WCC- Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, a widely known and respected priest of the Orthodox Church in America, a prominent theologian and ecumenist, former member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) central and executive committees fell asleep in the Lord on the evening of 3 August at the age of 78.
“A great ecumenical veteran has left,” said Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima, vice moderator of the WCC central committee, who described Kishkovsky as “a multi-talented church personality, a pastor committed to serving his church, his people and the world, always dealing with differences through dialogue, encouraged and inspired by his own personal background.”
“In the Orthodox family, Fr Leonid had many likes,” added Metropolitan Gennadios.
“The passing of Fr Kishkovsky leaves an open wound in our fellowship,” said Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the WCC. “His commitment to Christian unity and his constant attitude of making his moderating skills available to the ecumenical movement bore many fruits and inspired younger generations. Indeed, he was a mentor to generations of young American orthodox in the ecumenical movement. We will remember him with gratitude and hope that his legacy will be continued.”
Sauca sent a letter to the Orthodox Church in America expressing condolences and celebrating Kishkovsky’s life.
Kishkovsky was actively involved in drafting the statement “Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC,” the outcome of more than eight years of study and consultation with WCC commissions, advisory bodies, member churches, other churches and a broad range of ecumenical partners.
“We are also thankful for his important role as member of the Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC. Fr Leonid was a real bridge-builder. He knew how to speak about his Orthodox faith and tradition, but he also knew how to listen to fellow Christians and all people of faith,” added Sauca.
Longtime director of the Orthodox Church in America Office of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations, Kishkovsky was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1943. His parents fled from Warsaw with him in 1944, just before the Polish Warsaw uprising, becoming war refugees in Germany. They immigrated to the United States as displaced persons and settled in Los Angeles.
After undergraduate studies in history and political science at the University of Southern California, he studied at St Vladimir’s Seminary. Ordained priest in November 1969, Kishkovsky was assigned to San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Cathedral to build an English-language community in the Cathedral’s St Innocent Chapel. In 1974, he was called to serve the Church of Our Lady of Kazan in Sea Cliff, and at the same time to work in the Chancery of OCA in Syosset.
He has been president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, moderator of Religions for Peace (international) and Religions for Peace USA, moderator of Christian Churches Together in the USA, and served on the board of directors of International Orthodox Christian Charities and as a board member of Church World Service.
Kishkovsky dedicated himself to building up a welcoming Orthodox Christian community which embodied love of God and love of neighbor.
Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, former moderator of the WCC central committee (2006 – 2013), expressed gratitude for Kishkovsky’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue and cooperation. “Quite often he saw ways forward when seemingly unsurmountable obstacles to mutual understanding arose,” he said. “The ecumenical movement will miss his insights.”
In a letter addressed to the WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of All America and Canada expressed sorrow “in the hope of Resurrection” for the passing of Kishkovksy. “On behalf of the Holy Synod of Bishops and the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America, I ask for your holy prayers for our beloved Protopresbyter Leonid,” reads the letter. “May his memory be eternal and may he rest with the righteous!”
Fr Leonid Kishkovsky is survived by his wife Alexandra (Mimi) and his daughters Sophia and Maria and their families.
His books, his many editorials in the journal “The Orthodox Church,” and his contributions to “The Ecumenical Review” will constitute a rich and inspiring legacy.
May his memory be eternal!