September 5, 2013
Jackson, NJ: In Honor of the Bright Memory of Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky)

On Wednesday, September 4, the 75th anniversary of the repose of Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky), a panihida was served at the grave of the ever-memorable hierarch in the lower St. Olga’s Church of St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ. The panihida was served by Archpriest Alexander Golubov (dean of St. Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York City), Archpriest Serge Lukianov (diocesan secretary), and deputy rector Priest Serge Ledkovsky. Available below to our readers is a short biography of Archbishop Nikon. May his memory be eternal!


Archbishop Nikon was born on December 16, 1892 in the village of Borki in the Chernigov District in Russia (today Ukraine). In the world he was known as Nikolai Pavlovich Rklitsky, son of Fr. Pavel Rklitsky and Matushka Elizabeth Korsakevich.

In 1911, young Nikolai Pavlovich graduated Chenigov Theological Seminary. In 1915, he graduated St. Vladimir University in Kiev, receiving a law degree. The future hierarch also took courses in the Nicholas Artillery School in Kiev and the Alexander Military Law Academy in St. Petersburg, and completed the Missionary Theological Course in Belgrade.

He fought in the First World War in 1914-1917 and the Russian Civil War in 1918-1920, then evacuating from the Crimea to Belgrade in 1920.

From 1921 to 1941, Nikolai Pavlovich was a journalist in Yugoslavia. He was lead editor of "Voennyy Vestnik" ("Military News") and was an editor for the monarchist publication "Tsarsky Vestnik" ("Royal News"). He worked closely with Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) on church literature, recording and publishing his writings. The future bishop wrote many articles himself in various publications and on various Church administrative and theological issues, defending the canonicity of the status of the Church Abroad.

At 48 years of age, Nikolai Pavlovich decided to dedicate the remainder of his life to the Church. On October 7, 1941 in Belgrade, Metropolitan Anastassy tonsured him a monk with the name Nikon in honor of St. Nikon of Radonezh. Fr. Nikon’s spiritual father was Archimandrite Averky (Taushev). On October 14, 1941, he was ordained a hierodeacon, and on December 4 of the same year was ordained a hieromonk. From 1941 to 1944, Fr. Nikon served in Holy Trinity Church in Belgrade at the Russian Corps.

Accompanying Fr. Nikon was a young novice, tonsured a monk by Archimandrite Averky (Taushev) with the name Vassian. Fr. Vassian was quickly ordained a Hierodeacon and served together with Fr. Nikon. In 1942, Fr. Nikon was appointed the Abbot of the reserve battalion in Belgrade. During the battle for the town of Čačak in October 1944, Igumen Nikon was lightly wounded, but his deacon, Fr. Vassian, was killed. In 1944, he was evacuated from Belgrade to Germany.

In 1945, Fr. Nikon joined the Brotherhood of St. Job of Pochaev, and from 1945 to 1946 he served as personal secretary to Metropolitan Anstassy. In May 1946, Abbot Nikon was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite.

In December 1946, Archimandrite Nikon arrived in the United States together with a group of 12 monks from the Brotherhood of St. Job, who were accepted by Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. Fr. Nikon remained in New York and was appointed secretary to the Administrator of the ROCOR Parishes in North America, Archbishop Vitaly.

At the start of 1947, the journal "Pravoslavnaya Rus" ("Orthodox Russia") resumed publication at Holy Trinity Monastery, aided by the labors of Archimandrite Nikon, who added his own articles, and also sent in information about church life in the Russian Diaspora. Working in the diocesan chancery, Fr. Nikon had access to church correspondence in various locales and countries, and in that way had an opportunity to add summaries and commentary for publication in "Pravoslavnaya Rus."

On June 27, 1948, he was consecrated Bishop of Florida, Vicar of the American & Canadian Diocese. The consecration was performed by Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), Archbishop Tikhon (Troitsky), and Bishop Seraphim (Ivanov) on the same day as the great consecration of St. Alexander Nevsky Church in Lakewood, NJ.

The newly consecrated Bishop Nikon continued his obedience running the diocesan chancery. In 1950, the North American Diocese was divided into separate dioceses. Archbishop Vitaly received the title of Archbishop of Eastern America & Jersey City, and centered his attention on growing Holy Trinity Monastery and Seminary. Bishop Nikon was assigned the work of administrating the Diocese, under the direction of Archbishop Vitaly.

Bishop Nikon ran the administrative affairs and divine services of the Eastern American Diocese with especial zeal. Using his talents as a journalist, Bishop Nikon founded a full publishing house at the diocesan administration, and in 1953 began publishing the journal "Eparhialnya Vedomosti" ("Diocesan News"). At the direction of Archbishop Vitaly, there was a special section in the journal, in which would be printed the directives of the diocesan administration and the resolutions of the Diocesan Council and of parish meetings and councils, and various parallel church organizations approved by the ruling bishop, as well as an unofficial section in which various articles on theology and social life in the Church would be printed, including various information pertaining to Church life.

Despite the many demands of diocesan life, Bishop Nikon undertook the compilation of the biography of his spiritual father and mentor, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky). In 1956, the first volume of the "Biography of Blessed Anthony, Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia" was published. All in all, 17 volumes would be published.

Recalling Archbishop Nikon, Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky said that "Archbishop Nikon took a great labors upon himself, or more deeply – God’s Providence appointed him to herald and express true ideals, thereby continuing the work of our two magnificent Church leaders: His Beatitude, Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky), and Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko)... The strength of the ‘spirit of Antony’ and the strength of the ’spirit of Vitaly’ blessed his personal energy; the power and honor of the legacy they left behind shine forth in the material monuments completed by the hard work and love of Archbishop Nikon… One can only be amazed at how, given the limited finances available, Archbishop Nikon was able, volume by volume, to begin, continue, and complete his seventeen-tome publication – which is to say nothing of the faith required in God’s aid to even approach such an enormous project and see it to completion and publication."

