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April 23, 2008 

On the 40th Day of the Repose of the Primate of ROCOR, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus (Shkurla) 

Bogoslov.ru interviews with His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion (Kapral) of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, Protopriest Peter Burlakoff and Priest Daniel Marshall. 

A great deal has been said in memory of the newly-reposed Metropolitan Laurus over the 40 days since his death. An entire epoch comes to an end with the death of the fifth Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia: 7 years of leading the Russian Church Abroad, 31 years as the Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, and Rector of its Seminary, 41 years of episcopal service, 61 years of monkhood and 80 years of his life. Which of these numbers characterize the man and his service? The best answer might come from those who spent time near him, near this podvizhnik, over the years. During Vladyka's tenure as the abbot of the heart of the Church Abroad, more than one generation of clergymen studied there. The authority of the late Metropolitan Laurus was unquestioned, and his labors towards the reunification of the Russian Church were invaluable, one cannot speak too highly of them. 

In connection with the death of the First Hierarch, Bogoslov.ru obtained exclusive interviews from: 

-His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion (Kapral) of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, First Deputy of the President of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, likely candidate for next Primate of ROCOR. Vladyka Hilarion served as a bishop for 24 years and is a member of the second generation of emigres (his parents were forced to flee Western Ukraine in 1929). Vladyka Hilarion knew Vladyka Laurus not only as Metropolitan, but when he was still a monk (http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/rocor/bio_bphilarion.html); 

-Mitred Protopriest Peter Burlakoff of St Sergius Cathedral in Cleveland, OH. He was born in Belgrade, graduated the First Cadet Corps of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich. Fr Peter's parents fled Kuban after the Revolution; he was one of those who received a Royal education abroad and studied under the finest teachers of the Russian Empire. A clergyman for 40 years, Fr Peter knew all the First Hierarchs of ROCOR; 

-Priest Daniel Marshall is one of the new generation of clergymen which is now replacing the older one. Having received a lay education and working as a journalist for several years, Fr Daniel then finished the Seminary in Jordanville; at the present time, he is Rector of Protection Parish in Goshen, IN. 

Reader Antony Alekseenko: Please tell us about the First Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. 

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky, 1922-1936) 

Archbishop Hilarion: Metropolitan Anthony was most senior of over 30 bishops who left Russia during the Civil War along with an enormous number of Russians. He tended to the establishment and strengthening of church life under emigre conditions. The Temporary Supreme Church Administration was established on the basis of Ukase No. 362 of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon of November 20, 1920. Under Metropolitan Anthony, the first All-Diaspora Council was convened in 1921. Metropolitan Anthony combined the qualities of an eminent theologian and a loving archpastor. 

Protopriest Peter: The first goal of Vladyka Anthony was to unite the Russian emigration, where members of widely differing classes of the Russian Empire found themselves. Besides being a talented theologian, for which he is remembered to this day, he also had strong leadership qualities, and he gathered together fragments of Church society.

Priest Daniel: Metropolitan Anthony was able to build unity during a period of trouble and confusion. He laid the foundation for the future ROCOR. 

Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky, 1936-1964) 

Archbishop Hilarion: In the early years of the emigration, in Constantinople, Vladyka Anastassy oversaw the resettlement of the emigres; he represented the Church Abroad before the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Jerusalem. At the request of Patriarch Timothy of Jerusalem, and with his participation, the hierarchy of the Jerusalem Patriarchate was reestablished. It befell Metropolitan Anastassy to lead ROCOR through the difficult years of World War II. He was placed under house arrest by the German authorities in Yugoslavia, because they did not trust him for his independence and insubordination. 

From Yugoslavia, the Church administration first went to Czechoslovakia, then Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and in 1950, Metropolitan Anastassy arrived in the USA, in New York City, soon after the Protectress of the Russian Emigration, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. Metropolitan Anastassy stood at the helm of the ship of the Church to a venerable age. 

Protopriest Peter: Under Metropolitan Anastassy, it was necessary to organize the life of parishes abroad, and of everyone brought together by the previous Primate. After World War II, the collection together of the remnants of the Church continued, despite the loss of China and schisms in Europe and the USA. 

Priest Daniel: Metropolitan Anastassy brought ROCOR from the post-Revolutionary period to the post-World War II era. The most noteworthy decision he made was to transfer the administrative center to New York.  

Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky, 1964-1986) 

Archbishop Hilarion: Metropolitan Philaret was chosen as Primate of ROCOR after his move from Red China to Australia, where he was consecrated into the episcopate for the city of Brisbaine. He was notable for his deep piety and prayerfulness. Under him, the danger of ecumenical movement arose, which many Local Orthodox Churches joined. The temptation evoked by the rapprochement between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope of Rome led Metropolitan Philaret to issue two Sorrowful Epistles which warned Orthodox archpastors against the dangers of ecumenism. 

Metropolitan Philaret was also an excellent preacher. 

Protopriest Peter: Under Vladyka Philaret, non-Russian parishes began to join ROCOR (Greeks, Bulgarians and Rumanians), and the active conversion of the heterodox. Under the third Primate, ROCOR also glorified St Ksenia the Blessed, the Optina Elders and the Royal Family, which was unimaginable in the USSR. 

Priest Daniel: Metropolitan Philaret was memorable for his Sorrowful Epistles, which laid the theological foundations for the rejection of ecumenism. Through them he faced the challenge of the times and warned of its danger.  

