Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and St Vlassios
His Eminence Hierotheos, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios, secular name Georgios Vlachos, was born in Ioannina in 1945.
He received his elementary education in his hometown and completed his high-school studies in Agrinio. He entered the School of Philosophy of Ioannina but transferred to the Theological School of Thessaloniki (1964-1968), where he graduated with “excellent”.
During his college years he studied Patrology intensively and participated with a group of students in the recording of manuscripts surviving in the Libraries of the Holy Mountain. He also assisted in the critical edition of the works of St. Gregory Palamas, under the guidance of Professor Panagiotis Christou.
After receiving his Bachelor Degree, he went to the Diocese of Edessa, Pella and Almopia, based in Edessa, under the then Metropolitan Kallinikos (Poulos), where he served as lay preacher of the “Apostoliki Diakonia” (1969-1971).
In 1971 (10th October) he was ordained Deacon and was appointed as Preacher of ODDEP (Organization of the Management of Church Property). In 1972 (25th June) he was ordained Priest and made Archimandrite in the same Diocese.
As a Preacher he travelled throughout the border province and organized lectures, sermons, and Sunday Schools in the town of Edessa. He organized the summer camps of the Diocese of Edessa, directed and taught in fast-track tutorials for priests, lectured in conferences for priests and directed the Church life of Edessa and its region.
For three years he served the Liturgical needs of the officers and soldiers of the 2nd Army Division.
He ministered in Edessa for a full 18 years.
He founded and still guides as a Spiritual Father a Monastic Sisterhood, which started in the Diocese of Edessa, Pella and Almopia and is now at the Holy Monastery of the Birth of the Theotokos (Pelagia) in the Diocese of Thebes and Levadia.
In 1987 he served as Preacher in the Diocese of Thebes and Levadia for six months, under the guidance of its Bishop Hieronymos, the present Archbishop of Athens and All Greece.
In 1987-1995 he served as Preacher of the Archbishopric of Athens, under Archbishop Seraphim.
In the Archbishopric of Athens, in parallel with the work of Preacher, he was appointed Director for Youth and member of the Board of the Institute for Youth of the Archbishopric. In this capacity he organized and directed the Sunday Schools of the Church, organized Conferences and workshops for those in charge of Catechism, ran Tutorials for catechists, and supervised the Spiritual Centers of the Parishes.
In 1988-1990, after an invitation from Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch, a decision of the Holy Synod and the approval of the Directorate for Church Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, he intermittently taught courses in Greek language (ancient and modern) and in Christian Ethics at the Balamand Theological School “St. John of Damascus” of the Patriarchate of Antioch in Northern Lebanon, close to Tripolis, during the war in that area. His Beatitude the Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch and the Ambassador of Greece in Damascus proposed him as Principal of the Balamand Theological School, but his duties in the Archbishopric of Athens did not allow him to accept this very honorable, as attested by the Foreign Ministry of Greece, proposal of the Patriarch of Antioch. Several years later (2001), as a Metropolitan, he taught Bioethics at the same Theological School of the Patriarchate of Antioch.
He represented the Church of Greece as regular or substitute member on the Governing Boards of: the “National Council for Radio-Television”, the “National Committee for AIDS”, the “Control Center for Infectious Diseases”, the “Organization against Drugs”, and other Committees.
He presented the views of the Church of Greece in the bipartisan Parliamentary Committee on the demographic problem (1992).
He spoke, as a Preacher, at priestly, theological and scientific Conferences organized by the Holy Synod, Holy Dioceses, the Panhellenic Association of Theologians, etc.
As a Preacher of the Archbishopric of Athens he was one of the prime movers in the foundation and operation of the Radio Station of the Church of Greece, a member of the Programming Committee of the Radio Station and producer of the program titled “The Fathers in the modern world” for six years (1989-1995). Since 2010, as a Metropolitan, he has a weekly program on the same Radio Station.
He was elected Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios on July 19th 1995, and ordained on July 20th, 1995, in the Cathedral of Athens, in a rite celebrated by Metropolitan Theoklitos of Ioannina and concelebrated by the Metropolitans Christodoulos of Demetrias (later Archbishop of Athens and All Greece), Kallinikos of Piraeus, Hieronymos of Thebes and Levadia (now Archbishop of Athens and All Greece), Maximos of Serres and Nigrita, Alexandros of Mantineia and Kynouria, Agathonikos of Kitros, Ioannis of Pergamos, Ignatios of Arta and Panteleimon of Verroia. He was enthroned in Nafpaktos on September 10th of the same year.
