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Fr Leonid Kishkovsky Has Passed Away in the Lord

Fr Leonid Kishkovsky passed away in the Lord on August 4th. For many years he was the Head of the Department of External and Inter-church relations of the Orthodox Church in America, the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal entitled, “The Orthodox Church”, and the Dean of the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in the city of Sea Cliff, New York.
Fr Leonid Kislovsky, First Vice Rector of SFI Dmitry Gasak, SFI Professors David Gzgzyan and Aleksander Kopirovsky. Moscow, St Philaret’s Institute, 2014

Fr Leonid Kislovsky, First Vice Rector of SFI Dmitry Gasak, SFI Professors David Gzgzyan and Aleksander Kopirovsky. Moscow, St Philaret’s Institute, 2014

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Many of our fellow countrymen remember Fr Leonid from the occasion upon which he spoke at the anti-church “Church Unity” conference in 1994, dedicated to taking down two of the biggest missionary parishes in Moscow and judging their head priests, Fr Georgy Kochetkov and Aleksandr Borisov: the conference was held in Moscow at the Danilovskaya Hotel.

“His presentation was firey and emotional,” remembers Fr Ilya Solovyov, the well-known church historian. He spoke about the fact that the conference itself was reminiscent of the denunciation councils of the Soviet Era. Fr Leonid concluded his speech by saying, “what is going on here is what Father Alexander Schmemann called ‘spiritual boshevism’”.

“May God grant rest to his faithful servant! In 1994 he acted bravely and with thanksgiving – as our friend, and as a friend of truth and factual accuracy,” said SFI Founder, Fr Georgy Kochetkov.

Fr Leonid took an active interest in the life and fate of the Russian church, and maintained a good connection with eclesiastical and societal activiest in the Russian Federation.

“Fr Leonid was a church activist on a large scale, and taking into consideration the position of the Orthodox church in the US and in the world, this landed him with a lot of very serious responsibility,” said Dmitry Gasak, Vice Rector of St Philaret’s Institute. “He was  a very experienced, clever, and insightful man. As the descendent of Russian emigrants, he understood the nuances of what is going on in Russia far better than others abroad – in Soviet times, in the 90s, and today. He had his own unique perspective on 20th c. church history.”

“In terms of interpersonal relations, Fr Leonid was rather sincere and very warm,” remembers Dmitry Gasak. “After Fr Alexander Schmemann and Fr John Meyendorff, he was one of the most significant figures in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). “He was connected with the Russian church not only because of his particular position in the OCA, but also simply because of his love for Russia and Russian culture. Every meeting with him was of great significance.”

“The last time we had occasion to meet was when Fr Georgy Kochetkov, our representative David Gzgzyan and I went to the US in 2015,” said Dmitry Gasak.

“Of course we spoke about the Russian church at that meeting, and one of the most pressing questions we discussed was about its practical embodiment – about the degree to which new forms of sobornal life can arise within the Orthodox church – about the feasibility of brotherhoods and small communities,” Dmitry Gasak said. “Fr Leonid clearly understood the difficulties faced by the Orthodox Church not only in America and Russia, but also in Europe, in other countries and in the Far East. He, of course, had his own experiences of ecclesial life and his own positions on various issues and didn’t agree with everything that we said. But at the same time he was a man who thought deeply about the prospective development of the Orthodox Church in the modern world, and naturally, he admitted the possibility of various forms of church life other than the parish, although he certainly believed that the parish would remain the primary form of church life for many years to come.”

“He was of course our friend… perhaps not close, but a friend in every way,” added Dmitry Gasak. “In all matters of church and politics Fr Leonid was honest, honourable and brave (his widow was clear to say that because of his character, he was always a little bit controversial). These days, the character he showed is rare, and when we meet with such sincerity it is always inspiring and raises our standards.”

Memory Eternal to Fr Leonid and condolensces to his family. 

Leonid Kishkovsky was born on 24 March, 1943 in Warsaw, into a Russian family. During the 2nd World War his family found themselves in Germany, and in 1951 they moved to the United States. From 1961 to 1964 Leonid studied Political Science and History at the University of Souther California, and from 1964 to 1968 he attented St Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in New York. In 1969 he married Alexandra Kulomzina and was ordained. He served at the chapel of the Holy Trinity in San Francisco, and from 1974 he was the head priest at the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Sea Cliff, New York. From 1990 through 1991 he served as a representative to the National Council of Christian Churches in the USA and became the first Orthodox Christian priest to head this organization. In 1996 he became a member of the Advisory Committee to the US State Department on of matters of religion and human rights in closed societies. From 2000 he was a member of the administration and an aid to the Chancellor of the OCA and a member of the Board of Directors (Vice President) of the International Fund for Orthodox Christian Charitable Organisations.