Jackson, NJ: In Honor of the Bright Memory of Archbishop Nikon
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
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!
BIOGRAPHY OF ARCHBISHOP NIKON (RKLITSKY)
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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."
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.
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
In 1975, one year before his repose, Archbishop Nikon published a
compilation of his articles and sermons under the title
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
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.
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