Kyrill (Yonchev) of Pittsburgh

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His Eminence, the Most Reverend Archbishop Kyrill (Yonchev) of Pittsburgh (1920-2007) was the ruling bishop of the OCA Diocese of Western Pennsylvania and of the OCA Bulgarian Diocese. Prior to his service in the OCA, he was the sole hierarch of the ROCOR's Bulgarian Diocese in Exile during its twelve-year existence.


Abp. Kyrill was born Ilia Yonchev on February 26, 1920, in Panaguriste, Bulgaria, the son of Mancho and Anna Yonchev. He attended the St.John of Rila Theological Seminary in Sofia, Bulgaria, graduating in 1940. He was tonsured to monastic orders on January 19, 1941, and given the name Kyrill. On the next day he was ordained a deacon. He was ordained to the priesthood in April 1943.

Fr. Kyrill attended the St. Clement of Ochrid School of Theology. After graduating in 1944, he was appointed instructor of theology in the seminary in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and also was appointed abbot of the Bachkovo Monastery. As the abbot, he participated with other Bulgarian leaders helping protect the Jewish population of Bulgaria from actions of the Nazi occupation against the Jews during World War II.

Following World War II, Fr. Kyrill attended advanced studies in theology and philosophy in Bern, Switzerland. With the communist takeover of Bulgaria, Fr. Kyrill, in 1950, immigrated to the United States where he was soon assigned as pastor of St. George Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Toledo, Ohio, as part of the Bulgarian Eastern Diocese of North and South America and Australia. Fr. Kyrill was elevated to the rank of archimandrite on December 6, 1959.

In 1964, Metr. Andrei of the Bulgarian Diocese petitioned the Holy Synod of the Church of Bulgaria for his return to the Bulgarian episcopacy and to continue to lead the diocese in America. With the return of Metr. Andrei and his diocese to the Church of Bulgaria, a group under Fr. Kyrill broke with Metr. Andrei and joined the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) as the Bulgarian Diocese in Exile.

On August 9, 1964, Kyrill was consecrated by ROCOR as Bishop of Toledo and Toronto of the Bulgarian Diocese in Exile. On December 20, 1976, Bp. Kyrill and his diocese broke from the ROCOR and joined the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), with Kyrill appointed as the ruling bishop of a Bulgarian diocese under the OCA. In October 1977, Bp. Kyrill was appointed locum tenens of the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania. In 1978, Bp. Kyrill was elected the ruling bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese, which he led for the next 29 years. He also continued to lead the OCA's Bulgarian Diocese. In 1992, he was raised to the dignity of archbishop.

During his tenure as head of the Pittsburgh diocese, Abp. Kyrill served as a member of the OCA Lesser Synod of Bishops, the Canonization Commission, and the Board of Theological Education. He was also a trustee of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.

Abp. Kyrill reposed on June 17, 2007, after a period of failing health. His funeral services were conducted on June 21 and 22, 2007, at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Allison Park, Pennsylvania. At the time of his death Abp. Kyrill was the longest-serving Orthodox hierarch in America.

Succession box:
Kyrill (Yonchev) of Pittsburgh
Preceded by:
Andrei (Petkov)
Bishop of Toledo and Toronto
Bulgarian Diocese in Exile (ROCOR)

Succeeded by:
Michael (Donskoff)
Preceded by:
see created
Bishop of Bulgarian Diocese

Succeeded by:
Alexander (Golitzin)
Preceded by:
Theodosius (Lazor)
Archbishop of Pittsburgh

Succeeded by:
Melchisedek (Pleska)
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  • The Orthodox Church, Vol 43/No 3, Summer 2007, p. 30.

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