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The New Metropolitan of Mexico Iakovos Grants First Interview of His Episcopacy to TNH

ΒΟSTON – The newly-elected Metropolitan Iakovos of Mexico, who was enthroned on Saturday, March 16th at the Cathedral of Aghia Sophia in Mexico City, gave his first interview as Metropolitan to The National Herald, which he described as a “historic newspaper,” one he has known since childhood, as have his close relatives. Metropolitan Iakovos is a son of the Greek-American community, born, raised, and educated here.

The interview follows.

TNH:  Your Eminence, thank you very much for granting the first interview of your Hierarchal ministry to The National Herald. Let’s start with the question, how do you feel about your election as Metropolitan of Mexico?

Metropolitan Iakovos: Allow me to begin by offering my warmest gratitude to The National Herald for the honor of addressing, through your historic newspaper, the diaspora of my birthplace. Regarding your question, three feelings overwhelm my soul at the same time: profound emotion for the great beneficence of the Mother Church of Constantinople, profound gratitude to His All-Holiness for the proposal of my candidacy, and, thirdly, profound responsibility for the sacred mission I am called to undertake.

TNH: Was it something expected or did it come as a surprise?

Metropolitan Iakovos: Despite the ‘folklore’ that has been circulating concerning my election, His Holiness’ proposal came as a great surprise to me.

TNH: Would you tell us how it came to be?

Metropolitan Iakovos: Are you sure you want to know? Because, reality is much more prosaic than the admittedly fanciful scenarios that are circulating, and I’ll explain: A week before my election, I was informed by His All. Holiness that He was contemplating my candidacy for the Holy Metropolis of Mexico, whenever the Metropolis would find its See vacant, without, however, clarifying to me when this would happen. It was. only a few hours before my election on January 24, 2024, that I was informed by His All Holiness and my ruling hierarch, His Beatitude Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos II, that the matter would be discussed in the Holy and Great Synod on that day. In fact, I followed my election from the internet. What was particularly moving for me was that after my arrival in Constantinople for the Lesser and Greater Message, I was informed by a member of the Holy Synod that His All Holiness had let everyone freely express their thoughts on His proposal and vote according to their conscience, but what ultimately weighed in the judgment of the member hierarchs was their desire, through their vote in the affirmative, to express their unanimous decision, as one body, and their unwavering support towards the achievement of the mission entrusted to me by the Great Church: the shepherding of a uniquely demanding Eparchy. Hence the unanimity of the election.

His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Mexico on the day of his enthronement with Metropolitan Ignatios of the Patriarchate of Antioch and Metropolitan Alexios of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) with their clergy. Photos provided be the Metropolis of Mexico

TNH: What was your first reaction, given your young age, as you’re only 31 if I’m not mistaken?

Metropolitan Iakovos: As I mentioned before, I was surprised. And this not so much because of my young age, as you mentioned, but mainly because of the fact that I served as the Vicar General of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens, i.e. a different ecclesiastical jurisdiction, without this of course negating my status as a child of the Omogenia of America, the largest Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne.

TNH: As you just mentioned, your previous position was that of Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Athens. Why do you think Archbishop Ieronymos assigned you to such a demanding ministry?

Metropolitan Iakovos: I cannot in any way know by what criteria His Beatitude bestowed this great honor on me, and I do not think it right to enter into speculation. In any case, it wasn’t because I was worthy. What I can tell you with certainty is that this position has been a great school for me, with His Beatitude himself as dean and teacher. He showed me, he taught me, and more importantly, he helped me understand first-hand what constitutes church administration.

Metropolitan Iakovos with Pedro Mena, Director of the Office of Religions of the State of Mexico. Photos provided be the Metropolis of Mexico

TNH: How did you become close to Archbishop Ieronymos, becoming one of his closest confidants?

Metropolitan Iakovos: If you will allow me to modify your question slightly, I would remove the term ‘confidant’. Because I think it causes an artificial and meaningless segregation, mainly because it does not represent His Beatitude and His way of thinking and the way He deals with affairs. Now, as per the essence of your question, I would like to mention that what brought us together with His Beatitude was our love for monasticism, nature, and academia. I don’t want to say more, because just simply reminiscing about His Beatitude causes me intense emotion.

TNH: What attracted you to the study of Theology and the Priesthood?

Metropolitan Iakovos: From a young age, I was closely connected to my parish – Holy Cross in Stroudsburg, the Holy Protection Monastery in Pennsylvania, St. Nektarios in New York, and the camp of the local Metropolis, Camp Nazareth. I was an acolyte and later a Reader, consecrated by Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh of blessed memory. In short, from a very young age, I had great models of clergy, monks, and faithful; they instilled in my young soul the divine zeal for the sacred science, that is, Theology. As for the priesthood, I firmly believe that it is a calling that we receive unworthily from God, who assures us: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16).

