The Situation in Britain

You may have heard about conflict between the Moscow and Constantinople Patriarchates over British-assimilated Russian parishes in Great Britain. Without becoming too entangled in Church politics, here’s the situation:

In the years after the Communist takeover of Russia, the Russian emigre community in Far Western Europe divided among three jurisdictions: the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), and the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP). The Paris-based “Archdiocese of Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe” (also referred to as the Paris Jurisdiction or Rue Daru for the street on which their cathedral is located) is the EP jurisdiction, and ended-up there as a result of an appeal to the EP of action in their regard by the MP – and now it may be happening again.

The MP Diocese of Sourozh historically consisted of about 30 parishes and a few thousand faithful in GB and Dublin, Ireland, and for years was headed by the famous Metropolitan ANTHONY (Bloom). Although mostly Russian descendants, it included not a few cradle Orthodox of other nationalities and British converts, frequently worshipping largely in English, and used to functioning differently from dioceses inside the FSU. After the fall of the USSR, an estimated quarter million immigrants from the former Soviet Union arrived in GB, and conflict over styles of churchmanship ensued. Not even Metr. Anthony was able to make peace within the diocese. He reposed in 2003, and one of his auxiliary bishops, American-bred convert BASIL (Osborne) of Sergievo, was named temporary administrator of the diocese by the MP. Bishop Basil came to feel that the MP wished to re-Russify the diocese in keeping with the wishes of some activists among the recent emigres, and as the conflict escalated, he conceived the idea of taking Sourozh out of the MP and letting the MP establish a new Russian jurisdiction in GB and Ireland to serve the new emigres. Basil requested the MP to release him to the EP, and at the same time requested the EP to receive him. Patriarch Alexi of Moscow opposed dividing the diocese, and retired Basil from the active episcopate. Basil appealed this action to the EP as First Among Equals, and this week the EP received him, elected him Titular Bishop of Amphipolis and Auxiliary Bishop to Rue Daru, intending also to receive any Sourozh clergy/parishes which wish to transfer. Both sides cite Church canons in their favor.

I’ve read allusions to threats by Moscow to break Communion with Constantinople over this, and also of possible British court cases over parish properties. Basil’s hope was by taking this action to ‘remain canonical,’ as it were, simply switching patriarchates, and joining a jurisdiction very similar in spirit to Sourozh (i.e., Rue Daru).

Our place is to pray “for the peace of the Holy Churches of God.”

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