JOACHIM ALEXOPOULOS

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ALEXOPOULOS His Eminence Metropolitan JOACHIM ALEXOPOULOS This Father's Day, Sunday, June 16, a memorial service will be offered in loving commemoration of His Eminence, Metropolitan Joachim Alexopoulos , one of the pioneer priests of the Greek Orthodox community of Saint Sophia Cathedral, Washington, DC. He was born George Alexopoulos on November 8, 1873, in Goura of Corinth, Greece, where he received his primary education. Eventually, he completed his secondary school education in Aigion and Patras, and then went on to the Theological School for the University of Athens and the Theological Academy of Moscow for his theological studies. Ordained to the diaconate and to priesthood in 1904, he was appointed the first Dean of the Theological Seminary of Arta, and was eventually elevated to the rank of Archimandrite. In 1906, the Church of Greece sent the young Archimandrite Alexopoulos to America, specifically, to the fledgling Greek Orthodox community of Saint Sophia in Washington, DC, as its first permanently assigned pastor. Having been founded in 1904, the community up until that time had been serviced by an itinerant priest, and celebrated services in rented halls. Under Alexopoulos, the community was finally established on the corner of 6th and G Streets, where Archimandrite Joachim served from 1906 to 1918. From March 1906 to April 1907, Archimandrite Joachim also served as part-time pastor of the newly established Greek Orthodox Community of the Annunciation, Baltimore, MD, which offered Saint Sophia Church the amount of $100 every six months for him to travel to Baltimore one Sunday a month to celebrate Divine Liturgy and to conduct sacraments. . In 1918, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece appointed Archimandrite Alexopoulos chancellor of the first Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, Bishop Alexander of Rodostolon. Then, in 1919, he was appointed presiding priest of Saint Nicholas in Pittsburgh, where he served until 1920, and where he helped to raise the necessary funds to establish the community that is the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, to this day. In 1920, Archimandrite Alexopoulos succeeded Fr. Joachim Malahias as the priest at the Church of the Annunciation in Boston, Massachusetts, at a time following World War I when the Greek disasters of Asia Minor occurred in Turkey that caused plans for a new church in Boston to become dormant. Alexopoulos revitalized these plans, and a new church was completed in 1924, which was designated the Boston Cathedral. On June 28, 1923, Archimandrite Joachim was appointed the first Greek Orthodox Bishop of Boston, with the new Annunciation Boston Cathedral as his seat. During his years as the leader of the Greek Orthodox Community in the Boston area, his Grace, Bishop Joachim, helped establish and support new parishes among the Greek immigrants. His ministry covered not only New England, but many parts of the State of New York, and even Canada. He served as the ruling hierarch in Boston until 1930, when he was called back to Volos, Greece, and elevated to the rank of Metropolitan of Demetrias. During the Nazi occupation of Greece in 1943, Metropolitan Joachim sent word to the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community of Volos, to flee the town and find refuge in the surrounding mountain villages. Alexopoulos provided letters of introduction instructing the village priests to help and protect the Jews "in every way." When the Nazis realized the Chief Rabbi had fled, they demanded the Metropolitan hand over the list of Jewish residents. He defiantly refused, answering "I am a Jew." Due to the valiant efforts of Metropolitan Joachim, of the more than 1000 Jews living in Volos at that time, over 700 were saved. On October 13, 1997, the State of Israel posthumously recognized Metropolitan Joachim Alexopoulos as "Righteous among the Nations." Today the Metropolitan's name is inscribed in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, as well as the Honor Wall of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. He fell asleep in the Lord in 1959, and is survived in the Washington, DC, area by his grandniece, Mary Hatziyiannis and family of Bethesda, MD, as well as by family members in Greece.

Published in The Washington Post on June 16, 2013