Sophronius of Irkutsk

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Our father among the saints Sophronius of Irkutsk, the Wonderworker of all Siberia, is a Russian saint from eighteenth century. His feast day is on March 30, and the translation of his relics is commemorated on June 30.


Stephen Kristalevsky was born into the family of Nazarius Kristalevsky in Malorussia in the Chernigov region in 1704, the youngest son of three brothers and a daughter. Stephen spent his childhood in the village of Berezan of the Pereyaslaval district of the Poltava governance. As he reach maturity, Stephen entered the Kiev Theological Academy.

After completing his religious education Stephen entered the Krasnogorsk Transfiguration Monastery at which one of his brothers labored in asceticism. The monastery was later renamed the Protection Monastery. On April 23, 1730, Stephen was tonsured a monk and given the name Sophronius, in honor of St. Sophronius of Jerusalem. During the night after his tonsure, Sophronius heard a voice in the Protection church predict his future service in the Church: When you become bishop, build a church dedicated to All Saints".

In 1732, he was called back to Kiev where he was ordained a deacon and then a hieromonk. In 1734, Fr. Sophronius was named the treasurer of the Zolotonosh monastery. After serving for two years, Sophronius was assigned by Bishop Arsenius (Berlov) of Pereyaslaval to serve as the archbishop's steward, a position he held for eight years. During these years, Fr. Sophronius maintained his connection with the Protection Monastery, visiting often for a day of contemplation and work and thus served as an example to the brethren.

In his duties for his bishop, Fr. Sophronius traveled often to the Holy Synod in St. Petersburg where he became well known. In 1742, Fr. Sophronius was transferred to St. Petersburg and assigned to the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra. In a year he was appointed treasurer of the monastery, then in 1746 he was appointed the Superior of the Lavra. Soon, Fr. Sophronius called a friend hieromonk Sibesios (Ivanoff) to St. Petersburg and installed him as igumen of the Lavra's dependency, the St. Sergius Hermitage. Through the following years they formed a strong pastoral bond that continued until their repose.

During his years managing the Lavra, Fr. Sophronius also improved the instruction at the St. Petersburg Seminary and, with Archbishop Theodosius, greatly expanded the library at the monastery. During this time, he also built a two story stone church at the Lavra in which the upper church was dedicated to St. Alexander Nevsky and the lower church to St. John Chrysostom.

On February 23, 1753, the empress Elizabeth recommended Igumen Sophronius to fill the six year vacancy in the missionary Eparchy of Irkutsk, following the death of Bp. Innocent II (Nerunovich) of Irkutsk in 1747. On April 18, 1753, Fr. Sophronius was consecrated Bishop of Irkutsk and Nerchinsk. Foreseeing the difficult service on the Siberian frontier, Bp. Sophronius gathered educated and spiritually experienced co-workers, including his friend the hieromonk Sinesios, to aid him in his new responsibility.

Bp. Sophronius arrived in Irkutsk on March 20, 1754 where he visited the residence of his predecessor, Bp. Innocent and prayed, asking his predecessor's blessing as he began his work in Siberia. Bp. Sophronius quickly gave attention to the century old monastery community of his diocese that had been the heart of the mission in Siberia. In 1754, Bp. Sophronius elevated hieromonk Sinesios to archimandrite of Ascension Monastery, a position he would hold for thirty-three years until his repose.

By September 1754, Bp. Sophronius had set standards for education, including that for the children of the clergy. In his sermons, conversations, and actions Bp. Sophronius called for a higher moral ideal and for the reverent and correct performance of the divine services. Bp. Sophronius recognized that it was his duty to enlighten the Christians of the area as well as to teach and convert the idol-worshippers.

As his health deteriorated, Bp. Sophronius asked to be retired, an action that took some time as it was difficult to find a worthy successor. In the final days of his life, he continued in his asceticism and prayer. Bp. Sophronius reposed on March 30, 1771.

St. Sophronius was glorified on April 23, 1918 by the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Succession box:
Sophronius of Irkutsk
Preceded by:
Bishop of Irkutsk
Succeeded by:
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