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General News

Fr. Alexander Karloutsos Shares His Thoughts about Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom

BOSTON – President Joe Biden will honor Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne Father Alexander Karloutsos with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor. The award will be presented at the White House on July 7, 2022.

Fr. Alexander – known to all, Greek and non-Greek alike as ‘Father Alex’ – is the third Greek-American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The others were the late Archbishop Iakovos, which was awarded by President Jimmy Carter, and George Tenet, past Director of the CIA.

Along with Fr. Alex, seventeen individuals will receive the Medal of Freedom.

Fr. Alex spoke exclusively to The National Herald about the honor bestowed upon him by President Joseph Biden and said “it is for me big blessing. I am not worthy of such an honor – the Church, the Omogenia, the Ecumenical Patriarchate are worthy and the only thing I can say is that is a great blessing from God, through the President of the United States of America, for my service of fifty years to the Archdiocese, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to the Omogenia, to Greece.”

Protopresbyter Fr. Alexander Karloutsos with President Joe Biden at Kimisis of the Theotokos parish in Southampton, NY. (Photo: Fr. Alex Karloutsos)

Fr. Alex revealed that President Biden himself called him while the former was driving one of his grandchildren to her friend’s house on June 23. He said, “I was taking my granddaughter, little Xanthi, to her friend’s house when the phone rung and the President said, ‘Fr. Alex, Joe Biden.’ I said ‘how are you Mr. President?’. He said ‘how is Xanthi?,’ and I said ‘she is doing better. She was sick with COVID but she is getting stronger, everything seems to be fine.’ I said ‘how did you know?’ and he said ‘I follow your family. You know I love you.” I said ‘thank you very much Mr. President.’”

Fr. Alex revealed that Biden said, ‘by the way I want to make sure Xanthi is coming with you on July the 7th. Jill and I are inviting you to the White House.’ I said ‘thank you very much Mr. President.’ He then said, ‘I want to give the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for what you have done for your Church, for the Ecumenical patriarchate, and what you have done for America. I want to honor you with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.’”

Commemorative photo of Fr. Michael and presbytera Olga Karloutsos before his ordination to the holy priesthood. Fr. Alexander Karloutsos is on the left. (Photo: Fr. Alex Karloutsos)

Asked about his initial reaction, Fr. Alex said, “shock, emotion, humble, tearful. I remembered my mom and my dad coming here as immigrants, and then what the President said. It is all about possibilities, it is all about the promise of America. I remember one of the great phrases of Kazantzakis in Report to Greco, when he said, “I asked my sister to speak to me of God and the almond tree blossomed.” Fr. Alex added that, “only in America can an immigrant, wherever they come from, blossom into their own selves and promise, and that is what the Medal of Freedom is all about – it is all about possibilities. No matter where we come from, who we are, what color our skin is, whatever our race, whatever our faith, we are allowed to be Americans. So, this is a celebration of America and they do it around July 4th and that is why they call it the Presidential Medal. We are free to become all we can be.”

Fr. Alexander Karloutsos with his beloved presbytera Xanthi. (Photo: Fr. Alex Karloutsos)

On another issue, the consecration of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, Fr. Alex, who was instrumental in the initiation and the completion of the church, said, “I was really humbled by the way Archbishop Elpidophoros embraced me for my own service to the Church. I didn’t expect the gold cross of Agia Sophia which he gave me. He honored me with an icon of Christ the Sower, but what really touched me were two moments, when he announced that they will put an icon of Saint Alexander in the Narthex of the St. Nicholas Shrine to tell my story. It is not that I needed to have an icon in the Narthex, but I am humbled by the icon in the Narthex because I tried to be faithful to the Mother Church of Constantinople. I am named after the Patriarch of Constantinople who participated as a Presbyter at the First Ecumenical Council under Constantine the Great. And then I’ve got to say [something about] of Michael Psaros, his love for the Friends of St. Nicholas of the lay people in America moved me because it is the lay people in America that have raised our Church and, in the process, also raised me up. If I did Leadership 100, if I went into Faith, if I did St. Nicholas, if I did my church in Hampton, the Chapel in Camp David, the Holy Sepulchre all of that because the lay people trusted me.”

Commemorative photo of the family of Fr. Alexander Karloutsos with then-VicePresident Joseph Biden at the Blue Dream event of the Kimisis of the Theotokos Church of Southampton, NY in August, 2016. (Photo: Fr. Alex Karloutsos)

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