Archbishop Kyrill, the only bishop Toledo's Bulgarian Orthodox Christians have ever known, was remembered yesterday as a man who loved God and loved people.
His body lay in repose yesterday in the sanctuary of St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford, with Eastern Orthodox priests taking turns continuously reading the Gospels as incense and candles burned nearby.
Dressed in white episcopal vestments and a tall white miter, with icons of the Virgin Mary and Jesus resting on his chest, Archbishop Kyrill lay in an open casket facing east - the direction from which Jesus is expected to appear when he returns to Earth, said the Rev. Paul Gassios, St. George's pastor.
Metropolitan Herman, head of the million-member Orthodox Church in America, said Archbishop Kyrill "made a great contribution to the church. He was a very loving person. Those that came in contact with him saw his love of the Lord and his joy."
Archbishop Kyrill held dual national leadership roles - as head of the Bulgarian Diocese of the United States, which has 11 churches and about 2,000 members across the country, and archbishop of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania of the Orthodox Church in America, the second-ranking cleric in the denomination.
He was the first-ever Bulgarian Orthodox bishop of Toledo, consecrated Aug. 9, 1964, and serving until his death Sunday of kidney failure at a nursing center in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.
The 87-year-old cleric had been ill for a year, Metropolitan Herman said.
Yesterday, friends and faithful came to pray in St. George Cathedral's sanctuary, then shared memories in the church's community room.
"He was really a great person and he loved the church," said Stan Pentsos, president of St. George's board. "He would visit every one of his Bulgarian Orthodox churches at least once a year."
The Rev. Andrew Moulton of Granite City, Ill., said when Archbishop Kyrill made his annual visits to the suburban St. Louis church, he knew every parishioner by name.
"The very important thing to me is that he was very definitely a person that cared about people - each person," Father Andrew said.
Archbishop Kyrill was born Ilia Yonchev in Panaguriste, Bulgaria, Feb. 26, 1920. He was orphaned at age 10, and he and his late brother, Stefan, and his twin sister, Ophelia, were reared by relatives.
He was tonsured a monk in 1941, when he was given the name Kyrill; ordained a deacon in 1941, and ordained to the priesthood in 1943.
During World War II, Archbishop Kyrill helped protect Jews from the Nazis, hiding them in the monastery's cellar, Metropolitan Herman and Father Andrew said yesterday, adding that he rarely talked about those events.
Church leaders sent Archbishop Kyrill to Bern, Switzerland, in 1946 for advanced studies, but also because Bulgarian authorities "were looking for him," Father Andrew said.
Archbishop Kyrill immigrated to the United States in 1950 after Communists took control of Bulgaria.
That year, he was named pastor of Toledo's St. George Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was meeting in an East Toledo home, according to Evanka Dimitroff, 78. "He was a good person - caring and interesting. You could talk to him," Mrs. Dimitroff said.
She said the archbishop helped with the construction of a church building on Oswald Street. The church, which has about 120 members, moved to Rossford in 2003.
In 1959, he was consecrated bishop of Toledo and Toronto and the Bulgarian Diocese of the United States and Canada. In 1972, Archbishop Kyrill led the Bulgarian Diocese to join the Orthodox Church in America and, in 1992, was elevated to archbishop.
His body will lie in state today at a cathedral in the Pittsburgh area, with funeral services tonight and burial tomorrow in the Transfiguration Monastery cemetery, Ellwood City, Pa.
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