Official Biography of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America
Biographical information of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America
Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
President of the Holy Eparchial Synod
Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North & Central America
Consecrated as Bishop September 17, 1967
Elected as Archbishop of America August 19, 1999
Enthroned as Archbishop of America September 18, 1999
You may also view the Archbishop's Condensed Biography.
Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America was born Demetrios Trakatellis in Thessaloniki, Greece on February 1, 1928. In 1950 he graduated with distinction from the University of Athens School of Theology. In 1960 he was ordained a deacon, and in 1964 a priest.
He was elected Bishop of Vresthena in 1967, an auxiliary bishop to the Archbishop of Athens with the primary responsibility for the theological education of the clergy. From 1965 to 1971, on scholarship from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, he studied New Testament and Christian Origins and was awarded a Ph.D. "with distinction" in 1972. After receiving this degree, he returned to his ecclesiastical position in the Archdiocese of Athens and undertook responsibilities for the theological education of the clergy, ministry among the youth, and other duties related to theological conferences in Greece and abroad.
In 1968, he was elected Metropolitan of Attika and Megaris, but he did not accept the post for reasons related to the canonical order of the Church and to the political conditions in Greece at that time.
Later, in 1977, he earned a second doctorate, namely a Th.D. in Theology from the University of Athens “with distinction.” From 1983 to 1993, he served as the Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies and Christian Origins at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. Serving as a faculty member for more than a decade, he taught many of America’s Greek Orthodox clergy. He also taught at Harvard Divinity School as Visiting Professor of New Testament during the academic years of 1984 to 1985 and from 1988 to 1989. On August 20, 1991 the Sacred Synod of the Church of Greece elevated the then Bishop Demetrios of Vresthena to a Titular Metropolitan of Vresthena with the simultaneous elevation of the Diocese of Vresthena to the rank of the Metropolis. After several years in the United States, he returned to Greece in 1993 to pursue full-time scholarly writing and research. At the same time, he resumed his responsibilities at the Archdiocese of Athens.
Elected Archbishop of America on August 19, 1999 by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Demetrios was enthroned on September 18, 1999 at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City. He leads a church of more than one and a half million Greek Orthodox Christians in the United States.
As Archbishop of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and head of the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese, Archbishop Demetrios has traveled extensively throughout the United States and globally. In the course of hundreds of pastoral visits to parishes, schools, and events nationwide, he has met with hundreds of thousands of faithful. He has joined with the dedicated Metropolitans and Bishops of the Archdiocese in leading services, consecrating churches, ordaining clergy, and extending the scope of the work of the Church in America, all the while sharing in the vitality and accomplishments of the people and the parishes. Each and every visit affirms the strength of the Church in America and his emphasis on the essential role of the faithful in the work of ministry.
In his inspiring and visionary Enthronement Address, Archbishop Demetrios presented his “threefold plan” of ministry: 1) cultivating, nurturing, and sustaining a vibrant and dynamic Orthodox faith in the United States, 2) teaching and practicing limitless love and philanthropy, and 3) emphasizing, pursuing and enhancing the establishment of a strong and unbreakable unity within the Church and the human community in general. He stated:
“Here, a remarkably wide field of a truly great work is open to us. A work aimed at the invigoration, cultivation and growth of a dynamic and illumined faith, within the clergy and lay people of the blessed Omogenia, which constitute the flock of our Holy Archdiocese…. We have to be the Church that gives a whole, powerful, and genuine witness of faith to this great country of America where God has planted us. All of us, without exception, have been called by the Lord to become conscious, true, dynamic and illumined people of faith, who, as Apostle Peter underlines, are ready and prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls us to account for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15).
Since his enthronement, Archbishop Demetrios has labored together with the Hierarchs, clergy, and laity of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese to strengthen conditions of unity and peace, and to advance the administrative and ecclesiastical stability of the work of the Church in America. His archpastoral message has been one of faith, unity, love, genuine relationships, and an ever-increasing commitment to God and to service in the name of Christ. As he unceasingly affirms, this is essential, not only as a witness to the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, but also as a presupposition for the growth and development of the Church and as individuals and families.
Archbishop Demetrios has also led the Greek Orthodox Church in America in responding to additional challenges facing people and communities in this nation and throughout the world. In 2005, he responded to the needs of contemporary families by proclaiming it the “Year of the Family” for the parishes and ministries of Archdiocese. This initiative followed the appointment of an Archdiocesan Roundtable on the Family and the establishment of the Center for Family Care in an effort to address the tremendous challenges our contemporary world is pressing upon all types of families.