In 1959, Bishop Nikon was elevated to the rank of Archbishop. With the repose of Archbishop Vitaly in 1960, His Eminence received the title of Archbishop of Washington & Florida, and he retained all of the responsibilities he had had under Archbishop Vitaly. Archbishop Nikon was the first vicar to Metropolitan Anastassy and administered the Eastern American Diocese. He was also secretary of the Synod of Bishops.

It would be impossible to speak of the life of Archbishop Nikon and not recall his active participation in the construction of St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ. His Eminence continued the work on the memorial church begun by Archbishop Vitaly in 1938.

Every year, prior to the feast day of St. Vladimir, everything was prepared in due time to celebrate St. Vladimir’s Day. Archbishop Nikon was the chairman of the St. Vladimir Society, called together annual meetings of the Society’s members, and penned appeals for donations to the construction of the memorial church.

In 1955, on the feast day of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, His Eminence addressed worshippers with the following marvelous words, which entered into the very history of the Church Abroad:

"St. Vladimir Memorial Church, that citadel in which the bloodless sacrifice is now brought forth and prayer is lifted up to the Lord, is destined to be a lantern of faith for the Russian people, a lighthouse for its spiritual rebirth, a sign marking its millennial Christian path, a connecting link between the Russian people scattered throughout the world and the Russian people enslaved by godless communism. The Lord said to His disciples and through them to His whole Church: "whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16)… St. Vladimir Memorial Church, then, having a special meaning among the people, must become a mighty religious and social force, calling to life the sleeping spiritual strength of the people. The church must be a unifying national banner… Yes, beloved brothers and sisters! If in order to enslave the Russian people with communism they had to destroy churches and mock holy icons and relics, make dark the faith and blind the soul, then it is clear that for liberation from communism and for regaining spiritual sight we need a fortification of faith, which we receive in the spiritual hospital – the house of God."

His Eminence also strove to found a convent in the United States and, with God’s help, the convent at Novo-Diveevo was founded and placed under the direction of Archpriest Adrian Rymarenko (later Archbishop Andrei). This holy convent remained under the spiritual care of Archbishop Nikon until his repose in 1976.

In 1964, in his capacity as secretary of the Synod, Archbishop Nikon led the preparatory work for the ROCOR Sobor of Bishops. "At the Sobor, during the election of the next President (i.e., the First Hierarch), the votes of the hierarchs were evenly divided into two camps: one in favor of Archbishop John (Maximovitch), and the other in favor of Archbishop Nikon. Both candidates, Archbishop John and Archbishop Nikon, then renounced their candidacies, and a new candidate was elected – Bishop Philaret of Brisbane." Archbishops John and Nikon remained as deputies to the President of the Synod of Bishops. Archbishop Nikon continued his work as administrator of the Eastern American Diocese under Metropolitan Philaret, as well.

At the Sobor of Bishops in 1966, a resolution was passed to divine the Eastern American Diocese into three parts: 1) the Eastern American & New York Diocese under the direction of Metropolitan Philaret, 2) the Diocese of Washington & Florida under the direction of Archbishop Nikon, and 3) the Diocese of Syracuse & Holy Trinity under the direction of Archbishop Averky… However, the diocesan chancery for all three new dioceses remained in common, in the Bronx, and was administered by Archbishop Nikon.

Archbishop Nikon was a permanent member of the Synod of Bishops and regularly participated in its meetings. He was often the chairman of the Pre-Council commissions, and invested much effort in the convocation of the Third All-Diasporan Council in 1974.

His Eminence often traveled with the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon, not only around the Eastern American Diocese, but frequently throughout South America and Australia, as well.

Archbishop Nikon especially cared for his clergy, and regularly organized diocesan meetings, as well as clergy conferences. He assisted in founded the Diocesan Schools Council and often attended parish Christmas pageants (yolkas) and graduation ceremonies at parish schools.

In 1975, one year before his repose, Archbishop Nikon published a compilation of his articles and sermons under the title "My Work in the Vineyard of Christ." After his blessed repose, a second volume of Archbishop Nikon’s sermons and articles was published in 1993. Archbishop Nikon’s works were not a testament to his memory as much as they expressed his joyous feeling at seeing the strengthening and growth of our parishes in America. In his compilations, His Eminence left us his crystal-clean Orthodox worldview.

Archbishop Nikon peacefully reposed in his sleep on September 4, 1976 at the age of 84. He passed away in the parish house at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Bronx, NY. He died of heart failure.

In his sermon after the first panihida for Archbishop Nikon, Protopresbyter George Grabbe said, "In the life and labors of His Eminence we can find much that is instructive. First, of course, we are struck by his zeal in serving the Church and his ever-faithfulness to pure Orthodoxy. He never missed an opportunity to speak out in defense of it and the founding principles of Holy Russia. Archbishop Nikon seemed indefatigable. He never turned down any directives or assignments from Church authorities, and stood ever-vigilant over the canonical order of the Church. He always demonstrated fierce loyalty to the First Hierarchs and no one could ever pull him into any sorts of intrigues. He was indispensable at the meetings of the Sobor, when proponents of various positions needed to be reconciled."

Archbishop Nikon was buried in St. Olga’s Church – the lower church of St. Vladimir Memorial Church, next to his predecessor, Archbishop Vitaly. To this day, the faithful visit both hierarchs and ask their instruction and holy prayers.

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese