He was born on June 19, 1924, in Tallinn into the family of a Russian army colonel. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the family had emigrated to Estonia. In 1943, he finished school and served as a psalm reader in the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Tallinn. On August 19, 1945, he was ordained a deacon by Paul (Dmitrovsky), Archbishop of Tallinn and all Estonia, and later, on February 8, 1948, he was ordained a priest by Isidore, Bishop of Tallinn and all Estonia. He was appointed rector of St Mary Magdalene Church in Haapsalu. In 1951 he graduated from the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Seminary (by correspondence).
From 1951 to 1957 he belonged to the clergy of the Vologda diocese. On February 27, 1957, he was arrested by the KGB and charged for "anti-Soviet agitation" (due to his possession of religious books and conversations with believers). On May 16, 1957, he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. He served his sentence in the political camps of Mordovia (Dubravlag). On September 12, 1960, the Supreme Court of Mordovia reduced the sentence to five years, and then by the court's resolution he was released from custody ahead of time and put on probation. (He was rehabilitated on October 14, 1988). In November 1960 he came back to Estonia and became rector of John the Forerunner Church in Tallinn.
On July 20, 1990 at the first meeting of the Holy Synod, chaired by His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow and all Russia, he was appointed Bishop of Tallinn, vicar to His Holiness the Patriarch. On August 21, 1990, he took monastic vows in the Monastery of the Dormition at Pechery near Pskov and obtained the name of Cornelius; on September 6, 1990 he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite.
On September 15, 1990, he was ordained a bishop at the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Tallinn. The chirotony (laying on of hands) was done by His Holiness Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; Metropolitan Tikhon of Helsinki (Finnish Orthodox Church), Bishop Evgeny of Tambov and Michurinsk, Bishop Victor of Podolsk, and Bishop Lev of Novgorod and Staraya Russa. Upon the decision of the Holy Synod to grant autonomy to the Estonian Orthodox Church, he became the head of the Estonian church, with the title of Bishop of Tallinn and all Estonia. In 1995 he was elevated to the rank of archbishop.
On November 6, 2000, he was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan of Tallinn and all Estonia.
|Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia|
- From the official website of the Orthodox Church of Estonia (Moscow Patriarchate), used with their kind permission.