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Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne Alexander Karloutsos Speaks about the Centennial of the Archdiocese

Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne Father Alexander Karloutsos has made many and great contributions to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America over half a century. He spoke to The National Herald about his priesthood and the Centennial of the Archdiocese.

Father Karloutsos first made reference with love and respect to his parents, to his father, who was his hero, the Rev. Michael Karloutsos of blessed memory, who was widowed at the age of 36 and brought up his children on his own, and to his loving mother who died when he was nine-years-old.

Known to all, including his personal friend, U.S. President Joseph Biden, as ‘Fr. Alex’, he also spoke about Archbishop Iakovos, his first encounter and his friendship with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and about the 300 million dollars he has raised for the Church.

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)

Fr. Alex is a dedicated and strong supporter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Patriarch Bartholomew, and asked for his thoughts about the Centennial of the Archdiocese that is being celebrated this year, he said, “I think back upon the bold, pioneering visionaries, both clergy and lay, who established and served our Church in America. They were ‘on fire’ for the Faith as reflected in the icon of Pentecost with the ‘tongues of fire’ over the head of each Apostle of our Lord. Are we today, worthy of their sacrifices and of their vision? Are we on fire? Rather than being challenged by the tongues of fire of our forebears, have we become simply comfortable with the ashes, and not the flame of faith? We must keep the vision alive, because without it we perish. When people ask me how I raised over $300 million for Church ministries and causes I tell them a simple truth regarding fundraising: wealth always chases vision, but never catches up to need. We need vision, grounded in the legacy of our Mother Church of Constantinople and the glorious glow of Hellas, the Morningstar of the western world.”

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)

Fr. Alex got to know the Archdiocese from his childhood since his father was priest. He said, “my father was widowed at the age of 36 and right after that he left the Old Calendar Church and became a priest in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in 1958. The Archbishop I remember most and am much indebted to was the legendary Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory. He was a visionary par excellence and a spiritual statesman who helped put our Greek Orthodox Church in the forefront of the American Nation.”

When we asked him to mention some highlights from all those years he served the Archdiocese from many pivotal positions he said, “my wife Xanthi and I began our Ministry in September, 1970, serving with Fr. Byron and Presbytera Xanthippe Papanikolaou, who helped us take our first formidable footsteps into the priestly ministry. They helped anchor and ground us in our priestly formation as husband and wife. Then Archbishop Iakovos asked me to become the National Youth Director in 1974. In 1977, when President Carter did not invite him to his inauguration, the Archbishop called me to his office and asked me to establish a direct line between the White House and the Archdiocese. He told me that everyone loved me, but that he was giving me an important position which would mean that people would soon begin gossiping about me. And he gave me this sage advice: “if you don’t want people to talk about you: don’t say anything worthwhile, don’t do anything worthwhile, and don’t be anything worthwhile.”  I still find comfort in his wise words.”

Fr. Alexander Karloutsos with former President George W. Bush during a humorous moment. (Photo: Fr. Alex Karloutsos)

Asked again about the money he raised for the Archdiocese and its programs, including the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, he said “I believe I mentioned the number 300 million dollars. Of course, $95 million for the Saint Nicholas National Shrine, $24 million for the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons, and $300,000 for the non-denominational chapel at Camp David which was commissioned by President Ronald Reagan and dedicated by President George H.W. Bush. The other funds were for the Leadership 100 Endowment, the Faith Endowment, and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation and a few other worthy projects like the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and of course, our Holy Cross Theological School. I need to point out that I never received any commission or bonus from the Archdiocese for my fundraising ministry.”

Fr. Alex felt a divine calling to the Holy priesthood at a very early age. He said, “my Mother Olga died when I was nine. I believe her brief moment on this Earth made me seek something long lasting and permanent. Her finiteness made me seek the Infinite and my father’s faith and example as a priest inspired me to follow in his footsteps. I am the proud son of the Very Reverend Michael Karloutsos, who was widowed at age 36, raised six children, and served our Archdiocese in the hinterlands of America.”

Fr. Alexander Karloutsos speaks with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Shown are Fidel Castro, presbytera Xanthi, and his son Michael Karloutsos. (Photo: Fr. Alex Karloutsos)

He also said that, “the priesthood for me is my oxygen. As one breathes to live, I try to use every breath to live the priestly life. I have been blessed to have my wife Xanthi by my side for 52 years: she is my compass and my curb. She is truly the wind beneath my wings.” He added that, “I really can’t imagine myself being anything more or less than simply being me: Fr Alex, husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend. I never wanted anything more or less.”

He said that he met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in 1983 and was introduced to the then-Metropolitan of Philadelphia by none other than Archbishop Iakovos, Bartholomew’s godfather.

When asked to explain what it means that the Archdiocese of America is an ecclesiastical Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, he said “the Archdiocese is the leading eparchy of the Mother Church. Although it is the leading eparchy, it is not the leader. The Leader must only be one, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. We must always remain a faithful Daughter. That’s why I am content knowing that Archbishop Elpidophoros, the spiritual son of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, will always remain faithful to our worldwide Father and to our Mother Church as well.”

Fr. Alexander Karloutsos with former President Barack Obama. (Photo: Fr. Alex Karloutsos)
Fr. Alexander Karloutsos with his beloved presbytera Xanthi. (Photo: Fr. Alex Karloutsos)
Fr. Alex with Mikhail Gorbachev. (Photo: Fr. Alex Karloutsos)

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