Paisius II of Caesarea
His Eminence Paisius II of Caesarea was an Orthodox hierarch under the jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople who served as the Metropolitan of Caesarea in Cappadocia from 1832 to 1871. He was one of the most notable hierarchs of Cappadocia during the nineteenth century.
Peter Kepoglou was born to Anastasius and Barbara Kepoglou in Pharasa, a mountain village in Cappadocia. His year of birth is uncertain, being noted as either 1777 or 1780. His father was a priest, and his mother a daughter of a priest. Peter was, using today's expression, "home schooled" by his father, in his letters and divine studies. Thus, raised in a strongly clerical environment, in 1796, Peter, with his capacity and ethos for intensive study, attracted the attention of the Christian Hajji Aslan, from Alexandretta, who had established a school in Caesarea and persuaded his father to let him join the school. Under his new teacher, Peter, in two years, caught up in his knowledge with students who were two years older.
In 1799, while he was in Constantinople raising funds for the school, Peter was tonsured a monk with the name Paisius. After he returned to Caesarea and graduated from school, Paisius made a pilgrimage to Mount Athos. After his return to Caesarea he was appointed a teacher in Kermira where he taught until 1804.
A year later he was invited to assume the position of abbot of the renovated Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Zintzintere. When the Bishop of Caesarea Philotheus visited the Monastery of Konyahad on his way to Constantinople he ordained Paisius a deacon and the next day a hieromonk.
With the full burden of care of the monastery and school on his shoulders, Paisius moved to improve the quality of the teaching staff by inviting well educated teachers from Kydonies (Ayvalik), whom he had met during his trip to Mount Athos. He also took personal responsibility for the operation of the school, including training of the teachers. Then, during the middle of the first decade of the nineteenth century Father Paisius was confronted with a large fine by the Ottoman government as a result of an investigation concerning some practices on-going in the re-furbished monastery. Fr. Paisius traveled to Constantinople to mediate with the Ottoman authorities. His efforts were successful. Additionally, he won the favor of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Holy Synod and was allowed to remain in Constantinople for the next year preaching in the churches of the capital.
In 1808, Fr. Paisius returned to the monastery of St. John the Baptist, having received permission from the Patriarchate to collect two piastres annually from every Christian house in the ecclesiastical province of Caesarea for four years to pay the debts of the monastery. As these funds were not adequate to meet the debt of the monastery, Fr. Paisius secured the release of relevant patriarchal letters that allowed him to conduct a tour in 1810 to all provinces of Asia Minor to obtain financial support for the Monastery. During the middle of his tour, possibly in 1812, he was called by the Holy Synod in Constantinople and elected to the see of Caesarea as metropolitan. Paisius, however, with great humility rejected the proposal and insisted on retaining his position as the abbot. Again he renewed the patriarchal and synodal letters granting him permission to collect funds for the monastery and continued touring the provinces of Asia Minor until 1814.
The outbreak of the Greek Revolution in 1821 created a political turmoil that resulted in both the monks of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist and the teachers and students of the coenobitic school to leave temporarily. In 1829, Paisius was able to obtain a Sigillion (patriarchal letter) from Patriarch Agathagelus that confirmed a Sigillion previously issued under Patr. Theodosius that had established a number of administrative provisions that strengthen the economic and social status of the monastery. These included: a) the abbot of the monastery would be elected solely by their fathers (monks) of the monastery, b) the lenders or contributors to the monastery would not have the right to demand early repayment of the loans, c) the priests of the nearby villages will have the right to hire teachers from the monastery without needing the permission of the abbot, and d) the heirs of deceased monks, who had entered the monastery, would not have the right to claim their property.
After the resignation of Metr. Gerasimus in March 1832, Fr. Paisius was elected Metropolitan of Caesarea. He was consecrated Metropolitan of Caesarea by Metr. Nikiforos of Derka in the patriarchal church of St. George in Constantinople. With his ascension to the see of the metropolis of Caesarea Metr. Paisius paid 56,000 piastres that became part of the diocesan debt to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In 1833, he returned to his see and, along with Bishops Anthimus of Iconium and Nicopolis and Christopher of Nazianzus, ordained the monk Nektarios of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist. Also in 1833, the Patriarchate issued a decree establishing the monastery as the see of the Metropolis of Caesarea and residence of the metropolitan also with the duty of overseeing the operation of the school.
In 1835, a devastating earthquake occurred in the area of Caesarea that damaged the monastery church. Metr. Paisius succeeded in obtaining an imperial decree for the repair of the church and the building of a new church dedicated to St. Charalambos. Metr. Paisius also established a program of establishing schools and churches in the diocese to counter the proselytizing by missionaries, mainly Protestant, that had appeared in Cappadocia. For this propose he made frequent tours in the province establishing schools and churches. He directed the Orthodox teachers and educated priests to preach the Word of God every Sunday in the vernacular language of the people (as most of them used Koine Greek and were also Turkish speaking) until it would become possible to expand the use of the Modern Greek language.
Among the problems that confronted Metr. Paisius was the lack of response by the local Ottoman authorities to requests for permission to repair ecclesiastical property, permission that could not be denied because Ottoman government regulations allowed repair all religious establishments. When he was elected bishop of Caesarea he found the property of the metropolis in very poor condition, almost ramshackle. When he asked the local authorities for permission to repair the building, the latter, not being able to deny permission pretended that the Metropolitan challenged its granting. Since this led to an impasse, Metr. Paisius wrote to the influential Stephen Chatmano Vogoridis in the Ottoman capital and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Vogoridis succeeded in obtaining an imperial decree that protected the rights of metropolitans and specified the powers of local authorities. Under the new decree, the authorities of Caesarea changed attitudes toward Paisius, relented and gave him permission to repair the church facilities. The settlement of this issue led to many others, including an imperial decree that specified creditors of the Diocese of Caesarea could not ask for repayment of the full amount of loans until ten years had passed. This allowed time for the diocese to repay to debts gradually.
Metr. Paisius established close relations with many senior and influential members of Ottoman politics. These included Alexander Phanariot Fotiadis, Stephen Chatmano Vogoridis and his in-laws, who had unsuccessfully tried to establish him as patriarch in 1835 during the election of Patr. Gregory VI. As a member of the Holy Synod, Metr. Paisius contributed significantly to the establishment in 1844 of the Theological School of Halki.
In 1852, after the consecration of his chancellor Gerasimus as Bishop of Nazianzus, Metr. Paisius journeyed to Constantinople, where he participated to the resolution of the conflict between Greek Orthodox and Armenian Gregorians over the cemeteries of Sebastia and Caesarea. In 1854, he returned to his diocese, to take part in raising the level of studies in the communal school of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist for which he invited as teachers Ioannis Symeonidis, Christos Symeonidis, Ioannis Anastasiadis, Anastasios Levidis, and Abraham Eliades.
In 1862, Metr. Paisius was invited to Constantinople as a member of the Holy Synod. On his return to Caesarea in 1863, Metr. Paisius decided to retire to the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, leaving the administration of the diocese in the hands of his vicar Bishop Gerasimus of Nazianzus, although Patriarch Sophronius III convinced Metr. Paisius to reside again in Caesarea, recognizing his already fragile health.
Metr. Paisius died on January 30, 1871 and was buried the next day in the vestibule of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist. Metr. Paisius had been abbot of the monastery of St. John the Baptist for 28 years and metropolitan of Caesarea for another 39 years.
Paisius II of Caesarea
|Metropolitan of Caesarea