The former Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Great Britain & Thyateria, Gregorios, has died at the age of 91.
He passed away at 7.00am on Wednesday 20th November after several months of ill-health, in the house of the Archdiocese where he had lived for the past 30 years.
Incumbent Archbishop Nikitas paid tribute to his predecessor’s “tall figure” on London Greek Radio.
His Eminence told LGR’s drive-time presenter Pierre Petrou, “This is a very sad day for the community, not only for London and the UK, but for world Orthodoxy. [This is] because we stand in the shadow of someone who gave his life to the church, to the community, to the world; a real servant – a man who lived with humility and led by example, a man who never forgot his roots, his identity. When we lose people like this, who stood as tall figures for us to imitate and for us to follow, there’s a sudden emptiness in our lives. The world becomes poorer.”
It was revealed that the former Archbishop was bedridden since July and was cared for around-the-clock by the clergy, staff and family members at the Archdiocese in London.
Archbishop Gregorios found joy in his last few months of his life when visited by members of the community.
Born in a village within Famagusta, Cyprus on 28th October 1928, he was the ninth and youngest child of the family.
His father was a builder who died when Gregorios was just three-years old.
At the age of 11, Gregorios completed his primary education and became an apprentice shoemaker.
In 1949, he enrolled at the Higher Commercial School in the town of Lefkoniko and two years later, he transferred to the Pan-Cypriot Gymnasium in Nicosia, having become a rassophore.
He was later ordained as a deacon in 1953 at the Church of St. Sava in Nicosia by Archbishop Makarios III.
After graduating from the Gymnasium in 1954, he went to Athens and studied at the Theological School of the University, receiving his university degree in February 1959.
During this time, he was appointed to the Church of All Saints in London and began ministerial duties at the Church of the Holy Saints in Camden Town in April 1959.
In 1964 he was appointed Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and six years later, he was consecrated Bishop of Tropaiou.
Within hours of being ordained, Gregorios undertook to organise and administer St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Church of St. Barnabas the Apostle in Wood Green, North London.
He was unanimously elected by the Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain in 1988 and his enthronement took place at the Cathedral of Sophia in West London.
For over thirty years, Archbishop Gregorios worked tirelessly within the community and maintained an open and transparent schedule of attendance at hundreds of community events, in London, the UK and across the world.
As well as attending high-profile appointments with British royalty, politicians and dignitaries, he also made time to preside personally at many Christenings, weddings, and funerals, as well as meet with anyone who sought his spiritual advice and guidance.
With a gentle and reasoned voice, the former Archbishop upheld the concerns of the Greek Orthodox community, expressing the Christian message of peace and reconciliation.
Until his ailing health, Archbishop Gregorios often spoke of repentance and his Christian beliefs were strongly delivered in a modern 21st Century Britain.
Archbishop Nikitas added, “[Archbishop Gregorios] had that wonderful smile and that twinkle in his eyes. The legacy that he leaves is that he was the one who founded many churches and that he ordained many clergy. I think his greatest legacy is seen in his simplicity of character and his humility.”
LGR presenter Pierre Petrou, who knew Archbishop Gregorios for over 20 years said, “Archbishop Gregorios’ presence – physical, intellectual, and spiritual, was a gift to all who knew him. His unwavering faith in Christ gave him a particular perspective both to the church and to all those who he spoke with, as well as when he delivered sermons during his thirty-plus years as Archbishop.”
Archbishop Nikitas reminded those mourning that people should also look at the goodness the former Archbishop brought into the world. “We have to look at his example, his character, and imitate virtues that he tried to live by, especially his love for Christ and the church, which he expressed in his love for all people.”
Funeral arrangements have been released this evening. The body of former Archbishop Gregorios will lie in state, followed by the funeral on Thursday 5th December at 10:30am at the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Wood Green. The Funeral Service, followed by interment at Hendon Cemetery.
Any and all donations and contributions in memory of the late Archbishop Gregorios should be sent to the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, 5 Craven Hill, London W2 3EN.
LGR expresses the sincere condolences to the former Archbishop’s family, friends and the clergy who served with him.
Photo courtesy of Alexios Gennaris