Archbishop John Shahovsky

Archbishop John Shahovsky

Dean [1947–1950]

His Eminence Archbishop John (August 23,1902–May 30, 1989), was born Prince Dimitry Shahovskoy in Moscow on August 23, 1902, and received his education in St. Petersburg. The Russian Revolution engulfed his family with its tragedy. Prince Dimitry served in the White Army during the Civil War and was evacuated from the Crimea to France at the end of the civil strife.

The Prince then received his higher education a Louvain University in Belgium, studying in the faculty of history and political economy. Between the years 1923–1926 he published three collections of his poetry, and in 1925–26 he was the editor of the journal called Blagonamerennyi ("Well-intentioned"). This publication was a journal of philosophy and literature, and among its contributors were some of the most prominent writers, poets, and philosophers of the Russian emigration.

In 1926 Dimitry Shahovskoy left all to follow Christ. He journeyed to Mt. Athos, where he was tonsured a monk with the name of John (after the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian). From Mt. Athos the monk John returned to Paris, to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Metropolitan Evlogy. He studied for a short time at the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute.

Soon after his ordination to the diaconate by Metropolitan Evlogy, he was ordained to the holy priesthood in Yugoslavia by Bishop Benjamin. Assigned by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) to Belaya Tserkov in Yugoslavia, Hieromonk John began his life-time priestly, missionary, and educational activities. He established a publishing house that disseminated religious tracts throughout Yugoslavia. This activity attracted many young Russian refugees to the Church, but it also provoked controversy. The missionary monk returned to France and was assigned by Metropolitan Evlogy to Berlin, to serve as pastor to St. Vladimir's Church. His missionary and educational work, by means of which he reached far beyond the boundaries of his parish, continued in Berlin. In 1937 he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite.

During the Second World War, Archimandrite John and his Berlin parish assisted many "workers from the East" (people brought by force from Russia and the Ukraine as laborers in Germany) and refugees; they also provided whatever assistance as possible to missionaries going to the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union to re-open churches closed under Soviet persecution of religion.

After the war, Archimandrite John came to the United States. For about one year he served as pastor of Holy Virgin Mary Church in Los Angeles, California. Here he organized Orthodox people to provide help to refugees in Europe, both in the form of CARE packages with food and clothing and medicine and also in the form of sponsorships to refugees who were immigrating to the United States as displaced persons.

In 1947 Archimandrite John was elected Bishop of Brooklyn, New York, and appointed Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary. At this time he began his forty-year ministry as a religious broadcaster to Russia. He also continued writing numerous books, articles, and poems.

Elected to the see of San Francisco in 1950, Bishop John accepted pastoral responsibilities in a far-flung diocese, while continuing his labors as broadcaster and writer.

From 1954 to 1968 he represented the American Metropolia in the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. It was in the midst of this ecumenical work that Archbishop John (elevated in 1961) established contacts with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had joined the World Council of Churches in 1961. This began the conversations which led to the re-establishment of canonical relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of North America, culminating in the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America in 1970.

In 1973 Archbishop John retired, only to be called back to active episcopal ministry in his diocese in 1975. At his final retirement in 1979, while his physical strength was diminishing, he continued to grow in spiritual clarity, goodwill to every person, and prayerful insight. In May of 1989, he reposed while in retirement in Santa Barbara, California.

The burial of the former archbishop of San Francisco took place at the city's Serbian Cemetery on June 1, after funeral services in Holy Trinity Cathedral. His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius presided at the funeral service and interment of Archbishop John; concelebrating with him were Bishops Tikhon of San Francisco and Basil (retired Bishop of San Francisco) and clergy of the Diocese of the West. Among the concelebrating clergy was the Dean of Students at St. Vladimir's Seminary Fr. Paul Lazor, who was ordained to the holy priesthood by Archbishop John.