Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow

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Saint Tikhon, 11th Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia
Tikhon of Moscow.jpg
Saint Tikhon of Moscow
Confessor, Patriarch of Moscow, Apostle to America
Born (1865-01-31)31 January 1865
Klin (Toropets district, Pskov Province), Russian Empire
Died 7 April 1925(1925-04-07) (aged 60)
Moscow, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy, Episcopal Church (USA)
Canonized 1 November [O.S. 19 October] 1981, New York City by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
9 October [O.S. 26 September] 1989, Moscow by the Moscow Patriarchate
Major shrine Donskoy Monastery, Moscow
Feast 7 April [O.S. 25 March] (Repose)
also Episcopal Church (USA)
9 October [O.S. 26 September] (Glorification)

Saint Tikhon of Moscow (Russian: Тихон, 31 January [O.S. 19 January] 1865 – 7 April [O.S. 25 March] 1925), born Vasily Ivanovich Bellavin (Russian: Василий Иванович Беллавин), was the 11th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of the Russian Orthodox Church during the early years of the Soviet Union, 1917 through 1925.

Early life

From 1878 to 1884, Bellavin studied at the Pskov Theological Seminary. In 1888, at the age of 23, he graduated from the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy as a layman. He then returned to the Pskov Seminary and became an instructor of Moral and Dogmatic Theology. In 1891, at the age of 26, he took monastic vows and was given the name Tikhon in honor of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk. Tikhon was consecrated Bishop of Lublin on 19 October 1897.

Bishop in the United States

On 14 September 1898, Bishop Tikhon was made Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska. He thus traveled to the United States, and eventually became a naturalized United States citizen. The peripatetic bishop visited emerging Orthodox emigrant communities in various United States cities, including New York City, Chicago and the coal and steel-making cities of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

File:Consecration of The Right Reverend Weller.jpg
The consecration of The Rt. Rev Weller as an Anglican bishop at the Cathedral of St. Paul the Apostle in the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, with the Rt. Rev. Anthony Kozlowski of the Polish National Catholic Church and St Tikhon of Moscow (along with his chaplains Fr. John Kochurov, and Fr. Sebastian Dabovich) of the Russian Orthodox Church present

As head of the Russian Orthodox Church in America in 1900, Bishop Tikhon reorganized the diocese and changed its name from "Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska" to "Diocese of the Aleutians and North America". He had two vicar bishops in the United States: Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky) in Alaska, and St. Raphael (Hawaweeny) in Brooklyn. On 22 May 1901, he blessed the cornerstone for St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York (fundraising for which had begun in 1894 and to which Tsar Nicholas II contributed 5,000 in 1900) in a great ceremony attended by New York Mayor Seth Low, Russian diplomats and sailors, and enthusiastic worshippers.[1] He celebrated the first liturgy in the new building's basement on July 20, 1902, and in the main hall on November 10, 1902.[2] Bishop Tikhon was also involved in building other churches in North America, and establishing a dialog with Greek Orthodox churches in America. On 9 November 1902, he consecrated the church of St. Nicholas in Brooklyn for Syrian Antiochian Orthodox immigrants.

While in the United States, Bishop Tikhon became aware of the country's tradition of religious diversity, as well as the growing ecumenical and Pan-Slav movements, and the needs of a wide variety of eastern and southern European immigrants. Before his arrival, in 1890, a delegation of Carpatho-Rusyns also had approached the Russian consul in San Francisco and requested a bishop, since the politically powerful Roman Catholic archbishop of Minnesota, John Ireland was attempting to force their assimilation, although Byzantine Rite Catholics had previously been accorded certain dispensations from Latin Rite practices. Their Ruthenian Catholic priest, Alexis Toth, was formally accepted into the Russian Orthodox Church in 1892. In 1900, Bishop Tikhon attended the consecration of Reginald Heber Weller as bishop coadjutor for the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, though he was not one of the consecrating bishops (all Episcopalians).[3] More Byzantine Rite Catholics joined the Orthodox fold, especially priests after 1907, when Pope Pius X published Ea Semper, restricting their previously recognized right to marry, unlike Latin Rite practice.

In 1905, he was formally raised to the status of Archbishop, and moved his formal residence and diocesan office from San Francisco to New York.[4] In June 1905, the new archbishop gave his blessing for the establishment of a monastery in Pennsylvania, which in the 1930s became Saint Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Return to Russia

In 1907, Bishop Tikhon returned to Russia, having been appointed Bishop of Yaroslavl, an industrializing community in his native land. He was then transferred to the diocese of Vilno, (Today Vilnius, Lithuania), on 22 December 1913.

