Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko, primate of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., was remembered Friday as a loving leader who enjoyed religious chanting and embraced other faiths.
Hundreds of Johnstown faithful mingled with clerics from across the Eastern United States and leaders of the Roman Catholic and Lutheran faiths at the funeral at Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
The metropolitan died of cancer Sunday at age 75.
“His was a life beautifully blessed by God,” said Archbishop Demetrios of New York City, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, who led the services.
“He would bring the Gospel to any place, to any person. He was an evangelist.”
Among those in attendance were Bishop Joseph Adamec of the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese and Bishop Gregory Pile of the Allegheny Synod of the Lutheran tradition.
“We’ve had a close relationship for 18 years,” Pile said before the funeral, noting that he, Smisko and Adamec have been holding twice-annual ecumenical services. “He’s been a good friend and, more importantly, a good church leader. I’ll remember him singing among the Russo-Carpathian community.”
The ritualistic, two-hour funeral included the chanting of seven epistles and seven Gospels amid the swinging of censures burning incense. A procession of dozens of clergy began the service, each pausing to pay his respects before an open casket.
In his eulogy, Demetrios said the metropolitan “held this diocese together on all levels,” displaying loyalty to orthodoxy.
In the last 24 hours of his life, Demetrios said, the metropolitan took comfort in trying to join in the chanting at his bedside.
And, the archbishop said, “this beloved brother of ours is now constantly interceding” with the divine on behalf of all Christians.
Daria Gerety of Connecticut attended the service with her son Liam, age 11.
She said Smisko was a friend of the family. Gerety came to know him through her father, a monsignor.
“He was down to earth,” she said outside the cathedral. “He cared for you as a person. He was so loving.”
Reader Nicholas Worobey of St. George’s Orthodox Church near Scranton said, “He was a saintly man. He loved his plain chant.”
Of the service itself, Worobey said, “His eminence would really appreciate it.”
Smisko entered Christ the Saviour Seminary in Johnstown after graduation from Perth Amboy High School in New Jersey. He was ordained in 1959 in New Jersey.
Early in his pastoral career, he was stationed at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Windber. Thereafter, he spent time in Europe, the Holy Land and New York City.
Smisko was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop in 1983. After the death of Bishop John Martin in 1984, he was chosen as the third ruling hierarch of the Carpatho-Russian Diocese and enthroned at Christ the Saviour in 1985. He was elevated to metropolitan in 1997.
Metropolitan Smisko’s remains are being transported to his home parish at St. John’s Church in Perth Amboy, N.J. Smisko will lie in state there beginning at 1 p.m. today. He will be buried in the church cemetery Monday.