Father Alex Karloutsos, the strongman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, has known eight Presidents throughout his tenure, but as he says, among all of them, President-elect Joe Biden is “his closest friend.”
He is well-placed to judge Biden, whom he has known since 1980. Fr. Karloutsos is a great admirer of Biden as a person and politician; however, speaking to Greek Reporter, he dispels rumors in the Greek-American community that he is about to join the new President’s administration in any capacity.
Father Karloutsos says he met Biden through the influential Greek-American politicians Paul Sarbanes and John Brademas.
“(Biden) has been to my church in the Hamptons twice and the Archons honored him when he received the Athenagoras Human Rights Award. He’s visited the Archdiocese and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, so I know him very well and it’s a real blessing to know him.”
Joe Biden is an empath
The most striking characteristic of Biden is that he is an empath, Karloutsos says.
“He’s a person who has suffered greatly, and because of that he always has a sense of intimacy.
“When he reaches out to you, he looks you right in the eyes as if you are the only person in the room, because Joe Biden is unique that way. He understands the person’s suffering and that the person is in need.”
The priest notes that Biden has had some extremely traumatic experiences in his life, including losing his wife and daughter in an automobile crash in 1972 and then losing one of the only two survivors of that crash, his son Beau, to brain cancer in May of 2015.
“Those kind of experiences give him a unique touch,” Karloutsos says.
He recalls the warmth Biden displayed when his own older brother, Nick Karloutsos, passed away on Feb 19, 2020.
“My wife and I were driving back from the funeral, and in the afternoon, as we’re driving back, I get a phone call: ‘Is this Father Alex?’ I say, ‘Mister Vice President!’ and he goes ‘Yeah, it’s me,’ and I go ‘What are you doing? You’re having a debate tonight!’ he says, ‘I heard your brother died, and I wanted to convey my condolences.’
“‘He says, ‘I’ve lost a wife, I’ve lost children, but I’ve never lost a sibling, and that must be very painful for you.'”
Father Karloutsos says that Biden is a unique man in this respect, but he’s got a spine of steel.
“Joe Biden looks like he’s flexible, but when it comes to principles and values he believes in, he draws red lines. He’s a very principled person, and I believe that the presidency will need him.”
Karloutsos likens Biden to Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa.
“He suffered greatly, he was jailed unjustly, but he stood steadfast, and when he became the president of South Africa, he united the country because the most important thing for Mandela was not an exercise of his power — it was to basically set an example of power for the country.”
“When you hear Joe Biden, one of his favorite quotes is, ‘It’s not the example of our power that counts, but the power of our example,’ and that’s the way Joe Biden is going to be for this country.”
Fr. Karloutsos recalls what Biden has said on several occasions: “I’ve traveled around the world and met major leaders, and there’s only two Christ-like figures I’ve met — one is Nelson Mandela and the other is Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.”
Father Karloutsos believes that Biden is the person to unite America. “I think in Joe Biden you’re going to have a unifier-in-chief, he will not be a divider,” he tells Greek Reporter.
“He will also lead the way, working with our NATO allies and leaders who share in the values of freedom, democracy, religious freedom, those issues that are important for western civilization.”
“We haven’t had a Greek in the White House, but now we have Joe Bidenopoulos,” the President-elect once said during the annual celebration of Greece’s War of Independence Day at the White House as Vice President under Barack Obama.
Father Karloutsos says that Biden is a real friend of Greece.
“He’s very much committed and friends with the Greek American community, and that has manifested in how he likes to call himself ‘Bidenopoulos.’
“You don’t call yourself “Bidenopoulos” unless you feel that you are a part of that Greek-American family,” Fr. Karloutsos says, and adds:
“He doesn’t do that with other communities, by the way. You find other politicians taking on different things, but Joe Biden probably considers himself part of the cultural heritage of Greece.
“He’s very much aware about the Founding Fathers using Greek Athenian principles, he’s very much aware of the Greek Orthodox Christian Church, he has a great sense of faith.”
Greece, Cyprus, Turkey
Fr. Karloutsos says that Biden knows well the issues of concern to Greece and Cyprus by serving as the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate for so many years.
“I believe that he will definitely hear (those concerns) without any filters,” he states.
He notes that Cyprus is an issue that haunts the incoming President, who feels that it must be addressed, and adds that Biden very much knows the strategic importance of Turkey, and wants Turkey to stay in the West.
He stresses, however that Biden “is not necessarily happy with the demagogic leadership of Erdogan, and he’s made that very clear.”
Karloutsos also notes Biden’s commitment to the Ecumenical Patriarchate when he said that Hagia Sofia should stay a museum and that Erdogan should reverse the decision made last year to convert it into a mosque.
Regarding Greece, Biden is very much aware of its security concerns and he has always seen Greece as a very important strategic partner, Father Karloutsos tells Greek Reporter.
He warns, however, that with Biden in the White House there will be no “major shift” in US policy regarding Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.
“There will be no major shift, but you know that his eyes will see more clearly, and his ears will hear more effectively, and that’s what will make a difference.
“In other words, he’s not going to close his eyes or close his ears, he knows the issues and so I believe that Greece will be in a better place because of it, and I believe that Turkey will come to a better place because of it, and Cyprus, we believe; the issues will resonate into the mind of this administration.”
Karloutsos notes that Biden has put together a great foreign policy team. “Antony Blinken is a wonderful man,” he says and adds that the new administration is very much aware of what is right and good for Europe, and what is right and good for the United States — and the same for Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus.
Biden Is Dedicated to the Orthodox Church Notes Karloutsos
When asked if he will become part of the Biden team, as some reports have suggested, Fr. Karloutsos replied:
“No, I’m part of the team called “Jesus Christ, Greek Orthodox Church of America, Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
“I’ve been very blessed to serve this church… I would not serve in the Administration, I’m an ordained priest, and committed to serving the Church through the end of my days.”