When he began to appear on television screens four years ago, he seemed a strange man for the Russian public. Bearing the high title of Metropolitan of East America and New York, he was dressed accordingly. He met with President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Alexy II and then signed on May 17, 2007 the historical act on communion of the Orthodox Church in Russia and abroad, thus putting an end to the tragic division of the Russian people in the 20th century. He was ceremoniously met around the country and showered with orders and prizes. But his image starkly contrasted with the image of a church authority or, for that matter, any other leader that we are used to.
The apparently feeble old man was inarticulate and barely audible. During solemn services, he moved around without due pomp. He constantly seemed pensive or sleepy. Receiving awards from top Russian leaders, when it’s just about time for a high-flown patriotic speech, he would say modest thanks, but mainly a homily – on the Holy Trinity, for example, or on Divine Love.
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“We ought to save our souls in love toward each other and in unity,” Metropolitan Laurus said less than a month before he died. “And it takes colossal labor, patience, humility and indulgence. Let us actively strive for these virtues in order to develop and strengthen the unity and peace in the Church, which we achieved, with God’s help. So that the divisions which befell the Russian Orthodox Church and the peoples of our fatherland in the tragic 20th century would never repeat. Let everybody begin to care about the peace within, about the peace with one’s conscience – that is about personal peace and accord in life with God. Striving for this peace and achieving it, we will thus be striving for achieving peace and unity in the life of the society. Without this – no matter how much we’d try – divisions and enmities will continue. [The 6th century saint] Abba Dorotheus used to draw a circle. In the center of the circle is God. Around the circle are we, the people. How can we become closer? Everyone has to go from his place towards the center, to God. The closer we are to the center – to God – the closer we become toward each other. That is how I see the path toward a spiritual unity of the peoples of our fatherland. Going along this path, we will actively participate in the great cause of uniting all. Amen.”