Further, Archbishop Demetrios established and broadened the function of several Archdiocesan ministries to answer societal needs, including the Department of Philanthropy, which serves to further develop and coordinate the philanthropic work of the Archdiocese together with the National Ladies Philoptochos Society and community organizations, and also the Office of Church and Society, which serves to address contemporary social and cultural issues that have broad impact. Recognizing the long-term financial support needed to sustain Archdiocesan programs, in 2005, the Archbishop together with the remarkable assistance of prominent lay members of the Church established “FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism” for the purpose of assisting the national ministries and institutions of the Archdiocese.
Through his tireless efforts, he achieved the strengthening of the administrative, financial stability and legislative clarity of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He has convened six successful Clergy-Laity Congresses in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 and has led in the revision of the Charter of the Archdiocese, the significant revision of the Uniform Parish Regulations, the composition of the Regulations for Monasteries, for Auxiliary Bishops, and for the Spiritual Courts.
Throughout his ministry Archbishop Demetrios leads in response to numerous national and international needs and crises, including the tremendous ordeals confronting the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Macedonian issue, and the Cyprus tragedy. In March of 2005, Archbishop Demetrios testified before the Helsinki Commission regarding issues of religious freedom and the function of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey. He continues to guide the work of the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in making known the plight of the Church in Constantinople. In November 2010 he participated in the International Religious Freedom Conference in Brussels organized by the Archons of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle.
His Eminence is recognized not only by Greek Orthodox faithful, but by civic and government leaders as the spiritual leader of a national and prominent religious community in America. As a result of this and to honor the Church, in his inaugural year His Eminence was invited by President William Clinton to participate in the White House Faith Leaders Summit: A Call to Action. A month later he was invited to a private meeting with President Clinton in New York City to discuss issues of mutual concern regarding Greece and Cyprus, as well as the reopening of Halki Theological School in Turkey.
Over the last decade, Archbishop Demetrios has met with and received many leaders and dignitaries including Presidents William Jefferson Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barak Obama, Secretaries of State, Senators, Congressmen and State and City leaders.
Annually, he has participated in the White House commemoration of Greek Independence Day, where he has presented remarks affirming both the uniqueness and relationship of Greek and American independence and emphasized the priority and necessity of freedom for all people throughout the world.
As a national religious leader, Archbishop Demetrios has been invited to offer prayers at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 2000, 2004, and 2008, and he attended the presidential Inaugural Ceremonies that followed each election.
Inter-Orthodox and Interfaith Ministry
As an Orthodox hierarch for more than forty years, as a theologian, statesman, and biblical scholar of international recognition, His Eminence has faithfully demonstrated the healing power of Christ’s truth and compassion. Called to serve the Greek Orthodox Church in America during an active time in its history, his message has been one that has called for unity, genuine relationships, and an ever-increasing commitment to God and to service in the name of Christ. He has manifested the effectiveness of the grace of God in establishing peace, tranquility, stability and trust both within the Church and throughout the world.
From 1999 to 2009 Archbishop Demetrios served as Chairman of Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), an organization which brought together the hierarchs of Orthodox presences in North America (Greek, Russian, Antiochian, Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Carpatho-Russian, and Albanian) for the purpose of strengthening the ties of unity among Orthodox hierarchs and faithful.
In June 2009, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America was established by the Decision of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox conference that met at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambesy, Switzerland. This Assembly consists of the active canonical bishops who reside in the region of the United States of America. In every Assembly, the chairman is the senior bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Demetrios is the Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. The Assembly has declared itself to be the successor to the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), assuming its agencies, dialogues and other ministries.
On February 19, 2004 as Archbishop of America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, His Eminence was elected a member of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This election was part of a modification in the formation of the Holy and Sacred Synod to include six hierarchs from Eparchies of the Ecumenical Throne outside of Turkey.
In November 2004 was a momentous occasion as the Roman Catholic Church, led by Pope John Paul II, returned the Holy Relics of St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. The relics, taken some 800 years prior, were returned to the Patriarchate at the request of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who personally transferred them from Rome to Constantinople escorted by Archbishop Demetrios and other Hierarchs.
In November and December 2006, Archbishop Demetrios actively participated in the historic Papal Voyage of Pope Benedict XVI to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He served as the official spokesman of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and co-hosted a press conference prior to the visit where he addressed hundreds of journalists from around the world on the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople and the significance of this historic meeting.
In May 2008, Archbishop Demetrios made an official visit to the Patriarchate of Moscow at the invitation of the late Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. The visit came at a time of important developments in the relationship between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church in America, especially in light of the reunification of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). In June 2008, at the request of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Demetrios led a distinguished group of faithful including members of “FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism” to Rome for the patronal feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The visit included a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
In October 2008, Archbishop Demetrios participated in the Synaxis of the Heads of All Orthodox Churches throughout the world at the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Following the Synaxis, Archbishop Demetrios chaired the Pauline Symposium which took place in the cities of Turkey and Greece where St. Paul preached during his missionary journeys.
