Archbishop Iakovos of America

His Eminence
Archbishop of North and South America
See New York, New York, USA
Installed April 1, 1959
Term ended July 29, 1996
Predecessor Michael
Successor Spyridon
Personal details
Birth name Demetrios Coucouzes
Born (1911-07-29)July 29, 1911
Imbros, Ottoman Empire
Died April 10, 2005(2005-04-10) (aged 93)
Stamford, Connecticut, USA
Buried Brookline, Massachusetts, USA
Nationality American (naturalized)
Parents Athanasios and Maria Coucouzes
Alma mater Theological School of Halki

Archbishop Iakovos or Jacob (Greek: Ιάκωβος; born Demetrios Koukouzis (Δημήτριος Κουκούζης);[1] July 29, 1911 – April 10, 2005) was the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America (now the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) from 1959 until his resignation in 1996.


Born on the island of Imvros, Ottoman Empire on July 29, 1911 to Maria and Athanasios Koukouzis, he had two sisters Virginia and Chrysanthi and a brother Panagiotis. He enrolled at age 15 in the Ecumenical Patriarchal Theological School of Halki. After graduating with high honors, Demetrios Koukouzis was ordained deacon in 1934, taking the ecclesiastical name Iakovos. Five years after his ordination, Deacon Iakovos received an invitation to serve as Archdeacon to the late Archbishop Athenagoras, the Primate of North and South America, who later (1949–72) became Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Ordained a priest in 1940 in Lowell, Massachusetts, he served at St. George Church, Hartford, Connecticut, while teaching and serving as assistant dean of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School, then in Pomfret, Connecticut and now in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1941, he was named Preacher at Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City and in the summer of 1942 served as temporary Dean of St. Nicholas Church in St. Louis, Missouri. He was appointed Dean of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Boston in 1942 and remained there until 1954. In 1945 he earned a Master of Sacred Theology Degree from Harvard University.

In 1954, he was ordained Bishop of Miletus, by his spiritual father and mentor, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, for whom he served four years as personal representative of the Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches in Geneva. On February 14, 1959, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected Iakovos as successor to Archbishop Michael, who died July 15, 1958, as primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He was enthroned April 1, 1959 at Holy Trinity Cathedral, assuming responsibility for what has grown to over 500 parishes in the United States.[2]

In addition to his duties as primate, Archbishop Iakovos was Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople; president of the board of education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America; founder and chairman of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA); chairman of the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation in the USA, and of the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; honorary board of the Advisory Council on Religious Rights in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Civil Rights Movement

A supporter of civil rights, Archbishop Iakovos was one of the few prominent non-African American clergymen—and the only Church leader—who had the courage to walk hand in hand with Martin Luther King Jr. during the famous march in Selma, Alabama. A picture of this historic moment, with Archbishop Iakovos to the right of Martin Luther King Jr., was captured on the cover of Life Magazine on March 26, 1965.[3] According to Grammenos "when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched from the Brown Chapel of the African Methodist Episcopal Church to the Dallas County Courthouse in Selma, Alabama on March 15, 1965, Archbishop Iakovos, leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, was among the few white men who accompanied him. Iakovos, who had experienced religious oppression himself as a child, accepted Dr. King's invitation demonstrating his commitment to freedom and civil rights as key principles of the American life. Iakovos stated that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese could no longer remain a "spectator and listener," and it must labor and struggle to develop its spiritual life. In the end, his firm support of Dr. King's initiative helped bring to fruition the passage of voting rights legislation, advancing equality among his communicants."[4]

Iakovos also became the first Greek Orthodox archbishop to meet with a Roman Catholic Pope in 350 years when he met Pope John XXIII in 1959.[5][6]

He spent nine years on the World Council of Churches and met with every U.S. president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Bill Clinton. Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.

Iakovos came into conflict with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I after he supported a move by 29 bishops towards the administrative unification of Eastern Orthodox churches in America at the Ligonier Meeting. It is widely believed that this clash forced him to resign in 1996.[7]

Archbishop Iakovos, died on April 10, 2005 at Stamford Hospital, Connecticut, from a pulmonary ailment. He was buried on April 15 in the grounds of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts.


Styles of
Archbishop Iakovos
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Alternative style None

Archbishop Iakovos was the last Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America that held the title of Archbishop of North and South America. After him the Archbishop's title was limited to "Archbishop of America" instead of "Archbishop of North and South America".[8]

His official title was:

His Eminence, Iakovos, Archbishop of North and South America, Exarch of the Lands between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans;

in Greek:

Η Αυτού Σεβασμιότης ο Αρχιεπίσκοπος Βορείου και Νοτίου Αμερικής, Υπέρτιμος και Έξαρχος Ωκεανών Ατλαντικού τε και Ειρηνικού Ιάκωβος

Medals and awards


  • The Apanta on International Human Rights and on National Issues (University Studio Press, Thessaloniki, 2008) (ISBN 9789601216928)
  • Faith for a Lifetime: A Spiritual Journey (Doubleday, New York, 1988) (ISBN 0-385-19595-8)

Archbishop Iakovos is portrayed by Michael Shikany in the 2014 film Selma.


Further reading

Strongylis, Cleopas. Dean James A. Coucouzes As a Model of Priesthood: Archbishop Iakovos' Ministry At the Annunciation Cathedral of New England. Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2012. (ISBN 9781935317395)

Eastern Orthodox Church titles
Preceded by
Archbishop of America
Succeeded by
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