- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2005

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - Archbishop Iakovos, who led the Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas for 37 years, reaching out to other religious groups as a champion of ecumenism, has died. He was 93.

Archbishop Iakovos died Sunday at Stamford Hospital from a pulmonary ailment, said the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

The Turkish-born Iakovos headed the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, with an estimated 2 million followers, from 1959 until 1996.

Archbishop Demetrios, the current Greek Orthodox leader in the Americas, called Archbishop Iakovos “a superb archbishop who offered to the church an intense, continuous, multifaceted and creative pastoral activity.”

He met with Pope John XXIII after his 1959 enthronement, becoming the first Greek Orthodox archbishop in 350 years to meet with a Roman Catholic prelate. Archbishop Iakovos marched with Martin Luther King in Selma, Ala., in 1965 and received the Medal of Freedom from President Carter in 1980. He met every U.S. president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Bill Clinton.

“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 a church leader, Archbishop Iakovos led the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States out of immigrant isolation and into the mainstream of American religious life, playing a leading role in bringing English into the liturgy.

When Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis ran for president in 1988, Archbishop Iakovos called the United States “a country resplendent with successful Greek Orthodox believers and citizens.”

In September 1987, he took part when American Christian leaders of many denominations met with Pope John Paul II in South Carolina. Archbishop Iakovos said the meeting “may very well serve as a milestone in modern efforts by Christians to seek reconciliation and the attainment of full and lasting unity in Jesus Christ.”

Archbishop Iakovos came into conflict with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the titular leader of world Orthodoxy, in 1994 after he convened a meeting of 29 bishops from the 10 North American branches of Eastern Orthodoxy.

In an unprecedented move, the bishops recommended placing all of the churches under one administrative umbrella, while maintaining ties to their respective “mother churches” in Greece, Russia and other countries.

It is widely assumed that Bartholomew forced Archbishop Iakovos to resign in 1996 because he had endorsed the idea.

Archbishop Iakovos was born Demetrios Coucouzis in 1911 on the island of Imvros, Turkey. He earned a master’s degree at the Ecumenical Patriarch’s Theological School in Istanbul in 1934.

Arriving in the United States in 1939, he was ordained into the priesthood in Lowell, Mass., in 1940 and earned a second master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1945. He became a U.S. citizen in 1950.

Archbishop Iakovos is survived by a niece, Maria Daoussi, of Montreal, and relatives in Greece.

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