Russian Orthodox Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland

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Orthodox Cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God and the Holy Royal Martyrs in Chiswick, London.

The Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland (Russian: Великобританская и Ирландская епархия) is a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), with communities on the territories of the United Kingdom and Ireland. The episcopal seat of the diocese was in Richmond. However, since the departure of Bishop Constantine (Essensky) of Richmond in 1985, the diocese has not had a resident bishop. Since then, the diocese was under the omophor of Archbishop Mark (Arndt) of Berlin, who is also bishop of the ROCOR German diocese, the overseer of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, and First Deputy to the President of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops.[1] He retired as ruling bishop of the Diocese in December 2016. The Diocese was then administered by Bishop Irenei of Sacramento, vicar bishop of the Western American Diocese of the ROCOR. The ruling bishop was Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church outside of Russia.At its Synod on the 20th September 2018, Bishop Irenei was appointed as Ruling Bishop with the title Bishop of Richmond and Western Europe. He will reside in the UK once arrangements have been made.

The diocese currently comprises Seven parishes, two mission parishes and one monastic house, with three other chapels served by its clergy. The cathedral parish is the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God and the Holy Royal Martyrs, in Gunnersbury, Chiswick, West London. There are currently eleven priests and two deacons serving within the diocese, in addition to a considerable number of minor clergy.

The parishes of the Diocese are The London Cathedral of the Mother of God and the Royal Martyrs in Chiswick; St John the Wonderworker, Colchester; St Edmund, Bury St Edmunds; St Alexander Nevsky, Nolwhich; The Church of the Icon of the Mother of God, Joy of all who sorrow, Mettingham;The Parish of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, Cardiff; The Parish of St Vladimir, Cheltenham;The Parish of St Elisabeth the New Martyr, Wallasey, Merseyside; The Parish of St Colman in Stradbally, Éire; The Parish of St John of Shanghai, Belfast. There is a monastic chapel of St Panteleimon in Clacton on Sea. There is an occasional mission of St Nicholas in Liverpool and new missions opening in Cambridgeshire and Kent. The Shrine Chapel of the Life giving spring in Walsingham is served on an occasional basis by Fr Mark from the Cardiff Parish.

Recent history[edit]

For many years the Diocese had a Cathedral Parish in London at Emperors Gate, the London Podvoria in Barons Court and outlying parishes in Bradford, Manchester and Nottingham. It also had a small parish in Dublin. St John Maximovich founded the Convent of the Annunciation in Willesden which was served by its own chaplain. The Brotherhood of St Edward was founded to house the relics of St Edward the Martyr and was established in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey. The Manchester Parish moved to the Moscow Patriarchate in 1993. The Parish of St Nicholas in Bradford closed in 1999. Latterly, the Annunciation Convent was served by clergy from Brookwood. The London Podvoria was closed in the 1990s.

The Cathedral Parish was the mother parish of the Diocese having grown out of the original Russian Parish in London which met in the Church of the Dormition in Welbeck Street. It remained faithful to ROCOR in 1926. It worshipped in St Philip's Buckingham Palace Road until 1956 when it moved to Emperors Gate. The Diocese had its own resident Bishop who resided at the Podvoria in Barons Court from 1928 until 1985. Archbishop Mark was appointed in March 1986 and had to lead the London Cathedral Parish towards finding a new home when notice was served on Emperors Gate. After a considerable search, land was purchased in Gunnersbury and plans drawn up for a new cathedral to be built in Pskov Style. It initially used a hall attached to the house in Harvard Road. The beautiful Cathedral is now complete and frescoed.It was consecrated on 21st September 2018. The Cathedral Parish serves a very wide area. It is well attended, has an active sisterhood and Russian School and regularly organises pilgrimages.

The moves towards restoration of canonical relations between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate saw the departure in January 2007 of the monastic Brotherhood of St Edward in Brookwood, the Holy Annunciation Convent in Willesden, and the Mission of St Boniface on the Isle of Wight for the Greek Orthodox Synod in Resistance.[2]

At the request of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco made a pastoral visitation to the diocese in the wake of the recent schism, in order to alleviate some of the fears and concerns of the people. During this time, he ordained Reader Andrew Bond to the diaconate to serve the parish of St John the Wonderworker in Felixstowe.

Since then, the remaining communities have re-established a stable presence. The Cathedral Parish hosted the Diocesan Assembly in April 2016. The Diocese was reconstituted and officers appointed for the first time for many years.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips raised a successful appeal and, with the blessing of Archbishop Mark, established the parish of St John the Wonderworker in November 2008. It had formerly been based in rented premises in Felixstowe. Services began in its newly purchased church in Colchester, which had been the old Garrison Church. The parish now serves the people of Colchester and surrounding areas, and draws people from as far as North London who would otherwise have difficulty getting to church.On the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, 2014, Archbishop Mark ordained a new reader and deacon to serve the Parish of St John the Wonderworker in Colchester.Recently a new parish of St Alexander Nevsky has been opened in Norwich presently served by the Clergy from Colchester.There is another parish in Bury St Edmunds and various missions served from Colchester.

