Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Knetes, Christophoros (1872–1958)

by H. L. N. Simmons

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Christophoros Knetes (1872-1958), Greek Orthodox bishop, was born on 17 December 1872 and baptised Charidemos at Vathi, Samos (then under Ottoman suzerainty), son of Charidemos Knetes, merchant, and his wife Fioritsa, née Phoka. He was educated at the Pythagoreion Gymnasion at Vathi, the University of Athens and the Theological School at Halki, Constantinople (Istanbul), graduating in 1898. Made deacon on 19 July, with the monastic name of Christophoros, he taught at his old school on Samos for some years.

In 1905 Christophoros spent a year studying theology and improving his English at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. With financial support from the Greek community in London he transferred to the University of Oxford (B.Litt., 1909). His thesis, 'The sacred ministry and its relation to marriage in the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church', was published in the Journal of Theological Studies next year. Returning to Constantinople, he served as archivist and editor of Ekklesiastike Aletheia, the official journal of the patriarchate. Ordained priest on 23 April 1910, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite and on 12 December consecrated titular bishop of Stauropolis. In 1918 he was raised to the vacant metropolis of Serrai (Macedonia), where he organized assistance for thousands of refugees from Turkey.

In March 1922 the ecumenical patriarchate in Constantinople resumed jurisdiction over the Greeks of the diaspora (who had been with Athens since 1908) and in March 1924 established the metropolis of Australia and New Zealand. Christophoros, with his fluent English, was appointed hierarch. Tall, with a King Edward beard 'shot with grey' and restless 'deep-set brown eyes', he arrived in Australia on 8 July, to begin what was to become a very stormy episcopate.

Discontent soon crystallized into open confrontation—in Melbourne the priest, the consul and the Ithacan party combined against him. On 12 October the priest Archimandrite Irenaios (Kasimatis) ignored Metropolitan Christophoros in his church and also wrote inflammatory articles in the local Greek press. Although the metropolitan defrocked this priest and appointed another, the rebel and his supporters held rival services for some years. In February 1925 attempts to exclude the metropolitan from his church were frustrated, but the division continued.

In Sydney in February 1926, in the face of accusations of immorality, Knetes charged four young Greeks with conspiring to accuse him falsely of 'infamous conduct'. The case was dismissed but nevertheless exacerbated the situation. The Hellenic Herald conducted 'an incessant tirade against the Metropolitan' as a person rather than the authority and institution he represented. In November the priest in Sydney, Archimandrite Athenagoras (Waraklas), transferred himself to another jurisdiction and the metropolitan was excluded from his church. Christophoros retaliated by building a new church, St Sophia, at Paddington in 1927. In view of the untenable situation in Sydney and Melbourne, he was recalled in February 1928. He had ordained at least two priests in Australia and left six 'official' communities.

Granted the title of metropolitan of Bizya (East Thrace) Knetes spent most of his remaining life at Vathi, where he died on 7 August 1958. Factional rivalry and bitterness among the Greeks of Australasia had prevented him achieving much and set unfortunate precedents for future disputes.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Zervopoulos (ed), Enkyklopaidikon Emerologion, A (Constantinople, 1934)
  • O Sevasmiotatos Metropolites Bizyes Vizyes Kyrios Christophoros Knetes (Samos, 1953)
  • Threskeutike kai Ethike Enkyklopaideia, vol 12 (Athens, 1980)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Feb 1926
  • Truth (Sydney), 14 Feb, 27 June 1926
  • M. P. Tsounis, Greek Communities in Australia (Ph.D. thesis, University of Adelaide, 1971).

Citation details

H. L. N. Simmons, 'Knetes, Christophoros (1872–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/knetes-christophoros-6984/text12137, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Birth

17 December 1872
Greece

Death

1958
Vathi, Greece

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation