Sourozh is destroyed: the schism in the ROC in the British Isles is now a final and irreversible fact
The annual assembly of the diocese of Sourozh which took place on Saturday and Sunday in London would seem to be an internal event and of only local importance. But over the past weeks ‘Sourozh’ is a term widely commented on by the Russian press. For the Moscow Patriarchate it has caused a bad headache. There is a schism within the diocese, as a result of which two thirds of the parishioners with bishop Basil Osborne at their head have left to go under the ecumenical Patriarchate.
Sourozh (Sugdea) was a Greek colony in the Crimea, founded in the 3rd century BC, and sacked in the 13th century by the Tatar-Mongols. Now in its place is the small town of Sudak, with its Gonovese castle, well know by tourists.
The diocese of Sourozh in England was founded by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) in 1962, and according to its statutes forms part of the ROC. By tradition, the diocese located in a foreign country receives its title from the ancient diocese in the Crimea which no longer exists.
<![endif]> Now the English Sourozh is on the verge if not of becoming a total ruin, then a schism, as a result of which metropolitan’s Anthony’s legacy will perish. Not the books of his sermons and talks, for even three years after his death he remains the main missionary of the ROC. It is the spirit of the diocese which is in danger of perishing. Reports about the conflict in the diocese are contradictory. The Holy Synod of the ROC has stated that bishop Basil (Osborne) did not have the right to announce his departure under Constantinople without a letter of release from ROC. A committee has been appointed to investigate the ‘Basil affair’, which includes to the surprise of many, apart from three functionaries of the Moscow patriarchate, bishop Mark (Arndt) of Berlin-Germany and of Great Britain, an archbishop of the church in exile, with which there is as yet no union. Some commentators have suggested that the diocese will be ‘presented’ to him as a sign of gratitude for his personal contribution to the negotiations between ROC and ROCOR.
Nearest to the truth is probably protodeacon Peter Scorer, grandson of the great Russian philosopher Sieon Frank. This is what he said in an interview on radio ‘Liberty’: ‘Thanks to the labours of metropolitan Anthony, Sourozh was a unique diocese in the entire Moscow Patriarchate. Bishop Anthony was tolerated not only because he drew a very large number of people in England, to orthodoxy, to the church, but in Russia itself. Now the free, sobornaya (communal), diocese, unlike any other has within the Russian context become an embarrassment for Russia. They would like to see them all ‘of a kind’, so that churches abroad, which are being built in many countries, would be a something like embassy churches before the revolution. And they are representations of Moscow abroad. And they are controlled not by their local bishops, but by the DECR’.
On the eve of the diocesan assembly the temporary administrator of the diocese made several desperate appeals to the parishioners. At the opening of the assembly a letter from patriarch Aleksii II was read out. ‘Without falling into despondency, let us seek that which builds up and establishes peace, firmly remembering that the path to unity cannot lie through schism’, appeals the patriarch. But it would seem that the appeal was too late. As has become known to NI, a large number of older parishioners were absent from the assembly, they preferred to remain in prayer in another church with Bishop Basil. Experts assess that no less than two thirds of the ‘sourozhites’ will go under ‘Constantinople’.
Two questions remain unanswered. Will Bishop Basil go to Moscow for the meeting of the Synod on 17 July? And will the Dormition cathedral, which belongs to the community, pass into ownership of the ROC?
The answer to the first question is clear. There is no point in Basil coming for a trial, as there is no point in the work of the commission, which is spending these days gathering ‘additional information’ about the affair of the ‘disobedient’ bishop. As to the fate of the cathedral, then if the ROC will announce it has claims to it, this will lead to a long court case, which almost certainly end in a fiasco. And then Bishop Basil and his flock will be able to return to their own home.
Novye izvestia http://www.newizv.ru/news/2006-06-19/48429/