By Nick Stamatakis
A rare historical document came to our attention recently, and it is certainly worth reading and commenting on. It is a 1952 letter by Archbishop Iakovos, then priest in the Cathedral of Boston (Annunciation of the Virgin Mary), to his close friend, Metropolitan Photios of Paphos, Cyprus. The two had spent a few years together at the Halki Theological School, where they became close friends. You can admire them in their photos of that time – the early 1950s – (below) their powerful, youthful presence…
This particular letter by AB Iakovos is significant for several reasons. Just the language and immaculate style in writing Greek alone does not leave the slightest doubt about the high education of the man and the nature of his character: outspoken, daring, straightforward, excruciatingly candid. “…I would have left the ranks of the CLERGY a long time ago, which I think is a more corrupt and perverted and small-minded class than any other social class…”, he proclaims in one sentence… “Metropolitan of Derkon doesn’t want me as an American there. He wants me to become a Turk. But if I go as a Turk, I can never come back here, and this is no time for experiments…” he underlines in another… At that time, 1952, he had already spent 12 years in America, and he was convinced that his future was permanently associated with this great country of ours…
AB Iakovos was passionate about freedom and could not imagine staying in Turkey and bending before the “Pashas.” He immediately grabbed the offer by the later Patriarch Athenagoras to come to America. And when later, in 1951, very close to the time this letter was written, Pat. Athenagoras offered him the position of the Director of the Halki Theological School he refused. This refusal cost him a cut of communications with Athenagoras for three full years until, in 1954, the Patriarch appointed him as his representative at the World Council of Churches in Switzerland.
This letter was later, in the 1990s, circulated with other letters by those (directed by Karloutsos and Bartholomew) who wanted to undermine him. Karloutsos, who without Iakovos would still be a lowly priest somewhere in the midwest, will remain an eternal example of ungratefulness for backstabbing the best Archbishop our Church ever had, the man with a vision of a great leader that had first brought him next to Martin Luther King and later on the road to unite all Orthodox in America – just after the 1994 Ligonier meeting. Bartholomew is still seething with jealousy when he tries to raise his minuscule stature (with the countless failures in everything he touches) next to the tall figure of the true world leader AB Iakovos.
AB Iakovos will be forever remembered lovingly by all of us and the wider American public for his accomplishments. While both Karloutsos and Bartholomew are about to go down in flames, enmeshed as they are in countless scandals and financial and (geo)political disasters…
This background should be enough to render reading this letter a worthy experience and give us a few lessons for the critical times ahead…
Helleniscope is sending today an open invitation to all interested in organizing an annual event commemorating AB Iakovos, an event to be held for now AWAY from GOARCH, and out of the hands of those who still today disgrace his memory.
BELOW IS THE ORIGINAL GREEK TEXT AND IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION. Also, you can read the original here in pdf ARCHBISHOP IAKOVOS LETTER 1952 and see it below as a photo.
Photos Above: Metropolitan Fotios of Paphos and Iakovos in the early 1950s.
Αγαπητέ μου Φώτιε,
Σαν σήμερα πριν από 5 χρόνια προσγειωνόμουνα στην Πόλι. Σήμερα όμως είμαι κλεισμένος στο γραφείο, ύστερα από μια βροχερή μέρα που είναι. Ας είναι και Κυριακή.
Πόση χαρά μούφερε το γράμμα σου, αδύνατο να σου το πώ. Πίσω από τις γραμμές του βρήκα τον αναλλοίωτο ευγενικό ευατό σου που τόσο εξετίμησα και αγάπησα από την Χάλκη.
Αδούλωτες ή ανόρεχτες για δουλεία σκέψεις και ψυχές σαν τις δικές μας μπορούσαν να υπηρετήσουν τον Θεόν και τον πλησίον αλλοιώτικα: από την έδραν λόγου χάριν. Το διαισθανόμουνα από μαθητής. Θυμάσαι δεν ήθελα να γίνω παπάς. Ηθελα καθηγητής…
Τώρα είμαστε μέσα στον χορό και θα χορέψουμε. Είναι άλλωστε αργά για οποιαδήποτε αλλαγή. Από τα 40 και ύστερα τέτοια αποτολμήματα είναι ανώφελα. Αν δεν ήτανε για τον κόσμο, τον οποίο που φαίνεται πως με την δύναμι του Θεού κάπως τον υπηρετώ, θα είχα βγή προ πολλού από τις τάξεις του ΚΛΗΡΟΥ, που νομίζω πιο διεφθαρμένη και διεστραμμένη και μικρόψυχη τάξισ δεν υπάρχει άλλη κοινωνική.
Για την Χάλκη δεν το λέγω. Ηθελα πολύ να έβλεπα τος δικούς μου. Στην Ιμβρο όμως δεν ειμπορώ να πάγω. Να τους κάνω να έλθουν στην Πόλι, κατάκοιτοι καθώς είναι μόνον για μένα, θάταν τρομερή αξίωσις. Υστερα ο Αγ.Δέρκων δεν με θέλει Αμερικανόν εκεί. Με θέλει Τούρκο. Αλλά εάν πάγω ως Τούρκος, τότε δεν μπορώ να επιστρέψω πειά εδώ, και για πειραματισμούς δεν είναι καιρός.
Ο Θυατείρων προσπάθησε να με κάνει και πάλι ΣΧΟΛΑΡΧΗ, μα ευτυχώς φαίνεται ότι ο Πατριάρχης ακολουθεί την Θεία Βουλή για μένα. Ο Ιούνιος παρήλθεν και …Μιλήτου δεν έγινα. Αργεί ακόμα ο θερισμός. Προχθές γιορτάσαμε τα 30 χρόνια του πατρός Αργυρίδου εις το Λυνν. Πήγα. Θάρθεις στα δικά μου;
Προσπάθησε να μείνεις πιστός στον εαυτό σου. Ρούφηξε την διπλή χαρά των μαθητικών μας χρόνων αν πας στην Χάλκη και έσω πάντοτε ευτυχής εν Κυρίω.
My dear Fotios,
Five years ago today, I landed in Polis (Constantinople). But today I am locked in the office, a rainy day as it is. Let it be Sunday too.
How much joy your letter brought, impossible to tell you. Behind its lines, I found your unchanging gentle grace that I valued and loved from Halki.
Unenslavable or un-subjectable thoughts and souls like ours could serve God and the neighbor in other ways: from the seat of academia, for example. I could sense it as a student. You remember I didn’t want to be a priest. I wanted to be a teacher…
Now we are in the circle of dance, and we will dance. It is too late for any change. From age forty onwards, such ventures are useless. If it were not for the people, which I somehow seemingly serve with the power of God, I would have left the ranks of the CLERGY a long time ago, which I think is a more corrupt and perverted and small-minded class than any other social class.
About Halki, there is no discussion. I truly wanted to see my people. But I can’t go to Imvros. To make them come to Constantinople, bedridden as they are, for me alone, would be an impossible thing to ask. Then, Metropolitan of Derkon doesn’t want me as an American there. He wants me to become a Turk. But if I go as a Turk, I can never come back here, and this is no time for experiments.
(Archbishop of) Thyateiron tried to make me a SCHOOL PRINCIPAL again, but fortunately, it seems that the Patriarch is following the Divine Will about me. June passed, and …I did not become (Metropolitan of ) Militos. The harvest is still to come. The day before yesterday, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of Father Argyridou in Lynn (Mass.) I went. Will you be at mine?
Try to stay true to yourself. Soak up the double joy of our student years if you go to Halki and always be happy in the Lord.