New York mourns Head of Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

A ceremony has been held in New York to mourn the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Metropolitan Laurus, who died on Monday aged 80.

Born in Czechoslovakia, he  lived in New York since the 1940s.

The future hierarch was born Vasily Skurla in 1928 in the village of Ladomirova in Czechoslovakia, at that time a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

His family was devotedly Orthodox Christian. At the age of eleven he joined a monastery. During World War II the monastery was evacuated to Switzerland ahead of the Soviet advance in 1944.

At the age of sixteen Vasily became a novice and in 1946, after the war, he and his brotherhood emigrated to the United States and joined Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, in the heart of the New York State. There at the seminary, already a monk, he was given his name – Laurus.

Fifty-three years later, after a lifetime's devotion to advancing the cause of Russian Orthodoxy outside Russia, Laurus was elected as Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York and the first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.

It was 2007's historic treaty on reunification with the Russian Orthodox Church for which he will perhaps be most remembered. He marked the occasion with a joint liturgy with the Patriarch of All Russia at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.

The reunification ended almost 70 years of division within the Russian Church and restored the canonical link between the two branches.

The next Metropolitan will be elected in forty days by senior bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.