On September 11, 2001, after the horrendous terrorist attack, the world changed, bringing unprecedented challenges and difficulties to people all over the globe. Faced with the aftermath of the tragic events that claimed the lives of almost 3,000 people and also destroyed the edifice of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church which stood in the shadow of the World Trade Center, Archbishop Demetrios rushed to Ground Zero to view the destruction firsthand, to assist in any possible way, and to develop a response plan. There, in an atmosphere filled with smoke, ashes and debris, the Archbishop was asked to offer prayers and bless the ground were so many had died. To this day, the faith of the workers he met and the heroic faith of the victim’s families still move him to speak of the unwavering spirit and the strength of people in the face of despair.
Immediately following his first visit to Ground Zero, Archbishop Demetrios called on all of the faithful to commit to deep prayer and generous donations of appropriate resources to meet the tremendous needs. In an intense, multilevel ministry to families, communities, and the nation, he conducted memorial services and funerals for the victims of the September 11 tragedy, made repeated visits to Ground Zero, affirmed the need to rebuild St. Nicholas Church, led an extensive pastoral effort by the clergy and departments of the Archdiocese, and joined other religious leaders in Washington, DC and New York in advising federal, state, and local officials as they coped with the crisis and formulated plans for the future. He also called upon the faithful of the Archdiocese to contribute generously to the needs of the victims. These efforts raised over two million dollars, which was given to meet the needs of the families of Greek Orthodox victims, and to funds supporting families of firefighters, Port Authority personnel, and employees of Cantor Fitzgerald who lost their lives on that tragic day. He continues to guide the efforts of the St. Nicholas community in working with governmental agencies and church organizations to rebuild the Church as a center of hope and faith for all future visitors to Ground Zero. In December of 2001, the Archbishop spoke about the impact of September 11 on religious and social life at an international meeting in Brussels of more than one hundred Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders. The meeting entitled "The Peace of God in the World Towards Peaceful Coexistence and Collaboration Among the Three Monotheistic Religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam" was convened by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Romano Prodi, President of the European Union.
He has also led the philanthropic responses to natural disasters including the mudslides in California in 2003, the tsunami in Asia in 2004, hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast in September 2005, where he worked closely with IOCC, and the appeal for aid to Greece after the devastating fires in the summer of 2007, when he led efforts to raise and disperse over four million dollars in relief funds. Likewise, in 2012 when the financial crisis in Greece took immense proportions, the Archbishop initiated a rigorous campaign throughout the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America for humanitarian assistance to the people of Greece which is channeled through the Church of Greece and its philanthropic agency APOSTOLI. A similar effort was also initiated in 2013 for humanitarian assistance for the people of Cyprus who were faced with a severe financial crisis. Both are ongoing initiatives which have and continue to offer significant assistance. For all the various disastrous instances, millions of dollars were raised by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America which were dispersed to the victims worldwide.
Recognitions and Honors
In January 2002, at the invitation of the Greek government, Archbishop Demetrios made his first official visit to Greece as Archbishop of America, where he met with Church and government officials. Additionally, he was honored by the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, presided at a Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Athens, addressed the Greek Parliament, and was honored by the University of Athens.
In November 2002, the Archbishop was elected by the prestigious Academy of Athens as an abroad-residing member in the Discipline of Theology in the areas of Ethics and Political Sciences. He was officially inducted into the Academy on November 14, 2003. In June 2003, on the occasion of the patronal feast of the Church of Rome, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Archbishop Demetrios led the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to The Vatican and met with Pope John Paul II.
In 2004 Archbishop Demetrios was awarded the highest honor of the Republic of Cyprus, the medal of the Great Cross of the Order of Archbishop Makarios III, bestowed on him by the President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos. Later that year, the Archbishop was invited by the President of the United States George W. Bush to be a member of the Presidential Delegation to the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
In January 2006, the Republic of Cyprus welcomed Archbishop Demetrios for a six-day visit, the first official visit of an Archbishop of America to the Republic of Cyprus. In a meeting with the President of Cyprus Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, His Eminence stated that he would continue on the path of support towards a just resolution to the Cyprus issue. During this trip Archbishop Demetrios was presented with the Golden Key to the City of Nicosia, citing his tireless work for a just solution to the Cyprus issue and his contributions to Hellenism and Orthodoxy.
