Metropolitan Theodosius, Once of Sitka, Dies at 86

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Created on Thursday, 22 October 2020 15:23
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His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor)

On Monday, October 19, 2020, His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor), former Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All-America and Canada, fell asleep in his Lord in Canonsburg, after an extended illness. He was the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America from 1977 until his retirement in 2002.

On Oct. 27, 1933, he was born Frank Lazor to John and Mary Lazor, immigrants from Galicia (what is today the southeastern corner of Poland), in Canonsburg. He was raised as a son of the Orthodox Church, a devout member of Saint John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Canonsburg. He attended Canonsburg High School, where he was Student Council president, graduating in 1953.

He graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1957, and in 1960 was awarded a master of divinity degree from Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. After a year of study and travel, he took monastic vows and was tonsured as a schema monk at Saint Sergius Chapel in Oyster Bay Cove, N.Y., by Archbishop Ireney of Boston and New England and given the name Theodosius. On Oct. 14, 1961, he was ordained to the Holy Diaconate at Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in New York City, and on Oct. 22, 1961, the Hierodeacon Theodosius was ordained to the Holy Priesthood at Saint Gregory’s Church in Homestead.

From 1961 through 1966, he served as rector of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Church, Madison, Ill. In 1967 he was elected to the episcopacy to serve as Auxiliary to the Metropolitan and Bishop of Washington, D.C., and as administrator of the Diocese of Alaska. He was consecrated a Bishop and on Nov. 17, 1967, the Great Council of Bishops elected him as the diocesan Bishop of Sitka and Alaska.

During his tenure in Alaska, he helped oversee the rebuilding of St. Michael’s Cathedral,  which had been destroyed by fire. He also initiated regional conferences throughout the diocese and encouraged the establishment of a variety of educational programs and conferences. He also oversaw the renovation of the Bishop’s House, which originally had been built by Saint Innocent (Veniaminov). It is now listed as an official historic site. During his tenure in Alaska, he was adopted into an indigenous clan.

Another community contribution in Sitka was helping the New Archangel Dancers, a local group, learn Russian folk dances.

In May 1970, as Bishop of Alaska he headed the OCA’s delegation, which traveled to Moscow to receive the Tomos of Autocephaly, marking the beginning of the Orthodox Church in America. The Tomos guaranteed the right of self-governance for the Orthodox Church in America.

In 1972, he was reassigned to the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. On October 25, 1977, he was elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada during the 5th All-American Council in Montreal, Quebec. As Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Theodosius assumed leadership of one of the world’s 15 self-governing, or autocephalous, Orthodox churches.

In 1981, the Holy Synod of Bishops established a new diocese of Washington, D.C., as the seat of the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. As Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan Theodosius presided over this diocese, in addition to his duties as Primate.

In 1990, he was the first Orthodox primate to be officially invited by the newly-enthroned Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow, and in 1992, he was invited to participate in the 600th Anniversary of the repose of Saint Sergius of Radonezh.

Metropolitan Theodosius was a frequent guest at the White House in Washington, D.C., having been called upon by Presidents Bush and Clinton for advice on religious and political affairs in various parts of the world, especially after the fall of communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the crisis in Kosovo, he boldly defended the rights of all peoples in the region while calling upon President Clinton to end the NATO air campaign.

On September 28, 1994, Metropolitan Theodosius was the guest of Dr. James Billington at the Library of Congress for the opening of an historic display highlighting the contribution of the Orthodox Church and Native Alaskan cultures to North America. During the ceremony, Metropolitan Theodosius was greeted by U.S. President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

In spring 2001, Metropolitan Theodosius was granted a four-month medical leave of absence from his archpastoral and primatial duties. However, he continued to suffer the residual effects of strokes and found the ever-increasing burdens of his office too demanding. On July 22, 2002, His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius opened the 13th All-American Council and presented his report on the last triennium. At the conclusion, he retired as Metropolitan of All America and Canada.

During his retirement, he lived in Washington. He actively attended the Divine Services at Saint John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Canonsburg, and became a beloved presence once again in his home community. As his health continued to fail, he entered an assisted living facility during the last years of his life and then a nursing facility as his health failed.

Services were held at Saint John the Baptist Church, Canonsburg, on October 21-22. On Friday, October 23, Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration, Ellwood City, Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at 10 a.m. will be followed immediately by interment.


Due to COVID restrictions, only invited clergy served at the services.