The stature of the Greek-American community and its influence on America’s leaders has, over time, quite significantly benefited Greece, Cyprus and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. One of the individuals who has made an extraordinary contribution to that stature and influence is Father Alex Karloutsos, who recently announced that he is “retiring but not retreating.” For decades he served as the right hand of world-renowned Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios and of every Greek Orthodox archbishop of America, beginning with His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos. His close relationships with such important religious leaders provided Father Alex with a credible and powerful platform from which to work on behalf of the Church community.
Father Alex’s contributions to our community come from two equally unsurpassed parts. The first is his faith-driven genius that provides him insight into the hearts of others, the unique vision of opportunities, and the strategies and details of implementations that make those visions a reality. The second is best understood in his often-heard observation of the wealthy: “I am not impressed with their money but what they do with it.”
In his early years he added to our Church many of our “best and brightest.” As one of them told me: “While I grew up Greek, I wasn’t for many years. Now Father Alex made me Greek Orthodox again.” Father Alex served that group that he reintroduced to the Church and many others already committed to the Church through his “true priest” pastoral care and through hours each day of helping them and their families spiritually, vocationally, educationally and in any other way he could. He rewarded those most generous with the Church with an annual retreat meeting with our archbishop, as well as other national and international events with popes, prime ministers, presidents and princes. He is held in such high esteem that over 1,300 people contributed at least $300 to attend an Order of St Andrew dinner in honor of Father Alex and Presbytera Xanthi. It raised a record amount.
His many accomplishments for Orthodoxy and Hellenism result from his teaming his extraordinary abilities and network with individuals committed to the Church who possessed a unique ability. For example, when the Church endowment organization he helped create, “Leadership 100,” leveled off at 375 members, Father Alex teamed up with real estate mogul Steve Yeonas and traveled the country boosting membership to 775. That effectively added $40 million to the endowment.
He did the same with our Manatos family’s almost 90 years of involvement with America’s leaders, which had included stopping a US Senate filibuster by invoking cloture for only the 17th time in history. As one of many examples of our work together, he and we enabled Orthodox Hellenes to meet with every president at the White House every year for over 30 years. This was accomplished even though our community makes up less than half of 1% of Americans. The only other nationality able to accomplish such meetings is the Irish, who make up 9% of the US.
With some of America’s top people in their professional fields thriving in “Leadership 100,” Father Alex found several excellent teammates. His pairing up with such people enabled spectacular accomplishments for our relatively small community. Some examples include: the new Order of St Andrew endowment already compiling over $20 million for the operation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; overcoming complicated state and local governmental roadblocks and raising $100 million to build the new St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Shrine at Ground Zero in New York City that will be visited by an estimated 9,000 people a day; helping create International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), which today distributes $21 million in worldwide humanitarian aid; deep involvement in the creation of The Hellenic Initiative (THI) which has distributed to Greece, in its first 10 years, $6.6 million in direct crisis relief and $11.7 million in economic and entrepreneurial development; and the creation of Faith Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism, composed of contributors of 1 million dollars each, which has raised over $60 million for the Church. Over all his years, Father Alex has played the pre-eminent role in raising, all told, over one-third of a billion dollars for our Church’s ministries.
The above team accomplishments require a highly regarded and accomplished ecumenical patriarch and archbishop to empower and direct Father Alex and our community’s lay leaders. It also requires great mutual respect between Father Alex and our leaders. That has been accomplished to the degree that both sides of those teams would agree that if the other side were removed from the equation, each of these accomplishments would not be nearly as great or would not exist at all.
Andy Manatos is CEO and Mike Manatos president of Manatos & Manatos.