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Bartholomew Foundation to Provide Financial Freedom to Ecumenical Patriarchate

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation
Joe Biden in one one of several meetings with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in December 2011. Credit: White House

Father Alex Karloutsos is helping to launch the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation, a new Greek American non-profit entity, aiming to make the Ecumenical Patriarchate financially independent in perpetuity.

“I am retiring, not retreating,” were the first words of Father Alex Karloutsos, the right-hand man for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Goarch), when he picked up the phone for an interview earlier this week.

Karloutsos, who announced his retirement from the position of the Vicar General at the Archdiocese in late March, says he he still has a great deal of work to do for the Church.

“I need to finish the St. Nicholas Church by next year, I will be organizing the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s visit to the U.S., in the Fall of 2021, and I will be continuing my efforts to set up and advance the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation,” he tells Greek Reporter.

“I got rid of my title as Vicar General, but I am keeping my tasks,” he explains.

The 76-year-old Karloutsos has been calling on the Church to adopt a retirement policy at the age of 75.

“The Church hierarchy, including the Metropolitans in the US, should retire at that age… The only one to have the right to stay for life should be the Ecumenical Patriarch,” he says.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation
Father Karloutsos greets Pope Francis as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew looks on. Credit: Alex Karloutsos

Karloutsos a brilliant fundraiser

Karloutsos, who was born in Greece but immigrated to the United States with his family at a young age, is among the most prominent religious figures in the United States Orthodoxy.

He holds many advisory roles to political figures and is a counselor to some of the world’s highest decision-makers.

He is also a skilled fundraiser for the Orthodox Church and the Greek-American community. Over the years, he has been the man who would connect the money resources to various worthwhile causes.

“I have raised over $300 million for the Greek Orthodox Community in the US and around the world,” he tells Greek Reporter.

“I did not give $300 million, but I raised it. I never received a bonus or a percentage of the money I raised. I do not have a high regard for money for myself. I have a high regard for money for the Church and the community,” he adds.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation

One of the causes Karloutsos is working on currently is The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation for the Sacred See of Saint Andrew, which is designed to provide financial independence for the Ecumenical Patriarchate in perpetuity.

Its officers include Archons George E. Safiol, Vice Chair; Peter Kakoyiannis, Secretary; and Michael G. Psaros as Treasurer.

Under the guidance of Dr Anthony Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, who launched the project, Karloutsos leads the Development Committee which is establishing very ambitious and innovative initiatives in support of its various giving programs.

“Without Lymberakis we would not have been able to make it,” Karloutsos says.

Although the fundraising effort has not formally been launched, fifteen Orthodox faithful have already pledged at least $100,000, payable over ten years, to become Founding Members of the Bartholomew Foundation, including four new Founding Members: Maria Allwin; Michael and Katherine Johnson; Dr. Gregory and Stellee Papadeas and Theodore J. and Anne Theophilos.

They join the other founding members, who include the Nicholas J. and Anna K. Bouras Foundation; Thomas and Elizabeth Cappas; John and Margo Catsimatidis; Stephen and Arete Cherpelis; William and Elizabeth Doucas; Drs. Anthony and Maria Limberakis; Dean and Linda Poll; Michael and Robin Psaros; George E. Safiol; Peter and Aphrodite Skeadas; and Steve E. and Frosene Zeis.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation
Father Karloutsos at a much younger age meets Pope John Paul II. Credit: Alex Karloutsos

Foundation to provide financial freedom

The establishment of the Foundation was “a longtime dream of His Holiness. He told me this when he was a Metropolitan of Philadelphia,” Karloutsos remembers.

It was also on the wish-list of Archbishop Elpidophoros and Antony Lymberakis, a commander of the Order of St. Andrew.

“It also was my dream to fulfill the Ecumenical Patriarch’s wish,” Karloutsos says. “When Elpidophoros became the Archbishop it was the right time to start working on the Foundation.”

Karloutsos explains that “If you are dependent on any outside entity apart from your own, you are basically not free.”

A certain amount of the Patriarchate’s funds come from Greece, he notes.

“Athens can say Yes or No anytime…There also may be people in powerful places in Greece and other places that may have a problem with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

Financial ties are subjected to the whims and the caprice of the funders. With the establishment of the Foundation, the Ecumenical Patriarchate hopes to become financially independent.

Without any fanfare, Karloutsos has already amassed a $6.5 million commitment to the Foundation.

President Biden’s respect for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

The dream of creating a Foundation was there for many years, but as Karloutsos admits the “timing was not right.”

Since Elpidophoros, an enthusiastic supporter of the project, became Archbishop conditions dramatically changed.

The election of President Biden, has also been a defining moment. Biden has met Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew several times including in America, Greece and Turkey. He has described the meetings as “one of my greatest honors of my life.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Biden has said, is the “most Christ-like figure I have ever met.”

Biden added: “I’ve never met anyone like His All-Holiness. He radiates grace, conviction, and faith in every movement,” Biden had said before assuming office.

The relationship between the two leaders should bode well for numerous concerns of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including the establishment of the Foundation.

In addition to their already close relationship, Karloutsos maintains a close, personal relationship with the Biden family.

In a recent interview with Greek Reporter, Father Karloutsos said that he has known eight Presidents throughout his tenure, but as he says, among all of them, President Joe Biden is “his closest friend.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation
Father Karloutsos with Biden at a restaurant in Philadelphia. Credit: Alex Karloutsos

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.”

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