TNH: How do you see the Metropolis of Mexico and what are some priorities you wish to set?

Metropolitan Iakovos: I think it’s too early to have concretely formed opinion. The only thing I can tell you with certainty is that I receive daily a lot of love from the clergy and faithful of the Metropolis, which decisively strengthens me in my ministry. My ministry is precisely the offering of assistance to our fellow human beings who are suffering and the evangelization of our Orthodox faith in Central America, in one word, Missionary. As for my immediate priorities, you already find me leaving Mexico City to begin as early as tomorrow, and for the next month and a half, with much excitement I confess, my first pastoral visit to many countries where the jurisdiction of the Metropolis reaches.

TNH: How did you feel when you ascended the High-Priestly Throne?

Metropolitan Iakovos: When I ascended the steps of the Patriarchal Throne at the Fanar, during my ordination, the feeling that flooded me was awe at the fact that I, the unworthy, stand on the Throne that has been graced by profoundly larger-than-life Patriarchs, most recently the currently holder of the Throne, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. A source of additional excitement for me was the realization that across from the Throne were the relics of two Holy predecessors of the His All Holiness, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. When I again climbed the stairs of the Throne in the Metropolitan Church of God’s Holy Wisdom in Mexico City, during my enthronement, my only thought was praise and doxology to God and a prayer for God grant a long life to all those who determined my humble ecclesial path.

TNH: How many and which countries does the Metropolis include?

Metropolitan Iakovos: A key peculiarity of this particular Metropolis is that its jurisdiction is not identified with the geographical borders of a single country. That is why your question does not have a simple answer, because the Metropolis is made up of independent countries, colonies, and territories. If I had to give a general and simplistic answer, 39 are the ‘countries’ that make up the Metropolis of Mexico.

TNH: How is the Metropolis financially supported?

Metropolitan Iakovos: Mr. Kalmoukos, I will be completely honest: At the moment, the Metropolis is experiencing enormous financial difficulty. Imagine that during the enthronement ceremony some of those present were moved and helped to cover immediate and urgent operating expenses. But, as I said, the reality is that, unfortunately, the Metropolis does not have stable resources and this is due, among other things, to its missionary character, since its flock is not only the prosperous Greek diaspora of Central America, which has stood throughout time as a great help and supporter of the Metropolis, but also indigenous populations who know and embrace the Orthodox faith but who are unable to contribute financially to cover the many needs of the Metropolis. However, I’ll tell you this as a type of confession, I constantly praise our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has not forsaken us even for a moment! “God is with us,” as we sing every day during this blessed season of Great Lent. I also thank from the bottom of my heart for their touching generosity the Special Mission fund of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, two Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne, the Archbishops Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain and Makarios of Australia, from the Church of Greece the Metropolitan of Nea Ionia Gabriel, my family, and other personal friends, old ones and new ones that I met here at the beginning of my ministry.

Metropolitan Iakovos of Mexico with his parents, Petros and Androniki Andriopoulos, and other relatives on the day of his enthronement. Photos provided be the Metropolis of Mexico

TNH: How many assistant bishops does the Metropolis have, and how many priests?

Metropolitan Iakovos:  With the blessing of His All Holiness, the Diocese has three Assistant Bishops, who serve the pastoral and administrative needs of the four hierarchal prefectures of the Metropolis. As per the priests, there are about 50, not including the members of the monastic brotherhoods/sisterhoods of the Metropolis.

TNH: You, as a product of America’s Omogenia, what do you think about the Omogenia?

Metropolitan Iakovos: I believe that our ancestors would have been very proud and truly gratified with  the great work that has been accomplished in America, during the more than one hundred years of the Holy Archdiocese of America, with our churches, with our  communities, with our monasteries and with our Theological school, Hellenic College-Holy Cross.

TNH: What was it like for you to be raised in a Greek Orthodox family in America?

Metropolitan Iakovos: Here I would just like to emphasize that in a country where Orthodox Christians are a minority, the Greek Orthodox family managed and is successfully managing to keep their children faithful to the Orthodox Church. This was also the struggle of my grandparents and parents. My family has been particularly happy with my election and for the additional reason that after so many years in Greece I am now geographically closer to them. And here I will close, giving the same wish that my mother gave to the families of the Mexican diaspora and community, on the day of my enthronement: “I wish everyone to be proud of their children and to see them where their hearts desire. “Glory to God, for All Things!”

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