On the morning of January 16, 2012, Metropolitan Valentine (Rusantsov) of Suzdal and Vladimir, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, reposed in Moscow during the Forefeast of the Theophany. He was 73.
Memory Eternal. Vichnaya Pamyat.
According to Portal-Credo.Ru, Metropolitan Valentine arrived in Moscow for routine treatment for diabetes from which he had been suffering for more than twenty years. He stayed with the Shtilmark family, who are spiritual children and friends, in the Orekhevo-Borisov area of Moscow, where he was found deceased the next morning. No official cause of death has been determined.
Per the Portal-Credo report, the deceased had expressed the desire to be buried underneath the Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia that he had constructed in Suzdal. It is our hope the authorities will not interfere with the request.
Originally made Bishop in 1991, Metropolitan Valentine led the Free Russian Church through the tumultous period when ROCOR abandoned the Free Russian Parishes for communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. February would have marked the 21st anniversary of his consecration to the Episcopate of the Church. A respected hierarch throughout True Orthodoxy, the Church his Episcopal reign was marked by rapid growth throughout the restructuring of the Russian state and in 2000, missionary work began parallel to the union of the ROCOR with Moscow.
When ROCOR’s coming union with the Moscow Patriarchate required the disposal of the aging first-hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly, it was Metropolitan Valentine, along with Fr Vladimir Shishkoff (+2009) who, on a visit related to missionary work in America, famously took upon himself the risk of rescuing Metropolitan Vitaly from Synod headquarters in 2001.
Archbishop Theodore (Gineevsky) of Otradnenskoe and the Northern Caucasus is
the senior hierarch of ROAC by consecration as well as the chancellor of the
Synod of Bishops; it is assumed he will administrate until the election of a successor.
I want to break with journalistic protocol for a second with a personal side note: having met and spoken at length with the Metropolitan between 2004 and 2006, I can honestly say that there were few Bishops of his calibre on earth, and our loss today, for those who realize it and those who don’t, is incalculable.