Posts tagged Greek
May 4, 1793: Empress Catherine the Great of Russia granted the Holy Synod permission to establish an Orthodox mission in “Russian America” (Alaska). The following year, the first eight missionaries, including St. Herman, arrived on Kodiak Island.
May 3, 1870: Nicholas Bjerring, a convert from Roman Catholicism, was received into Orthodoxy by chrismation in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was then ordained a priest and sent to New York, where he established a Russian Orthodox embassy chapel in the city. Bjerring, the first significant Orthodox convert in the United States, served the chapel for 13 years, acting as a kind of religious ambassador to America. But by 1883, the Russian government decided to cease funding the chapel, and Bjerring was offered a teaching position in St. Petersburg. He declined and instead became a Presbyterian minister. At the end of his life, he re-converted to Roman Catholicism.
May 5, 1892: St. Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Church was established in Chicago. This came just weeks after Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church was founded in Chicago, and it marked the first instance of “overlapping jurisdictions” in the same city — a trend that became ubiquitous in the decades that followed. A few years after this, a young priest named John Kochurov was assigned to the church; in Kochurov’s tenure, the parish name was changed to Holy Trinity, and a magnificent new cathedral (designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan) was constructed. Kochurov eventually returned to Russia and was martyred by the Bolsheviks, and has since been canonized. As for his old parish, it survives today as the seat of the OCA Bishop of Chicago, and is one of the oldest continuously functioning Orthodox parishes in the Western Hemisphere.
May 5, 1902: This was the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Chicago Russian parish, but nobody was celebrating that day, because the church’s quarter-ton bell was stolen. The whole Orthodox community of Chicago — including the Greek parish — searched for the bell, but as best I can tell, it was never recovered. Two years ago, I wrote an article about the bell’s theft; CLICK HERE to read it.
April 30, 1905: Pascha, gunshots, a New York cop, and a mob of Greeks. The short version is that, on Pascha in New York, a Greek man fired a gun in celebration — not exactly a unique occurrence. But a police officer arrested the man and started taking him away, whereupon 500 or so Greeks, who had been in the middle of a Paschal procession, diverted course and followed the officer. The mostly peaceable (but assuredly frightening) mob threw the cop to the ground, freed the prisoner, and then apparently went back to celebrating Pascha. It’s kind of a bizarre story, and I covered it in more detail two years ago. CLICK HERE to read more.
May 2, 1914: Bishop John Mitropolsky, former Russian Bishop of the Aleutian Islands, died. Bishop John was the man responsible for moving the diocesan headquarters from Alaska to San Francisco. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this move. I don’t know for sure, but it may be the first time that the official seat of an Orthodox diocese was located outside of the formal diocesan boundaries.
Bishop John learned to speak English and even preached homilies in the language. These were at least partly intended to inform non-Orthodox about the Orthodox Church. Bishop John was also a rather prolific author, writing a five volume account of religious sects in America and a 450-page history of the Ecumenical Councils. He seems to have view his role as twofold — to continue the Alaskan mission, but also to act as a religious ambassador to America. In November 1871, the journal Christian Union ran this note:
Bishop Johannes, of the Russo-Greek Church on the Pacific coast, has ordered the prayer for the President of the United States, contained in the Liturgy of the Episcopal Church, to be used by the Greek Priests. The Russo-Greek Calendar has also been modified so as to make it conform to that of Western Christendom in several essential important points.
I’m not sure what those calendar changes were, but these changes were an obvious attempt to find common ground with the West — particularly the Episcopal Church.
According to Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, who was an adolescent in San Francisco during Bishop John’s tenure, later explained that Bishop John was particularly proud of the Orthodox school he established. The school was for the cathedral parishioners and met on Saturdays. In addition to catechesis and Russian, the Saturday school and other weekday classes taught Scripture, music, mathematics, Greek, and English. Bishop John himself taught seven classes per week. Dabovich was one of the school’s most successful alumni, and he later wrote, “The Right Reverend John loved his school, one might say, with a singular love.”
Bishop John was reassigned to a post in Russia in 1877, and he died in 1914, at the age of 77.
May 5, 1916: Agapius Honcharenko, one of the strangest men in American Orthodox history, died in Hayward, CA. We’ve talked about Honcharenko quite a bit on this site, and I did a podcast on him a few years ago.
May 4, 1945: On Holy Friday, St. Vasily Martysz was brutally murdered in Poland. As a young priest, he had served in America from 1901 to 1912. The Orthodox Church of Poland canonized St. Vasily in 2003. To learn more, read this life of St. Vasily, written by Fr. Michael Oleksa.
May 6, 1967: Theodosius Lazor was consecrated Bishop of Alaska in the Russian Metropolia. A few years later, the young bishop represented the Metropolia in Moscow, where he formally received the Tomos of Autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate. This created the “Orthodox Church in America,” and in 1977, Theodosius was elected the jurisdiction’s primate. He served as Metropolitan until 2002.
May 6, 2006: A landmark All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia opened. This council went on to formally approve the reconciliation between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate, which had been estranged for decades.
April 29, 1900: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, MA split into two factions. Here’s what I wrote about that schism in my paper, “The Myth of Past Unity”:
[O]ne portion of the parish wanted to discharge their priest, Fr. Nathaniel Sideris, and “hire” another. “We have the right to tell a priest that he is no longer needed and to engage another priest,” one parish leader explained. Other parishioners were appalled at such an approach. “Our complaint,” said the leader of the opposition, “is that the people upstairs are conducting the affairs of a Greek church different from anything to which we have been accustomed, and we do not consider it right. The bishop of the Greek church in Athens alone has the power to assign a priest.”
In the paper, I went on to observe that while one group wanted total independence from the hierarchy and the other recognized the authority of the Church of Greece, neither side said a word about Tikhon, the Russian bishop in America. Of course, that’s because the Lowell Greeks didn’t consider themselves to be under Tikhon — a fact that is perhaps unsurprising today, but which, a couple of years ago, contradicted the commonly held belief that all Orthodox in America recognized Russian authority prior to the Bolshevik Revolution.
April 28, 1901: St. Tikhon, the Russian bishop, celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago. At least, that’s what some modern sources say; I can’t find any references to the event in the Chicago Tribune, although the newspaper covered a lot of other Orthodox happenings in that era. If anyone has more information, please let me know.
April 27, 1903: St. Alexis Toth, one of the leading priests in the Russian Diocese, was awarded the “Order of St. Vladimir” and received a miter. Toth, of course, had been a Uniate Greek Catholic priest until his conversion to Orthodoxy in 1891. He went on to spearhead the conversion of tens of thousands of former Uniates into the Russian Diocese, until his death in 1909.
April 23, 1917: St. George Syrian Orthodox Church in Worcester, MA became the first official “Antacky” parish, declaring its loyalty to Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi. Informally, the Russy-Antacky schism began immediately after St. Raphael died in 1915, when his priests disagreed on whether to acknowledge the authority of Antioch or Russia. But the Worcester declaration marked the formal beginning of the schism, which divided the Arab Orthodox in America until the mid-1930s.
April 27, 1922: The Holy Synod of Russia named the refugee Metropolitan Platon Rozhdestvensky as the temporary head of the Russian Archdiocese of North America. Soon enough, the Russian Church (under Soviet pressure) changed course and condemned Platon, who led the Russian Archdiocese to declare its independence from Moscow.
April 25, 1926: Archimandrite Mardarije Uskokovic was consecrated in Belgrade to be the first Serbian bishop for America. According to this article, the original plan was for Bishop Nicholai Velimirovich of Ochrid to lead a new Serbian diocese in America, with Archimandrite Mardarije as his administrative assistant. But Bishop Nicholai’s flock in Serbia apparently protested, and Nicholai himself recommended that Mardarije be consecrated in his stead. Thus, in 1923, Mardarije was appointed administrator of the Serbian churches in America, and three years later, he was elevated to the episcopacy.
Bishop Mardarije’s greatest legacy may be his founding of St. Sava Monastery in Libertyville, Illinois. He died in 1935.
April 29, 1933: Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, of the fringe “American Orthodox Catholic Church,” married a young girl named Mariam Namey (no relation to me) in a civil ceremony in Niagara Falls, NY. This effectively snuffed out any remaining legitimacy Ofiesh had within Orthodoxy.
April 28, 1952: Romanian Bishop Valerian Trifa was consecrated by the Ukrainian Metropolitan John Theodorovich. The trouble was that Theodorovich was a “self-consecrator,” rendering Trifa’s consecration invalid in the eyes of mainstream Orthodoxy. Later, Bishop Valerian was properly consecrated by bishops of the Russian Metropolia.
April 29, 1956: Archbishop Adam Phillipovsky died. He was a colorful character who was, at various times, on seemingly every side of the unending Russian Church disputes of his day.
April 25, 1959: Reginald Wright Kauffman, a noted writer and journalist, died. Kauffman had converted to Orthodoxy four decades earlier in the short-lived convert parish of the Transfiguration in New York. Unlike nearly all of the Transfiguration converts, Kauffman remained Orthodox for the rest of his life.
Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen!
April 17, 1907: Fr. Demetrios Petrides arrived in America from Greece. He went immediately to Philadelphia, taking charge of Evangelismos (Annunciation) Greek Orthodox Church in the city. One of his first acts was to write a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarchate recommending that a catechumen, Robert Morgan, be received into the Church and ordained a priest. This took place in August, and Morgan became the first black Orthodox priest in America. Petrides went on to have a distinguished, eventful, and admirable career in Philadelphia and, later, Atlanta, before dying of diabetes in 1917.
April 19, 1934: Archbishop Victor Abo-Assaly, the first primate of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, died. Abp Victor, then an archimandrite, had come to America ten years earlier, as part of a delegation from the Patriarchate of Antioch. The delegation’s task was to organize the divided Arab Orthodox in America into a single jurisdiction. This led to the founding of the Antiochian Archdiocese, but it failed to produce unity. In addition to Abp Victor, the following hierarchs claimed a piece of the Antiochian pie in America:
- Metropolitan Germanos Shehadi, erstwhile leader of the “Antacky” faction. He had come to America on a fundraising trip back in 1914, but when St. Raphael died the next year, Germanos decided to stick around and try to lead Raphael’s flock. Only a strong minority faction followed him, and this support virtually evaporated in 1924, when the Patriarchate authorized Victor’s consecration and the creation of a legitimate Antiochian Archdiocese.
- Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, former head of the “Russy” faction of Arab Orthodox who pledged loyalty to the Russians. Originally, the battle was Germanos v. Aftimios, but in the late 1920s, Aftimios created his own “autocephalous church” and fell out of favor with the Russian bishops. A handful of parishes seem to have remained loyal to Aftimios, but most switched over to:
- Bishop Emmanuel Abo-Hatab, Aftimos’ former auxiliary and, before that, the archdeacon to St. Raphael. When the Russian Metropolia pulled its support for Aftimios, Emmanuel jumped to the Metropolia himself, taking over Aftimios’ title as bishop for the Syro-Arabs.
Anyway, in the span of about a year, three of the four claimants were dead, and the fourth (Aftimios) married a young girl, which removed the last shreds of legitimacy he had in the eyes of mainstream Orthodox people. The Antiochians in America were finally in a position to unite… but of course, it wasn’t that simple, and in 1936, they re-divided into “New York” and “Toledo” factions. About which, wait just a moment…
April 20, 1934: The early 1930s witnessed a lot of deaths of prominent Orthodox churchmen in America. Just one day after Abp Victor died, Metropolitan Platon Rozhdestvensky, the longtime primate of the Russian Metropolia, himself died. Platon had first come to America way back in 1907, as the successor to St. Tikhon as head of the Russian Archdiocese. He returned to Russia in 1914, but after the Bolshevik Revolution, Platon just kind of showed up in America again, this time as a refugee. The Russian Archdiocese already had a primate — Abp Alexander Nemolovsky — but Platon hung around for a while, until the embattled Alexander moved to Europe. Platon was Alexander’s natural successor, and it was under Platon that the Archdiocese morphed into what became known as the “Metropolia” — a de facto independent jurisdiction.
Platon’s second American tenure was filled with endless legal battles with John Kedrovsky, an “archbishop” of the Soviet-backed Living Church. The Metropolia lost its cathedral, and ultimately had to accept the charity of the Episcopalians, who offered worship space in one of their churches. By the end of Platon’s life, any notion of the Russian Church as the platform for Orthodox unity in America was a faint memory.
April 19, 1936: Exactly two years to the day after Abp Victor died, his successor was consecrated. Or rather successors, plural. On the very same day, two men, representing two Antiochian factions, were consecrated in different cities. Metropolitan Antony Bashir was consecrated in New York and took charge of the largest portion of the Antiochians. Meanwhile, in Toledo, Ohio, several Russian Metropolia bishops consecrated Metropolitan Samuel David. So now, instead of the “Russy” and “Antacky” factions, you had the “New York” and “Toledo” Archdioceses. This division persisted for almost 40 more years.
March 25, 1886: The future Greek Archbishop and later Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras Spyrou was born. Athenagoras led the Greek Archdiocese from 1930 to 1948, when he was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. He served in that position for nearly a quarter-century, until his death in 1972.
