Theophilus (Pashkovsky) of San Francisco

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Metr. Theophilus (Pashkovsky) of San Francisco

His Eminence the Most Reverend Metropolitan Theophilus (Pashkovsky) of San Francisco succeeded Metr. Platon upon his death in 1934 as leader of the North American diocese of the Church of Russia and guided it through the continued turmoil resulting from the Bolshevik revolution and of World War II. He oversaw the restart of theological education in the diocese that had ended with the closing, in 1924, of the seminary at Tenafly, New Jersey.


Theodore Nicholaevich Pashkovsky was born in the province of Kiev on February 6, 1874. He was born into a priestly family. He attended the Kiev Theological Seminary Preparatory School where he was noted as a disciplined and hard working student. The curing of a bone infection he developed while still a young student was to guide him in his future career. After doctors believed that the infection was not curable, prayers for Theodore by the already famous John of Kronstadt, when he visited the school, resulted in a complete healing. In gratitude, Theodore vowed to become a novice at the Kiev Lavra. This he fulfilled in 1894. But, events would change this choice.

When Bishop Nicholas of the North American diocese visited the Lavra to recruit workers for his mission, Theodore was invited to America. He was assigned as the secretary of the mission administration after arriving in San Francisco in late 1894. Soon after he met and married Ella Dabovich from the Serbian community. She was the niece of Fr. Sebastian Dabovich. Then, on December 4, 1897, he was ordained a priest following his earlier ordination as deacon. On June 20, 1900, his wife delivered him a son, Boris, who would be remembered during World War II as Colonel Boris Pash, the leader of the Alsos Mission in Europe under the Manhattan Project and as the Foreign Liaison Officer under General Douglas MacArthur during negotiations on the future of the Japanese Orthodox Church in 1945-47.

When then-Archbishop Tikhon returned to Russia in 1906, Fr. Theodore accompanied him with his family and worked in the administration of the Warsaw-Vilna Diocese. During World War I, Fr. Theodore worked in the Famine Relief Program of the Young Men's Christian Association on the Volga River. During these years in Russia his wife died [1917].

As the chaos of the Bolshevik regime settled over the Church, he met often with and was advised and instructed by Patriarch Tikhon on the future of the North American diocese. During these meetings Patr. Tikhon also expressed the desire that Fr. Theodore become a bishop. Fr. Theodore returned to the United States in 1922 and was soon tonsured a monk with the name of Theophilius. Then, under direction of the Holy Synod Hieromonk Theophilius was consecrated on December 3, 1922, as Bishop of Chicago.

Bp. Theophilius remained in Chicago until he was transferred in 1931, to become Bishop of San Francisco. After Metr. Platon's death in 1934, Bp. Theophilius was elected jointly by the council of assembled bishops and the full Council as the new metropolitan by the Fifth All-American Sobor that convened in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 20, 1934.

Under Metr. Theophilius American Church continued to journey into a state of stability. Episcopal relationships improved as the threat of the Living Church subsided, although new challenges arose. Attention was given to improving church education programs, including re-establishing a seminary. A metropolitan cathedral, the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral, in New York City, was acquired. Yet, a residue of the chaos and episcopal problems of the 1920s were to remain through World War II and through to Metr. Theophilius' death on June 27, 1950.


Continued stability came to the Church in North America as the 1930s unfolded. Relationships with other elements of the Russian church, including the Patriarchate of Moscow were still volatile. Metr. Theophilius provided leadership through the many twists and turns during the years he was metropolitan. He participated in a consultation convened by Patriarch Varnava of Serbia in 1936 of representatives of Russian dioceses and exiles not administered by the Patriarchate of Moscow. The agreements entered into by Metr. Theophilius at this consultation were confirmed at the All-American Sobor (Council) of 1937 including stressing again that the autonomy of the Church in America was not impaired in any way by these agreements. As the Soviet regime relaxed control over the Russian patriarchate during World War II, a reproachment was initiated that soon foundered over the political implications of the demands by the patriarchate. With the backing of the Seventh All-American Sobor of 1946, the American Church under Metr. Theophilius affirmed that the "present autonomous status and the right to self-government" was to be retained.

The political "battles" did not deter Metr. Theophilius from initiating efforts to improve the life of the American Church. Among his leadership initiatives was that of improving education at the local level, especially church schools. Also a major program was developed under Metr. Theophilius to re-establish an institution for training of clergy. Under the program, as approved by the All-American Sobor of 1937, a plan was formed for establishment of two institutions, one, St. Vladimir's Seminary that would provide Orthodox priests and workers an education based upon principles of a liberal arts college education as the foundation of their theological training, and the second, St. Tikhon's Pastoral School that would provide pastoral training. By this move the Church began its exit from the educational desert that began with the closing of the St. Platon's Seminary at Tenefly in 1924.

Succession box:
Theophilus (Pashkovsky) of San Francisco
Preceded by:
Archbishop of Chicago
Succeeded by:
Paul (Gavrilov)
Preceded by:
Alexis (Panteleev)
Archbishop of San Francisco
Succeeded by:
John (Shahovskoy)
Preceded by:
Platon (Rozhdestvensky)
Primate of the Russian Metropolia
Succeeded by:
Leonty (Turkevich)
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Constance J. Tarasar, Orthodox America 1794-1976 Development of the Orthodox Church in America Syosett, New York, The Orthodox Church in America, 1975