Archbishop Nicodemus (Latyshev) of Moscow and All Rus' | Russian Oldbeliever Church

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Archbishop Nicodemus (Latyshev) of Moscow and All Rus’

Archbishop Nicodemus (Nikita Timofeyevich Latyshev; 1916 – 11 February 1986) was born in the village of Pokrovka in the Soroca district of Bessarabia, into a peasant family. (After 1940, these lands were ceded to the USSR and since 1991 belong to the Republic of Moldova). In 1919, his family moved to the village of Old Dobrudja in the Balti region of Moldova, where he spent his childhood and began serving the Church. His mother died when he was three years old, and his father, who served as a protopsaltes (choir leader) in the church of this village, raised his only son in the fear of God and in Christian piety. Due to poverty, the future archbishop was able to finish only two classes of elementary school and was then needed to help his father with working at home on the farm.

Archbishop Nicodemus (Latyshev) of Moscow and All Rus'

In 1936, the pious youth was ordained as a reader by the bishop Innokentiy of Chisinau (later, metropolitan of Belaya Krinitsa). On April 21, 1940, he is also ordained by the same bishop as deacon of the Dormition Church in Old Dobrudja (having taken the vow of celibacy). With the beginning of World War II, the Romanian authorities called the deacon Nikita Latyshev up to the army. According to one version, no documents were submitted confirming his ordination to the clergy. According to another version, the Romanian authorities considered it possible to call the Old-believers’ deacon to active duty. In the army, Nikita became very ill with jaundice and was infirmed. Thanks to strict observance of fast, the disease was soon overcome.

However, Nikita still believed that a deacon had no place in military service, and in 1941, along with other soldiers who did not wish to fight against the Soviet Union, he took part in a conspiracy to desert the army. But the plan was thwarted by a traitor, who informed the military leadership of the recruits’ plans. All conspirators of the upcoming desertion were sentenced to death, including deacon Nikita Latyshev. However, miraculously, he managed to avoid death. The conspirators were brought to the place of punishment and the execution began. In an essential Christian manner, the deacon intensified his prayer, and when the firing squad reached him, an order was given to halt the killing of the recruits. Thus, the survivors and deacon Nikita were saved from death, but were soon sent to the eastern front.

In the winter of 1942, Nikita was in Stalingrad as part of a Romanian convoy, but even here the desire to leave the front did not abandon him. During the fighting in Stalingrad, he managed to leave the ranks of the Romanian army and via country roads, elusively reached his native village. However, the quiet life lasted only a few months. In the spring of 1943, when a local resident reported on him, the deacon was sent to a concentration camp. Here he fully realised all the horrors of war and captivity. Even after becoming an archbishop, Nicodemus recalled this time with horror and considered it the most terrible ordeal for humanity.

After the defeat of Romania in the war, the camps were disbanded, and the Old-believers within them were able to return home. Having a permanent residence in the village of Old Dobrudja, since 1945, he served as archdeacon under bishop Joseph (Morzhakov) of Chisinau. From 1954, at the Holy Council he was elected as a candidate for episcopacy. However, the ordination itself took place several years later.

In 1961, he took monastic tonsure under the name of Nicodemus. On October 3 of the same year, in the Intercession cathedral in Moscow, archbishop Joseph (Morzhakov), bishop Irenarchus (Vologzhanin) and bishop Alexander (Chunin) ordained him as a bishop of the Chisinau, Odessa, Izmail and Chernivtsi diocese. Here, bishop Nicodemus is actively engaged in archpastoral activity, ordaining deacons and priests. For example, in 1968, on the feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos with the blessing of His Eminence Joseph, archbishop of Moscow and All Rus’, bishop Nicodemus ordains deacon Eugene Mikheyev (future bishop of Chisinau, Evmeniy) as a priest.

In 1962, at the Holy Council, bishop Nicodemus is by proxy elected archbishop of Moscow and All Rus’, and after the passing of archbishop Joseph, he takes over the administration of the Old-believers’ Church. On October 22, 1971, the Holy Council elected bishop Nicodemus as archbishop, and on October 24, in the Intercession Cathedral in the Rogozhskoe settlement, he was ordained to the rank of archbishop of Moscow and All Rus’.

Bishop Nicodemus played a pivotal role in the fate of the future bishop Anastasius (Kononov) and the Moscow archepiscopal throne. In the early 70s, bishop Nicodemus repeatedly persuaded father Anthony (that was the name of bishop Anastasius prior to his tonsure) to agree to the adoption of episcopal rank. In 1973, when bishop of Klintsovsky and Novozybkov Joasaph (Karpov) died suddenly at Rogozhskoe, archbishop Nicodemus led father Anthony Kononov to the coffin and asked:

Will you continue to resist, for there are only two bishops left in the Church?

Only after this, father Anthony consented to the episcopal ministry. On May 27, 1973, archbishop Nicodemus ordained Anastasius (Kononov) as bishop of the Don and Caucasian cathedra. Between bishop Nicodemus and bishop Anastasius a relationship of trust was established. Due to his poor state of health, archbishop Nicodemus could not reside permanently in Moscow and in the last years of his primacy he resided in Dobrudja almost entirely without leaving. For this reason, the bishop of the Don and the Caucasus, Anastasius (Kononov), was actually in charge of church affairs during this period and who later became the official locum tenens.

Bishop Nicodemus also played a significant role in the fate of the renowned Old-believers’ priest father Eugene Bobkov. He appointed him as senior priest of the church of the prophet Elijah in Gomel. Archbishop Nicodemus died after a long serious illness in 1986. He was buried, according to his will, in the cemetery of the village of Old Dobrudja, where he spent most of his life. The burial was undertaken on February 15, 1986 by bishops Anastasius (Kononov) and Alimpiy (Gusev) – the future metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus’, ordained shortly before the death of bishop Nicodemus as bishop, with his blessing.

Eyewitnesses say that the bishop, before his death, wanted to adopt a schema, but for some reason this act was not fulfilled. The schema itself is still kept in the vestry of the Chisinau and All Moldova Diocese. It is also known that, among other things, bishop Nicodemus filled the role of parish school teacher for many years. He began this undertaking while still a deacon. All those years Christians came to him for regular reading and singing lessons. Some students of bishop Nicodemus are still alive.

The angelic commemoration of bishop Nicodemus takes place on June 10, the day of commemoration of Venerable Nikita, archbishop of Chalcedon.