By Boris Klin
At the age of 80, the earthly path of the Primate of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, came to an end. He died in the US.
His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia announced to reporters: “I think that he inscribed his name into the history books of the Russian Orthodox Church, and his memory shall live from generation unto generation. We will prayerfully remember him and thank him for the fact that he enabled the reunification of the Russian Church Abroad with the Moscow Patriarchate.”
President Putin shares this opinion. He expressed his sympathies to the His Holiness, stressing the role of the late Metropolitan in the matter of achieving ecclesiastical unity “This historic even will forever remain in the memory of our grateful descendants.” The Chief of State also noted that the efforts of Metropolitan Laurus were aimed at the “spiritual and moral education of the Russian emigration, preserving within it faithfulness to Orthodoxy and love for the Fatherland.”
Other Orthodox clergymen also told us of how they remember Vladyka Laurus. His Eminence Archbishop Feofan of Stavropol and Severokavkaz met Vladyka Laurus as early as 1979:
“He was still a bishop, and I was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem. Even then he saw us as clergymen, and not ‘KGB agents.’ I was always amazed at his simplicity and humility. In Jerusalem, when he approached the Sepulcher of the Lord, he did not put himself forth as a bishop, and later as well, in Moscow, when he stood next to the regular members of the Holy Synod. And yet he was a Primate!
“He was a man of prayer and relied on God completely. He wanted very much to visit us in the Caucasus, though many consider it a dangerous region. Vladyka Laurus would reply: ‘Where there is God, there is no danger.’ We began to work together with the Church Abroad a year before the signing of the Act, having made an agreement with Vladyka Mark to build a rehabilitation center for the children of Beslan.”
In the words of the Deputy Chief of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Protopriest Vsevolod Chaplin, even before the official negotiations over the reestablishment of church unity, Metropolitan Laurus often visited Russia incognito:
“He would come to church, pray, he would visit people in their homes. I think this experience opened his eyes to life in contemporary Russia, and played a big role in the decision he made. And after the signing of the Act, he would visit our country. The last time was very recently, when he participated in the World Russian People’s Council. He did not fear coming out among the youth and address them. But he is a man of a different epoch, and a different social reality.”
The Prior of Sretensky Monastery, Archimandrite Tikhon, actively participated in the negotiations between the Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate:
“I first saw Metropolitan Laurus in 2002. I came to speak at a session of the Synod of Bishops of the Church Abroad. Vladyka spoke little. He sat in concentration, but it was visible—he had already made his decision; despite the many skeptics, including some bishops. When they were preparing for the All-Diaspora Council, we thought that Metropolitan Laurus would travel throughout the dioceses, speak, seek to persuade people… We thought that he would publish books, brochures. But he did none of this. He said: ‘I pray, and you pray, too.’ Vladyka Laurus relied on God, he let God act. And even during the Council itself, when heated debates flared, he remained silent and prayed. And when they counted the votes, 95 percent were for unification! This was stunning. He was a rare person. A man of few words. But he fulfilled the legacy of the founders of the Church Abroad: when the godless regime crumbles in Russia—it was time to reunite. Though it would have been easier for him to say, no, it is not time yet. He would not have made so many enemies, he would not have endured so much slander in his old age. Maybe he would have preserved his health…”
His Eminence Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsa and Kolomensk will officiate at the funeral and burial of Metropolitan Laurus. It will be held on March 21 at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. The new First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia will be independently elected by its Council of Bishops, but the candidate must receive the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
It was decided during a conference of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR, to commemorate the name of the Chief Deputy of the late Metropolitan Laurus, His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, during divine services in all churches of the Russian Church Abroad following the name of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy.
“He Was Always a Symbol of Staunchness and of Consolation”
His Grace Bishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe knew Metropolitan Laurus for over 30 years. They met in Europe, where Vladyka Laurus traveled to order bells for Holy Trinity Monastery. This is what Vladyka Michael told Izvestiya:
“This is a great sorrow for us. We lost our deeply-respected and beloved father, who not only bore responsibility for us on his shoulders, but, with Divine grace, was the First Hierarch under whom after a 90-year absence, the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church was restored.
“Since the age of 11, he lived in a monastery, he lived the monastic life, and never strayed from this for one iota, not for a moment. He often remembered how, after the war, the monks fled Slovakia, carrying on their shoulders the icon of St Job of Pochaev. They carried this icon through all of Europe, despite danger and need, they hid it and protected it. Now this holy icon is at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville.
“For us, Metropolitan Laurus was always a symbol of staunchness and of consolation. Metropolitan Laurus’ behavior was in many ways determined by that of Metropolitan Anastassy (the second Primate of ROCOR). Metropolitan Laurus loved propriety and beauty in everything. In church matters, in society, in human relationships. For instance, Vladyka never publicly criticized anyone. He always tried to maintain a peaceful state and a gracious attitude towards others. Even if people made mistakes, he would recommend that they correct them, but in private. He followed this rule personally and never raised his voice. This does not mean that he did not have his own opinion or his own view of things, but he always maintained a balanced attitude towards events.”