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Theophylactos Papathanasopoulos (1891–1958)

by H. L. N. Simmons

This article was published:

Theophylactos Papathanasopoulos (1891-1958), Greek Orthodox bishop, was born on the feast of St Basil, 1 January 1891, at Pyrgos, Greece, son of Demetrios Papathanasopoulos and his wife Kaliopi. He was baptized Vasileios (Basil). Having completed his schooling at Pyrgos and Halki, Constantinople (Istanbul), he began his novitiate at the monastery of Stavronikita, Mount Athos, Greece, made his vows as a monk on 2 December 1917 and took the name Theophylactos. He was ordained priest by Bishop Paisios of Nyssa on 24 December. After graduating from the theological faculty, University of Athens, he taught at the Rizareios Ecclesiastical School and proved a popular preacher in the capital's churches.

In February 1928, following the dismissal of Metropolitan Christophoros Knetes, Archimandrite Theophylactos was sent to Sydney as administrator until a new bishop arrived. He served for five years in Sydney and for fourteen in Melbourne. Theophylactos was appointed metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand on 22 April 1947 and was consecrated in Greece on 24 August. Spending some time at the monastery of Stavronikita, he proceeded by slow stages to his new post, reaching Perth on 19 April 1948. He was enthroned in Sydney on 13 June in the presence of a congregation that included Greek, Russian and Syrian clergy.

Despite his initial enthusiasm, Theophylactos encountered long-running disputes over Church administration and dogged opposition from a number of leaders of the old communities who refused to accept the authority of the ecumenical patriarchate in Istanbul. Postwar immigration swelled the number of faithful to over 75,000 and strained the resources at Theophylactos's disposal. Among the newcomers were thousands of prosperous, educated and multilingual Greeks from Egypt. Alarmed at the loss of so many of its subjects, the patriarchate of Alexandria tried to set up exarchates in other jurisdictions, including Australia. Pantainos, its official journal, made a series of savage attacks on Theophylactos in 1955, accusing him of neglecting the welfare and education of his flock. It also charged him with scheming to set up an independent Orthodox Church covering all the faithful (regardless of ethnic and jurisdictional origin) in spite of the fact that instructions to do precisely this had been issued to Knetes in 1924 by the patriarchate in Istanbul. These divisive tactics failed in Australia, although they had limited success in the United States of America. Tall and imposing, if somewhat reserved, Theophylactos was widely regarded as a fair and objective administrator, and as a dedicated pastor.

Theophylactos died on 2 August 1958 in the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, from injuries received in a motorcar accident two days earlier. Following a service presided over by Archbishop Athenagoras of Thyateira at the Cathedral of St Sophia, Sydney, he was buried in Botany cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Pentekontaeteris, 1924-74 (Syd, 1976)
  • Threskeutike kai Ethike Enkyklopaideia (Athens, 1980)
  • H. L. N. Simmons, Orthodoxy in Australia (Brookline, Mass, US, 1986)
  • Pantainos (Alexandria, Egypt), 47, 1955, pp 95, 137, 155-6
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Feb 1928, 14 June 1948, 12 Aug 1958
  • private information.

Citation details

H. L. N. Simmons, 'Papathanasopoulos, Theophylactos (1891–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 19 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Papathanasopoulos, Vasileios

1 January, 1891
Pyrgos, Greece


2 August, 1958 (aged 67)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.