March 25, 1891: St. Alexis Toth and his Greek Catholic parish in Minneapolis joined the Russian Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.
March 22, 1892: The French Orthodox convert priest Fr. Vladimir Guettee died. Guettee had been a respected Roman Catholic historian and Jesuit priest, but through his study of history, he came to believe that the Orthodox Church alone had preserved the true faith. He joined the Russian Church, taking the name “Vladimir,” and published a widely read journal on Orthodoxy which reported on American Orthodox events. He also wrote a lengthy refutation of papal claims, which can be read here.
March 25, 1896: The future hieromartyr Fr. Jacob Korchinsky was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. Korchinsky’s travels make his fellow circuit-riding priests look wimpy by comparison — Alaska, Canada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Mexico, Hawaii, the Philippines, Australia, and finally back in his native Odessa (modern Ukraine). At 80, he was executed by the Soviets, and he is now being considered for glorification as a saint. To read more about Korchinsky, check out this article I wrote in 2010.
March 24, 1907: Russian Archbishop Tikhon Bellavin concelebrated his last Divine Liturgy in America, with Bishops Raphael Hawaweeny and Innocent Pustynsky.
March 22, 1908: In Boston, Fr. Theophan Noli celebrated the first-ever liturgy in the Albanian language, anywhere in the world. The service took place in Boston, where Noli was a student at Harvard. To read about that first liturgy in 1908, check out my article from 2010.
March 24, 1918: Almost exactly a decade later, Fr. Theophan Noli was appointed as the administrator of the Albanian Mission under the Russian Archdiocese of North America. Not long afterward, he returned to Albania, became the head of the Albanian Orthodox Church, and finally was elected Prime Minister of Albania. He held that post for five months before he was exiled to America, where he led an Albanian jurisdiction for decades.
March 22, 1925: The former Archimandrite Patrick Mythen died in New York. Two years ago, I wrote about Mythen’s life prior to his conversion to Orthodoxy, and I never got around to telling the rest of the story. So here’s the rest of the story, very briefly: Mythen, an Episcopal priest and former Roman Catholic, converted to Orthodoxy in 1920. Within months, he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and put in charge of a brand-new project called the American Orthodox Catholic Church of the Transfiguration. This was supposed to be an English-speaking parish for American converts. It didn’t last more than a handful of months, but it included several convert priests, most of whom appear to have been Mythen’s friends. When chaos broke out in the Russian Archdiocese in the early 1920s, Archbishop Alexander Nemolovsky relied more and more heavily on Mythen. According to Mythen’s own claims — the accuracy of which is uncertain — he (Mythen) was given power of attorney for the whole Archdiocese. I’ve heard that he even signed clergy ordination certificates. Within a few years, though, Mythen re-converted to Roman Catholicism. He was found dead in 1925, at the age of just 42.
March 25, 1925: Three days later, a man who could not be more different than Mythen — St. Tikhon, by now the Patriarch of Moscow — died in Russia.
March 24, 1935: Bishop Polycarp Morusca was consecrated in Romania to lead the Romanian Diocese in America. He was enthroned in Detroit a few months later, and over the next several years, he did a lot to organize the Romanian Orthodox of America. In 1939, he returned to Romania to attend a session of the Holy Synod, but World War II broke out, and Bishop Polycarp wasn’t able to return to the United States. In 1947, he notified the American diocese that it had been eliminated from the church budget. He was forced to retire, and future heads of the diocese would have to be approved by Romania’s Communist government. In 1951, the American diocese elected the exiled Bishop Valerian Trifa to be the nominal auxiliary to Bishop Polycarp, but given that Bishop Polycarp hadn’t set foot in America in more than a decade, for all intents and purposes Bishop Valerian was the new head of the diocese. Bishop Polycarp died in Romania in 1958.
March 25, 1943: Governor Thomas Dewey of New York signed into law a bill incorporating the Federated Greek Catholic Primary Jurisdictions of America. The Federation was sort of a primitive version of SCOBA. It included most of the primary Orthodox jurisdictions in America, but there were notable exceptions, including the Russian Metropolia, ROCOR, and the Antiochian Archdiocese of Toledo. In the Federation’s short life — only about a year or so — it achieved some modest but still significant accomplishments. The Federation managed to get Orthodoxy recognized by the Selective Service, exempting Orthodox priests from military service and allowing Orthodox Christians in the military to put “Eastern Orthodox” on their dog tags. It also led to the legal incorporation of several jurisdictions. The Antiochian Archdiocese is still governed by the legislation, from way back in the 1940s. As far as I know, the last meeting of the Federation took place in February 1944, but the Antiochian Metropolitan Antony Bashir kept it going on paper for another 15 or so years, when the dream of the Federation was revived as SCOBA.