Those who had belonged to the Felixstowe church but were unable to travel to Colchester, along with the people of the Waveney Valley area, have been provided for by the establishment of the new parish of the Mother of God: the Joy of All Who Sorrow in Mettingham, where regular services have been conducted since Pascha, 2009. The church is purpose-built, and was blessed by Archbishop Mark in July 2009. In February 2011 Father Antony was ordained to the priesthood to serve the parish. The White House at Mettingham has become a place of study and a meeting place for Orthodox Christians and is the home of St George's Orthodox Information Service. Fr Deacon Mark Tattum-Smith was ordained to the Diaconate on the Feast of the Ascension 2018 to serve in Mettingham and serve with Bishop Irenei when he is in the UK.

Abbot Sergei (Armstone) was received from the Milan Synod and ordained in February 2009, thus restoring a monastic presence within the diocese. Fr Sergei resides at the monastic hermitage of the Holy Healer Panteleimon in Clacton on Sea.

The Parish of St Elisabeth the New Martyr, Birkenhead was founded in 1993 and served by the clergy from Brookwood. Archpriest Paul Elliott was ordained for the Parish in July 1998. He served both the Chapel of St Werburgh in Congleton and the house chapel in Merseyside. The parish remained loyal to ROCOR after the Act of Canonical Communion in May 2007 though some parishioners left to join various Old Calendarist Greek jurisdictions. After the visit of the Kursk Root Icon in 2008 the Parish sought larger premises. In July 2009, the parish of St Elisabeth the New Martyr began services in its new church in Wallasey, which had originally been a cemetery chapel and had been redundant for some years. The parish does not own the building but it has a long-term lease on the chapel and has already begun to make links with the local community. In 2009, the Cathedral Parish gifted the icons from the London Podvoria, formally in Barons Court, for the Iconastas in the new church. In 2010 this was followed by the large Pokrov Icon from the former ROCOR Cathedral at Emperor's Gate. The parish is growing stronger and serves a wide area of North Wales, Chester and Merseyside.The Diocesan Chancellery was moved to this parish in late 2017.

In 2011, Archbishop Mark celebrated his 25th anniversary as ruling bishop of the Great Britain and Ireland diocese, and special services were offered at the Dormition cathedral in London. Among the gifts given to Archbishop Mark were a specially-commissioned icon and a new mantle.


A number of relics of the saints may be venerated in the various churches of the diocese. Among the more notable are:

  • A number of relics can be venerated at the London Cathedral Parish along with some items of clothing of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas (London cathedral parish).
  • A relic of the Holy Wonderworker John of Shanghai and San Francisco (Colchester parish)and other relics may be venerated at this parish.
  • Relics of The Holy New-Martyrs Elisabeth and Barbara (Wallasey parish).There is also a relic of St John of Shanghai which is blessed to travel regularly to Ireland.

Relations with other local Orthodox churches[edit]

Since the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion in May 2007, there have been good relations, frequent concelebrations, and joint services among the communities of the Diocese of Great Britain, its sister Diocese of Sourozh, and the two stavropegial parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain and Ireland, with bishops serving in the parishes of each other's dioceses.

In addition, Archbishop Mark regularly participated in the meetings of the local pan-Orthodox assembly of bishops with jurisdiction in the British Isles.Bishop Irenei has attended this assembly since his appointment in June 2017.These meetings are currently not taking place.

In the wake of the Russian Revolution and the resultant split that occurred within the Russian church, the London parish of the Dormition became divided and, in time, both parts of the community went on to establish the cathedrals of their respective dioceses. When normal relations were restored in 2007, this caused the irregular situation of there being two cathedrals within the same city, under the same church, having the same dedication. Not only did this cause confusion but it meant that the cathedrals' patronal feast, the Dormition of the Mother of God, was a time when the divisions of the past were highlighted, as the clergy and people were tied to their own parishes and unable to share in the festivities of their sister parish. Consequently, the ROCOR cathedral parish council, with the blessing of Archbishop Mark, took the decision in August 2009 to rename its cathedral in honour of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God, retaining the secondary dedication to the Holy Royal Martyrs, in whose honour the lower church is named. This change will took place when the cathedral was consecrated on the 21st September 2018.


London Vicariate of Western European Diocese 1918 -1929
Foundation of the See of London May 1929
Diocese of Richmond and Great Britain
Diocese of Great Britain (Berlin, Germany and Great Britain)
Diocese of Great Britain and Ireland (ROCOR) (Reconstituted 16/04/2016)
  • Hilarion (Kapral) (from 8 December 2016 to 20 September 2018)
  • Irenie (Steinberg), appointed administrator of the Diocese in June 2017
  • Irenie (Steinberg), appointed Ruling Bishop on 20th September 2018 with the title " Bishop of Richmond and Western Europe"


  1. ^ According to the directory listing of bishops on the ROCOR website.
  2. ^ The February 2007 edition of The Shepherd magazine.

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