Ieronymos (Kotsonis) of Athens
His Beatitude, the Most Reverend Ieronymos (Kotsonis) of Athens, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, also Jerome (Kotsonis) of Athens, was the ruling hierarch of the Church of Greece from 1967 to 1973. He was the palace chaplain to the King of Greece and succeeded to the cathedra of Greece in 1967 after the retirement of Abp. Chrysostomos (Hadjistavrou).
Ieronymos was born in 1901 on the island of Tinos. He received his early education from his widowed mother and the Rizarevskoy school. He then entered the Theological Faculty of the University of Athens. He continued his education at theological schools in England and Germany on scholarships, and in 1940 earned a doctorate from the University of Athens. He became an authority on canon law, with some ninety published works to his credit.
Ieronymos was ordained a deacon in 1932, and entered a monastic, life, in which he rose to the dignity of archimandrite. During the World War II years of German occupation, he helped opening kitchens and provided spiritual and material assistance to the sick and poor orphans.
After World War II, Ieronymos took part in a movement that repatriated Greek children who had been kidnaped by Communist Guerillas during the civil war in Greece. Impressed by this work, Queen Frederika caused him to be named the palace chaplain in 1949.
During the years from 1950 to 1956, Ieronymos was General Secretary of the Commission Liberation of Cyprus, led by Archbishop Spyridon of Athens. In 1959, he was appointed full-time professor of Canon Law and Pastoral Theology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, while still remaining the palace chaplain.
In 1967, Ieronymos was appointed by King Constantine II to succeed Abp. Chrysostomos as Archbishop of Athens, following his retirement under the imposition by the junta of colonels of a requirement for retirement at the age of 80. Abp. Chrysostomos was then 87 years old. Archimandrite Ieronymos was elected on May 11, 1967, consecrated on May 12, and on enthroned on May 17. Abp. Ieronymos soon initiated a program of reviving the Greek Church. He started special drives to aid the poor and sick, to revamp the welfare system of the church, and to provide hundreds of "homes of tranquillity" for the aged. He initiated improvements in the salaries of the clergy and increased participation of the laity in the church operations. He also gave the church more responsibility for religious education and established a new charter that set 72 as the age for retirement of bishops.
The application of his reforms, however, had a dictatorial side as he took action against those clergy of questionable morality. The issue of his administrative actions came to a head in November 1971 when he ignored the desires of Patr. Demetrius I of Constantinople concerning the new territory dioceses in the assignments to a new Synod of Bishops, engineering the election of younger "men of merit" who backed Ieronymos' policies. These actions were attacked as violations of the canons.
After retiring to his native island of Tinos for a short time, Abp. Ieronymos offered his resignation, which the Synod refused. The dissident bishops, instead, went to court and got the whole Synod declared illegal. The bishops then formed a Synod based on the old territorial arrangement in which Ieronymos' faction was reduced to three of the ten seats.
Abp. Ieronymos retired in 1973.
Ieronymos (Kotsonis) of Athens
Chrysostomos II (Hadjistavrou)
|Archbishop of Athens