Chicago leader of Greek Orthodox Church aims to help people center on Christ

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The Enthronement Ceremony to install the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Chicago Nathanael Symeonides at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, Saturday, March 24th, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Metropolitan Nathanael Symeonides, who was enthroned as the new leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago on Saturday, said the “starting point” of his ministry will be to help people center their lives around Christ.

Symeonides was elected after a decadeslong tenure by his predecessor, Metropolitan Iakovos, who died in June last year. He now leads the Metropolis of Chicago, spanning six Midwestern states with nearly 60 parishes.

Born in Greece in 1978, Symeonides moved to America at 4 years old with his parents, and he grew up in New York. He said he got involved more in the faith after his father’s death when Symeonides was 16. His father hadn’t been religious, he said, but called upon a priest days before his death.

“I saw how my father ended his life closer to Christ, having discovered Christ and the love that he was always offering throughout his life. And I kind of slowly realized that I needed to live the rest of my life in the same way,” Symeonides said.

Symeonides talked about the national March For Our Lives gun control rallies. He feels a responsibility to not only pray for the youth, but to protect them.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Chicago Nathanael Symeonides | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Chicago Nathanael Symeonides | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

“They want to be safe. They don’t want people who will harm them to have the means to do that. And it’s our job to help them achieve that goal and I’m prepared to become the arms of the young people to help them feel safe in their schools, in the malls, even in churches,” Symeonides said.

At a time when many people are finding spouses outside of the ethnically based Church, Symeonides said the Church must continue to preach to all nations rather than just specific groups.

“Like the disciples, we have to go outside of our comfort zone, outside of the Greek community that knows about the Orthodox Church, that knows about Christ,” Symeonides said. “And we need to go into all neighborhoods.”

Symeonides, who is active on social media sites including Twitter, said he’ll be using social media to “help people find deeper meaning in life.”

“If anyone’s not on social media today, you’re really not communicating with anyone,” Symeonides said.

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