Voices from Russia

Thursday, 20 March 2008

The ROCOR Does Not Exclude the Possibility of the Future Canonisation of Metropolitan Laurus


Neither the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) or the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) exclude the future possibility of the canonisation of Metropolitan Laurus Škurla, Archbishop of New York and Eastern America, First Hierarch of the ROCOR, for his role in the restoration of Church unity, who passed away on Sunday on the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville NY at the age of 80.

“We lost an amazing person. He was a living saint, and we had the honour of associating with him. He was a rule of prayer and a light to the Church,”, said Fr Seraphim Gan, the personal secretary of Metropolitan Laurus, in a telephone interview with RIA-Novosti. He believes that is “certainly, too early” to speak of canonising Vladyki Laurus. “However, yesterday, when we went into the church, I had the sensation that we prayed not before an ordinary deceased person, but, before the remains of a righteous man, one who gave us an example of love and modesty”, Fr Seraphim remarked. He is confident that the funeral of Metropolitan Laurus, which shall take place in Jordanville NY on Friday, shall become a celebratory event.

“We reacted to his sudden death with much grief, everyone is still in shock over it”, Gan said. He told us that Vladyki Laurus contracted a cold recently, he felt weak during the last service he attended and he coughed, but no one expected his death. “He always was in a state of prayer and he lived the life of the Church. He came to the church at 04.30 in the morning when the entire brotherhood was lighting candles… He inspired us not so much by his words as with his example, with his humility and love”, Fr Seraphim recalled, as he was constantly at Vladyki’s side, especially in recent years.

During the first week of the Great Lent, Metropolitan Laurus participated in the services and prayers, and read lectures to the brotherhood and pilgrims from the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church. Last Friday, he read St Ephraim of Syria’s discourse on love. “We intend to publish it”, Rev Gan said. The greatest impression that one received of him was of great faith and humility. “He trusted entirely in God, and relied on His Will alone. He received everything, both good and sorrowful, as a gift from God, and as a sign of God”, Fr Seraphim explained. “Towards himself, Vladyki was very strict, but, he was lenient to others. In this way, he disciplined and restrained us”, he said.

Gan noted that he ordained many priests now serving in the US, Europe, and Australia. “He knew all of us very well… all of us were trained here in this seminary, within the walls of this monastery, and he knew whom he should ordain and where he should send us… for all of us, he was a father”, he emphasised.

In his opinion, Vladyki Laurus was at the same time “an exceptionally modest man, every inch a monk”, therefore, he had considerable authority, great respect, and much love throughout the entire Russian emigration. Fr Seraphim is convinced that “without him, it would be impossible to even conceive of any negotiations with the MP about the restoration of Church unity. He succeeded in overcoming our separation precisely through the medium of his love”.

Vladyki Laurus passed away very quietly and peacefully in his sleep on the morning of the Church Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. Fr Seraphim told us that one of the brotherhood was before Vladyki’s coffin and said, “Before us lies the celebration of Orthodoxy”. Rev Gan concurred, saying, “This is an actual fact”.

In his turn, Fr Vladimir Vigilyansky, head of the MP press service, in answering a question from RIA-Novosti concerning the possibility of the canonisation of the newly-reposed Metropolitan Laurus in the list of the saints, commented that he does not exclude this, but, “some time must pass before we do this. We only reiterate the Lord’s selection of His servants. Over time, the memory of the person must remain fresh, and the turning to him in prayer must come from all the people”.

18 March 2008

Olga Lipich



Metropolitan Laurus of the ROCOR Died in Jordanville


Editor’s Foreword:

Some shall call me a “traitor” (if not worse) for posting the article below. It’s a good time for me to explain my stance on “cheerleading”. We all know the phenomenon. That is, no voices are allowed save for those that uncritically and unreservedly support one’s position. This attitude, I believe, is dangerous in the extreme. It leads to untruth being enthroned at the centre of our existence, and I’ll state clearly that it’s the main source of many of the problems in the Church today.

The article below is NOT scurrilous or defamatory, but, it doesn’t “toe the party line” laid down by some in the Church. Our archpastors and pastors can carry out their duties to the greatest effect only when they are told the TRUTH, and nothing but the TRUTH. Unfortunately, many believe that we must trim the truth to fit our fancies. I despise it when it’s done by anyone of any stripe, be it left or right. Whenever we do this, we aren’t being “honest to God”. I must admit that an AP article I saw today made my hackles rise. That piece contained the information that the ROCOR had 480,000 members in the USA alone. This is NOT true (although one wishes that it were!), and it’s a symptom of a disease that we should nip in the bud. Unless the truth is told to our archpastors, the Faith shall die, it is quite that simple. God willing, it may have been a typo or misunderstanding, the alternative is too much to bear, frankly.