March 25, 1998: The renowned church historian Jaroslav Pelikan converted to Orthodoxy. Pelikan was an intellectual giant, a longtime professor at Yale and a prolific writer. He had been well acquainted with Orthodoxy for decades before his conversion, which Fr. John Erickson has described in this way: “In a conversation shortly after his entrance into the Orthodox Church, Jary likened his path to Orthodoxy to that of a pilot who kept circling the airport, looking for a way to land. Orthodox Christians can be thankful that he landed before running out of fuel.” In his later years, Pelikan served as a key member of the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Board of Trustees. He died in 2006. For more on Pelikan, read this 2003 article by Fr. John Erickson. I particularly liked this quote from Pelikan, on being a historian: “Everybody else is an expert on the present. I wish to file a minority report on behalf of the past.”
March 20, 2003: The Orthodox Church of Poland formally glorified St. Vasily Martysz, who had once served in America. To read more about St. Vasily, click here.
March 22, 2009: Archbishop Dmitri Royster of Dallas retired as head of the OCA Diocese of the South.
This week is a busy one:
March 14, 1767: Philip Ludwell III, the first Orthodox convert in American history, died in London. Decades earlier, in 1738, Ludwell had joined the Orthodox Church in London. He was just 22 at the time, and was a rising star in the Virginia aristocracy. Remarkably, the Russian Holy Synod gave him permission to bring a portion of the Eucharist back to Virginia. In 1762, Ludwell brought his three daughters to England to be received into the Church as well. Of course, we would know none of this were it not for the exceptional research and writing done by Nicholas Chapman, whose articles we’re proud to feature here at OrthodoxHistory.org. Click here to read Nicholas’ first article on Ludwell, and here to read about Ludwell’s landmark translation of an Orthodox catechism. And if you find Ludwell as fascinating as I do, I would highly recommend that you invest $4.95 to download Nicholas Chapman’s recent lecture on Ludwell. (And for $9.95, you get a CD of the lecture, a copy of Ludwell’s portrait, and the Ludwell family book plate.) I rarely encourage our readers to buy stuff, but trust me: this is worth it.
March 14, 1853: Chronologically, after Ludwell, the most important American Orthodox convert has to be St. Alexis Toth, who was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire 159 years ago this week (most of my sources say March 14, but Wikipedia has his birthday as March 18). Originally a Greek Catholic (“Uniate”) priest, Toth was assigned to serve a Carpatho-Rusyn parish in Minneapolis in 1889. But the local Roman Catholic archbishop didn’t want Toth’s “kind” — that is, Greek Catholics — in his diocese, and the two men clashed immediately. In 1891, Toth and his Minneapolis congregation joined the Russian Orthodox Church. Dozens and dozens of Uniate parishes followed suit over the next two decades, and Toth was one of the chief advocates of Uniate conversion to Orthodoxy. He died in 1909 and was canonized by the OCA in 1994.
March 13, 1868: Fr. Nicholas Kovrigin was sent on a pastoral visit to San Francisco, establishing the first foothold of the Russian Church in the contiguous United States. It all started back in the 1850s, when San Francisco’s growing Orthodox community organized into a mutual aid society. In the early 1860s, Russian ships visited the area, and some local Orthodox children — including the future Fr. Sebastian Dabovich — were baptized by a Russian navy chaplain. But there wasn’t a Russian parish until Kovrigin came along later in the decade. His visit was precipitated by the arrival, late in 1867, of the renegade Ukrainian priest Agapius Honcharenko, who moved to the Bay Area and tried to start some kind of hybrid Protestant/Orthodox parish. The Orthodox people seem to have realized that they needed to get an actual, legitimate Orthodox priest in their city, so they sent a formal request to the bishop in Alaska, who responded by sending Kovrigin for a visit. Initially, it was just that — a visit — but later in 1868, Kovrigin was formally assigned to be the pastor of a new parish in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Kovrigin seems not to have been made of the strongest moral fiber, and he ran into all sorts of trouble, ultimately being suspected of foul play in the death of his superior, cathedral dean Fr. Paul Kedrolivansky. Kovrigin was finally sent away in 1879, by the newly arrived Bishop Nestor Zass. On a more positive note, despite many trials and tribulations (and name changes), the San Francisco parish has survived to this day, and is now Holy Trinity, a cathedral of the OCA.