As Metropolitan of Nafpaktos he organized his Diocese; every summer he tours the villages of mountainous Nafpaktia and St. Vlassios; he founded Charity Associations in the Parishes of the town, which undertake important social work; he is interested in youth and in catechism; he visits schools and talks to the students; he revived the summer camps and “Communication Center” of the Diocese in St. Panteleimon Antirrio; he founded a School of Byzantine Music which operates in Nafpaktos and the Cultural and Research Center at Hosios David; he organizes and lectures at Conferences, Meetings for priests, teachers, university students, professionals, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, etc.
He has organized an annual Theological Conference in Nafpaktos. Two Conferences have taken place so far (2015 and 2016). Their topics were “Theology and Pastoral Care” and “Issues of Ecclesiology”.
He continues as Metropolitan his weekly programs in the Radio Station of the Church of Greece, and, since 2015, has also started a weekly TV program in the TV Station “Lychnos” of the Holy Diocese of Patras.
In his capacity as Metropolitan of Nafpaktos he presides over ten Foundations and Bequests of the Province, namely the Foundations: “Demetrios and Vassiliki Papacharalampous”, “Georgios Kapordelis-Ioannis Xykis”, “Georgios and Maria Athanassiadi-Nova”, “Andreas Tsaras”, “Gabriel Oikonomou”, “Antonios and Panagiota Anastasopoulou” (legal and bureaucratic procedures are going on for its establishment), and the Bequests: “Dem. Asimakopoulos”, “A. Kozonis”, “Dem. Ploumis”, “Ioannis Vardakoulas”, which award scholarships to high-school and university students. He is also President of the Supervisory Council of the Public Papacharalampios Library of Nafpaktos.
He has been four times a member of the Permanent Holy Synod during the Archbishopric of all three most recent Archbishops, namely, Seraphim, Christodoulos and Hieronymos.
He accompanied the blessed Archbishop Christodoulos on his eirenic visits to the Holy Monastery of Sinai and to Romania.
He has served repeatedly as Press Representative of the Permanent Holy Synod and the Synod of the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece.
As a Metropolitan he has participated in various Synodical Committees, namely: member of the Synodical Committee for monastic life, the Synodical Committee on Church Finances, the Synodical Committee for Youth, the Synodical Committee for Doctrinal and Canonical Affairs. He has also participated in Ad hoc Synodical Committees, namely: Chairman of the Ad hoc Synodical Committee on the identification cards, Chairman of the Ad hoc Synodical Committee for the preparation of the 2004 Olympic Games, member of the Ad hoc Synodical Committee for child-abuse. At present he participates in the following Synodical Committees: Chairman of the Synodical Committee on the Press, Public Relations and Information, Chairman of the Ad hoc Synodical Committee on Special Pastoral Issues, and scientific advisor to the Ad hoc Synodical Committee on Bioethics.
As a Metropolitan, at the proposal of the Holy Synod, he was a member of the National Organization of Social Welfare, and of the National Council of Medical Ethics and Deontology.
He has been appointed by the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece eleven times so far to present the following subjects: “On transplants” (Oct. 1999). “Historical development of the issue of recording religious creed on police identity cards of Greek citizens” (June 2000). “Update on the issue of identity cards” (Oct. 2000). “Update on the issue of identity cards” (Oct. 2001). “The contribution of the Church to the successful organization of the 2004 Olympic Games” (Oct. 2002). “Medical assistance in human reproduction (Assisted reproduction - New Law)” (Oct. 2005). “Regulations of the Ad hoc Synodical Committee on Sports” (Oct. 2006). “The functioning of the synodical system in the Church of Greece” (Oct. 2009). “On the recognition of the 879-880 AD Council of Constantinople as the Eighth Ecumenical Council” (Oct. 2011, but postponed to a later Meeting). “The theological crisis and its impact on daily Church life” (Oct. 2015). “The Religious Studies course in Education” (March 2016).
