September 11, 2020

Elder Gervasios Paraskevopolous in the Final Process Before Official Canonization

Elder Gervasios Paraskevopoulos was born in 1877 and was from Gortynia, Greece. His childhood was difficult, particularly because he lost his mother at the age of three. While studying at Rizarios Ecclesiastical School in Athens, he became a spiritual child of Saint Nektarios, who was the director of the school. He was one of the most important religious figures in modern Greek history, especially in the city of Patras, where he served as Abbot of Gerokomeio Monastery and established a successful ministry that helped revive Orthodox life among young and old alike, especially through his catechetical schools. He reposed esteemed by all for his holiness on June 30, 1964. In the consciousness of the people of Patras, he was, is and always will be a Saint of the Church, which is why at his burial the people with one accord proclaimed, "He is a Saint!" The same was done 50 years later at the translation of his relics in 2014.

Following the 53rd anniversary since his repose, on Thursday 30 June 2017, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Patras revealed that he was preparing the relevant dossier to submit to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the official recognition of Elder Gervasios as a Saint of the Church. The dossier has now been approved by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, and sent to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for final approval. It is hoped by the Metropolis of Patras that the approval will come soon, in one of the Holy Synod's monthly meetings.

The Mystagogy Resource Center has been tracing the process of the canonization of Elder Gervasios for the past few years to educate the faithful what the process for canonization looks like in the Orthodox Church. Basically, there has to be a proposal, typically by a local bishop, who sends it either to his own local Holy Synod or directly to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. After an evaluation and approval by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and then the Ecumenical Patriarch himself, the canonization is finalized. With Elder Gervasios, we are currently at the final stage. But to even trace this before the official process began, there is also an unofficial process that comes first.

It is a particular joy for myself and my family that the canonization of Elder Gervasios is coming to its fulfillment. My paternal grandparents met and married and lived in Patras for the rest of their lives after they were both part of the population exchange with Asia Minor in 1922, my grandfather coming from Smyrna and my grandmother from Nicomedia. My father was born in Patras, and when he was a child his school had him attend catechetical classes with Elder Gervasios as the teacher. There were dozens of kids in these classes, so he didn't pay much attention at the time to what the Elder was teaching, but what he does remember is perhaps more important - he knew he was in the presence of a Saint. He has told me a number of times that Elder Gervasios was the model priest, who even inspired reverence in a punk like he was in those days, and that he had an aura of sainthood that distinguished him from every other priest. My grandmother also knew him and went to confession to him once. She said he could be very strict, but you knew that whatever he said came from a heart full of love for God and people, and she also told me before she died that he was the closest to a Saint she ever met in her life. When I was fifteen I lived with my grandmother in Patras for a month, and the spirit of the Elder was still very much alive there, with people still talking about him as if he was already a Saint of the Church, around three decades after his repose. When my grandmother even got me to go to my first confession, she had me go to a priest that people were calling the "new Gervasios," because he reminded them of him. From my own experience and the experience of my father and my grandmother, among hundreds if not thousands of others, this is really how the process of canonization begins before it moves on to the bishop.

In closing, I will also add that Metropolitan Kyrillos of Kifisia has submitted papers this past August for the proposal to canonize Elder Athanasios Hamakiotis († 17 August 1967), whom I will start posting about soon.