NEW YORK – The Greeks of Astoria may not look up as they take their brisk, determined steps on their everyday marches to work, but they know that the Church of St. Catherine stands on 33rd Street, and every time they pass they make the sign of the cross.
That busy street in the bustling Ditmars district of Astoria has a new name as of March 28, when it was co-named “Archbishop Iakovos Street” in the presence of Archbishop Demetrios, New York City’s Public Advocate Letitia James, and Astoria’s three Greek-American elected officials, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, and City Councilman Costa Constantinides.
Panos Kammenos, Greece’s Minister of Defense and other Greek military officials who traveled to New York for the Greek parade also were present.
During the ceremony, it started snowing and many of the attendees turned their heads toward heaven, and could not believe their eyes. Some members of the community who knew Archbishop Iakovos said they were not looking at the simple flakes of fleeting winter but at tears of joy and gratitude dripping from the white beard of the late Archbishop.
Paulette Poulos, who worked closely with Iakovos, told TNH “It was a day that cannot be described with words. It was a very emotional moment and a moment that touched us. I know Archbishop Iakovos is smiling at us today as he looks down from above. I’m so proud because the Archbishop loved the community and its entire people. He is very, very happy.”
Kammenos told TNH “We are honoring a spiritual leader who did much more than we know – we should know – for Greece and for Orthodoxy. He was a spiritual leader and a Greek who in difficult times for the nation played a key role in support of the Greek state.”
Earlier that morning an Archiepiscopal memorial service, with Archbishop Demetrios presiding, was held in the packed church of St. Catherine to mark 10 years since the passing of the late Archbishop.
Also serving were Bishop Anthimos and Archimandrite Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, the pastor of St. Demetrios Cathedral and Fr. Vasilios Louros.
A speaking program followed in the church and James offered touching words of admiration for Iakovos.
“I fought for justice in all my life,” she said, and declared it a great day because they were honoring Iakovos, “a courageous religious leader who defended human and broke down barriers by marching with Martin Luther King in Selma.” She said he was guided by a higher power to do what was good for all humanity.
Gianaris declared that by his example the late Archbishop Iakovos showed us all “what it is to love your fellow man.”
Simotas spoke with fondness about Iakovos’ love for the community and noted she grew up close to him.
Constantinidis, who played an important role the realization of the dream that was conceived and pursued with vigor by the Federation, said “the co-naming was a fitting tribute to a to a man who fought for human rights, walked next to Martin Luther King and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom I feel very honored to have contributed to the realization of this effort even though I’m very new in my position.”
Archbishop Demetrios thanked all the special guests for attending and said Petros Galatoulas, the President of the Federation, deserved much of the credit, along with Constantinides.
Demetrios said it was proper that the ceremony began with a service in the Church, saying his predecessor worked “day and night in every way to strengthen the worship of God and to promote Orthodoxy.”