Paul (Olmari) of Finland

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His Beatitude, the Most Reverend Archbishop Paul (Olmari) (Finnish: Paavali ) was the primate of the Church of Finland and Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland from 1960 to 1987. Abp. Paul placed his emphasis in the Church of Finland on common worship and personal prayer within the tradition of the early church.


George Paavali Gusev was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on August 28, 1914 to Alvi Gusev and his wife Anna (née Vodomensky) of St. Petersburg, Russia. When the Russian revolution broke out the family moved to Viipuri/Vyborg in Finland on the Gulf of Finland and changed their family name to Olmari. George changed his given name to the Finnish Yrjo. In 1926, Yrjo attended the classic grammar school in Viipuri, however his attendance was cut short by the death of his father in 1932. In 1932, he entered the seminary in Sortavala and graduated in 1936. After graduating he served his obligation for military service.

At the seminary, Yrjo worked with the student choir and as deputy director of the Sortavala Cathedral choir. He also began adapting the Slavic language vocal music of the church for use with Finnish. In late 1937, Yrjo joined the Valaam Monastery on Lake Lodoga, which at the time was within the borders of Finland. In 1938 at the age of twenty three, Yrjo was tonsured a monk with the name Paul and entered the Holy Orders. Paul taught at the monastery school and directed a choir of Finnish speaking novices.

During the period of hostilities between Finland and the Soviet Union, lasting from winter war of 1939/1940 and its continuation through World War II, Fr. Paul was initially called to service as a military priest and took part in the evacuation of Valaam monastery. As the war continued he served as a priest to evacuees in Joensuu and Kauhava. During the Continuation War he served in the Aunus (Onega) district in eastern Karelia and after transfer to Jamsa in 1942, he taught religion at a camp for students from eastern Karelia.

After the war Fr. Paul served the Joensuu community as an priest and was appointed editor at the Council of the Publication of Orthodox Literature. He also was named editor-in-chief of the magazine Dawn. For a period from 1946, Fr.Paul took time to resolve his intentions for his future. In 1948, he was assigned as priest to a congregation in Kuopio where he also began editing liturgical service books and scores for church vocal music. In his editorial work he placed emphasis of the importance of divine worship and Holy Communion, pruning cultural features from the texts to produce a collection of texts and music designed for worship in Finnish. This collection came to be known as 'Paavali's" liturgy.

In 1955 Fr. Paul was elected an assistant bishop, a position that had been vacant since 1925. In this position, Bp. Paul was instrumental in beginning the intellectual and spiritual reconstruction of the Church of Finland. On August 29, 1960, he was elected Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland. As first Hierarch of the Church of Finland, Abp. Paul strengthened the ecumenical relations of the Church of Finland both domestically and internationally. Under Abp. Paul's leadership the Church of Finland entered a new era of recognition in Finland, resulting, in 1970, in the recognition of the Orthodox Church as the Second State Church.

A charismatic and deeply spiritual person, Abp. Paul worked fervently in the development of the liturgical life of the Finnish Church. He encouraged frequent communion of the faithful and saw membership in the Church grow. Abp. Paul also placed much attention on the development of New Valaam Monastery as a functioning monastery as well as the site of an Orthodox Culture and Research Institute.

Abp. Paul wrote a number of books on Orthodoxy and Orthodox life. The most notable in English was The Faith We Hold, ISBN 978-0-91383-663-7. In 1967, he was honored by the Theological Faculty of the University of Helsinki with an honorary doctorate. Also, he was named a member of the Leningrad Theological Academy.

Abp. Paul retired in 1987 and was succeeded by Abp. John (Rinne). On February 12, 1988, Abp. Paul reposed and was buried in the cemetery of New Valaam Monastery.

Succession box:
Paul (Olmari) of Finland
Preceded by:
Bishop of Joensuu - auxiliary
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Herman (Aav)
Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland
Succeeded by:
John (Rinne)
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