Eleutherius (Kozorez) of Shymkent

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His Eminence Eleutherius of Shymkent

His Eminence Eleutherius (Kozorez) (Russian: Елевферий Козорез; 17 September 1953 – 4 June 2021) was Archbishop of Shymkent and Taraz in Kazakhstan. Archbishop Eleutherius was the founding bishop of the Eparchy of Shymkent from 1991 to his repose as victim of the Great Pandemic in 2021. His Eminence's name day was August 4 for Saint Eleutherius the Cubicularius.


Yuri Feofanovich Kozorez (George) was born on September 17, 1953 into a peasant family in the rural village of Obariv, near Rivne in Ukraine. George graduated high school in 1970, when he was 16 years old. During this time, he served the Church with minor orders. In the following years, George went to Moscow in order to join the Moscow Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1979. He remained there as a post-graduate student, receiving his Degree in Theology in 1984 from the Moscow Theological Academy. In 1985, George moved to the Eparchy of Almaty in Kazakhstan, serving under the newly-elected Bishop Eusebius (Savvin) of Almaty (1984–1990; now Metropolitan of Pskov), who had also come from Moscow.

On April 13, 1985, Bishop Eusebius ordained George a deacon at the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Almaty. (see photos) Deacon George was ordained into Holy Priesthood by the same bishop on September 17, being entrusted as rector to the cathedral. Father George left the cathedral in 1986 to be made rector of the Church of Saint Nicholas in Shymkent, (see photos) as well as dean to the churches located in Turkistan (where Shymkent is) and Kyzylorda. On March 26, 1987, Father George was tonsured into monasticism receiving Saint Eleutherius the Cubicularius as his patron saint. In 1988, Hieromonk Eleutherius was elevated to the rank of hegumen. Hegumen Eleutherius was responsible for the construction of many new churches in Kazakhstan, which were dedicated to Saint George, Saint Xenia, the Dormition on the Theotokos and the Icon “The Joy of All Who Sorrow”.

During the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Holy Synod of the Russian Church began a series of structural reforms in January 1991. The synod created the Province of Kazakhstan on January 31, establishing the Eparchy of Shymkent thanks to Hegumen Eleutherius' works and restoring the Eparchy of Uralsk. Now, Kazakhstan had three eparchies: Almaty, Shymkent and Uralsk. Hegumen Eleutherius was elected on the same day by the synod as Bishop of Shymkent and Tselinograd, having the Church of Saint Nicholas in Shymkent elevated to cathedral.

On February 14, 1991, Hegumen Eleutherius was elevated to archimandrite, being consecrated Bishop the next day. One of his initial ordinations was of Victor Micheykin as deacon in 1992, who later became His Grace the Bishop of Petropavl. On April 3, 1993, Bishop Eleutherius participated in the cheirotonia of Archimandrite Michael Raskovalov as the first bishop of the restored Eparchy of Kurgan in the Urals by Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow (1990–2008). On the next day, he also participated in the ordination of Father Ioannis Popov as Bishop of Belgorod (now Metropolitan) by the Patriarch. On July 16, 1993, following the independence of Kazakhstan and the change of Tselinograd's name to Akmola, Bishop Eleutherius' title changed to “Shymkent and Akmola”. On October 3, 1993, he participated in another ordiantion, of Archimandrite Simon Getya as Bishop of Tikhvin (now Metropolitan) near St. Petersburg by Patriarch Alexei.

Due to his commitment to the revival of Orthodoxy in Kazakhstan since his arrival in the country, Bishop Eleutherius headed from May 5, 1995, a planning group for reviving missionary activities in the country. It led to the recognition by the Holy Synod of an intereparchial comission of Kazakh bishops consisting of the three eparchies, headed by Archbishop Alexei (Kutepov) of Almaty (1990–2002; now Metropolitan of Tula), on July 16 of the same year. In 1997, Patriarch Alexei praised the charity works developed by the Eparchy of Shymkent regarding the poor.

On March 31, 1999, after Astana (today Nur-Sultan) became capital of Kazakhstan, the Holy Synod transferred the city of Astana (capital of the region of Akmola) to the Eparchy of Almaty, which was renamed “Eparchy of Astana and Almaty”. Bishop Eleutherius' title and jurisdiction over Akmola remained for all the territories in the region besides the capital, therefore his title was kept. In 2000, 31 saints martyred in the area of Shymkent during the atheist persecution between 1937 and 1941 (including one from 1920) were submitted for the general glorification of New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church. After Archbishop Alexei's election to the Eparchy of Tula in 2002, Bishop Eleutherius became also vicar to the Eparchy of Astana from October 7, 2002 to May 7, 2003, when the synod decided to establish the Metropolia of Kazakhstan consisting of the three eparchies in the country, having Astana promoted to the seat of the metropolia with the election of Metropolitan Methodius (Nemtsov) as Metropolitan of Astana (2003–2010). On February 29, 2004, the Holy Synod elevated Bishop Eleutherius to the rank of Archbishop.

