The late Metropolitan Laurus (Vasilii Mikhailovich Shkurla) was born January 1, 1928, in the city of Ladomirova, Slovakia; he was Carpatho-Russian by nationality. He joined the Brotherhood of the Monastery of St Job of Pochaev in Ladomirova at the age of eleven. The Brotherhood was evacuated in 1944. In 1946 he arrived in Jordanville, NY. He was tonsured a rassaphore-monk in 1947, and the following year was tonsured to the mantia (small schema) with the name of Laurus. He was ordained to the diaconate on January 14, 1950, and to the priesthood on July 27, 1954. He began teaching at Holy Trinity Seminary in 1954, of which he was named Inspector (Dean of Students) in 1958. He was raised to the distinction of Igumen in 1959, and to Archimandrite on April 17, 1966.
He was consecrated Bishop of Manhattan on August 13, 1967, Vicar to the Eastern American Diocese. He was made Superior of Holy Trinity Monastery and administrator of the Diocese of Holy Trinity and Syracuse on July 18, 1976. On October 12, 1976 he was named Rector of Holy Trinity Seminary and ruling Bishop of Diocese of Holy Trinity and Syracuse. He was the editor of the following journals: Pravoslavnaia Rus', Pravoslavnaia Zhizn', and Pravoslavnyi Put'.
He was raised to the distinction of Archbishop in 1981, and was first the Assistant Secretary and then Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. On July 10, 2001, he was named Deputy of the First Hierarch. On October 24, 2001 he was elected First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York.
He reposed peacefully on March 16, 2008, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, at Holy Trinity Monastery, where he was buried in a crypt underneath the monastery church on March 21.
Metropolitan Laurus spoke the following words on the day of his enthronement as First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, on October 28, 2001, in the Cathedral of the Sign in New York City, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy:
In these days, when our Council of Bishops is meeting and my election has taken place, I remember the words of the Lord spoken to His disciple Peter, after His sufferings and resurrection, when he appeared to the apostles and asked Peter: Lovest thou me? And then the Savior said When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not [Jn 21:18]. And so now what I would not do, that has come upon me. Here, in my old age, my brother archpastors have girded me and given me the ship of our Russian Church Abroad.May his memory be eternal!
I have accepted this, as I have already told the archpastors, as an obedience to God, to the Church of Christ, and to our Council of Bishops. I myself do not feel that I have advantages of my own, nor any strength to steer this ship. I rely solely on God's help, on the prayers of our archpastors, and on the prayers of our flock. And only with your help, dear fathers, brothers and sisters. If we can do anything, then it is only through common prayer, through common effort. May the Lord strengthen us in oneness of mind, oneness of spirit, and conciliarity [sobornosti], the conciliarity of which Vladyka Alexander spoke today. For it is essential that the Russian Orthodox people, and all Orthodox Christians in general, be one in spirit and deed. I ask holy prayers of all of you.
Photograph: The future Metropolitan in Athens with Victor Lochmatow, later his Protodeacon.