JOHNSTOWN - Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko, the spiritual leader of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., died Sunday after waging a courageous battle with cancer, the diocese said.
Smisko was 75.
Smisko was known locally for the ecumenical services he co-sponsored with Bishop Joseph Adamec of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and Bishop Gregory Pile of the Allegheny Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Adamec visited with Smisko on Saturday, diocesan spokesman Tony DeGol said Monday.
"The Bishop is saddened on the passing of Metropolitan Nicholas," DeGol said. "The Bishop considered him a very close friend."
The most recent ecumenical service was held Feb. 13 at St. John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown, hosted by Adamec.
"Metropolitan Nicholas made it a point to be there despite being very sick. I think that speaks volumes about his commitment to ecumenism and unity," DeGol said.
Smisko spoke out for a reuniting of the Catholic and Orthodox branches of the Christian church. The two sides parted ways in 1054 after representatives from both sides pronounced anathemas or curses upon each other at Constantinople.
"[Pope] John Paul [II] reminded us we are a church of two lungs: East and West. Someday, we will end our division and become one," Smisko said at a 2005 memorial Mass for the late pope at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
Smisko's remarks brought a standing ovation from Bishop Joseph Adamec, more than 40 diocesan priests and deacons and about 1,000 worshippers at the Mass.
Smisko was a graduate of Perth Amboy, N.J., High School and Christ the Saviour Seminary, Johnstown. After his ordination in 1959, he served at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Windber, where he served until 1962.
He also studied at the Patriarchal Theological Academy at Halki, Constantinople. During his stay in the city, he was assigned by the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras to serve the spiritual needs of the Slavic Orthodox community in the Galata section of Istanbul.
Upon his return to the United States, Smisko resumed his studies at the universities of Youngstown and Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He was then assigned as Prefect of Discipline at Christ the Saviour Seminary, and served several parishes in the Johnstown area, before relocating in 1971 to New York City.
He was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite in 1976, and was elected by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as Auxiliary Bishop for the Ukrainian Orthodox Diocese of America and was consecrated as Bishop on March 13, 1983.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday.