His Grace Bishop George of New Jersey
Born on the Feast of St. George: April 23, 1933
Consecration as Bishop of Komanon: June 13, 1998
Election as Bishop of New Jersey: March 13, 1999
Fell Asleep in the Lord: November 22, 1999
BETHESDA, MD -- The Greek Orthodox Church in America is mourning the loss of perhaps its greatest peacemaker and historian, Bishop George (Papaioannou) of Komanon, presiding hierarch of the Diocese of New Jersey.
A widower, he was the first Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America to come from the ranks of married priests, when he was enthroned as Bishop of New Jersey in April of this year.
Bishop George, 66, died suddenly Monday morning in Bethesda, MD, soon after collapsing at a function at St. George Church, where he had served as pastor for 27 years. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and several hours later was pronounced dead from a massive stroke.
A testament to his role as peacemaker in the Archdiocese, Bishop George was chosen by newly elected Archbishop Demetrios to be his representative prior to his arrival in America, following the forced resignation of former Archbishop Spyridon on August 19.
Bishop George served as Archiepiscopal Vicar from August 26 to September 19. He was responsible for all the arrangements for the enthronement of Archbishop Demetrios and most recently, he had assumed the chairmanship of the Clergy-Laity Congress scheduled to be held in Philadelphia next summer.
He has written numerous monographs on many subjects related to the Greek Church, history, ethics and culture. In the last few years he has championed, through his writings, the cause of unity within the Archdiocese and the need to strengthen the ties between the Archdiocese and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Many of his articles have appeared in The Orthodox Observer, The Hellenic Chronicle and The National Herald.
Fr. George Papaioannou was born in Thebes, Greece attended the Theological School of Halki in Constantinople, receiving a bachelor's degree in divinity and a Patriarchal Citation proclaiming him a teacher of Orthodox theology.
Following his marriage to the former Maria Vasiliou, he entered the priesthood and was assigned to the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in Constantinople. He served at this church until his reassignment to the St. Demetrios parish in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. His duties included job searches for the new immigrants who were arriving in Canada by the thousands. He helped reorganize a divided Greek community and built a church and a parish house.
In March 1962, Fr. Papaioannou was reassigned to St. George in Manchester, NH. He served there until November 1971. During his tenure in Manchester, the new Cathedral and Educational Center were built. At the same time, he pursued his graduate studies at Boston University and was awarded a doctor of theology degree.
His efforts were recognized throughout New England and in 1971, the National Conference of Christians and Jews presented him with its Brotherhood Award.
From 1971 until his enthronement, Fr.Papaioannou served as pastor of St. George in Bethesda, MD a parish known throughout the Archdiocese, not only for its phenomenal growth in numbers, but also for its unique services to Greek adults and children with severe medical problems. These services were conducted in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health. More than 1,000 children and adults from Greece and other countries have found refuge in Kollecas House, the hostel of St. George built especially for this purpose.
When Fr. Papaioannou arrived in Bethesda, he inherited about 75 families. There was no permanent house of worship. Today, the parish has grown to be one of the largest in the Baltimore/Washington area numbering about 800 families and totaling over 3,000 men, women and children.
The St. George Cathedral was consecrated in 1998 and a two-story Educational Center is dedicated to his late wife, Presbytera Maria, who died in 1993.
In every one of the three parishes in which he served, Fr. George placed the emphasis on children and youth. He helped establish the AGAPE Foundation for Children by bringing together the Philoptohos Society chapters of metropolitan Washington and turning over to them a special fund of $35,000.
The community at large took notice of Fr. George's activities and in December 1990, the readers of the weekly Potomac Almanac voted him the most inspiring clergyman of the year.
Fr. Papaioannou was a prolific writer. The main topic of his writings has been the Greek Orthodox Church and Hellenism in the Americas. His first book was published in 1976 and is entitled From Mars Hill to Manhattan: The history of the Archdiocese of North and South America and is considered the best work on Greek Orthodoxy in the Western Hemisphere.
His second volume, The Odyssey of Hellenism in America,was published in both English and Greek in two separate volumes, by the Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies, Thessaloniki, Greece, 1985. For this work, Fr. Papaioannou received the literary award of the Academy of Athens, the only Greek American clergyman to receive such an honor.
Fr. Papaioannou was also the religious editor for A Guide to Traditions and Customs in America by Marilyn Rouvelas, published in 1993, a best-seller in the Greek-American community.
The University of Chicago commissioned him to write a chapter on the Greek Orthodox experience in America, which was published in 1994 by the University of Chicago Press and was entitled American Congregations.
Fr. George. was also known as the author for more than a decade of the column "Tell me, Father" in The Orthodox Observer, the official publication o fthe Archdiocese.
He had, also served for a number of years on the Archdiocesan Council and stressing the need for more relevance in Orthodox theology, he had contributed to the advancement of theological education a tHoly Cross School of Theology.
Cognizant of his affection for that school, his parish had established two scholarships, one in his name and the other in the name of his late beloved wife Presbytera Maria Papaioannou.
He is survived by his three daughters and their spouses, Alexandra and John Mosko, Eleni and George Spirou and Vasiliki and Charles Szczesny; six grandchildren, Stella, George, Arthur, Stratton, Maria and Joseph; and by a brother, Elias Papaioannou of Brantford, Ontario, Canada.