March 15, 1896: Archimandrite Theoclitos Triantafilides celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in Galveston, Texas. I’ve written about Fr. Theoclitos recently: he was one of only three Greek priests to serve under the Russian Mission. Previously, he had been the tutor to the future king of Greece and the future Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. His Galveston parish was multiethnic, composed of Serbs, Greeks, Syrians, Russians, Copts, and American converts. To this day, his old parish of Saints Constantine and Helen venerates him as a holy man. To learn more about Fr. Theoclitos, read this article by Mimo Milosevich.
March 15, 1898: The future Antiochian Metropolitan Antony Bashir was born in Douma, in what was then the Ottoman Empire and what is now Lebanon. Bashir led the Antiochian Archdiocese of New York from 1936 until his death in 1966. This was the era of the “New York-Toledo” schism, when the Antiochians in America were divided into competing archdioceses (one based in New York and the other in Toledo, Ohio). Bashir was a major proponent of pan-Orthodox cooperation and the proliferation of English in church services.
March 13, 1904: Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny was consecrated to the episcopacy by Archbishop Tikhon Bellavin and Bishop Innocent Pustynsky. This was the first episcopal consecration in American Orthodox history. Technically, St. Raphael was a vicar bishop under St. Tikhon, the Russian Archbishop of North America, and St. Raphael’s “diocese” was actually a vicariate for Syro-Arabs. Reality was considerably more complicated, and St. Raphael basically functioned as a mostly independent diocesan bishop with ties to both the Russians and the Patriarchate of Antioch. (As he put it, his diocese was a diocese of Antioch, “notwithstanding its nominal allegiance to the Russian Holy Synod.”) He served as bishop until his death in 1915.
March 12, 1914: Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky, dean of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in New York, returned to Russia after nearly two decades of service in America. He went on to suffer under the Communists, died a martyr’s death, and has since been canonized a saint.
March 18, 1956: The exiled Serbian bishop Nicholai Velimirovich died at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. He had first come to America in the 1910s, as a representative of the Serbian Church. After World War II, Bishop Nicholai returned to the United States as a refugee, and he went on to teach at several Orthodox seminaries in the US. I feel like I should have a lot to say about Bishop Nicholai — who, after all, was canonized in 2003 and is famous for his prolific writings (most notably the Prologue from Ochrid), but to be honest, I don’t really know all that much about the man. There are a couple of informative biographical articles online, but I should note that both are written from a somewhat hagiographic (as opposed to a strictly historical) perspective. Click here for one published in The Orthodox Word, and click here for one from the periodical Orthodox America.
March 16, 1960: The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas — better known simply as SCOBA — held its first meeting. SCOBA arose from the ashes of the “Federation,” a 1940s attempt to foster pan-Orthodox cooperation in America. And while many initially thought that SCOBA might lead to the unification of the various jurisdictions, that obviously never happened. In 2010, SCOBA was disbanded and replaced by the Assembly of Bishops. The two organizations are different in many ways, but two are of particular note: (1) SCOBA included on the heads of the jurisdictions, while the Assembly includes every active, canonical bishop in America, and (2) the “Mother Churches” tolerated SCOBA, but the same Mother Churches actually created the Assembly. Along the same lines, SCOBA was a voluntary association, whereas the Assembly is an official ecclesiastical organization with a clear mandate from the Mother Churches. I realize that I didn’t really say much about the first SCOBA meeting, but that’s a story for another day.
March 13, 1965: On the very same day, both Albanian Bishop Theophan Noli and Greek Bishop Germanos Liamadis died. As far as I know, this was the only instance of two American Orthodox bishops dying on the same date.
March 18, 1981: OCA Metropolitan Ireney Bekish died. He had been the Metropolia/OCA primate from 1965 until his retirement in 1977 — so, the period when the OCA received its Tomos of Autocephaly and established its current identity — but I’ve never heard anyone talk of him as a major historical figure. Nobody talks about the era of Ireney, because it really was the era of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who effectively led the OCA during Ireney’s entire episcopate.
March 16, 2008: ROCOR’s First Hierarch, the revered Metropolitan Laurus Skurla, died, shortly after helping to accomplish the reunion of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate. Met Laurus had led ROCOR for seven years, and while he is most remembered for that tenure, the bulk of his hierarchical career was spent as abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York.
March 13, 2011: Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese (ACROD) died of cancer after more than a quarter-century as primate of ACROD. A year later, his position has yet to be filled. ACROD has established a memorial web page for Met Nicholas; click here to view it.