He is distinguished for his voluminous writing, having written 96 multi-page books with theological, ecclesiological and social content, based on the teaching of the holy Fathers. Seventy-eight of these books have been translated, by the translators’ initiative, into 24 foreign languages, namely, English, Arabic, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Serbian, Hungarian, Romanian, Swahili, Chinese, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Czech, Dutch, Albanian, Italian, Finnish, Georgian, Urdu-Pakistan and Korean. More translations are being prepared. The total number of books, offprints and publications, excluding various articles, reaches three hundred and seven.
The books deal with theological, ecclesiological and patristic issues and interpret modern spirituality through the Orthodox ecclesiastic perspective.
His book titled “The Person in the Orthodox Tradition” was awarded the top prize of the Academy of Athens for the best theological book of 1991-1995, after a recommendation by the members of the Academy Messrs. Evangelos Mitsopoulos, Markos Siotis and His Eminence Ioannis Metropolitan of Pergamos. The award took place in 1996 in an official ceremony of the plenary session of the Academy of Athens.
Books by the Metropolitan are used as teaching texts in Theological Schools abroad and in Greece and are the subject of Ph.D. dissertations in Universities abroad and of presentations in conferences.
In addition to writing books he has also published articles in daily and weekly newspapers. He has written in Athenian newspapers (“To Vema”, “Eleftherotypia”, “Kathimerini”, “Ta Nea”, “Eleftheros Typos”, “Apogevmatini”, “Kosmos tou Ependyti”), in the local Press of Nafpaktos, on the internet, as well as in the newspaper of the Diocese of Nafpaktos and St. Vlassios “Ekklisiastiki Parembasi” (http://parembasis.gr) which he started as Metropolitan. His articles are reproduced in many other newspapers, magazines and websites. They constitute interventions in contemporary socio-political and Church developments and offer the Orthodox theological interpretation of events. They are also an expression and testimony of our Romaic Tradition, which contains limitless dynamism and transformative power.
Since becoming Metropolitan (1995) until the present, he has presented topics at around five hundred international and domestic conferences and has taught at Seminars in America (Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, Pittsburgh), in Canada (Vancouver), in Syria (Damascus, Aleppo, Latakia, Holy Monastery of St. George in the Valley of Christians), in Lebanon, (Balamand, Koura), in Germany, Ukraine, Simferopol of Crimea, in Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sergeev Posad), in Romania (Bucharest, Iasi, Craiova, Alba Julia), in Bulgaria (Sofia, Varna), in Venice, Constantinople, Cyprus (Nicosia, Limassol), England, and elsewhere.
In America he presented two topics at the Theological School of the Holy Cross of the Archbishopric of America in Boston in 1999. He made three presentations at a Seminar of the Orthodox Church of America (OCA) in Vancouver, Canada, in 1995 and in Atlanta, USA, in 1997. He spoke in the central hall of the University of Seattle (1999) invited by the University Senate, and he taught at a Seminar in Tacoma, Washington State (1999 and 2007). He lectured at the Lutheran University of Tacoma (Pacific Lutheran University, 2007). He was a speaker at conferences and lectures organized by the Greek Orthodox Community of St. Demetrios in Seattle, United States, (1995, 1997, 1999 and 2007) and at an international conference in the Holy Monastery of St. John Chrysostom in Chicago (2007). In July 2016 he was the main speaker, with three presentations, at the Clergy Symposium of the Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Antioch in the Antiochian Village in Pennsylvania.
In September 2015 and in October 2016 he was invited by the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi on the Holy Mountain to speak at gatherings of the monks on theological, neptic and more general Church issues.
The Department of Social Theology of the Theological School of the National Capodistrian University of Athens, in appreciation of his contribution to theological letters, awarded him an Honorary Doctorate on September 25th, 2008.
The Department of Medicine of the School of Health Sciences of the University of Ioannina awarded him an Honorary Doctorate (13-5-2016), in recognition of his overall writings and in particular for his writings on Orthodox Psychotherapy and Biotheology, for linking theology with medical science, and for his views on the relationship between theology and science in general.
The Municipality of Edessa proclaimed him an Honorary Citizen of Edessa, “in recognition of the highest honor and respect for his person for his rich religious, social and philanthropic work” in the city and the Province of Edessa, from which he departed in 1987 but the memory of his work and his presence still remains.
The “Antiochian House of Studies” asked him to join the faculty of the Ph.D. Program in Orthodox Studies in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. (Oct. 2016).
He participated as a member of the Delegation of the Church of Greece in the “Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church” that took place in Kolymvari, Crete (June 2016).