Archbishop Demetrios celebrated his 40th Anniversary of his elevation to the Episcopacy in 2007 with a special tribute by President George W. Bush at the White House and special recognitions and honors by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Other awards and honors included the Marc H. Tanenbaum Award for the Advancement of Interreligious Understanding, the inaugural Damaskinos Award from the American Sephardi Federation and the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece for “his important work in constructive interfaith endeavors,” and the Archbishop Athenagoras Human Rights Award given by the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In April 2008, Archbishop Demetrios was awarded the Isaiah Award from the American Jewish Committee.
In July 2008, the President of the Hellenic Republic Mr. Karolos Papoulias bestowed upon His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America the Great Cross of the Order of the Phoenix, the highest honorary distinction of the Hellenic Republic.
Three academic chairs have been named in honor of Archbishop Demetrios. In May 2008, the Archbishop Demetrios Chair for the Study of the New Testament was established at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology through a generous gift of Michael and Mary Jaharis; in February 2009, the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture was established at Fordham University through a gift of the Jaharis Family Foundation; and in June 2011, the University of Notre Dame established an endowed chair named “The Archbishop Demetrios Professorship in Byzantine Theology”.
In May 2009, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in St. Augustine, Florida, honored Archbishop Demetrios and his long-time friend, Archbishop Anastasios (of Tirana and Albania) with the naming of their new facility as the Archbishop Anastasios and Archbishop Demetrios Training and Administration Building.
In November 2015, His Majesty Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, bestowed upon His Eminence the award of Commander of Wissam Alaouite in recognition of his leadership for inter-religious cooperation, dialogue and tolerance.
On November 26, 2015, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elevated the Holy Archdiocese of America to the rank of Gerontiki Eparchy (an Eparchy headed by a Geron/Elder hierarch) of the Ecumenical Throne in the person of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, bestowing on him the title of Geron, in recognition of the invaluable services to the Mother Church, the entire Orthodoxy and the Theological Literature.
Honorary Degrees and Inductions
Since his Enthronement, Archbishop Demetrios has received honorary degrees and inductions including:
Richard Stockton College, Stockton, NJ, Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters (October 1999)
Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Crestwood, NY Honorary Doctorate of Divinity (January 2002)
American College of Thessaloniki, Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters (May 2002)
Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, Greece, School of Theology, Honorary Doctorate in Theology (November 2002)
Academy of Athens, Inducted as an Abroad Residing Member (November 2003)
University of Athens, School of Philosophy Honorary Doctorate Degree (June 2005)
Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humanities (November 2005)
Fordham University, Bronx, NY Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, (June 2007)
American College of Greece, Athens, Greece Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters (June 2007)
Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws (November 2007)
Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity (November 2007)
Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters (November 2008)
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws (May 2010)
University of Prešov, Prešov, Slovakia, Honorary Doctorate (June 2010)
A prolific writer, Archbishop Demetrios has offered numerous lectures around the world. He is the author of hundreds of articles and essays that have been published in periodicals and is the author of the following books:
- The Pre-existence of Christ in the Writings of Justin Martyr. An Exegetical Study with Reference to the Humiliation and Exaltation Christology. Harvard Dissertations in Religion 6 (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1976).
- Presence of the Holy Spirit: Three Biblical Treatises (Athens: Semantro Press, 1984 – in Greek)
- Authority and Passion. Christological Aspects of the Gospel According to Mark. Translated from the Greek by G. Duvall and H. Vulopas (Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 1987), (originally in Greek, Athens, Domos, 1983).
- The Transcendent God of Eugnostos. An Exegetical Contribution to the Study of Gnostic Texts of Nag Hammadi with a Retroversion of the Lost Original Greek Text of Eugnostos the Blessed. (Translated from the Greek by C. Sarelis; Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 1991), (originally in Greek, Athens, 1977).
- The Fathers Interpret. Aspects of Patristic Biblical Interpretation (Athens: Apostoliki Diakonia, 1996), (in Greek).
- A Call to Faith. Addresses and Lectures 1999-2003 (New York: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2004).
- Ways of the Lord: Perspectives on Sharing the Gospel of Christ (New York: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2010).
Affiliations with Organizations
- President of the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (New York, NY)
- Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States ofl America
- Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council (New York, NY)
- Chairman of the Archdiocesan Advisory Committee on Science and Technology (New York, NY)
- Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology (Brookline, MA)
- Chairman of the Board of Trustees of St. Basil Academy (Garrison, NY)
- Chairman of the St. Photios Foundation (St. Augustine, FL)
- Chairman of the Ladies Philoptochos Society (New York, NY)
- Ex-Officio member of the “Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund” (New York, NY)
- Ex-Officio member of “Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism” (New York, NY)
- Member of the Board of Trustees/Advisory Council of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (New York, NY)
- Member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
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