In this sweeping history, Alexander Kitroeff shows how the Greek Orthodox Church in America has functioned as much more than a religious institution, becoming the focal point in the lives of the country’s million-plus Greek immigrants and their descendants.
Assuming the responsibility of running Greek-language schools and encouraging local parishes to engage in cultural and social activities, the church became the most important Greek American institution. It shaped the identity of Greeks in the United States. Kitroeff digs into these traditional activities, highlighting the American church’s dependency on the “mother church,” the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the use of Greek language in the Sunday liturgy. Today, as this rich biography of the church shows us, Greek Orthodoxy remains in between the Old World and the New, both Greek and American.
There are also two important Philadelphia area connections to this book:
Even though this is an overview of the Church’s relationship with the community and focuses therefore on the lives of the Archbishops and the decisions of Clergy-Laity Congresses, I also needed to familiarize myself with the life of individual parishes. I was able to do so because the late Peter B. Christie granted me access to papers related to the early history of the Annunciation Church in Philadelphia, which later moved to Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. That material was preserved thanks to the efforts of Mary Creticos, the founder of the Greek American Heritage Society of Philadelphia which is currently curating that material. I was also able to study the more recent history of St. Demetrios Church in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania thanks to Art Dimopoulos, the executive director of the National Hellenic Society that is based in Washington D.C. Art generously gifted me a part of the material collected by his father, the late Fr. George Dimopoulos who was the parish priest at St. Demetrios from 1986 to 1998.
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About the author
Alexander Kitroeff is a Professor of History at Haverford College. He is author of numerous books, including, most recently, The Greeks and the Making of Modern Egypt. Follow him on Twitter @Kitro1908.