His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios
Former Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America
Consecrated as Bishop
September 17, 1967
Elected as Archbishop of America
August 19, 1999
Enthroned as Archbishop of America
September 18, 1999
Retired as Archbishop of America
May 9, 2019
Photo: Joe McNally
Archbishop Demetrios was the Archbishop of America from August 19, 1999 through May 9, 2019 He 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. On May 9, 2019, Archbishop Demetrios submitted his resignation to the Ecumenical Patriarch.
As Archbishop of America, Archbishop Demetrios traveled extensively throughout the United States and globally. In the course of hundreds of pastoral visits to parishes, schools, and events nationwide, he met with hundreds of thousands of faithful.
In his 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).
As Archbishop, His Eminence labored 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.
Archbishop Demetrios 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.
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.
Throughout his ministry Archbishop Demetrios was an active participant in the 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. 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.
Archbishop Demetrios met with many leaders and dignitaries including Presidents William Jefferson Clinton, George W. Bush, Barak Obama and Donald J. Trump, Secretaries of State, Senators, Congressmen and State and City leaders.
Archbishop Demetrios was invited to offer prayers at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2016, and he attended the presidential Inaugural Ceremonies that followed each election.
Inter-Orthodox and Interfaith Ministry
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 served as the Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America
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.
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.
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.
Archbishop Demetrios 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, and the appeal for aid to Greece after the devastating fires in the summer of 2007.
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.
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.
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 bestowed upon Archbishop Demetrios the title of Geron/Elder hierarch.
In February 2018, His Beatitude Chrysostomos B’, Archbishop of Cyprus and the Holy Synod of the Church of Cyprus bestowed upon His Eminence the Grand Golden Medal of the Apostle Barnabas in recognition of fifty years of archieratical ministry.
Honorary Degrees and Inductions
Archbishop Demetrios 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, NYHonorary 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)
Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, South Canaan, PA, Honorary Doctorate of Divinity (May 2016)
Archbishop Demetrios 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:
- ΕΝΑΣ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΣ ΜΙΛΑΕΙ ΣΤΟΝ ΘΕΟ (A Man Speaks to God) – Published in Greek by the Students’ Christian Union, Athens, 1960.
- Η ΠΑΡΟΥΣΙΑ ΤΟΥ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ - (The Presence of Christ) by Monk Lev Gillet – Translated from French into Greek by Bishop Demetrios of Vresthena (Archbishop Demetrios) – Athens 1963
- 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).
- Ο ΥΠΕΡΒΑΤΙΚΟΣ ΘΕΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΕΥΓΝΩΣΤΟΥ – Doctoral Dissertation in Greek at the Theological School of the University of Athens (Athens 1977).
- ΕΞΟΥΣΙΑ ΚΑΙ ΠΑΘΟΣ - Published in Greek (Athens, Domos 1983).
- 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). Also translated and published in Russian (Moscow: Bibliotheca Biblica 2012).
- Presence of the Holy Spirit: Three Biblical Treatises – Published in Greek (Athens: Semantro Press, 1984).
- 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 Ὁ Ὑπερβατικός Θεός τοῦ Εὐγνώστου, by C. Sarelis; Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 1991), (originally in Greek, Athens, 1977).
- Being Transformed: Chrysostom’s Exegesis of the Epistle to the Romans – A study (Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 1992).
- ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ Ο ΠΡΟΎΠΑΡΧΩΝ ΘΕΟΣ- Translation into Greek of the Harvard Dissertation The Pre-Existence of Christ in the Writings of Justin Martyr: An Exegetical Study with Reference to the Humiliation and Exaltation Christology (Athens: DOMOS Publications 1992).
- ΟΙ ΠΑΤΕΡΕΣ ΕΡΜΗΝΕΥΟΥΝ: Ἀπόψεις Πατερικῆς Βιβλικῆς Ἑρμηνείας. Published in Greek (Athens: Apostoliki Diakonia, 1996).
- The Fathers Interpret. Aspects of Patristic Biblical Interpretation. Published in English (Athens: Apostoliki Diakonia, 2016). Also translated and published in Serbian (Alhambra, CA: St. Sebastian Orthodox Press, 2018).
- A Call to Faith. Addresses and Lectures 1999-2003 (New York: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2004).
- ΑΙΩΝΙΕΣ ΠΑΡΑΔΟΣΕΙΣ (Eternal Traditions). Published in Greek by the Center for Studies of the Holy Monastery of Kykkou, Cyprus, 2010.
- Ways of the Lord: Perspectives on Sharing the Gospel of Christ (New York: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2010).
- Speaking to God. Published in English (New York: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2012).
- Seeds of Spirituality: Impacts of Spirituality on Contemporary Issues English (New York: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2018).