Why not invest money from the foundations he created to finally build  a “Archbishop Iakovos Museum” worthy of his stature as a leader? When will we learn to value of our “symbols”? Here is an idea to consider: Make an Iakovos Museum part of St. Nicholas National Shrine at Ground Zero…

In discussions of recent weeks with many friends, some of whom count several decades of experience in our church’s and community’s affairs, the focus turned effortlessly to the late Archbishop Iakovos. Is it the current economic and moral decadence of the Archdiocese? Is it the lack of leadership in general, when nobody could compare, not even remotely, with the stature of Iakovos? Is it the machiavellianism of the well-known “priests”, who are in fact power peddlers and are politically “networked” in the name of the Church?  The “priests”, who advanced thanks to Iakovos (well known for his skill to select and promote his assistants) and acquired personal wealth and fame that they do not deserve?

 

Whatever the case may be, the conversation usually starts with fateful comparisons and very quickly turns into a deep confession: “… I was very wrong to criticize Archbishop Iakovos sharply… And all of us were wrong …” It usually goes even deeper: Yes, he was very ambitious and he never hid it. Yes, he held enormous power in his two hands. Yes, he “overglowed” in the spotlight (as if this could ever be a sin…)  Yes, he did not follow the right tactics in promoting the use of English in our Church and he initially created divisions.  But, all of us, the “confessors”, quickly admit that he had the right vision: A vision with a “V”…  And it is obvious that a leader of this magnitude has every right to have ambitions, especially when these ambitions are rooted in Christian values ​​and humanism. Iakovos helped break deep racial divisions in America and also attempted to bring unity among Christians and especially among the Orthodox faithful. If such a leader and visionary is not entitled to have ambitions, then who is? The “do-nothings” of our day who care mainly to serve their egos and their own “circle of family and friends” and who have forgotten the teachings of Christ to help their own economic and political advancement?

 

From this point on, the conversation easily enters a hypothetical territory in an effort to understand how such a great leader would respond to today’s crucial issues. What would Iakovos do if he were among us in the difficult time the Church is faced with?  He would certainly be very disappointed in the economic situation of the Archdiocese, who he – with so much work and passion – helped grow on solid foundations: with over 500 parishes, with charities and schools and a large, ever expanding, network of donors at all levels. The “successors” (and not just the official successors), damaged the magnificent edifice he handed down to them by treating the Church’s assets, material and immaterial, as “their own” property. The property of the Church of Christ became property of the supposed “caretakers”? Yes, sadly this is their lowly moral stature…

 

They even managed to sell Iakovos’ beloved house, where he lived the last 35 years of his life. They sold it at the worst possible time, at a historic low of the real estate market.  The $3 million they received is still to this day unaccountable. But these “leaders” (and I include among them the leadership “dwarfs” of Phanar) do not feel the need to offer account to anyone.  Couldn’t they turn Iakovos’ house into a museum? Or, couldn’t they invest the money they received to set up an “Archbishop of Iakovos Museum” somewhere in New York? A Museum much more visible than the one in the Theology School in Boston and much better than the inaccessible one in Imvros (where they even sent his vestments)? Was Iakovos ever a clergyman in Imvros? He was not even buried there…

 

Not only they did not establish an adequate museum, not only they did not honor him properly, but through their pawns in the Greek-American community they debased the memory of the greatest leader we ever had. A few years ago, the undemocratically “elected” incompetents who run the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, co-named as “Archbishop Iakovos Street” a narrow road in Astoria, with Archbishop Demetrios and other officials present at the dismal ceremony.  Instead of seeking to co-name a prominent street in Manhattan (a very common practice, e,g. “Yitzak Rabin Way”, “Golda Meir Square”), they chose to diminish Iakovos’ memory, guided by their “ghetto mentality” and likely prompted by those who could never stand a comparison with Iakovos. The leader who had the “Vision” to stand beside Martin Luther King in the famous Selma walk, which was commemorated in August 2015 by President Obama and Archbishop Demetrios, was degraded to a second class memorialization…

 

Here is a question for Father Alex Karloutsos: Couldn’t you spare a miniscule percentage of the tens of millions of funds managed by “Leadership 100” (which by the way was created by Iakovos) to finally build an “Archbishop Iakovos Museum”, worthy of his stature as a leader? The symbols of any community have great unifying power. These symbols can also be a guiding light to the future. Many religious communities in America would like to have a symbol like Iakovos; we are so fortunate, yet we tossed him by the wayside…  Finally, here is an idea to consider:  Couldn’t such a Museum be incorporated into St.Nicholas at Ground Zero “National Shrine”?  Is there anything in our Church that evokes “American National values” more than Iakovos standing by Martin Luther King? Especially now, that the building process has stopped due to funding problems, it would be a good idea to reconsider and maybe alter slightly the floor plans.  

 

Iakovos’ visionary figure looms, with every day that goes by, even larger. He, who was accused of mishandling power, succumbed to the byzantine manipulators who tricked him into an early resignation. He, who was vilified for promoting English, wrote only one sentence in his last will of December 2004, asking the faithful to “keep their Greek language”. The truth is that he had the gift to humanize his enormous power by empathising and caring for each and every one of the Church’s faithful.  And despite his love of the Greek language, he saw the need for Orthodoxy to embrace the younger generations and to unite in worship all ethnicities. He was eager to stop the ethnic enclaves and break the hierarchical barriers by putting in practice the teachings of Christ and Apostle Paul and join all ethnic groups together under the Church’s shelter. Iakovos’ Church was run like a Family, today’s Church is run like a political/economic  lobby….Iakovos sought to make Orthodoxy in America bigger and stronger, morally strong first, rooted in faith.  Then politically and economically powerful by uniting all fragmented parishes and ethnic groups.

 

His message was attacked and undermined in his day and after his death. But as it often happens in history, as inadequate leaders succeed a large historic figure, they make Iakovos’ personality loom even more formidable and majestic. And they render the need to preserve his heritage even more imperative. Iakovos calls upon us today to move forward at last, to kick the merchants out of the Temple and to walk united to the future….

 

New York, September 21, 2018

 

ΑΦΗΣΤΕ ΜΙΑ ΑΠΑΝΤΗΣΗ

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