There is a tradition of blessing astronauts, space rockets, satelites and ships launched at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kyzylorda desert, where Yuri Gagarin was the first man to be launched into space. Even today, Baikonur remains a busy spaceport, with numerous commercial, military, and scientific missions being launched annually. All crewed Russian spaceflights are launched from Baikonur. Since 1992, the only place where faithful could gather in the city for the Divine Liturgy was a missionary chapel inside a store building. On June 1, 2005, Archbishop Eleutherius consecrated the newly-built Church of Saint George (see photos) for the 50th anniversary of the cosmodrome. Its iconostasis has the Theotokos of Kazan Icon sent to the International Space Station from 14 to 24 October 2004, as well as a particle of Saint George's relics. The parish also runs a Sunday school, a library, a patriotic youth club and a newspaper. Since 1998 every spaceship and cosmonaut is blessed in a prayer service with special litanies on the eve of launch.

In 2006, Christmas was recognized country-wide by the Republic of Kazakhstan. On July 18, 2008, Archbishop Eleutherius concelebrated with numerous Russian and Cypriot hierarchs including Patriarch Alexei II and Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Nea Justiniana for the feast day of Saint Sergius of Radonezh at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad, where both Churches strengthened their bonds. His Eminence would again visit the lavra in 2010 and 2013. Archbishop Eleutherius was also present at the 2009 Council of Moscow for the election of late Patriarch Alexei II's successor.

On January 17, 2010, he concelebrated with His Holiness the new Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow on his visit to Kazakhstan, together with Metropolitan Methodios, Archbishops Barsanuphius (Sudakov) of Saransk, Alexander (Mogilev) of Kostroma, Anthony (Moskalenko) of Uralsk and Theognostus (Guzikov) of Sergiev Posad, and Bishop Sergius (Tsasin) of Solnechnogorsk during the consecration of the new Cathedral of the Dormition in Astana. (see photos) After the Divine Liturgy, the Government of Kazakhstan invited the Patriarch and the hierarchs for a reception at its palace. Finally, the Patriarch and the hierarchs visited the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Almaty. On the next day, the Patriarch and the hierarchs celebrated the Divine Liturgy and the blessing of the waters at the Cathedral of the Ascension in Almaty. (see photos) Two months later, Archbishop Alexander became Metropolitan of Astana. On April 13, 2010, Patriarch Kyrill congratulated Archbishop Eleutherius for the upcoming 20th anniversary of his episcopal consecration. The Patriarch presented him with a commemorative Panagia.

Archbishop Eleutherius' joint work with the other two eparchies of the metropolia resulted in the creation of three new eparchies during the 2010 structural reforms issued by the Holy Synod over all of its canonical territory: Pavlodar from Astana, Karaganda from Astana and Shymkent, and Kostanay from Uralsk and Shymkent, which faded as a missionary vicariate during the atheist persecutions. In November, the Latin Church presented the metropolia with a particle of the relics of Saint Andrew. At the local Synod of Astana on March 25, 2011, Archbishop Eleutherius was made chairman of the Ecclesiastical Court for the Metropolia of Kazakhstan. He also participated in the cheirotonia of His Grace the new Bishop of Karaganda, Archimandrite Sebastian Osokin by His Holiness the Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow in 2011 at the Patriarchal Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. On June 19, 2011, Archbishop Eleutherius, Metropolitan Alexander, Archbishop Anthony and Bishop Sebastian concelebrated in the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Shymkent for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Eparchy of Shymkent. The Republic of Kazakhstan awarded Archbishop Eleutherius with the Order of Gratitude on the occasion of this celebration.

