This brand new Archon within days of his offikion demonstrates his role as Defender of the Faith! AXIOS!
By JANICE R. KIASKI, Staff writer
It was a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance, one punctuated with great fanfare, an occasion that made moist the eyes of retired general surgeon Dr. Nick Terezis of Steubenville.
There in New York City, in the splendor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Terezis knelt before His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and was granted by the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle the title of archon, the highest layman honor bestowed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church.
And the thought occurred to him, he said, then and even now: "Gee whiz, how could a guy who lives in a small town like Steubenville, Ohio, ever get such recognition?"
Terezis, a member of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Steubenville, was one of 28 leaders of the Greek Orthodox community from across the United States singled out for the distinction that applauds outstanding service to the church and represents the longest standing honor in Christendom that can be conferred upon a layperson.
"I was one of 28 from throughout the whole country," Terezis said. "I was the only little town guy there. The rest of them were all big city guys from all over - New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston. I felt to be in esteemed company," he said in reminiscing about the late October investiture service attended by his family, including his wife, Diana, and children Cynthia of Cleveland, Teresa of Raleigh, N.C., and Nicholas of Steubenville.
"It was a grand occasion. I was just delighted," Terezis said. "It was very special. The church ceremony really brought tears to my eyes. It was that touching," he added, his eyebrows arching for emphasis.
The occasion also included a banquet attended by more than 500, including archons and archon-elects, according to Terezis, who was presented a cross and the badge of an archon. The banquet is the backdrop for the presentation of the Athenagoras Human Rights Award honoring champions of human rights. Past recipients have included Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu and Mikhail Gorbachev.
"It is a great honor for me and my family that our 'pope' has granted me the title of archon," Terezis said, explaining that in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the "pope" is His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
It was in 1966 that His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos - on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate - established The Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, which exists as an organization of archons living in the United States, Canada and Central and South America. It brings together outstanding laymen from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America and numbers approximately 700.
"As an archon, my main mission is to defend the faith of the Orthodox church by educating our community, promoting spirituality and doing philanthropic works," said Terezis, who explained the origins of the archons date back to the 6th century B.C. Archons were individuals selected by the Athenians to rule on judicial issues. Their jurisdiction ran the gamut from matters of inheritance claims and administrative roles in their communities to family matters.
With the accession of St. Constantine the Great in 313 A.D., the role of archons - like many ancient institutions - evolved to accommodate the transition to a Christian empire. Over the next 1,500 years, archons became assistants to the highest ranking officials of the empire. An archon's office was in one of four general areas of the Byzantine administration: ecclesiastic, court nobility, military and civilian administration. Between 1435 and 1966, the rank of archon was bestowed personally by the Ecumenical Patriarch to individuals whose exceptional service to the church warranted such a tribute.
Terezis said he was notified by letter in August that he had been nominated. "I couldn't believe it," said Terezis. "It's an enormous thing," he added. "I was totally amazed, totally amazed."
For Greek Orthodox Christians living in the United States, a candidate for archon is nominated to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Archbishop of America, a process for Terezis that began with nomination through His Holiness Metropolitan Maximus of the Pittsburgh Diocese, which encompasses approximately 130 churches in Ohio, northern West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.
"I had to be voted on by other archons in New York City where the main society of archons is and then my name had to be submitted to the patriarch in Istanbul, Constantinople. He is the one who makes the final decision," Terezis said.
While being an archon constitutes "a great honor" for him, his family and his parish, there's far more to the designation, according to Terezis.
"I've got to step up to meet the challenge," he said of the honor that carries with it grave responsibilities, commitments and dedication. "It's not just an honor I get. I have to produce. I've got to get out there and practically be like an apostle if you will, spread the word, the importance of the faith," he said. "Basically, that's what it amounts to - defend the faith."
Terezis said the faith is under attack by the Turkish government, becoming a human rights issue. "They're confiscating the church's property, they're stating that in order to become a patriarch, you must be a citizen of Turkey. Well, that limits things," he said. "You can't have nominations from America or Europe or anyplace else so it's become such a big human rights issue, that it's going to court this year finally, to the world court. The Turkish government is being sued," he explained.
"We've been talking to the EU (European Union) now for the past four or five years and Turkey says 'oh, yeah, we're going to comply to human rights' but they haven't complied and as a matter of fact, it's gone to the point now where it's going to Congress. The archons have been working hard and have six signatures of U.S. senators and I'm pleased to announce that both of our senators from Ohio have signed the resolution, a big letter going to President Bush to get on the ball, Bush, and use your influence and pressure Turkey into doing something for the patriarchate," he said.
The archons, he said, have been an instrumental voice in promoting religious tolerance and defending the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as it heralds the love of Jesus Christ.
Making sure the patriarchate never ceases to exist is another role for the archons "so it's a philanthropic challenge I face, a historic challenge, a political challenge and a spiritual challenge to make sure that the faith stays as it is and doesn't change," according to Terezis, who is a fulfilled member of Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment Fund. Leadership 100 is a philanthropic endowment fund of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese dedicated to advancing the Orthodox faith and Helenic ideals in America.
He also is a sponsor of various ministries of the Greek Orthodox Diocese in Pittsburgh.
A member and benefactor of St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Naples, Fla., Terezis has been a member of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for 45 years, having served as president of the parish council and chairman of the church's building fund committee.
Holy Trinity is where he and his wife, the former Diana Bellas, were married in 1961, in an at-the-time "growing, bustling community" where Terezis established a medical practice in the early 1960s in "a wonderful town, a wonderful community."
Terezis grew up in Wheeling, the son of the late Louis and Helen Terezis, a family active in St. John the Divine Church which was all of two blocks from their home. His mother, he said, was active in the Philiptochos Society and his sister, Lula, was director of the choir for many years.
After graduating from Wheeling High School in 1949, Terezis pursued his ambition to become a doctor - his mentor Dr. George Kellas of Wheeling. "He was my inspiration," said Terezis, who graduated in 1956 from medical school at the University of Pittsburgh.
His intentions, he said, were always to set up practice somewhere in the Ohio Valley.
"I never wanted to go elsewhere," said Terezis, who practiced medicine until his retirement in 1998.
Retirement afforded the opportunity to become more involved in the church, according to Terezis. "When I first started my practice, I didn't have much time to devote to the church at all," he said, "but it was after I retired that I really went into it full time because timewise I was able. The desire was always there but I never had the time."
"I was able to participate in all those things I really wasn't able to before."