His Grace, the Right Reverend Bishop George (Papaioannou) of New Jersey, Th.D., was a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate serving in the United States. He served most of his ecclesiastical career as proistamenos of St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in Bethesda, Maryland. At his death he was bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of New Jersey.
George Papaioannou was born on April 23, 1933, in the village of Prodromou, in Thebes, Greece. During the Second World War he fled to Corinth, but returned to Prodromou to complete his secondary education. George was awarded a scholarship by Queen Frederica of Greece to study at the Theological School of Halki. He completed his studies there in 1957, and following his marriage, he was ordained to the priesthood in September at the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in Constantinople.
In 1960 he was assigned to a parish in Hamilton, Ontario, and in 1962 he took up the pastorate of St. George's Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. He served nine years in Manchester, simultaneously undertaking doctoral studies at Boston University. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Theology in 1976, having written his dissertation on "Patriarch Athenagoras I and the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America." (An expanded version of the dissertation would later be published under the title "From Mars Hill to Manhattan.")
In 1971, Fr. George was assigned to the parish of St. George in Bethesda, Maryland. Under his leadership, the parish grew from 75 families to 750 families by 1998. During his tenure, a new sanctuary, educational wing, and social hall were constructed. Additionally, the parish began a ministry to house families from Greece whose children were treated at the nearby National Institute of Health. Over one thousand families were benefitted by this ministry.
Fr. George wrote a question and answer column ("Tell Me, Father") for the Orthodox Observer, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of North and South America. The columns were noted for addressing sometimes controversial topics. The Washington Post quoted his as saying "I am outspoken. I am candid. I have compassion. I feel rather uncomfortable as a clergyman seeing abuses of wealth and power. Whenever I have said or written something which might be interpreted as criticism, it has been with some pain. I take no joy in disagreeing with my fellow clergy, and more especially with my superiors. But I have never sought acceptance or approval of my views,"
Fr. George's wife, Maria, died in 1993. On May 19, 1998, Fr. George was elected by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as an auxiliary bishop to Archbishop Spyridon of America with the title Bishop of Komanon. He was the first widowed priest to be ordained to the episcopacy in the Archdiocese of America. Archbishop Spyridon elevated Fr. George to the office of archimandrite on June 11, 1998; and consecrated him to the episcopacy on June 13th. Bishop George was assigned to serve in Washington as head of the Archdiocesan Office of Public Affairs.
In March of 1999, Bishop George was elected to the vacant see of New Jersey. He was installed by Archbishop Spyridon at the Cathedral of St. John in Tenafly, New Jersey. Upon the resignation of Archbishop Spyridon in August, Bishop George served briefly as Archdiocesan Vicar, pending the arrival from Europe of the new archbishop, Demetrios (Trakatellis).
On November 21, 1999, Bishop George visited his former parish in Bethesda to preside at a stewardship dinner. Following his remarks (where he said he would be a steward of St. George's "until the day I die," he stepped away from the podium, reported that he was feeling dizzy, and collapsed. He was taken to Suburban Hospital where, surrounded by his three daughters, he died the following morning. His funeral was conducted on November 27, 1999, at St. George's in Bethesda, presided over by Archbishop Demetrios, with the participation of seven bishops and over 100 priests.
Books by Bishop George
- From Mars Hill to Manhattan: The Greek Orthodox in America under Patriarch Athenagoras I (Light and Life Publishing, 1976.)
- Odyssey of Hellenism In America (Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies, 1985.)
|Bishop of Komanon|
|Bishop of New Jersey|
- Fr. George Dion Dragas, "Obituaries: Bishop George (Papaioannou) of New Jersey (1933-1999)," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Spring 1999, 44:1-4, pp. 825-838.
- Jim Golding, "Bishop George of New Jersey Dies From Stroke," The Orthodox Observer, December 1999, p. 1.
- Bart Barnes, "George Papaioannou Dies at 66; Greek Orthodox Bishop Since '98," The Washington Post, November 23, 1999, p. B7.
- Gustav Niebuhr, "Bishop George Papaioannou, 66; Achieved Rank Despite Marriage," The New York Times, November 27, 1999, p. A13.