April 13, 2005


Archbishop Iakovos, Greek Orthodox Church Leader, Dead at 93 (RNS)

Archbishop Iakovos, who served as the spiritual leader of Greek Orthodox Christians in the Americas for 37 years, died April 10 after a brief illness. [...]

"He started all these dialogues with Catholics, Jews," said Nikki Stephanopoulos, spokeswoman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, in an interview. "That was his heart and soul, really."

The archbishop, a native of Imvros, Turkey, served nine years as president of the World Council of Churches.

"Ecumenism," he once said, "is the hope for international understanding, for humanitarian allegiance, for true peace based on justice and dignity, and for God's continued presence and involvement in modern history."

Iakovos, who became a U.S. citizen in 1950, met nine presidents and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the nation's highest civilian honor -- from President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, said in a statement that he was privileged to know Iakovos for more than five decades.

"He has been a superb archbishop who offered to the church an intense, continuous, multifaceted and creative pastoral activity," said Demetrios.

Iakovos was ordained to the priesthood in 1940 and enthroned as archbishop in 1959. Shortly after his enthronement, he met with Pope John XXIII, marking the first time a Greek Orthodox archbishop had met with a Roman Catholic prelate in 350 years. He also met with Pope John Paul II more than once.

The Greek Orthodox leader was known for reaching across racial as well as religious lines. He made the cover of Life magazine when he joined the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in a civil rights march in Selma, Ala., in 1965 and cheered the passage of civil rights legislation.

ARCHBISHOP IAKOVOS, 1911-2005 (NY Post, April 13, 2005)
He had nowhere near the number of fol lowers of Pope John Paul II, but Archbishop Iakovos, retired primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in North and South America, who died this week at 93, was also a significant religious figure.

Under his 37 years of leadership — which ended with his retirement in 1996 following disagreements with the church's ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew I — Greek Orthodoxy assumed an accepted place among the nation's major mainstream spiritual movements.

That was due primarily to Iakovos' efforts. [...]

His life and struggle, Iakovos once said, were devoted to "maintain[ing] the faith and culture." That he most certainly did.

And the Greek Orthodox church has much for which to thank him.

Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos, 93, transformed church (John Christoffersen, 4/12/05, The Associated Press )
"Ecumenism," he said in 1960, "is the hope for international understanding, for humanitarian allegiance, for true peace based on justice and dignity, and for God's continued presence and involvement in modern history."
During his long tenure as archbishop, he led the Greek Orthodox church out of immigrant isolation and into the mainstream of American religious life, playing a leading role in bringing English into the liturgy.

"It's the end of the golden age of orthodoxy in America," said the Rev. George Poulos, who wrote a book about Archbishop Iakovos. "There's no one on the horizon who can equal his abilities and his character and his faith."

Born Demetrios Coucouzis in Turkey in 1911, he took the name Iakovos, which means James, when he was ordained a deacon in 1934. He arrived in the United States in 1939 and became a U.S. citizen in 1950.

Archbishop Iakovos was instrumental in setting up dialogues between Orthodox churches and Anglicans, Lutherans, Southern Baptists and other denominations. He met every U.S. president from Eisenhower through Clinton, and was one of the U.S. Christian leaders who met with Pope John Paul II in a historic gathering in South Carolina in 1987.

He sought to maintain Orthodox traditions, such as opposing the ordination of women, while at the same time championing human rights and improved race relations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 13, 2005 12:27 PM
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