2006-06-26 14:25:00

We hope for successful canonical resolution of conflict in Sourozh diocese

The materials collected by the special commission for resolving the crisis in the Diocese of Sourozh are continued to be analyzed. In his interview, one of its members, Rev. Mikhail Dudko, Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations secretary for church-society relations, told Interfax-Religion about the developments in the diocese and the work of the commission.

- Father Mikhail, could you tells us about the progress made by the commission for investigating the crisis in Sourozh?

- There were several stages in the work of the commission. The first started late in May when the diocesan conference worked in Oxford and continued in London. The second fact-finding session took place from June 17 to 20 in London. Between the sessions the commission listened testimonies of eyewitnesses to the events, collected documents concerning the situation in the diocese and analyzed public statements of diocesan representatives who shed light on the causes and development of the crisis in Sourozh. The commission is continuing its work. Its task is to present to the Moscow Patriarchate Holy Synod an objective picture of the developments in the diocese on the basis of the materials collected.

As is known, the former administrator of the diocese, Bishop Basil, despite three invitations, refused to meet the commission. So did many of his supporters. It is their choice. It could not but made our work more complicated, of course. But all those who wanted to tell us about the facts they knew could do it.

Now the information collected, thousands of pages, is being analyzed. It is too early to make any conclusions. It is a prerogative of the Holy Synod. Bishop Basil has been summoned to the next session of the Synod for explanations. In a word, the situation keeps developing.

- Is it known how many parishes of the Sourozh diocese have moved to the jurisdiction of Constantinople?

- The diocesan assembly that took place on June 17 had a quorum of the diocesan clergy prescribed by the Sourozh statutes. It suggests that a considerable part of the clergy associate their fate with the Moscow Patriarchate. Among them the oldest cleric of the diocese, Dean Archpriest Benedict Ramsden, who was elected moderator of the assembly, Archpriest John Lee, rector of the Cathedral in London, Father Raphael Armur, rector of the parish in Cambridge, and many others. I repeat, the situation is developing and it is too early to draw any conclusions.

- What will happen to the diocesan property?

- This matter is regulated exclusively by the British law. The point is that the decision concerning a change in the status of the cathedral is to be made by the Parish Council, rather than the Diocesan Assembly. At present, there are services held in the London cathedral, led by the temporary administrator of the diocese, Archbishop Innokenty of Korsun and other clergy who have remained faithful to the Russian Orthodox Church.

- What will be the impact of the Sourozh crisis on relations with Constantinople?

Today there is a difference in the positions of our Churches concerning the validity of Bishop Basilís move to the jurisdiction of Constantinople. Nevertheless, I do not think the situation is hopeless. We hope for a successful canonical resolution of the conflict.

- In what way did the commission communicate with parishioners?

- We placed announcements in the Internet, at the notice board in the London cathedral and sent personal invitations to parishioners, members of the diocese - all those who wanted to communicate with the commission could do it either verbally or by sending a letter to the commission. On the whole, testimonies were given by several dozens of people - the number, together with other documents, sufficient for forming a picture of the situation. What is important for us is that a considerable part of the community believed it their duty to declare their faithfulness to the Moscow Patriarchate. As is known, Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh never allowed anybody to challenge his commitment to the Russian Orthodox Church. Those who stayed faithful to his principled position have preserved another important component of Metropolitan Anthonyís legacy.

- Is there any statistics concerning the number of believers in Sourozh today?

- It is very difficult to estimate how many of the Russian-speaking residents in Great Britain are actual or potential members of the parishes of the Sourozh diocese. According to some estimates, up to 250 thousand Russian-speaking people reside in London alone and nearly half a million in the whole of the British Islands. Certainly, this includes former citizens of not only the Russian Federation but also other countries in the post-Soviet space. Potentially it is an enormous number of parishioners even if the proportion of those who need continuous pastoral care is not large.

Besides, it should be borne in mind that one of the elements of Metropolitan Anthonyís legacy as founder of the Sourozh diocese is missionary openness. Some 50% of the services in the London cathedral continue to be conducted in English, with this proportion even higher in provincial parishes.

Sourozh is not only a diocese for those who speak Russian. It is also a diocese for English people, and many of them, both clergy and ordinary parishioners, have chosen to stay with the Russian Orthodox Church.