The Greek Orthodox population of Australia began a new chapter with the passing of their beloved Primate Archbishop Stylianos in March this year, and the arrival of their new spiritual leader, Archbishop Makarios whom, six months into his tenure, has returned in abundance the warmth and love shown by the masses.
Tomorrow, one of the most important days of the Greek Orthodox calendar, Christmas Day, will herald another new chapter as the Bishop Seraphim, newly promoted to the title of Metropolitan of Sevasteia passes the spiritual baton to his successor, Bishop Evagrios.
Born on the Greek island of Kalymnos, in 1971, the young Andonis Koutouzis knew that he wanted to dedicate his life to God and become a monk.
A high achieving student, he enrolled in a Physical Therapy course in Thessaloniki. In 1989, soon after commencing his studies, he visited Mount Athos where he met Saint Paisios and Elder Emilianos Simonopetritis and formed a connection with the monastery Simonopetra. In 1990, with the Elder’s blessing he decided to try monastic life. In 1999 he graduated with Honours in his studies at the Department of Pastoral and Social Theology at Thessaloniki's Aristotle University.
It was on Mount Athos, where he remained for 14 years, that he came to know the former Primate of Australia Archbishop Stylianos, who frequented the Holy Mountain and would visit Saint Paisios. In 2003, Bishop Evagrios moved to Australia where he also had relatives, and was ordained to Deacon by Archbishop Stylianos in 2004. Following periods in Adelaide, Brisbane and Darwin, with Archbishop Stylianos' blessing and now elevated to Very Reverend Archimandrite, he was sent to the Holy Monastery of Saint John of the Mountain, which he has manned for the past 15 years.
In October 2019, he was assigned by His Eminence Archbishop Makarios to Chancellor and one month later he was elected by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as Bishop of Meloes.
He is the first to acknowledge the vast difference that exists between life as an Athonite monk, and that of serving as Chancellor in an Archdiocese on the opposite end of the world to his homeland. They are challenges he is prepared for, buoyed by the extensive experience of Archbishop Makarios and the common goal of achieving what is best for the church and its people.
Bishop Evagrios has demonstrated love, humility, dedication and a natural affinity with the younger generation, who he has won over through his optimism and wisdom, including recently telling a group of students to enjoy their childhood, enjoy their age, and not hasten to grow up too quickly.
Measured in his prose, yet graciously quick to impart knowledge and spiritual guidance, Bishop Evagrios is keen to be inclusive and serve by example. When asked what the role of Bishop resembles in today's society as we prepare to step into 2020, he responds “We have to give people the right example. Church means freedom, happiness and love. It is for everyone, not for the select few, not just for the pious ones, it is for the people who have issues, who are imperfect. Jesus came to save the imperfect ones, not the pious.”
His message is an increasingly important one which we can all apply to our lives; one of understanding and not judgment.
“The biggest problem people face is themselves, so we need to feel them, understand them, and not judge,” His Grace says.
The ordination of His Grace Evagrios will take place tomorrow, Christmas Day, at the Cathedral of the Annunciation of Our Lady, 242 Cleveland Street at 9am.
*Images by Nick Bourdaniotis/Bourdo Photography (Copyright)