Laurus (Škurla)

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Metropolitan Laurus in the residence of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in Peredelkino (Moscow), February 28, 2008.
Archbishop Laurus Preaching
Archbishop Laurus

Metropolitan Laurus (Slovak: Metropolita Laurus, seculer name Vasil' Michalovič Škurla, Russian: Василий Михайлович Шкурла; January 1, 1928, Ladomirová, Czechoslovakia – March 16, 2008, Jordanville, New York) was First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, the fifth cleric to hold that position. Late in his life he negotiated the fourth ROCOR agreement, that reunited ROCOR to the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate based in Moscow.


Škurla was born on January 1, 1928, in the Rusyn-inhabited village of Ladomirová (Hungarian: Ladomérvágása), Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), to Michal Ivanovič and Elena Michalovna Škurla. His family was Orthodox Christian in an area of the former Sáros County, Austro-Hungarian Empire that was strongly influenced by Roman Catholicism. He was baptised by archimandrite Vitaly (Maximenko).

When he was five, Vasil' began serving at the altar of the Church of St. Job at the Pochaev Monastery in Ladomírová, which was the parish church for the local Orthodox population. At the age of eight, young Vasil' approached the abbot of the monastery, Archimandrite Seraphim (Ivanov), to accept him as a novice. In 1939, at the age of eleven, his father gave him permission to join the monastery, and he began to fully participate in the monastery life while he continued his required secondary education. After that he continued his obligatory secondary education, going to and from school in the local town of Svidník on a bicycle which the monastery had bought for him. While attending school, he also participated in the life of the Monastery, rising everyday at 4.00 a.m. for the Midnight Office and taking part in the other Divine Services.[1] He remained within the monastery throughout World War II, until the approach of the Soviet Army in 1944.

As the red army approached, the brotherhood evacuated the monastery, first to Bratislava, and then on to Germany and Switzerland. While in Geneva, at the age of sixteen, Vassily became a novice. In 1946, after the war, the brotherhood, including Vasil', emigrated to the United States and joined Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York.[1]

At Jordanville, Vasil' joined the first class of Holy Trinity Seminary, graduating in 1947 while still a novice. In March 1948, Vasil' was one of three novices who were tonsured ryassophore monks, being given the monastic name 'Laurus.' In 1949, Monk Laurus was tonsured to the small schema and then ordained to the diaconate in 1949. In 1954, he was ordained to the priesthood. Fr. Laurus was elevated to igumen in 1959. In 1966, he was elevated to archimandrite.

In 1967 Laurus was elected to the episcopate, being consecrated bishop of Manhattan at the Synodal Cathedral of the Theotokos of the Sign in New York City. With this elevation came an assignment as secretary of the Synod of Bishops.

In 1976 Laurus was elected abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery. With this election, Laurus was appointed Bishop of Syracuse and Holy Trinity by the Synod of Bishops. In the following years, Laurus traveled and led many pilgrimages throughout the Orthodox Christian world, including to Israel and Mount Athos. In 1981, he was elevated to archbishop.

In October 2001, after the retirement of Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov), Archbishop Laurus was elected by the Synod of Bishops as metropolitan of Eastern America and New York and the first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.[2][3]

Between May 6 and May 14, 2006, Laurus chaired the fourth All-Diaspora Council of ROCOR, at which approval was given for reconciliation and normalization of relations with the Moscow Patriarchate.[4] On May 17, 2007 Laurus, with many of the clergy of ROCOR, participated in the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion in Moscow, Russia and participated in a joint celebration of the Divine Liturgy with the Patriarch of Moscow at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.[5]

Metropolitan Laurus died aged 80, in the Holy Trinity Monastery (Jordanville), on March 16, 2008. He was buried on March 21 alongside previous leaders of the Russian Church Abroad at Holy Trinity Monastery's cemetery.

He was succeeded as First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia by Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral).


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