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Church

Metropolitan Cleopas Speaks about Orthodoxy and Hellenism in Scandanavia

ATHENS – The Hellenic Diaspora is filled with thriving communities all over the world, thanks to the contributions and sacrifices of myriads of members, but also their leaders, secular and ecclesiastical. The National Herald recently shined a spotlight on the Greeks of Sweden and this week TNH presents an interview with His Eminence Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and All Scandinavia.

Metropolitan Cleopas was enthroned on June 14, 2014 at the St. George Cathedral in Stockholm. He was born in Nea Smyrni, near Athens and his Higher Education studies took him to the Theological School of the University of Athens,  Durham Theological School in England, and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, in Brookline, MA, where he graduated summa cum laude. He continued with doctoral studies in the Old and the New Testament at Boston University Theological School and Harvard Divinity School and. In 1996 he was awarded a Doctorate of Theology from the Theological School of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki.

Ordained a Deacon in 1989 and a priest in 1992, he served as an administrator and professor at Holy Cross, where he also worked as personal theological secretary of Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, who was President of Hellenic College – Holy Cross at the time. Metropolitan Cleopas then served as Presiding Priest of Transfiguration in Corona, NY, Holy Trinity, in Lowell, MA, and Dean of the Annunciation Cathedral in Boston. He also taught at high school and college levels, published nine books and many papers theological and historical journals. He is fluent in Greek, English and Hebrew and has knowledge of Latin, French and Italian.

The National Herald: How was it that you were chosen to be sent to Sweden – did you have any prior connections with the community there?

Metropolitan Cleopas: I had no prior connections to Scandinavia prior to my election. My first ever visit there took place on the eve of my enthronement. I attribute my election to the Grace of God and the trust and support of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy and Sacred Synod of our Mother Church of Constantinople.

TNH: As our readers learned in a recent article, the diaspora in Sweden is very different from the USA’s – from your experience, what are the most important similarities and differences?

Metropolitan Cleopas: The Diaspora in Sweden is more recent, in the sense that mass migration took place from the 1960’s onward, as opposed to the U.S., which saw mass migration dating back to the early 20th century. In this sense, the Greek-American Community had significantly more time to organize itself, which is evident from its many institutions and the ministries of the Church.

I relied heavily on my 22-year ministry in America to establish some of the Metropolis’ newest ministries, including programs for the youth, major renovation projects, cultural initiatives, digital ministries, etc. I hold the Archdiocese of America as a model for all that the Greek Diaspora can accomplish through dedication and hard work.

The Greek Diaspora of Scandinavia continues to grow, with an influx of primarily young professionals to cities all throughout the northern lands. Toward that end, we have established new parishes in cities across Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.

Like the Greek-American Community, the Hellenes of Scandinavia are proud of their Hellenic heritage, maintain close ties to their Greek and Cypriot homelands, and work hard to attain progress in their ‘second home’.

TNH: Is there a substantial amount of converts in the parishes? Do Swedes show an interest in Orthodoxy, and are there programs for reaching out or to embrace those who come to us?

Metropolitan Cleopas: Since my enthronement on June 14, 2014, we have celebrated 97 chrismations and 97 adult baptisms. As the Greek Diaspora has taken root in Scandinavia, interest in Orthodox Christianity has spread. Our Metropolis incorporates the local languages of the five nations comprising it during worship services, along with Greek and English.

Some years ago, we published a trilingual edition of the Divine Liturgy in Greek, English, and Swedish, along with many catechetical materials in the local languages. Also, through our cultural programs, such as the Museum of Hellenic Christian Heritage, which is housed in our Cathedral in Stockholm, and official visits of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch (once to Iceland and once to Stockholm) we aim to bear witness to our Orthodox Christian faith and Romanity, engaging the local populace in continuous dialogue and inviting them to “come and see.”

TNH: What do you wish to share with Greek-Americans about the community there and your personal experience?

Metropolitan Cleopas: As Hellenes of the Diaspora and spiritual children of the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople, we share a common legacy and mission. Scandinavia is perhaps more similar to the United States than any other part of Europe.

I extend an open invitation to not only my former parishioners in New York and Boston, but Greek-Americans from the entire country to come and visit our Metropolis, which is based at our Cathedral in Stockholm – a true gem located at the center of the city. It will be my pleasure to welcome them and introduce them to our congregation.

I would also like to ask them to always keep our Metropolis in their prayers.

We do whatever we can to minister not only to the local faithful, but also promote Orthodoxy and Hellenism throughout Scandinavia, with a limited budget and meager resources.

In many ways, we are a missionary Metropolis, dedicating all our efforts to re-evangelizing a society facing many challenges stemming from oversecularization.

Their prayers and moral support provide a tremendous help to the ministry of the Metropolis, which, by the Grace of God, is now celebrating its 55th anniversary, together with my 10th anniversary shepherding this God-protected eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne.

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