Metropolitan Iakovos, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in six Midwestern states and the first Metropolitan of Chicago, died Friday after an unexpected illness and surgery.

The 89-year-old strengthened the ministries of the Greek Orthodox Church during his 38-year tenure with social justice initiatives, such as establishing the first organized ministry in the Greek Orthodox world for those living with HIV or AIDS. He was still active in his ministry at the time of his death at Weiss Memorial Hospital, the church said in a statement.

Born in 1928, in Athens, Metropolitan Iakovos moved to Boston as a young clergyman and earned his doctorate from Boston University and later taught at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, according to the statement.

He was elected a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1969. He served as an auxiliary bishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, overseeing parishes in Detroit and New England, the church said. He also served as President of the Hellenic College Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Metropolitan Iakovos was elected and enthroned as Bishop of Chicago in 1979 and then elevated to the honorary rank of Metropolitan in 1997. When the Diocese of Chicago was elevated to the status of Metropolis soon after, in 2002, Metropolitan Iakovos would become the first Metropolitan of Chicago, the church said.

During his tenure, Metropolitan Iakovos bolstered philanthropic efforts and fulfilled a lifelong dream — the establishment of the Saint Iakovos Retreat Center near Kenosha, WI. The center, which sits on more than 100 acres, includes meeting space and camping facilities for youth ministry.

Metropolitan Iakovos was an active and respected member of Chicago’s religious leaders. In October, the City Council gave the East Burton Place facing the Metropolis of Chicago’s home and offices the honorary street designation “Metropolitan Iakovos Way.”

Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit has been chosen as the temporary successor by Archbishop Demetrios of America, in consultation with the Eparchial Synod, until a permanent successor is named. The Metropolis of Chicago consists of 34 parishes in Illinois and another 25 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, northern Indiana and eastern Missouri. Its general offices and home, where Metropolitan Iakovos lived, are located in Gold Coast.

A funeral service is planned for Friday, June 9 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary in Chicago, with Archbishop Demetrios of America presiding. The Divine Liturgy, set to begin at 7:30 a.m., will precede the funeral.

The Archbishop will also hold a Trisagion service at the cathedral the night before, on Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m.

meltagouri@chicagotribune.com

@marwaeltagouri

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