Metropolitan Laurus Škurla (1928-2008) (left) with Fr Gregory Naumenko (right)


Metropolitan Laurus Škurla, Archbishop of New York and Eastern America, the primate of the ROCOR, passed away on Sunday at Holy Trinity Monastery in upstate New York. Reports from the monastery indicated that the metropolitan wasn’t feeling well lately. His death was discovered on the day that the Church celebrates the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. The official announcement on the website of the ROCOR emphasised that Vladyki Laurus became “the conqueror of the long-standing division in the Russian Church”. This was as a result of the Act of Canonical Communion signed by Metropolitan Laurus Škurla and Patriarch Aleksei Ridiger, the First Hierarch of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Metropolitan Laurus became the fifth First Hierarch of the ROCOR in October 2001. He changed the traditional stance of this church, yielding to pressure from a group of bishops, actively supporting the idea of reconciliation, although at the last Sobor of the ROCOR in San Francisco the majority of clergymen present spoke out about the hastiness of such a move. The reason for this caution was that the MP rejected one of the conditions laid down by the ROCOR at that time. Then, the ROCOR demanded that the MP condemn the declaration of Metropolitan Sergei Stragorodsky (the so-called “Red Sergei”), who urged believers to show loyalty to the anti-Church communist authorities. In addition, the ROCOR insisted that the MP leave the ecumenical WCC, citing this as a contradiction of the canons of Orthodoxy. The MP declined to satisfy these requirements.

The signing of the Act of Canonical Communion by Metropolitan Laurus with the MP led to a division in the ROCOR. Until this act in the spring of 2007, there were 350 parishes in the ROCOR throughout the world. Some 150 parishes and monasteries refused to follow the lead of Metropolitan Laurus. Some 80 parishes continue to call themselves the ROCOR and this group is under Archbishop Agafangel Pashkovsky of Odessa. The remaining parishes are split between the so-called True Russian Orthodox Church headed by Bishop Tikhon in Russia and the so-called Vitalevtsami (“followers of Vitaly” (the previous First Hierarch of the ROCOR). The latter group also included those who continued to follow Metropolitan Vitaly Ustinov after the ROCOR Holy Synod retired him from the post of primate due to his advanced age and ill health. Metropolitan Vitaly was a confirmed opponent of reconciliation with the MP. In his place, the Holy Synod named Metropolitan Laurus.

Also on the official website of the ROCOR the following announcement was posted. “The name of His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion Kapral of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand is to be commemorated in all churches of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia after that of His Holiness Patriarch Aleksei as follows, ‘Our lord, the Most Reverend Archbishop Hilarion’. During the great entrance and during ‘Amongst the first, remember O Lord…’ (after the name of the Patriarch), ‘Our lord the Most Reverend Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia, and New Zealand’”. Does this mean that the next meeting of the Holy Synod of the ROCOR shall select Archbishop Hilarion as the next primate of the church? Many believe that Metropolitan Laurus intended Archbishop Hilarion to be his successor, but the final say shall be in the hands of the Holy Synod.

The question of the election of the new primate is important in context of the future relations of the ROCOR with its opponents in the camps of Agafangel, the True Russian Orthodox Church, and the Vitaly faction. The election of one of the active supporters of association with the MP such as Archbishop Mark Arndt of Berlin (1941- ) or Archbishop Kirill Dmitriev (1954- ) of San Francisco promises an inevitable escalation of conflict. One of the forms this conflict shall take is lawsuits wrangling over the parish properties of the opposing parties. If the ROCOR wins possession of the property, it’ll be able to name its candidate as rector of the parish. Of the candidates for First Hierarch, Archbishop Hilarion (1948- ) is inclined most to peaceful co-existence with his rivals, as he believes that the division shall be cured over time. However, some hold another opinion; that is, regardless of whom is named the first Hierarch of the ROCOR, its policy shall be determined by the MP. They believe that signing of the Act of Canonical Communion in 2007 was the not the end of the process of the integration of the ROCOR into the MP structure.

The funeral and burial of Metropolitan Laurus shall take place on 21 March in the cathedral of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville NY. A Pannikhida shall be celebrated in the Cathedral of the Sign in New York with the members of the Holy Synod present on Wednesday evening 19 March at 19.00.

18 March 2008

Vadim Yarmolinets

Novoe Russkoe Slovo



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