Biographical Profile of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios
Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America
Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
Chairman of the Holy Eparchial Synod of Bishops
Consecrated as Bishop September 17, 1967
Enthroned as Archbishop of America
September 18, 1999
Nameday: October 26
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios was elected Archbishop of America on
August 19th, 1999, by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate convened by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew. He was enthroned as the spiritual leader of some 1.5
million Greek Orthodox Christians in America at the Archdiocesan
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City on Saturday, September
The Enthronement Ceremonies were attended by His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, Former Archbishop of North and South America and His Eminence Metropolitan Demetrios of Sebastia, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate; the Holy Eparchial Synod and Clergy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Metropolitans of the Americas, SCOBA and Orthodox Hierarchs of several jurisdictions; ecumenical and academic leaders; members of the diplomatic corps and the U.S. Congress; and local officials.
Representing the President of the United States was First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who also was the principal speaker at the Enthronement Luncheon where she emotionally lauded Archbishop Demetrios and called the Enthronement of His Eminence 'a significant event for our country.' "On behalf of the president and myself and so many others,” she said, “we wish you well, but we ask that in your mission of love and unity, that your words resound far beyond the Orthodox community that they may be used to stretch out helping hands, especially to our young, so that all of us have that same sense of commitment to a hopeful future to the next millennium."
Orthodoxy traces its roots to the Holy Apostles and has been present in the Western Hemisphere since the 18th century. Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, is the sixth archbishop since the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese was established in 1922.
Archbishop Demetrios of America, son of Georgia and the late Christos Traketellis, was born in Thessaloniki, Greece on February 1, 1928. His brother, Dr. Trakatellis, is a biochemistry professor emeritus at the University of Thessaloniki and is currently serving his second term as a member of the European Parliament.
Upon graduation from high school in 1946, he pursued continuous research in the field of Biblical Studies, enrolling at the University of Athens School of Theology. Especially noteworthy was his activity among university students and the profound influence his lectures and writings had on them. In 1950, he graduated from the University of Athens School of Theology with distinction.
The newly elected Archbishop was ordained a deacon in 1960 and a priest in 1964. Prior to coming to the United States in 1965, Archbishop Demetrios spent time as a monastic.
He was elected titular Bishop of Vresthena in 1967, as 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, Archbishop Demetrios studied New Testament and Christian Origins and was awarded a Ph.D. "with distinction", in 1972.
In 1968, he was elected Metropolitan of Attika and Megaris, but refused 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 Th.D. in Theology from the University of Athens.
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, Mass. Serving as a faculty member for more than a decade, Archbishop Demetrios has taught many of America’s Greek Orthodox clergy. He has also taught at Harvard Divinity School as a Visiting Professor of New Testament during the academic years of 1984 to 1985 and from 1988 to 1989.
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 assumed responsibilities at the Archdiocese of Athens. A prolific writer, he is the author of four major books: Authority and Passion (1987), The Transcendent God of Eugnostos (1991), Christ, the Preexisting God (1992) and The Fathers Interpret (1996).
In 1995, he was a member of the three-member Exarchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to America, along with Archbishop Stylianos of Australia and Metropolitan Demetrios of Sebastia.
Archbishop Demetrios is fluent in English, Greek, and French, and knows well Latin, Hebrew, and Coptic.
In his Enthronement speech at Holy Trinity Cathedral on September 18, 1999, Archbishop Demetrios unfolded his “threefold plan” of ministry, consisting of: a) cultivating, nurturing, and sustaining of a vibrant and dynamic Orthodox faith in the Unites States, b) teaching and practicing limitless love and philanthropy, and c) emphasizing, pursuing and enhancing the establishment of a strong and unbreakable unity within the Church and the human community in general. He asked the faithful: How much does our Orthodox faith constitute our real and genuine identity within the pluralistic and multidimensional world of contemporary American society?
"The questions," he said, "are many and so are the answers as we contemplate the past and look towards the future which the love of God has granted to us. Regardless of the answers however, one thing is certain: Here, a remarkably wide field of a truly great work is open to us. A work aimed at the invigoration, cultivation and of a dynamic and illumined faith within the clergy and lay people of the blessed Omogeneia which constitute the flock of our Holy Archdiocese."
In the time following his enthronement, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios has labored together with the Hierarchs, clergy, and laity of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in an intense effort to strengthen conditions of unity and peace and to advance administrative and ecclesiastical stability of the work of the Church in America. His Archpastoral 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. This is essential, he has affirmed, not only as a witness to the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, but also as a presupposition for growth and development.
Within the environment fostered by this effort His Eminence has, subsequently, led the Archdiocese in resolving financial issues that threatened progress and cohesion. Through the generosity and commitment of many, a significant debt was eliminated. Substantial gifts were given anonymously, and those who offered time and resources to meet this challenge did so out of deep love for God and the Church. Further, critical concerns of accountability and trust were addressed with the goal of strengthening the stewardship base of the entire Archdiocese, including the parishes, Dioceses, and institutions. All of this was significant in response to a series of problems; but it also revealed the strength and commitment of the faithful, offering an example of the qualities needed for sustained growth and enduring work.
In addition, Archbishop Demetrios, together with the Eparchial Synod, advocated various administrative changes to facilitate a structural integration of all aspects of the ministry of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. This was reflected in departmental reorganization and enhancement, in the establishment of new ministries, and in the renewed commitment to planning. Throughout this process appointments, elections, and the meetings of the Council and Clergy/Laity were held in a spirit of cooperation, honesty, and peace with extensive presentations and high levels of discussion.
As Archbishop of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and head of the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese, His Eminence has traveled extensively throughout the United States over the past two years. In meeting the faithful, he has joined with the Metropolitans and Bishops in leading services, consecrating churches, ordaining clergy, and extending the scope of the work of the Church in America, while concurrently experiencing the vitality and accomplishments of the people and the parishes. In sermons, addresses, and interviews he has acknowledged that the Greek Orthodox Christians in America are engaged in a continuous work of mission in their communities, in contemporary society, and throughout the world.
This was evident in the response to the tragic events of September 11th, a day that brought unprecedented challenges and difficulties to people all over the globe. Immediately following the terrorist attacks, Archbishop Demetrios called on all of the faithful to commit to deep prayer and generous contributions of blood donations and appropriate resources to meet the tremendous needs. In an intense, multilevel ministry to families, communities, and the nation, His Eminence conducted memorial services and funerals for the victims of the September 11th tragedy, he made repeated visits to "Ground Zero", he affirmed the need to rebuild the St. Nicholas Church which was destroyed in the catastrophe, he led an extensive pastoral effort by the clergy and departments of the Archdiocese, and he joined other religious leaders in advising federal, state, and local officials as they coped with the crisis and formulated plans for the future. In the aftermath of the events of September 11th and with a desire to address the needs and challenges of our modern world, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios has spoken repeatedly and emphatically about the vital mission of the Greek Orthodox community to offer the Orthodox faith in its full, genuine, and loving form to contemporary America.