Vitaly (Ustinov) of New York

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His Eminence the Most Reverend Vitaly (Ustinov) of New York was the first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia from 1986 to 2001. His Eminence retired as First Hierarch in 2001, and lived at Holy Transfiguration Skete in Mansonville, Québec. His Eminence reposed in the Lord at the age of 97 in Mansonville on September 25, 2006.[1]


Metropolitan Vitaly, born Rostislav Petrovich Oustinow in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1910, was the son of an officer of the Black Sea Fleet, Peter Oustinow, and Lydia Andreevna, née Stopchansky, daughter of a gendarme general who served his whole life in the Caucasus.

In 1920, during the Civil War, Rostislav was sent to the military school founded in Feodosia by General Wrangel. When he joined the White Army and evacuated, the young Rostislav found himself in Constantinople, and from there he went to Yugoslavia, where he studied in the Cadet Corps of the White Army.

In 1923, the mother of the future First Hierarch sponsored her son to come to Constantinople and from there, she moved with him to Paris, where he was enrolled in St Louis College in Le Mans. Upon graduating, he joined his mother in Cannes.

In 1934, he was called upon to fulfill his military obligations, which he did by joining the 9th Cavalry Regiment, but the young Oustinow had no wish to remain in the world—his only desire was to withdraw to a monastery.

In 1938, he entered the Monastery of St Job in the Carpathians.

In 1939, trudnik[2] Rostislav was tonsured to the rassophore with the name 'Vitaly,' and a year later was tonsured to the minor schema.

In 1941, in the city of Bratislava, Fr. Vitaly was ordained by Metropolitan Seraphim of Berlin and Germany to the rank of hieromonk and assigned to minister to two towns on the Polish border.

World War II forced the monastic brotherhood to flee from the approaching Red Army. Fr. Vitaly found himself in Berlin, where, together with Archimandrite Nathaniel, he developed a broad mission among the Russian refugees and prisoners of war. The second onslaught of the Reds forced the two young clergymen to move to Hamburg, where another field of activity opened up for them: to save thousands of refugees from forced repatriation to the USSR. A good knowledge of various languages, especially of English, along with tireless energy, allowed Fr. Vitaly and Fr. Nathaniel to save the lives of many Russians.

Settling in Hamburg, Hegumen Vitaly began to establish church life at the Displaced Persons camp Fischbeck. A barracks church was immediately set up there with a daily round of services, psalm-reading courses and even a year-long theological course for 12 youths. At the same time, Hegumen Vitaly gathered together a small monastic group, which began to publish church service books and even a newsletter, Pochaevskije listki.

From 1947 to 1951, Archimandrite Vitaly was the rector of the London parish; in 1951, on the feast day of Ss. Peter and Paul, he was consecrated bishop and sent to Brazil. Soon the young bishop opened his own print shop and established a small orphanage for boys, where they were taught them the daily cycle of services.

In 1955, Vladyka Vitaly and his brethren moved to Canada.

As Bishop of Montreal and Canada, Vladyka established a skete in Mansonville.

In Montreal, Vladyka acquired and refurbished the large St. Nicholas Cathedral. Not far from the Cathedral is the Synodal podvorie.

It can be stated with confidence that there is no place where Vladyka Vitaly settled where he did not organize a small monastic brotherhood and active publishing concern.

The Council of Bishops in 1986 chose Vladyka Vitaly as the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Suffering from memory loss,[3] Metropolitan Vitaly retired in 2001, and Metropolitan Laurus became the first hierarch of ROCOR,[4][5] but "within weeks he regretted the move, publicly attacking his successor.... Vitaly led his faithful followers into schism."[6][7], and went on to head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile.

Felix Corley, of The Independent observed: "Vitaly's final years were marred by murky goings-on at his monastery, with allegations that his entourage was holding him hostage and faking his signature on church decisions. Like many splinter religious communities, his church came to fight not so much to preserve the purity of its faith as to engage in bitter infighting."[8]

On September 25, 2006, Metropolitan Vitaly reposed in Mansonville, Canada.[9]


Succession box:
Vitaly (Ustinov) of New York
Preceded by:
Bishop of Montevideo

Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Bishop of Edmonton and Western Canada

Succeeded by:
Sava (Sarachevich)
Preceded by:
Panteleimon (Rudyk)
Archbishop of Montreal and Canada

Succeeded by:
Gabriel (Chemodakov)
Preceded by:
Philaret (Voznesensky)
First Hierarch of ROCOR
Succeeded by:
Laurus (Skurla)
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