Ambrose (Pappa-Georgopoli) of Belaya Krinitsa

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Ambrosii of Belo-Krinitsa, also Ambrosios (Pappa-Georgopoli), Metropolitan of Belaya Krinitsa, was the first Metropolitan of the schismatic group from the Church of Russia called the Old Believers (Starovery in Russian) or Old Ritualists (Staroobrjadtsy in Russian) or, as they are also called, the Ancient Orthodox (Drevlepravoslavnye in Russian). Consecrated a bishop under the Church of Constantinople, he joined the Old Ritualists in 1846 as the movement's first hierarch that became known as the Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy.


Andreas Popovic was born in 1791 in Maistra in Croatia of Greek origin, at that time part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1811, he married and shortly after was ordained a priest by Metropolitan Matthew. In 1814, Father Andreas lost his wife, who had given him a son, whom they had named George, after his grandfather. After having entered a monastic life with the name Ambrosii, Fr. Ambrosii was elected, in 1817, Igumen of the Monastery of the Holy Trinity on the island of Halki. In 1835, he was consecrated Bishop of Sarajevo in Bosnia by Patriarch Gregory VI, assisted by four other bishops. He remained in his position for five years before being removed by the Ottoman authorities

At that time, two Russian monks Pavel and Alimpii from a group of Old Believers in the area of Bukovina in area of Dobruja, north at the Danube delta were looking for a bishop willing to join the Old Believers. Through Osip Semenovich Goncharov, Ataman of the Nekrasov Cossacks, contact was established between Bp. Ambrosii and the two Russian monks.

Costantino Efimovic, a Serb, acted as an interpreter between Bp. Ambrosii and two monks. As Pavel and Alimpii examined the orthodox beliefs of Ambrosii, Bp. Ambrosii presented documents issued by the Patriarch of Constantinople that confirmed Ambrosii's canonical status. Bp. Ambrosii and his son, in turn, investigated the status of the Russian Orthodox Old canonry and what he was asked, before consenting on April 15, 1846 to become their bishop.

After a trip along the Danube, Bp. Ambrosii and the monks Pavel and Alimpii arrived in Tulcea, nowadays in Romania. There five hundred Nekrasov Cossacks, together with the monks of the monastery of Slavo-Rus, their Father and Igumen Makarii Arkadii Lavrentiyevskii, presented the Metropolitan with the traditional tokens of hospitality: bread with salt. The Austrian government requested and obtained from the Patriarchate of Constantinople a favorable report on Bp. Ambrosii, before giving him permission to establish his residence in their domains. After a meeting to discuss the procedure for settlement of Ambrosii, on October 28, 1846, he held the office Vigil in honor of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker. The following day, after having read the usual confession of faith in Slavonic, Bishop Ambrosii was accepted according to Canon 95 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. The priest monk Ieronim, with the blessing of the first and the new Metropolitan of Belaya Krinitsa and all the Russian Old Believers, began the Divine Liturgy, celebrated by Bp. Ambrosii.

Bp. Ambrosii read the prayers in his native language, Greek, while the deacon and the choir used Slavonic. Due to the absence of two other bishops, he used two archpriests, a procedure already used before in the history of the Church in cases of necessity and described in some lives of saints. Also in August 1847, there was the ordination of Bishop Arkadii by Salvo-Rus, an ancient seat of an Orthodox monastery at Tulcea, which still exists in Romania.

In response to installation of Bp. Ambrosii, the Russian Foreign Ministry threatened to retaliate with the Roman Catholic government if it did not withdraw the permission for the Old Believers to establish their own Metropolia in the Habsburg Empire. The Holy Synod, by which the Tsar controlled the State Church since the abolition of the Patriarchate under Peter I, likewise threatened to cut all financial assistance from the Patriarch of Constantinople if he had not done everything in its power to induce Metropolitan Ambrosii to change its position. Metr. Ambrosii, however, refused. Certainly the Old Believers convinced him that the system of the Holy Synod, established in 1700 by Tsar Peter I to check the status of the church in place of the patriarch was not canonical.

In response to diplomatic pressure, the Austrian-Hungarian authorities closed the monastery of Belaya Krinitsa on March 3, 1848, and Metr. Ambrosii was sent into exile in Tzill in Styria, Austria. After the outbreak of the 1848 revolutions in Vienna, and with the assistance of Count Kolovrat, the monastery of Belaya Krinitsa was reopened at the end of 1848, though Metr. Ambrosii remained in exile. The successor of the latter was Antonii (Shutov), who became the first Old Believers' archbishop of Moscow.

Metr. Ambrosii lived fifteen years in exile and suffered from his isolation. Nonetheless, he helped establish a full church hierarchy for the Old Believers. He saw this as the Will of God. On October 28, 1863, he made his last official act as primate of the Russian Old Believers including Archbishop Antonii and all the bishops under his jurisdiction. The document begins with the words: "For the mercy of God, the humble Archbishop and Metropolitan of all the Old-Rite Orthodox, Ambrosii." In the text, he expresses regret that he lived so far away from his flock and that his health did not allow him to do more, but that he remains open to discuss any issue relating to the church people, under his spiritual care. This document refuted allegations from some enemies of the Old Faith that wanted people to believe that the Holy Metropolitan had eventually rejected his flock.

Metr. Ambrosii died on October 30, 1863. While Metr. Kirill held his funeral at Belaya Krinitsa monastery, Metr. Ambrosii was buried in the Greek-Orthodox cemetery of Trieste.

Aftermath and canonization

In 1899, the Patriarch of Constantinople established a commission to investigate the issue of Metr. Ambrosii and his acceptance of the primacy of the Russian Old Orthodox Church. The committee issued a decree of recognition of the hierarchy established by Metr. Ambrosii. This decree met with disapproval of Constantine Pobedonostsev, the Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia.

At a joint synod held at the Monastery of Belaya Krinitsa 150 years after its acceptance of the primacy, Metr. Ambrosii was glorified on November 11, 1996, in the presence of both his successors, Metr. Leontii of Belaya Krinitsa and the Metr. Alimpii of Moscow and All Russia. The day of his feast was assigned to October 30 (November 12 os) each year. On May 18, 2000, the exhumation of his relics took place and their translation from Trieste to a Braila, Romania. Some years later, the monks Pavel and Alimpii were also glorified by the Old Believers.


See also

Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church