Metropolitan Vitaly (Oustinov, 1986-2001) 

Archbishop Hilarion: Metropolitan Vitaly was universally-respected for his podvig in saving many Russians in post-war Germany from forced repatriation to the Soviet Union, where prison camps and certain death awaited them. His tenure as Primate fell on the period of perestroika and the fall of the Communist government in Russia. Metropolitan Vitaly loved Russia fervently, and during the perestroika years tried to send spiritual literature and material aid to the believers and clergymen there. A gifted orator, Metropolitan Vitaly called upon all to prayer and to work on their inner lives.

Protopriest Peter: Vladyka Vitaly's goal was to hold and strengthen the Church. He was against contact with clerics in the Soviet Union, and that is why ROCOR kept to itself. 

Metropolitan Laurus (Shkurla, 2001-2008) 

Archbishop Hilarion: It pleased God to grant that the most kind and most loving Metropolitan Laurus would lead ROCOR in a time ripe for the reestablishment of unity between ROCOR and the Orthodox Church of Russia. Together with His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, he signed the Act of Canonical Communion in May, 2007. This is his greatest achievement for the Church, and his name will forever be remembered in Church history. 

Protopriest Peter: Metropolitan Laurus was left with a difficult task—he needed to overcome people's preconceived notions. The older generation sat still, and not only did not want change, but did not wish to see positive changes in Russia. A portion of the task of reunification lay on the shoulders of the Patriarch, and one can only wonder at the physical energy and strength of will that both Metropolitan Laurus and His Holiness Patriarch Alexy had to have to take this step.

Priest Daniel: Metropolitan Laurus was able to reunite the Russian Church without suffering great losses of clergymen or parishes. 

Reader A.A.: How do you expect the Russian Church Abroad will develop after the death of Metropolitan Laurus? 

Archbishop Hilarion: With God's help, the most important task, Church unity, has already been accomplished, and ROCOR will continue its service towards the salvation of the souls of the children it is charged with. The Russian diaspora is growing and becoming populated with the resettlement of Russians throughout the world. The challenge ROCOR faces is as it always was: to preserve the Russian people in the diaspora in the Orthodox Faith and in piety, and at the same time witness the truth of Holy Orthodoxy before the peoples who welcome the emigres. In other words, we must strengthen Orthodoxy among our own Russians and systematically conduct missionary work among those of other faiths and religions. 

Protopriest Peter: ROCOR's development lies first of all in preserving not only the Russian but the non-Russian flock. Active missionary work is needed among the heterodox, since the older generation is passing away. The state of affairs in South America is sad, where one priest ministers to 3-5 parishes. Missionary work among Catholics in South America is far more difficult than among Protestants in the USA and Germany.  

Priest Daniel: Since now there is no need to preserve the faith in order to return it to Russia, the Church must concentrate on addressing Orthodox needs in the blossoming anti-Christian world. The search for answers will found in missionary work and contact with world Orthodoxy, such as the Greek, Serbian and Antiochian Churches. 

Reader A.A.: What would you say is the "testament" of Metropolitan Laurus to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and its future generations? 

Archbishop Hilarion: Metropolitan Laurus' "testament" is his call for those who live abroad to live in peace, in Christian love, in piety and chastity. To preserve the Holy Orthodox Faith in its purity; to love Russia and preserve her good traditions and customs and the great Russian language for future generations. 

Protopriest Peter: Metropolitan Laurus' "testament" is to be able to live with people, hear them, and follow the commandments that he manifested in his own life.

Priest Daniel: Metropolitan Laurus clearly spoke for himself in his actions. He stood for real conservatism in the Church, based on the preservation of the faith of our fathers. His example was to reject compromise with the world to the benefit of holy tradition. 

Reader A.A.: What did you remember most of all from your personal meetings with the late Metropolitan Laurus? 

Archbishop Hilarion: My acquaintance with Metropolitan Laurus began back in 1967, when he was consecrated to the episcopate, and I was a nineteen-year-old enrolling in the first year of Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville. Since then, in Seminary, the Monastery, and later, in the wide field of the Church, I had many opportunities to come to know Vladyka Laurus. He was always accessible, a kind father. He was loved and respected by all for his good, humane qualities, for his wisdom and discernment in resolving all kinds of problems in church life.

Protopriest Peter: Our meetings were always enjoyable. Vladyka Laurus was never condescending despite his high position. When I would come to the Monastery, he always invited me to concelebrate, no matter wher I hid myself in the Monastery church. 

Priest Daniel: Most memorable were his meetings with people. Vladyka Laurus wrote me a very kind, warm letter in response to my gift to him of a book, St Seraphim's Beatitudes. I will treasure this dear letter. He tried to keep correspondence with the many people who wrote to him.

Reader A.A.: Who was His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus personally for you? 

Archbishop Hilarion: Vladyka Metropolitan Laurus was very close to me, like a loving father. In his humility and meekness of spirit, he was a spiritual giant. I feel keenly his departure for the better world. 

Protopriest Peter: For me, he will always remain a warm and accessible leader. 

Priest Daniel: He always struck me as the epitome of humbleness and obedience. Vladyka was worthy of emulation for every monk—he always attended early services, he held himself humbly and was always approachable. He never demanded respect, only respect for the rank one held. 

Exclusive to Bogoslov.ru

Reader Antony Alekseenko