Bishop George Papaioannou, 66, led Greek Orthodox diocese

November 24, 1999|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Bishop George Papaioannou, spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox diocese comprising the mid-Atlantic states, died early Monday after suffering a stroke at the Bethesda parish he pastored for 27 years.

Bishop George, 66, who was elevated to Bishop of New Jersey in June 1998, was addressing a stewardship dinner at St. George Church in Bethesda Sunday night when he complained of dizziness. As he finished his remarks, he told the congregation, "I am a steward of this church, and I will be until the day I die. I love you," before collapsing into a chair.

He was taken to Suburban Hospital, where he was placed on life support. Early Monday, life support was withdrawn, and he died about 3 a.m.

"He took on his role as bishop with enthusiasm and zeal at the age of 64," said the Very Rev. Constantine Monios, dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation in Baltimore. "He was tireless in his efforts to visit all the people of his diocese. He had a great respect and love for his priests and their families."

A native of Prodomos, Greece, Bishop George graduated from the Patriarchal Theological School of Halki in Turkey. He served in parishes in Turkey; Ontario, Canada; and Manchester, N.H., before arriving at St. George Church in 1971. He received a doctoral degree in theology from Boston University in 1976.

Bishop George, who oversaw 52 parishes in Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and Greater Philadelphia, was the first bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America to come from the ranks of married priests. His wife, Maria Papaioannou, died in 1983.

Bishop George will lie in state at St. George Church from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday. Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will preside at the funeral service at 10: 30 a.m. Saturday.

Bishop George is survived by three daughters, Alexandra Mosko, Eleni Spirou and Vasiliki Szczesny; a brother, Elias Papaioannou; and six grandchildren.

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