to combine loyalty to the Patriarchate with internal autonomy.  If we do not do this, the ‘fault lines’ that exist elsewhere in the Russian diaspora  will appear here as well and the Diocese will split up(Editorial emphasis of OCC) This does not have to take place. The past 40 years have shown that it is quite possible to maintain local autonomy within the Patriarchate. We have demonstrated this very clearly here in Britain. If we become truly aware of what we must do if we are to stay together, we can achieve this, in spite of the fact that even today, nearly twelve years after the fall of communism, it has not yet been possible to implement the decisions of the 1917-18 Council in Russia.


There is another very important reason, I believe, for following the course set out by Metropolitan Anthony. There is a very real desire on the part of the Patriarchal Church to see all elements of the Russian diaspora united under its omofor, particularly in Western Europe. We have to accept, however, that the two splinter groups will never willingly re-join the Patriarchal Church unless they can preserve the internal autonomy they now have, in other words, unless the local autonomy called for by the 1917-18 Council is implemented in the diaspora. Neither the Church in Exile nor the Paris jurisdiction is going to re-establish links with the Patriarchate of Moscow on any other basis.


We should therefore be taking a lead in this area, showing the other jurisdictions what can be done within the Moscow Patriarchate, how it is possible to live with the local autonomy that enables a diaspora community to react appropriately to the very real challenges it faces. By doing so we will be giving a lead to the other Orthodox Churches in the diaspora, since only by their achieving local autonomy will it be possible to bring them all together to form a truly all-embracing local Orthodox Church in Britain and in Western Europe.




21 April 2003

Statement by Bishop Basil of Sergievo concerning the open letter
of Patriarch Alexis of Moscow and All Russia



Dear Clergy of the Diocese,


The importance of the Open Letter of the Patriarch, which you will all by now have seen, can hardly be overemphasised. His farsighted concern for the needs of the Russian Church in Britain and in Western Europe opens up for us new horizons within which to continue our work for the Church and the Orthodox Faith. Especially important is his recognition of the need for local autonomy in Western Europe.


The fact that he mentions the Statutes of the Diocese of Sourozh, along with those of the Archdiocese of Russian Parishes based in Paris, and specifically refers to the provision they make for the local election of bishops is very significant. This was introduced by the All-Russian Council of 1917-18, which has always been the basis for our Statutes, as it is for the Statutes of the Orthodox Church in America and the Russian parishes under Constantinople as well.


The Patriarch’s Letter give us an opportunity to model our Church life closely on the canons of the Ancient Church, in particular on the 34th Apostolic Canon, which sets out the relationships that should apply within any metropolia:


It is incumbent upon the bishops of any nation [i.e. region] to know who is first among them [i.e. the metropolitan] and to recognise him as their head, and to refrain from doing anything outside their own dioceses without his advice and approval; but instead, let each of them do only what is necessitated by his own diocese and the region under him. But let not even such a one [i.e. the metropolitan] do anything [i.e. other than manage his own diocese] without the advice and consent and approval of all [i.e. all the other bishops in the metropolia]. For thus there will be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.


This fundamental canon establishes both local autonomy and regional conciliarity, principles that, ideally, should apply at all levels throughout the Church.


Thus we can, on the basis of the Patriarch’s Letter and the Holy Canons of the Church, look forward to developing the life of the Russian Church in Britain and Western Europe and contributing, in a small way, to the establishment at some future date of a true Local Church embracing all the Orthodox in Western Europe.


The restoration of unity with the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia and with the Russian parishes at present under the jurisdiction of Constantinople will require careful preparation. A period of ‘confidence building’ will be required if the project is to succeed. We must therefore be careful that what we say and do does not cause further problems. A start has been made, however, and we can only be extremely thankful to the Patriarch for the opportunity he has given us. (Editorial emphasis of OCC)  


May God grant us all to ‘attain to and adore the Holy Resurrection’.


+ Basil, Bishop of Sergievo

EDITORIAL COMMENT:  The threat worked ...!!!  

Is he seeking to become the Autocephalous Leader and Hero, as his friends from the Americas? Statutes of the Orthodox Church in America 

Consult: Open Letter of the Patriarch


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