Born George Nikolaivich Voznesensky at Kursk in 1903, the future metropolitan was first ordained a celibate priest and then entered monastic life. Much of his work was in the Far East, since his father, Archbishop Dimitri, served in China. He became bishop of Australia in the early 1960's and was elected Metropolitan in 1965.
Only the third Metropolitan of the Synod of Bishops since the Revolution, Vladika Philaret's 21-year rule was not without significance. It seems that to each Metropolitan God has assigned specific tasks, laying different burdens on each one as if giving a crown of thorns with the white klobuk . To the first, Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) was given the awesome responsibility of carrying our New Martyr Patriarch Tikhon's decree ordering the formation of a Higher Church Authority outside Russia in the event of contact with the Patriarch becoming impossible or nonexistent due to Soviet interference. Coalescing and organizing the vast numbers of emigre and exiled clergy and laity into a meaningful and functional church unit was a difficult accomplishment, one for which Metropolitan Antony had to summon all his many rich gifts.
The second Chief Shepherd of the Church Abroad, Metropolitan Anastassy, reigned for nearly thirty years, and his life and achievements have been written about extensively in the last OA. Like an aged Moses, he led the exiled Russian Church through the wilderness of post-World War II conditions and difficulties. Heavy as were many of the burdens of those days, luminous as was the spirit with which Met. Anastassy confronted the labors given him by God, it has come to seem that to his successor, Met. Philaret, was given the most difficult and important destiny of all.
Almost simultaneously with Vladika Philaret's election, massive changes in the spiritual climate of the world began affecting the Church Abroad. Modernizations in Roman Catholicism, innovations and ecumenism in other Orthodox jurisdictions, a thirst for genuine holiness even among people born and bred to the neo-paganism of modern life--all these forces manifested themselves in a veritable tidal wave of new people, new "tribes ," coming into the Church Abroad. And these came, not because they were Slavophiles or ethnic dilettantes in search of borrowed "roots," but because they sensed that the Russian Church in Exile had preserved the principles of other worldliness and ancient Christian tradition, and this living reality exerted an attraction compelling enough to bring hundreds, even thousands, of people into Holy Orthodoxy.
One of the most respected writers of the Russian Church Abroad, the late Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), himself a convert from Protestantism, was not a man given to exaggeration or overstatement, but Metropolitan Philaret's steadfast example so inspired him that in 1976 he wrote the fallowing evaluation of the Metro
"Among the primates of the Orthodox Churches today, there is only one from whom is always expected--and not only by members of his own Church, but by very many in a number of other Orthodox Churches as well-the clear voice of Orthodox righteousness and truth and conscience, untainted by political considerations or calculations of any kind. The voice of Metropolitan Philaret of New York, Chief Hierarch of the Russian Church Outside of Russia, is the only fully Orthodox voice among ail the Orthodox primates. In this he is like to the Holy Fathers of ancient times, who placed purity of Orthodoxy above all else, and he stands in the midst of today's confused religious world as a solitary champion of Orthodoxy in the spirit of the Ecumenical Councils." (Orthodox Word, vol. 12, No. 1, Jan .-Feb., 1976)
Fr. Seraphim then explained that while those on what he called the "left" (liberal or reform-minded Orthodox) saw Vladika Metropolitan as an extremist, and those on the "right" with "zeal not according to knowledge" (Rom. 10;2) also misunderstood him, the Metropolitan was in reality only and simply "Orthodox," not knowing left or right "wings," wanting only to call back to Orthodoxy all those who have departed from the age-old Faith.
Accordingly, in addition to his many pastoral letters as presiding bishop, Met. Philaret also wrote several sorrowful Epistles to the hierarchies of other Orthodox jurisdictions in an effort to humbly but firmly remind them of their responsibilities as shepherds of their flocks and of the principles by which the Faith has always operated, in and out of season, when he saw signs of deviation from the True Faith.
As Fr. Seraphim said, "The Orthodox stand of Met. Philaret is rooted in his experience from childhood of the age-old Orthodox way of life .... In his uncompromising stand for true Orthodoxy he is very like his namesake in 19th-century Russia, Met. Philaret of Moscow, the champion of Patristic Orthodoxy against the anti-Orthodox influences coming from the West..."
The article above is adapted from Metropolitan Philaret's obituary in Orthodox Life.