His Eminence Metropolitan Christopher,
Serbian Orthodox Primate in U.S. and Canada
Chicago, August 20, 2010 -- His Eminence Christopher, Metropolitan of Libertyville-Chicago and Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the U.S. and Canada, died Wednesday at the age of 82.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, wrote to the church's episcopal council today to express "sadness and deepest condolences on the repose of Metropolitan Christopher of blessed memory."
"We have upheld Metropolitan Christopher in our prayers since we learned of his grave illness," Kinnamon wrote on behalf of the NCC's 36 member communions. "Our sadness at his passing is comforted by our understanding that it is God’s will and by our gratitude to God for his life and leadership. We will continue to remember your community and its leadership in this time of sadness and transition."
Born in Galveston, Texas, and baptized Velimir Kovacevich, the future Metropolitan Christopher was the ninth of twelve children of Serbian immigrant parents. After graduation from high school, he attended Nashotah House and graduated from St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Seminary in Libertyville, Illinois.
After marrying, he was ordained to the Diaconate and Priesthood. He earned a B.A. (Philosophy), Master of Letters (History) at the University of Pittsburgh; the Master of Divinity from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, and completed courses and examinations for the doctorate at the Chicago Theological Seminary.
Father Velimir ministered to parishes in Pennsylvania and in Chicago and served as chaplain to four universities. He assisted his parishes to become bilingual in their worship and education programs. As a priest, he served as spiritual father, counselor, youth worker, administrator, educator, and, above all, in priestly ministry at the Holy Altar. Widowed in 1970, he is the father of four, as well as the grandfather of nine.
Elevated to the episcopate in 1978 by the Assembly of Bishops in Belgrade, and tonsured with the monastic name of Christopher, he became the first American-born bishop to serve a diocese of his church in North America.
As Bishop of Eastern America and Canada, he soon developed a diocesan-wide program in religious education. Active also in ecumenism, he has served on the joint commission of Orthodox and Roman Catholic bishops and on the Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue, and has represented his church at high levels in both the National and World Councils of Churches. In 1991, he was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan, thereby becoming Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the U.S. and Canada.
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