April 2, 2021

The Recent Repose of the Lay Theologian Athanasios Sakarellos

Few Orthodox Christians in the English-speaking world know who Athanasios Sakarellos was, which is one reason why I have neglected to write anything about his recent repose, which took place on Friday 26 February 2021. He was a lawyer by profession and a lay theologian out of Athens who wrote many things about the Orthodox faith. Those who do know him probably know him either for his close friendship with Fr. John Romanides or from his strong stance against anything that he perceived as a compromise against authentic Orthodoxy. It is the latter where many say he either went too far or did not go far enough.

My own thoughts of Athanasios Sakarellos have been very confused since I first learned of him, and they still are a bit. I had always thought he became an Old Calendarist at some point after the repose of Fr. Romanides, as his writings reflect he at least had strong leanings towards Old Calendarism and seemed to judge everyone he met based on how they approached the issue, but now that he died and some information about him has come to light, I have noticed that at least at the time of his death he was looked upon by other Old Calendarists as having been deluded and that he died unrepentant; of what I have no idea, though it may have something to do with him not fully becoming an Old Calendarist. Many Old Calendarists in Greece even seemed surprised when they found out that his private funeral was presided over, by request of Sakarellos himself before he died, by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, who follows the New Calendar. When I found this out, not only was I happy to hear it, but it also inspired me to write something in his memory.

This leads me to recall why he interested me so much in the first place. Just so people in the West understand, what the Beatles were for music in England and America, another group of four were the equivalent theologically in Athens and Greece in general from around the mid-1980's to the mid-1990's (though some would push it back much further into the mid-1970's) - Fr. John Romanides, Fr. George Metallinos, the now Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos (the last survivor) and Athanasios Sakarellos. These four were the leading theologians of Greece centered in Athens, all students in one way or another of Fr. John Romanides. Athanasios Sakarellos enjoyed a special privilege of having been taught both private lessons and small private group lessons by Fr. Romanides almost on a daily basis for years in his law office in Athens (he was also the personal lawyer of Fr. Romanides), where others would sometimes also gather, and one could say they were best friends who scarcely a day went by when they did not eat lunch together. Those who knew Sakarellos say he became a mirror image of Romanides theologically, though from what I've read Sakarellos had a bit more of an untamed zeal than Fr. Romanides, who was much more well-experienced, much more well-educated and much more well-traveled.

There are some writings of Sakarellos that contemporary Orthodox, especially in the West, would find shocking and fascinating at the same time. He was a very honest person, who was not afraid to say what he really thought about a person or an issue. The fact that he died pretty much alone in the end under confusing circumstances says something, though I'm still not sure what that is. Nonetheless, I am tempted to translate some of his writings next week, especially those related to all the significant Greek Orthodox figures he met in his life, and in particular some of his private conversations and dealings with Fr. John Romanides, whose 20th anniversary since his repose is fast approaching on November 1st this year. So if you read something a bit shocking next week about much beloved Greek Orthodox figures bearing his name as the author, don't let it be said that I didn't warn you. Many of his views I do not share, but his honesty fascinates me enough to put something of his work out there to the English speaking world. But for now, my only goal was to let people know something about who this important but forgotten figure in many ways was.

May his memory be eternal!