However, the first World War and Russian Revolution created turmoil in his native land. On 21 June 1917, the Diocesan Congress of clergy and laity elected Tikhon the ruling bishop of Moscow. On 15 August 1917, Archbishop Tikhon was raised to the dignity of Metropolitan of Moscow. On 5 November of the same year, after an election as one of the three candidates for the reinstated Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev announced that Metropolitan Tikhon had been selected for the position after a drawing of lots as the new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.


Saint Tikhon of Moscow
Memorial tablet to Saint Tikhon in Vilnius, Lithuania.

During the Russian Civil War the Patriarch was widely seen as anti-Bolshevik, and many members of the Orthodox clergy were jailed or executed by the new regime. Tikhon openly condemned the killings of the tsar's family in 1918, and protested against violent attacks by the Bolsheviks on the Church. In 1920, he granted autonomy to what became the Orthodox Church in America and other dioceses of the Church of Russia that were cut off from the governance of the highest Church authority (i.e. the Patriarch), until such time as normal relations with the highest Church authority could be resumed. Two years later, after certain monarchist-oriented bishops had gathered in Sremski-Karlovci, Yugoslavia, and claimed to speak as a synod for the entire "free" Russian church, he formally dissolved the group and appointed metropolitans Platon and Evlogy as ruling bishops in America and Europe, respectively.

However, this did not end the church-state controversy within Russia. New Soviet farming practices had produced the Russian famine of 1921. The Communist government denied responsibility, instead accusing the Patriarch of being a saboteur. From April 1922 until June 1923 he resided under house arrest in Donskoy Monastery.[5] His public protest against nationalization of Church property was reframed as a criminal act. This caused international resonance and several countries sent formal protest notes to the Soviet government.

Under pressure from the authorities, Patriarch Tikhon issued several messages to the believers in which he stated in part that he was "no longer an enemy to the Soviet power". Textual analysis of these messages shows considerable similarity with a number of documents exchanged in the Politburo on the "Tikhon's Affair". Despite his declaration of loyalty, he continued to enjoy the trust of the Orthodox community in Russia. In 1923 Patriarch Tikhon was "deposed" by a Soviet-sponsored[6] council of the so-called Living Church, which decreed that he was "henceforth a simple citizen—Vasily Bellavin." This deposition has never been recognized as an act of the Russian Orthodox Church, and is therefore considered invalid by both the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Russian Federation.

When the sewerage system under the hastily erected first Mausoleum of Lenin was damaged and a leak occurred, Tikhon remarked, "The balm accords with the relics" (Russian: По мощам и елей). The phrase was widely quoted.[citation needed]


In 1924 the Patriarch fell ill and was hospitalized. On 5 April 1925, he served his last Divine Liturgy, and died two days later, 25 March (O.S.)/7 April, the Feast of the Annunciation. He was buried on 12 April in the winter church of Donskoy Monastery in Moscow. From the time of his death, he was widely considered a martyr or confessor for the faith.


Icon with reliquary of Saint Tikhon of Moscow in the Katholikon of the Monastery of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk in South Canaan, Pennsylvania

Patriarch Tikhon was glorified (canonized) a saint by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in conjunction with the great glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Soviet Yoke on 1 November [O.S. 19 October] 1981. He was later glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate during the Bishop's Council of 9–11 October 1989. This later canonization process is generally considered an example of the thaw in Church-Soviet relations during the Glasnost era. The Episcopal Church (USA) also remembers Patriarch Tikhon with a feast day on its liturgical calendar on the anniversary of his death, April 7.

St Tikhon's relics were believed lost, but on 19 February 1992 (or, according to another source, 22 February), they were discovered concealed in the Donskoy Monastery and almost entirely incorrupt. The relics were placed in a reliquary and on 5 April [O.S. 23 March] 1992, fifty bishops solemnly transferred them to the Katholikon (main church) of the Donskoy Monastery in a place of honour by the soleas (close to the sanctuary).

See also


External links

Eastern Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Nicholas (Ziorov)
Primate of the Orthodox Church in America
Succeeded by
Platon (Rozhdestvensky)
Preceded by
Patriarch of Moscow
Succeeded by
Sergius I