By Vicki James Yiannias
The documentation of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios’s first ten years as Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, says Dimitrios S. Panagos about “Archbishop Demetrios of America, The First Decade 1999 to 2009”, his just-published photographic essay of 537 affecting images with bilingual text, edited by Revekka Papadopoulou, is just the first part of a sequel. “I will never forget the memorable moments we spent together in the last ten years, and I look forward to creating another book for the next ten years,” he said, at the presentation of the book at the Cathedral Center–Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York on the evening of December 17.
Making his dedication to historical documentation and to the Church clear, Mr. Panagos, who is the Official Photographer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, expressed his hope for the creation of a centralized electronic photographic archive that includes the more than 500 churches of the Archdiocese. This is something that I look forward to working on, and something I would like to make happen.” This must be taken into account, he said later, as the valuable photographic archives of veteran Greek American photographers Costa Hayden and Dimitri Kesoglidis vanished after their deaths.
Father Frank Marangos, Dean of the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity gave the Benediction with his Eminence. Other clergy present were Bishop Savas, Director of the Office of Church and Society, and Father Sebastian, Secretary of the Eparchial Synod. Officials in attendance were The Honorable Consul General of Greece in New York, Ambassador Aglaia Balta, and The Honorable Consul General of Cyprus in New York, Koula Sofianou.
Master of Ceremonies, Archon Nicholas Furris, speakers Apostolos Zoupaniotis – Publisher and Editor of the Greek News, Archon Mike Emanuel – White House Correspondent Fox News, and a congratulatory letter from Panicos Panagiotou – Athens News Agency Correspondent (read by Stavros Papagermanos – Director of the Archdiocese Press Office), praised the good works of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and paid tribute to the dedication and efforts of Mr. Panagos and his wife, the journalist Revekka Papadopoulou, who, her husband said to applause, “did a great job putting the whole book together”.
“Putting the whole book together” required that Revekka Papadopoulou had to choose from at least 100,000 photographs, according to Archbishop Demetrios, who humorously professed his predilection for “numbers and statistics”. The Archbishop congratulated Panagos and Papadopoulou for their happy, ten-year marriage, as well as for the publication of their book.
“The major achievement of the book is that it produces the life of the community, not the life of a person”, he said, “so in this sense he feels “disengaged from the book”. What is important is that the book is for the community, said His Eminence. “The community is here, the Omogeneia is presented here. The aspects of activity of an amazing Omogeneia…and that’s what it is. To say ‘congratulations’, Kurie Panago, is just not enough. To say ‘thank you’, is not enough. I would rather use the good Classical Greek expression for thanks, ’Charin Didomen’, ‘I Give Grace’, which means something finer than thanks; it involves the Grace of God, for doing something that promotes the community. It’s so important.”
Appearing to be everywhere at all times, Panagos, whose passion for documenting events of the Omogeneia also applied to taking photographs that evening, has captured His Eminence in the affecting photographs in 12 chapter categories covering the full complement of the Archiepiscopal public experience. The first chapter is Enthronement, and the last, Honors and Degrees, some other chapters being “September 11,2001”, “Official Trips”, “At the Nation’s Capital”, “Omogeneia”, and “Cultural Events”.
The photographs, said Mr. Panagos, capture the Archbishop from his arrival in New York on a stormy day in 1999 through the ensuing ten peaceful years. “This last ten years showed how an Archbishop manages his daily visits to the Archdiocese. This book shows the life of the Archdiocese…. it shows somebody who has the time to say hello to the last person when he visits; when he’s at an event he even goes into the kitchen to say ‘thank you’. I had the privilege of closely photographing events of His Eminence, the consecration of a church, visiting hospitals, or visiting the kids at St. Basil’s, giving gifts at Christmas and graduation, photographing many events in Washington, covering his visits to various churches throughout the United States… and I’m very thankful for that. for having the privilege to be next to His Eminence.”
Mr. Panagos also thanked Mr. Michael Jaharis, who was present, and Mrs. Jaharis, whose generosity made the book possible. “This gives me strength and courage to work and create something again in the future,” he said.
