Are Bishops The Only Saints In The Church?

Written By: on Jun 21st, 2009 and filed under Editorial, Episcopal Election.

St.John Kochurov (1871-1917)

One of the saints canonized for altar veneration was an ordinary priest, Fr. John Kochurov. He was a priest of the Russian Church. He was married and then made a priest and sent as a missionary to serve among the Russian Orthodox in North America in 1895. He was a priest in Chicago and its vicinities. He built the first Orthodox Church in Chicago (which is now recognized as a landmark of Chicago by the City Council) with donations from Russia. He worked among the various ethnic orthodox groups and among the uniates (Roman Catholic Eastern rite people). The fruits of his priestly zeal and sanctity were numerous. He was one among the poorest of the poor in his community. Finally when he was transferred back to St. Petersburg, he died for his Orthodox faith during the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. He was canonized in Moscow by Patriarch Alexis II in December 1994.

How many of our priests will die for our faith? Don’t we compromise our faith in ordeals? We are even ready to deny our faith to please the Protestants and get their sympathy. There are some among our priests who ministered to Protestant congregations as their ministers, and there are even priests of our Church who function as Protestant chaplains to earn their livelihood. St.John Kuchurov’s life tells that orthodox faith is worth dying for.

St.Alexei Tovt (1854-1909)

Another priest who was canonized had had an illuminating story of his life.
In 1887 a group of the Uniate Capartho- Russian Catholic Church in Minneapolis began to build a church for their use. They had no priest, and they did not belong to any Roman diocese in America. So they requested the Uniate Bishop Valyi of the Priashev Diocese in Hungary to send a priest for their help. He sent a priest of the Uniate Roman Church, Fr. Alexei Tovt, to take care of their spiritual needs. Fr. Alexei Tovt was born in Austro-Hungry in 1854, attended Roman Catholic Uniate Seminaries, and earned a Doctor of Canon Law degree from Rome. After his marriage, he was made a deacon, and then a priest of the Capartho-Russian Catholic Church; (because the Eastern Churches under Rome generally permit married priesthood). Fr. Alexei came to Minneapolis in 1889 and presented his priestly credentials to the local Roman Catholic Latin Bishop Ireland of St.Paul, MN, so that he could be accepted as a Roman Catholic Eastern Church priest. Roman Canon law stipulates that in the absence of an Eastern rite bishop a uniate priest is under the jurisdiction the local Roman Catholic Latin Bishop. Upon presenting his credentials, Bishop Ireland asked Fr.Tovt (I am quoting their conversation from the dissertation of Dr.Dirud, “The Rusyn Problem in Eastern Europe and America, 1890 to World War I’’, defended at the University of Minnesota in 1976, as this dialogue is very significant for us to learn about the Roman mentality on eastern married clergy):

“Do you have a wife?”
“No!” I replied (Fr. Tovt)
“But you had one?”
“I am a widower”.
Hearing my answer, he threw the papers on the desk and cried loudly:
“I have already sent a protest to Rome that they shouldn’t send me such priests as you…”
“Which priests do you have in mind exactly?”
“Such as you…..”
“But I am a Catholic priest of the Greek Rite! I am a Uniate! I have been ordained by a lawful Catholic bishop…”
“I do not consider you or that bishop Catholics; furthermore, I do not need Greek Catholic priests; it is enough that there is a Polish priest in Minneapolis, he can be priest for Greek Catholics too.”
“But he is of Latin Rite; our people are not going to understand him; they won’t attend his services- this is precisely why they have built a separate church for themselves…”
“I did not give them permission to build it, nor do I permit you any activities here…”

Within a year after this event Fr.Alexei took the historic road to Orthodoxy with his people and they were accepted into Orthodoxy by the Russian Orthodox Bishop Vladimir on March 25, 1891 through the meditation of the Russian Counsel General of San Francisco. Thus Fr. Tovt laid the foundation of the Carpartho Russian Orthodox Church in America, which has a diocese and several parishes now. All the Capartho-Russians had been Roman Catholic Uniates for centuries previously. By 1914 there were over 100 new parishes from uniates converting to orthodoxy, and by 1950 there were over 200 such parishes in North America. All these were popular movements without any direct proselytizing efforts from Orthodox hierarchies. It is comforting to note that for every Ivanios of Bethany there is a Fr.Alexei Tovt in history. I hope the Syro-Malankarese Roman Catholics in Keralam read this part of church history well.

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1 Response for “Are Bishops The Only Saints In The Church?”

  1. Robin Alex Panicker says:

    Most Respected Cor Episcopos,

    Just wanted to let you know that Mar Yaunan Kaseesa of Anchal is venerated as a saint by many in Anchal, Kottarakara and Punalur area. Bad luck, the church where this saint is entombed is in the hands of Anglo Syrians [aka Mar Thomites... But they don't follow the faith taught by Mar Thoma.. I don't think they should be called by that name. They are the protestent version of reeth. ] We hope the parish will one day come back to true faith.

    The point I wanted to highlight was, our people still venerate a monk priest who they think is a saint of God despite the fact that he passed away 250 yrs back and his tomb is in the hands of Anglo Syrians.

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