Orestes (Chornock) of Agathonikeia

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His Eminence the Most Reverend Metropolitan Orestes (Chornock) was the first ruling bishop of the American Carpatho-Russian Diocese of the USA. He was instrumental in the formation of the diocese that was formed from 37 former Uniate parishes that had returned to their ancient Orthodox faith in the mid 1930s.


Orestes Chornock was born in 1883 in the Transcarpathia area of central Europe. As his family resided in the area of the Unia, he was raised within the Greek Catholic rite. After his marriage he was ordained into the Greek Catholic priesthood and shortly thereafter emigrated to the United States.

In the United States Fr. Orestes was installed as pastor of St John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1911 where he remained in residence until March 1947.

During his early years in Bridgeport, Fr. Orestes contended with the split loyalties that many of the Carpatho-Russian families endured as other Carpatho-Russian parishes returned to Orthodoxy as part of the Russian Orthodox mission. He and his parishioners wanted to retain their Carpatho-Russian customs. In the 1920s, the Church in Rome sent a new bishop, Bishop Basil Takach, to enforce Latinization on the Greek Catholic Church in America, particularly in regard to married clergy. Fr. Orestes was one of the Greek Catholic priests who raised their voices in protest of the unjust treatment their faith was receiving. Fr. Orestes, in addition to Frs. Stephen Varzaly, Peter Molchany, Ireney Dolhy, and John Soroka, was suspended in 1931 for actions in defending his faith.

After repeated and unsuccessful appeals to Rome by church congresses held in 1932 and 1934 for recognition of their customs, a congress of the parishes opposing the celibacy rulings was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on November 23, 1937. This congress severed all relations with the Roman Catholic Church. The congress further nominated Fr. Orestes as its bishop-nominee. After accepting this group of parishes under its wing, the Church of Constantinople accepted the parishes as a diocese and consecrated Fr. Orestes a bishop on September 18, 1938, with the title of Bishop of Agathoniketa and as a nominal auxiliary bishop to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Over the next decade the new diocese led by Bp. Orestes endured many law suits over church property that held that Rome, and those who remained loyal to the Unia, retained ownership. These suits were carried on appeals through to the United States Supreme Court.

Initially, his see was in Bridgeport, Connecticut, at the site of the parish he led for so many years. In 1947, he moved the see to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where it remains today.

In 1965 he was elevation to Metropolitan by the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Metr. Orestes reposed on February 17, 1977.

Succession box:
Orestes (Chornock) of Agathonikeia
Preceded by:
Ruling Bishop of American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese
Succeeded by:
John (Martin)
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