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Archbishop Iakovos passes away
2005-04-11 12:26:44

New York, Apr 11 (CNA) -- Archbishop Iakovos, 93, spiritual leader of Greek Orthodox Christians in the Western Hemisphere from 1959 to 1996, died April 10, 2005 from a pulmonary ailment.

The former Archbishop of America, who recently underwent surgery to correct a respiratory ailment remained hospitalised and died right after the conclusion of the Greek Independence Parade in New York City, an event he enjoyed as an Archbishop for 37 years.

Deeply respected by all religious leaders in the United States when he retired at the age of 85 on July 29, 1996, Archbishop Iakovos offered 37 years of service which were distinguished by his leadership in furthering religious unity, revitalising Christian worship and championing human and civil rights.

He had close relations with all Greek and Cypriot leaders and after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 he led the Greek American Community in the struggle for freedom and restoration of human rights in the island. He was honoured with the Cross of Archbishop Makarios, by President George Vassiliou.

In the international arena he spoke out forcefully against the violation of human rights and religious freedom and, in 1974, initiated a massive campaign to assist Greek Cypriot refugees following the invasion of Cyprus by Turkish armed forces. He opposed the war in Vietnam, while supporting the right of Israelis for peace and secure boundaries, as well as the rights of the Palestinians for a just and humane resolution of their claims.

A champion of civil and human rights, he was captured on the cover of LIFE magazine on March 26,1965, walking hand in hand with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, AL, eyes fixed on the dream of equality for all Americas.

Friend to nine United States Presidents, Archbishop Iakovos was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed by President Jimmy Carter on June 9, 1980.

Archbishop Iakovos was enthroned on April 1, 1959 at Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York City, was known throughout the world as a crusader in the modern ecumenical movement for Christian Unity.

He served for nine years as president of the World Council of Churches, established dialogues with Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Southern Baptists and Black Church leaders, initiated Orthodox Dialogue with Judaism and was the first Greek Orthodox Bishop to visit a Roman Catholic Pontiff in more than four centuries when Pope John XXIII received him at the Vatican in 1959.

In a successful effort to promote closer ties among Orthodox jurisdictions, he founded the Standing conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) in 1960.

Born on the Island of Imvros, Turkey, on July 29, 1911 to Maria and Athanasios Coucouzis, he had two sisters Virginia and Chrysanthi and a brother Panagiotis. He enrolled at age 15 in the Ecumenical Patriarchal Theological School at Halki.

After graduating with high honors, Demetrios Coucouzis was ordained Deacon in 1934, taking the ecclesiastical name Iakovos. He ordained to the priesthood in 1940. In 1945 he earned a Master of Sacred Theology Degree from Harvard University.

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