Iakovos Says Charter Is New Beginning for Church of America

- by Theodore Kalmoukos
Special to The National Herald


BOSTON - Former Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America, in an interview with The National Herald this week, called on the faithful of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to remain united and act for the common good of the Church.

Iakovos, who is 91, said that the Greek Orthodox should embrace the Ecumenical Patriarchate and love and respect it.

He urged for unity and said that everyone should work together to improve and advance Orthodoxy in America. The new Charter, he said, is a new beginning and those who object to it ought to put objections and disputes aside and work for the good of the Church.

The entire interview follows:

THE NATIONAL HERALD: How is your health Your Eminence?

IAKOVOS: Thank God, my health could not be any better, keeping in mind the number 91 years of my age, which in July will be 92. I thank God for keeping me in good health and I am able at least to think and to see. I cannot read much because one of my eyes has weakened, I cannot write a lot as I use to.

Clouds of war are gathering once more. What are you thinking? Have you written to President Bush?

It is meaningless to tell you if I have written or not to Mr. Bush. In my prayer in the morning and at night, not out of habit but my soul feels it as a necessity, I beseech God that whatever war, small or big, be prevented. America should look after its population. I believe that the war will not do any good. I do not want a war to take place.

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Do you think our Church in America can and should spread the word for peace?

Our Church in America is considered and it counts as a major faith with its own presence, theology, philosophy and history. Our Church as a whole should have said a word, since one of its functions is to have a voice, which must be heard. The Church should have a timely voice and not be spoken after the events. Prophesies after the events are not prophesies. We should spread the voice of the Orthodox Church in America either through SCOBA if you wish, or through our Greek Orthodox Church on its own.

What is your opinion on the new charter?

The charter that was sent by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and signed by all the synodal hierarchs is the charter of the archdiocese. I do not have the right nor the willingness to make any criticism. The charter is a result of three years of discussions. I think the Mother Church (the patriarchate) with this charter has given its final word that she cares affectionately for the Church and Hellenism of America.

What are your recommendations to the clergy and laity whom you served for more than half of a century?

I think that the charter is a starting point for a new beginning so the world can see the liveliness of our Church.

There are some objections from certain laymen who claim that the charter issue is not over, that more process is needed. What do you say to them, who, as a matter of fact, were serving under your leadership for many years?

I am telling them to place on the side the objections and the disputes and let us get mobilized for the fastening of Greek Orthodoxy on the American soil.

How do you feel Your Eminence about the Ecumenical Patriarchate? What is your recommendation to the faithful of the archdiocese and to the Greek American community in general?

I call upon all the faithful, all the Greek American community, to not simply love and respect the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but to consider it really as its mother. The way we have Greece in our hearts as our mother country, we should have the patriarchate as our mother church always in our hearts. Furthermore, the link between the mother and the daughter should always be strong and immovable.

A year ago in an interview with The National Herald, speaking about the course of our Church, you mentioned that we are going in “slow motion” and that we are in “stagnate waters.” Have we come out from either one?

I think that the entire archbishopric ministry of our Archbishop Demetrios is a very careful course. It is not a slow motion, but it is not a jump either.

What form should our Church take? If you were archbishop today where would you steer the boat of our Church and community?

As our fellow American citizens say, to the mainstream of the American life. We should go ahead and up. Christ said: ‘Go forward,’ He did not say standstill.

What is your opinion of paraecclesial organizations here and in Greece?

All that has been said from the holy mouths of the authors of the New Testament: “stay away from people who are deluded and they delude others as well.” There are no organizations outside of the Church. The organization is one, the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ has no abscess. We do not need abscess.

Where is the Theological School going today and where do you want to see it go?

Where you too, Mr. Kalmoukos, want to see the Theological School go because the school concerns you as a graduate and a neighbor. The school cannot be experimenting. It should follow the way of Theological education. A way of exercise in order not to ever get sick. The Theological School is not simply the arm of our Church, but the Church itself. If we want our Church to be strengthened, to illumine, to save then the school should strive for that mission.

Have you regretted anything from your archbishopric ministry and if so, what?

Under the conditions that I served, having been attacked, been threatened, I think with the help of all of you, I did what it should have been done at that time. If it was much less of what was expected, you can judge it today. But at that time I did what was dictated by my priestly and Greek Orthodox consciousness…To this day, I was not influenced, nor was I shaken, although it is a fact that I was threatened many times.

In what way were you threatened? Was your life threatened?


Where, when, why, and by whom?

After the Clergy-Laity Congress of Detroit (1978) we came here and we found a room full of smoke and armed policemen. I asked them “what are you doing here?” They replied ‘Your life is in danger and we have received orders to be here.’ I told them, I thank you very much but I do not feel that my life is being threatened, because my life is to serve the will of God. On the way from the hotel to the airport, there were ambuscades, which the authorities had spotted and they lead me into the aircraft via other avenues. Another time, when we were coming back from a protest in Washington, I received a threat that they wanted to eliminate me.

Who had reasons to take you out of the way?

I was told that they were definitely the Turks.

You were not afraid though?

No. I was getting strength from He who is the strength.

In Greece today there is a lot of talk about blackmailing of businessmen. Even hierarchs have been mentioned as victims of blackmailing. Have you ever faced any type of blackmailing all those years of your ministry either here, in Greece or anywhere else?


What do you miss more today from the time that you were in active ministry?

Nothing. I am grateful to God who kept me and continues to keep me healthy so that I am able to converse with you, to study, to write, to read.

How often does Archbishop Demetrois draw from your experience?

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrois speaks with me many times – he calls me geronta (spiritual father – mentor). I have no complaints. I tell him my opinion, if he adopts it or not it is his problem, not mine.

Do you love Demetrios?

Very much.

Do you want to see him succeed?

Very much, undeniably.

What should Archbishop Demetrois do from now on in order to succeed?

I think what he can do, and I think he already does it, is to reconsider every night the day that passed and to see if the Church goes where he wants her to go.

Let us be concrete and practical: Would you tell Demetrois to pay attention to Greek education, for example, the Hellenic identity of our Church in general, the finances of the archdiocese, the Theological School?

The archbishop has all these things in mind because he was a professor at the school, he used to liturgize in the communities. He is tireless. I do not want him to get more tired, because I want him to be healthy and strong. We all should help him, all of us without any exception.

The granting of help is a two-way street, which means you cannot help anyone who does not want to be helped. Is Archbishop Demetrois receptive to help?

I think that he has never said that he is self-sufficient or that his strengths are enough not to be in need of anything.

Since 1996 your throne became vacant twice. Both times archbishops were imported. Was there no one able of the existing bishops of the archdiocese who know the Church, people, and situations to assume the archbishopric throne?

Allow me not to answer this question.

If you had in front of you the Greek American community what would you tell them?

Whatever I told them in my last speech in 1996: remain united. Nothing else.

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