Kyrill (Yonchev) of Pittsburgh
Abp. Kyrill was born Ilia Yonchev on February 26, 1920 in Panaguriste, Bulgaria, the son of Mancho and Anna Yonchev. He attended the St John of Rila Theological Seminary in Sofia, Bulgaria, graduating in 1940. He was tonsured to the monastic orders on January 19, 1941 and given the name Kyrill. On the next day he was ordained a deacon. He was ordained to the priesthood in April 1943.
Fr. Kyrill attended the St Clement of Ochrid School of Theology. After graduating in 1944, he was appointed instructor of theology in the seminary in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and also was appointed abbot of the Bachkovo Monastery. As the abbot, he participated with other Bulgarian leaders helping protect the Jewish population of Bulgaria from actions of the Nazi occupation against the Jews during World War II.
Following World War II, Fr. Kyrill attended advanced studies in theology and philosophy in Bern, Switzerland. With the communist takeover of Bulgaria, Fr Kyrill, in 1950, emigrated to the United States where he was soon assigned pastor of St George Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Toledo, Ohio, as part of the Bulgarian Eastern Diocese of North and South America and Australia. Fr. Kyrill was elevated to the rank of archimandrite on December 6, 1959.
In 1964, Metr. Andrei of the Bulgarian Diocese petitioned the Holy Synod of the Church of Bulgaria for his return to the Bulgarian episcopacy and to continue to lead the diocese in America. With the return of Metr. Andrei and his diocese to the Church of Bulgaria, a group under Arch. Kyrill broke with Metr. Andrei and joined the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) as the Bulgarian Diocese in Exile.
On August 9, 1964, he was consecrated by ROCOR as Bishop of Toledo and Toronto of the Bulgarian Diocese in Exile. On December 20, 1976, Bp. Kyrill and his diocese broke from the ROCOR and joined the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) as the ruling bishop of the OCA Bulgarian diocese. In October 1977, Bp. Kyrill was appointed locum tenens of the OCA Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. In 1978, Bp. Kyrill was elected the ruling bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese, which he led for the next 29 years. He, also, continued to lead the OCA Bulgarian Diocese. In 1992, he was raised to the dignity of archbishop.
During his tenure as head of the Pittsburgh diocese, Abp. Kyrill served as a member of the OCA Lesser Synod of Bishops, the Canonization Commission, and the Board of Theological Education. He, also, was a trustee of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.
Abp. Kyrill reposed on June 17, 2007, after a period of failing health. His funeral services were conducted on June 21 and 22, 2007 at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Allison Park, Pennsylvania. At the time of his death Abp. Kyrill was the longest serving Orthodox hierarch in America.
- ’’The Orthodox Church’’, Vol 43/No 3, Summer 2007, p30