The tributes to the work of the authors of the book and to His Eminence Archbishop Demtrios by the MC and all of the speakers, including the letter of Panicos Panagiotou, were emotional.
Saying that he found the book “so compelling that I couldn’t put it down, Mike Emanuel noted that the Archbishop’s first ten years of service as Archbishop happened to be incredibly significant times in the US and that the book is a reminder of lasting memories, such as his response to catastrophes. Naming September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Emanuel noted that these were “leadership moments” when His Eminence did not stay in the Archdiocese, rather went to the scene of disaster. “He recognized that 9/11 was a vital time, a critical moment to show leadership, to be at ground Zero and the Pentagon to offer words of comfort to families, pray with those that required spiritual assistance.”
One image, on page 20, of a military man kneeling to receive the Archbishop’s blessing at Ground Zero, “took my breath away,” said Mr. Emanuel. “The Archbishop was not at these sites just for those of the Greek Orthodox faith. He was there for other suffering people from various backgrounds, reaching out at times of need, offering comfort. The respect he commands is noticeable. He is the real deal; in this era so many people are all style and no substance. Archbishop Demetrios is all substance…. mind, soul, and heart.”
His energy, dedication, and tremendous knowledge on a diverse range of subjects inspire people to do their best, said Emanuel, also noting the Archbishop’s superior speaking skills: “A religious message, a comment on things that happened during course of the event, a little humor, and you leave inspired, your spirit uplifted, He has brought peace and harmony to our beloved Church in America.”
Referring to His Eminence as a “peacemaker” for bringing peace into the community’s ecclesiastical affairs, Apostolos Zoupaniotis expressed his belief that the inspiration for the authors to start working on the book were “the Archbishop’s special spiritual, academic, leadership and humanitarian values, and charisma, qualities that transformed a photographic album into a valuable history book.”
As an example of the book’s historic importance, Zoupaniotis cited a photograph, on page 123, of the Archbishop speaking to a group of journalists that included the late Lambros Papandoniou, after a meeting with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton: “Most people will know that Archbishop Demetrios successfully raised the issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at that meeting, but many fewer people know that during that same visit, the visit of the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, was stopped. And just a handful of us, who were close friends of Lambros, know that a couple of months later, just days before Lambros passed away, the Archbishop had visited him in the hospital, a gesture showing that he is, indeed, , the Good Shepherd.”
Mr. Zoupaniotis, who has known the photographer for more than 20 years and has worked very closely with him on many significant religious, political, national, and community events, vouches for Mr. Panagos as a news photographer who knows the importance of being in the right place at the right time and sending his photos out immediately, so that the events he covers are known to the public timely.
However, professionalism is just part of the equation. “Dimitri is also a person who cares about our Greek community, our Hellenic heritage, our Greek Orthodox Church. He knows how important it is to record our struggles, our achievements, and our events…. everything that makes our history. This is not a regular photo album, or a regular book. It is a history book, a complete history, I may say, of the 10 years of our Archbishop, and the history of our Community’s last decade.”
To publish a book about certain important moments of our history as Greeks in America, especially of our Church, which he has covered steadily for more than 25 years, was Panagos’s lifetime dream, said Zoupaniotis. “It proves that if you really want and love something so much, at the end you will make it. The book is also the result of Michael and Mary Jaharis’s love for our Church and for Archbishop Demetrios.”
Dimitri Panagos was the main contributor to the books, “DEMETRIOS IN THE USA 1990” and IAKOVOS: THE MAKING OF AN ARCHBISHOP”. He is the corresponding photographer of the Athens News Agency and the co-publisher of the Greek News. His work has appeared in many news publications in the US, Greece, and Cyprus, including The Orthodox Observer, Time, Newsweek, People, Ethnos, Proini, The National Herald,
Revekka Papadopoulos is a newscaster for National Greek TV, Community Editor of the Greek News, and contributes articles to Eseis magazine.