Metropolitan Laurus, who played a key role in healing an 80-year schism between the church in Russia and an offshoot set up abroad after the Bolshevik Revolution, has died at an upstate New York monastery, according to the Synod of Bishops in Moscow. He was 80.
Laurus, head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, was found dead Sunday in his residence at the Holy Trinity Monastery in rural Jordanville, N.Y., about 60 miles northwest of Albany.
He had been feeling ill for several days.
In May 2007, Laurus and Moscow Patriarch Alexy II signed a reunification pact at a nationally televised ceremony in Russia attended by President Vladimir Putin and a throng of worshipers.
"We will remember him with prayer and will thank him for fostering the reunification of the Russian church abroad with the mother church," Patriarch Alexy said Monday in Moscow.
Putin also praised Laurus and offered condolences, the Kremlin said.
The rift in the church came after the 1917 revolution.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia cut all ties in 1927 after Moscow Patriarch Sergiy declared loyalty to the Communist government.
Reunification talks began after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Laurus said the reunion pact didn't mark a merger and that his branch would maintain administrative control over its 400-plus parishes worldwide.
The New York-based church says it has 480,000 members in the United States.
Laurus was born Vasily Skurla in 1928 in Czechoslovakia. At 11, he joined a local monastery, and in 1946 he immigrated with the other monks to Jordanville in New York's Mohawk Valley.
Two years later, he was admitted to the monastic life and renamed Laurus. He was ordained a priest in 1954 and consecrated bishop in 1967.
In October 2001, Archbishop Laurus was elected by the Synod of Bishops, the Orthodox church's ruling body, to be the fifth Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. He also continued as the superior of Holy Trinity Monastery.
A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the monastery.