Metropolitan Christoforos Knitis (1924-1929)
His Eminence Christoforos (Knitis) was the first Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand.
On taking over responsibility for diasporic Greeks from the Church of Greece, the Church of Constantinople elected to make a new metropolis for Australia and New Zealand in March 1924. Metropolitan Christoforos was transferred from the Metropolis of Serres to the Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand. He led the new Metropolis for five years and, amidst some scandal, retired to his island of birth, Samos, Greece, in 1929.
He was, in 1931, succeeded by Metropolitan Timotheos. Metropolitan Christoforos reposed on August 7, 1959.
Metropolitan Timotheos Evangelinidis (1932- 1947)
In 1931, Timotheos Evangelinidis was elected as the second Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand. He arrived in Australia on 28 January 1932 and presided over the Church of Australia and New Zealand until 1947 when he was elected Metropolitan of Rhodes.
He was born as Tilemachos Evangelinidis (Τηλέμαχος Ευαγγελινίδης) in the village of Polychnitos, on the island of Lesbos (then still part of the Ottoman Empire), on 23 April 1880.
He studied at the Evangelical School of Smyrna and the Great School of the Nation in Constantinople, before becoming a monk and serving as protosynkellos under the metropolitan of Methymna, Stephen, until 1910. He then studied in the Halki seminary until 1914, before going to Bucharest as parish priest for the local Greek community and teacher in the city’s Greek college. In 1921 and for the next ten years, he served as apokrisiarios of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand
Evangelinidis was elected as the second Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand in 1931. The position had officially remained vacant since 1928, when his predecessor Metropolitan Christoforos Knitis had been recalled to Greece. Father Theophylactos Papathanasopoulos had presided over the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand until Metropolitan Timotheos arrived in Australia on 26 January 1932 (Australia Day).
Metropolitan of Rhodes
On 16 January 1947, Metropolitan Timotheos was elected to head the Metropolis of Rhodes. In June 1949, he was elected Archbishop of North and South America but was unable to assume the post due to a cardiac arrest. Unable to travel, he was re-instated as Metropolitan of Rhodes until his death in Istanbul on 6 October 1949. He was buried in the Balıklı Greek cemetery, until in 1961 his remains were transferred to his birthplace.
Metropolitan Theophylactos Papathanasopoulos (1947-1958)
Theophylactos Papathanasopoulos arrived in Australia on February 1928. On 22 April 1947, he was elected as the third Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand. He presided over the Church of Australia and New Zealand until 2 August 1958 when he died from injuries received in a car accident two days earlier.
Papathanasopoulos was born on the feast of St Basil on 1 January 1891 and was baptised Vasileios (Basil). He was born and raised at Pyrgos, Greece, son of Demetrios Papathanasopoulos and his wife Kaliopi. He studied theology at the Theological School of Halki and began his novitiate at the monastery of Stavronikita, Mount Athos, Greece. He made his vows as a monk on 2 December 1917 and took the name Theophylactos and then was ordained priest. After graduating from the theological faculty of University of Athens, he taught at the Rizareios Ecclesiastical School.
Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand
In February 1928, following the dismissal of Metropolitan Christoforos Knitis, Father Papathanasopoulos was sent to Sydney as administrator until a new bishop arrived. He served as a parish priest for five years in Sydney and for fourteen in Melbourne until he was appointed the third Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand on 22 April 1947. He was consecrated in Greece on 24 August and spent some time at the monastery of Stavronikita, Mount Athos. He proceeded to his new post, reaching Perth on 19 April 1948. He was enthroned in Sydney on 13 June, in the presence of a congregation that included Greek, Russian and Syrian clergy.
His reign was cut short when he died on 2 August 1958 in the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, from injuries received in a car accident two days earlier.
His funeral service was presided over by Archbishop Athenagoras of Thyateira at the Cathedral of St Sophia, Darlinghurst, Sydney. He was buried at Botany Cemetery. To date, he is the only Greek Orthodox bishop to be buried in Australasia. He now rests in the Orthodox section of Rookwood Cemetery in an area for clergy, just behind the sanctuary of Saint Athanasius Chapel.
In February 1959, Ezekiel Tsoukalas of Nazianzos was elected the fourth Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand.
