Archimandrite Kirill (in the world, Ivan Dimitrievich Pavlov) was born on September 8, 1919 in the village of Makovskie Vyselki in Ryazan Province, to a pious peasant family. However he lapsed in his faith after living with his atheist brother for twelve years. He regained his Orthodox faith during World War II, in which he fought as a lieutenant in the Soviet army.
Ivan Pavlov fought in the famous battle of Stalingrad where he commanded a platoon. He also fought in Hungary, and ended his service in Austria in 1946.
Fr. Kirill described how he regained his faith during the war. He was on watch in destroyed Stalingrad in April 1943, when he found a book of the Gospels among the ruins.
“I began reading it and felt something so dear to my soul. It was the Gospel. I had found such as treasure, such consolation! I gathered all the pages together—the book was torn apart—and this Gospel remained with me always. Before this, I had been so confused: Why this war? Why are we fighting? There was much I could not understand, because there was atheism everywhere in the county, lies, and one couldn’t find the truth… I walked with the Gospel and was never afraid. Never. Such inspiration it gave me! The Lord was simply with me, next to me, and I feared nothing.”
Directly after the army, Ivan went to seminary. At that time the Moscow Theological Seminary was located in the Novodevichy Monastery in Moscow. Right after graduation he went to the Moscow Theological Academy, from which he graduated in 1954.
On August 25, 1954, Ivan Pavlov was tonsured a monk in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra, with the name Kirill. In 1970 he was appointed treasurer of the Lavra. In 1965 Fr. Kirill was raised to the rank of archimandrite, and appointed father confessor of the monastery brethren.
Fr. Kirill has been called the “father confessor (dukhovnik) of all Russia”. He was confessor to three consecutive patriarchs: Alexei I, Pimen, and Alexei II. When he was appointed as confessor to Patriarch Alexei II, he was moved to the patriarchal residence in Peredelkino, a suburb of Moscow, where he continued to be the confessor of the Lavra brotherhood. In Peredelkino, Fr. Kirill received thousands of people from all over Russia and abroad, hearing confessions and giving spiritual counsel. He touched the lives of innumerable people. Many of his sermons and instructions have been published in books (in Russian), and as many as 5,000 letters were written by him to all ranks of the clergy, as well as to laypeople—some who were his spiritual children, others little known to him.
In around the year 2004, Fr. Kirill suffered a stroke, which left him paralyzed and unable to speak, although he was aware of his surroundings. He still received his close spiritual children, who testified to the fact that Fr. Kirill was praying for all, and even spoke on rare occasions when needed. Archimandrite Alexiy (Polycarpov), abbot of the Danilov Monastery in Moscow said of him at that time, “He is very weak and infirm, but he prays for us. It is very hard for him to talk now, he almost cannot talk at all, but he said one day, ‘Each person should do his own work…’”
Memory eternal to one of Russia’s greatest elders of modern times, Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov)!