During the new October 2011 structural reforms announced by the Holy Synod, another three eparchies were established: Kokshetau (from Shymkent), Ust-Kamenogorsk (from Kostanay) and the restored Eparchy of Petropavl (from Pavlodar). The territories of the eparchies was also rearranged — Akmola, for example, joined jurisdiction under Kokshetau. Therefore, Archbishop Eleutherius' title was changed to “Shymkent and Taraz”. On February 12, 2012, he accompanied the transferring of the relics of Saints Elizabeth and Barbara to the Cathedral of the Dormition in Astana. Archbishop Eleutherius also met with Patriarch Theophilos III during His Beatitude's visit to Kazakhstan on May 31, 2012. He concelebrated with Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan) of Kiev (1992–2014) and many other hierarchs for the Feast of the Pochaev Icon at the Pochaev Lavra of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Ukraine. Archbishop Eleutherius would visit the lavra again in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. In September 2012, the incorrupt hand of Saint Spyridon of Trimythous was temporarily brought to Shymkent. His Eminence also worked together with the other bishops of Kazakhstan regarding the inauguration of the Spiritual and Cultural Center of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Astana, as well as a Metropolitan Comission for the Canonization of Saints. On September 17, 2013, at the occasion of His Eminence's 60th anniversary, Patriarch Kyrill awarded the Archbishop with the second class of the Order of Saint Daniel of Moscow, which is awarded for services in the revival of spiritual life in Russia.

On May 6, 2014, a piece of the Belt of the Theotokos was temporarily brought to Shymkent. On June 8, Archimandrite Vladimir Micheykin, who was received ordaination as Victor Micheykin in 1992 from the hands of Archbishop Eleutherius and served under him, was elected Bishop of Petropavl. In April 2015, His Eminence participated in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On August 5, 2015 in Ukraine, Archbishop Eleutherius participated in the ordination of Archimandrite Nathaniel Krikota as Bishop of Shumsk (now Archbishop of Volyn) by His Eminence the Metropolitan Onuphrius (Berezovsky) of Kiev. On December 14, 2018, the Republic of Kazakhstan awarded Archbishop Eleutherius the Order of Honor for his many years of contribution to strengthening and preserving interethnic peace and harmony. On November 1, 2020, Archbishop Eleutherius participated in the consecration of the restored Cathedral of the Ascension in Almaty. On February 15, 2021, at the occasion of Archbishop Eleutherius' 30th anniversary of his episcopal consecration, Patriarch Kyrill awarded him the second class of the Order of Saint Innocent of Moscow for missionary work and ecclesiastical enlightenment. On May 3, the Monument to the New Martyrs and Confessors of Kazakhstan was consecrated at the site of mass executions during the atheist persecutions in Shymkent. On May 13, Metropolitan Alexander of Astana also awarded Archbishop Eleutherius for his anniversary, with the local Order of Saint Zephaniah of Turkestan in recognition of his hard work for the good of the Church in Kazakhstan.

Archbishop Eleutherius was hospitalized with severe coronavirus infection at the end of May 2021. He reposed in the Lord at 67 years of age on June 4, victim of thromboembolism. Patriarch Kyrill offered his condolences for his repose. His funeral liturgy took place two days later, presided by His Eminence the Metropolitan Alexander (Mogilev) of Astana, His Grace the Bishop Serapion (Kolosnitsin) of Kokshetau and His Grace the Bishop Vladimir (Micheykin) of Petropavl. According to his wish, Archbishop Eleutherius was buried at the altar of the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Shymkent, where he served for more than half of his earthly life. Patriarch Kyrill commemorated the late archbishop during the Divine Liturgy in Moscow. Metropolitan Alexander stated:

“On the days when the Holy Church continues to celebrate the Resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see off the Archbishop of Shymkent and Taraz, Eleutherius, on his way. Being a wise and kind hierarch, he taught his clergy and laity an example of dedication of all of oneself to God and to people. The restoration of destroyed churches, the opening of new parishes, the glorification of the memory of the new martyrs and confessors, the development of charity and spiritual enlightenment — these are the fruits of his noble deeds, brought as a gift to Christ. The deceased hierarch showed others a peaceful spirit, humility and evangelical simplicity. Everyone who was next to Vladyka felt his attention and warm benevolence. In the memory of all who knew and loved Vladyka Eleutherius, his bright image and a good example of sacrificial service to Orthodoxy will remain. Now Almighty God has called the archpastor, his faithful servant, to the Heavenly villages. We believe that a crown of righteousness awaits the newly departed saint there, which the Lord, according to the word of the Apostle, promised all who loved His coming.”

Bishop Nectarius (Frolov) of Taldykorgan in Almaty celebrated the 9th day of His Eminence's repose at the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Shymkent. On the 14th day, Patriarch Kyrill commemorated him together with the reposed hierarchs Arcadius (Afonin) of South Sakhalin and Alexander (Ishchein) of Baku at the Monastery of Saint Daniel in Moscow. Archbishop Eleutherius left a legacy of almost a hundred churches, eighty priests, two schools, fifty Sunday schools, three departments for Armed Forces, catechesis and charity and recreation camps where children go for sports and chess, and participate in the improvement of churches and visit holy places country-wide.

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Eleutherius (Kozorez) of Shymkent
Preceded by:
Archbishop of Shymkent
Succeeded by:
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