February 13, 2020

Saint George, Archbishop of Mogilev (+ 1795)

St. George of Mogilev (Feast Day - February 12)

Saint George, in the world known as Gregory Iosifovich Konissky, was born into a prominent family on November 20, 1717 in the town of Nizhyn in Ukraine.

He studied at the Kiev Theological Academy from 1728 to 1743, where he perfectly mastered the Latin, Polish, Greek, Hebrew and German languages.

On August 11, 1744 he became a monk at the Kiev Caves Lavra.

In 1745, he became a teacher of poetry (theory of versification) at the Kiev Theological Academy.

In 1750, he drafted an instruction "On the Order of Teaching Subjects in All Classes." He encouraged classes in music and painting, and developed programs for a number of academic courses.

In 1751, he became professor of theology.

In 1754 Archbishop Jerome of Mogilev in Belarus died, and the Hieromonk George replaced him on August 20, 1755. The enthronement took place at Hagia Sofia Cathedral in Kiev.

With his elevation there was a revival of the ecclesiastical life in the diocese. Archbishop George saw to the religious and moral education of the people and the enlightenment of the clergy and flock.

In 1757, a printing house was opened at the archbishop's house, in which many Orthodox works were published.

He defended the right to education for all segments of the population. Archbishop George also opened schools in Bykhov, Gomel, Mstislavl, Orsha, Rogachev and others.

To replenish the clergy, he applied to the Holy Synod for permission to ordain Russian citizens of Ukrainian origin or from the border Smolensk province, and the request was granted by a registered imperial decree of January 25, 1758.

At the same time, the Saint took care of the construction of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration in 1762, the buildings of the consistory and theological seminary, and a number of churches were erected.

The Saint preached a lot, and in his sermons he did not cease to address the dangerous questions of social inequality, and especially about the relationship between landowners and serfs.

He denounced the Catholics, Jews and Muslims, as well as Freemasons "boasting of the wisdom of Solomon." The mysteries of Freemasonry seemed to him suspicious - this "enlightenment being done in the darkness."

In 1762, Bishop George was invited to the coronation of Empress Catherine II in Moscow, and on September 29th he delivered a speech in which he expressed concern for the fate of the Orthodox in Poland.

In 1768 he became a member of the mixed court for the resolution of religious disputes between Catholics and "dissidents"; patronage of the prelate was sought by the Protestants.

In 1768 he moved to Smolensk, from where he continued to lead his flock, sending letters and instructions. In collaboration with the Smolensk Bishop Parfeny (Sopkovsky) he compiled a manual on canon law, liturgics, preaching and pastoral theology "On the Duties of Parish Presbyters" (St. Petersburg, 1776; translated into English).

Archbishop George welcomed the first partition of Poland in 1772, likening it to the biblical liberation from Egyptian slavery. The southern territories from the territories annexed to Russia (comprising the Mogilev, Orsha, Mstislav and Rogachev provinces) were united into the Mogilev, Mstislav and Orsha dioceses, which the hierarch headed (from January 10, 1795, after the expansion of the diocese, he became known as Mogilev and Polotsk).

Returning to Mogilev, he advocated for the immediate mass return of the Uniates to Orthodoxy, and sent out messages calling for this throughout Belarus. He was one of the initiators of the imperial rescript of July 2, 1780, allowing to appoint priests to the freed Uniate parishes. In 1781–1783 in Belarus 112,578 people returned to the fold of the Orthodox Church.

Archbishop George sent the clergy exhortation letters prohibiting rebaptism (1783) and the careless performance of the sacrament of confession (1789).

At the same time, the Saint continued to help the Orthodox who remained in the territory of Poland, entrusting Bishop Victor (Sadkovsky) to represent him in the Sejm. Through the efforts of Saint George on March 27, 1785, the Pereyaslav diocese was restored to the territory of Poland in the jurisdiction of the Russian Church, and the diocese was headed by Bishop Victor (Sadkovsky). Archbishop George made recommendations for him on managing the diocese. During the years of persecution of Orthodoxy in Poland (1789–1792), the Saint maintained close contact with Warsaw, informing the Synod about the events taking place.

He collected a very rich library (1269 books, 241 manuscripts), opened several hospitals, hospices, almshouses, etc. He made a custom to distribute money to churches, paupers, widows and orphans on Saturdays. Before his death, he made a will, in which he showed concern for worship, monasticism, the seminary, his flock and clergy, and left funds for giving alms in the temples of Mogilev.

He died on February 13, 1795 in the city of Mogilev and was buried in the aisle of the Transfiguration Cathedral in Mogilev. A copper board with an inscription made by the archbishop himself was nailed over the grave: "Ко­лы­бель Нежин, Ки­ев мой учи­тель, Я в трид­цать во­семь лет сде­лал­ся свя­ти­тель. За пре­тер­пен­ные тру­ды и непо­го­ду, Ар­хи­епи­ско­пом и Чле­ном стал Си­но­ду, Ге­ор­гий име­нем, я из Ко­нис­ских до­му, Ко­ню по­до­бен бы­вал поч­то­во­му." ("I was born in Nizhyn, taught in Kiev, at thirty-eight I became an archpriest. For enduring labors and bad weather, I became Archbishop and a Member of the Synod. I was named George, of the house of Konissky, I was like a postal horse.")

His tomb was opened in 1812 by the French, and in 1875 during the repair of the temple the body was found to be preserved imperishable. By 2005, the cathedral was destroyed, and the grave was lost.

The veneration of the Saint began almost immediately after his death: memorial services were served at the tomb in the cathedral. On August 5-6, 1993, in Mogilev, Saint George was glorified. In 1993 a Life was compiled, and in 1995 an akathist was composed to the Saint. Temples in Mogilev and Slutsk are dedicated to him.