Archbishop Ezekiel Tsoukalas (1959-1975)
Ezekiel Tsoukalas (1913 – 1 July 1987) was a Greek priest and the first Archbishop of Australia, in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
Tsoukalas was an assistant Bishop in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America between 1950 and 1959. He had served as a bishop in Boston and Chicago. He had been Assistant Director of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1943 and elevated to Director in 1949.
Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand
Ezekiel Tsoukalas of Nazianzos was elected the fourth Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand in February 1959. He replaced Metropolitan Theophylactos Papathanasopoulos, the third Metropolitan who was killed in a car crash in 1958. On 1 September 1959 the Metropolis of Australia and New Zealand was elevated to Archdiocese and Metropolitan Ezekiel was elevated to Archbishop. In 1970 the Metropolis of New Zealand was created, so Archbishop Ezekiel became Archbishop of Australia.
In August 1974 the Ecumenical Patriarchate promoted Archbishop Ezekiel to the Metropolis of Pisidia where he remained until 1987. He died in Athens in July 1987.
Archbishop Stylianos Harkianakis (1975-2019)
Born in Rethymnon, Crete (29-12-1935), he studied at the Theological School of Halki, Constantinople. In late 1957, he was ordained to the Diaconate. Upon graduating and being ordained to the Priesthood in 1958, he received a scholarship from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to complete postgraduate studies in Systematic Theology and Philosophy of Religion in Bonn, W. Germany (1958-1966). In order to become a Doctor of Divinity from an Orthodox Theological Faculty, rather than from an analogous western Faculty, he submitted in 1965 his doctoral dissertation entitled ‘The Infallibility of the Church in Orthodox Theology’ [in Greek], to the Theological Faculty of the University of Athens.
Upon his return from Germany in 1966, he was appointed Abbot of the historic Patriarchal Monastery of Vlatades, Thessaloniki (14th cent.), within which he was requested by the Holy Synod of Constantinople to help establish, together with other scholars of the local Theological Faculty, what was to be called ‘The Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies’. He soon became the Vice-President of that research centre, a role had for a few months before becoming President. Upon completing his post-doctoral dissertation under the title ‘The Dogmatic Constitution De Ecclesia of the Second Vatican Council’ (Thessaloniki), he became Associate Professor at the University of Thessaloniki in 1969. In the years immediately following, he also lectured at various Faculties and academic institutions, within Greece and Abroad, especially at the University of Regensburg, W. Germany, in 1973. He was unanimously elected by the Holy Synod of Constantinople as Titular Metropolitan of Militoupolis and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for Mount Athos in 1970 (residing at the Monastery of Vlatades).
Five years later, he was again unanimously elected Archbishop of Australia, arriving in Sydney in April 1975. He has published widely in Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology in international theological journals, and has represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Assemblies of the World Council of Churches and in bilateral Dialogues. From 1975 he had also taught Orthodox theology and spirituality at the University of Sydney. He was unanimously elected in 1980 by all representatives of Orthodox Churches as their Chairman in the official Theological Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, while his Co-Chair, Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, was appointed by the Vatican. After serving faithfully for more than two decades in this highly responsible and difficult position, he tendered his third and final resignation (15th April 2003) – having attempted this twice before without acceptance – when he published an extensive Report, titled “The Misfortune of the Official Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics” ([in Greek] Epistimoniki Epetirida of the Theological School, Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, vol. 13, 2003).
He is also a recognized essayist and poet, having published 37 collections of poetry (all of these in Greek and some translated Bilingual editions). For his outstanding contribution to European culture, and after being nominated by the distinguished Philologist of the University of Vienna, Professor Albin Lesky, he received from the relevant Committee the prestigious international award Gottfried von Herder in Vienna, 1973. Then, in 1980, having been nominated by the renowned writer Pantelis Prevelakis, Archbishop Stylianos received the Award for Poetry from the Academy of Athens. The University of Lublin, Poland, conferred on him an honorary doctorate (1985), while the Sydney College of Divinity awarded him its first ever honorary doctorate (2001). In 2005, he was acknowledged as a Professor by an independent academic panel of the Sydney College of Divinity. In 2014, he received Honorary Doctorate from the University of Crete. Archbishop Stylianos is also Dean and Founder (in 1986) of St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College, Sydney, where he continually lectures in Systematic Theology.