FOLLOWING the recommendation of Patriarch Bartholomew, the Holy Synod unanimously elected Bishop Nathanael new Metropolitan of Chicago. He was ordained a bishop of the Church with the title Metropolitan of Chicago on March 17 in New York City and he was enthroned on March 24.
“I will do all that I can to open those doors that were once shut and be inclusive of everyone in the work of the Church—especially those who were once ignored or marginalized. I beseech each of you to get involved so that together we can serve as God’s left and right hands, thus sharing His hope and love with the world. As I have in my prior ministries, I intend to continue actively working in the community to help those in greatest need, and I will expect the same of our clergy. We must extend the love of God beyond the walls of our churches and into society, particularly to those in greatest need of that love” the new Metropolitan said, speaking at his enthronement.
“As your Metropolitan and father, I wholeheartedly accept the awesome responsibility and obligation to lead you closer to Christ. It is not adequate when we only focus on finances, administration and on social ties. We must simultaneously pay attention to our spirituality. I do not forget that the primary task of every hierarch is the salvation of souls,” he added.
Born in Thessaloniki, in 1978, he is the third child of Irene and Vasilios Symeonides and is a graduate of Hellenic College (BA, 2000) and of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (MDiv, 2003). He has also studied the history and ethics of public health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. He is a guest professor of Christian ethics and bioethics at Fordham University.
Metropolitan Nathanael was ordained a Deacon in 2003 and a Presbyter in 2010. He served as the Deacon to Metropolitan Methodios (2003-2006); Deacon to the Archbishop (2006-2010); and Pastor of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, NY (2010-2013). As a parish priest, he developed an urban ministry, Orthodox Professionals in Action (OPA), which harnessed the gifts and talents of more than 400 young professionals of Manhattan, offering them opportunities to create meaningful change in the lives of those most vulnerable in society. He also served the pastoral needs of the Holy Resurrection Church of Brookville, NY and the Saints Constantine and Helen Cathedral of Brooklyn, NY.
In September 2013 he was appointed Director of the Office of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. In that position, he managed and directed the relationships between the Archdiocese and numerous religious organizations, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and Permanent Missions to the United Nations.
Metropolitan Nathanael became Metropolitan of Chicago following nearly four decades of leadership by Metropolitan Iakovos, who fell asleep in the Lord on June 2, 2017. The Metropolis of Chicago oversees all Greek Orthodox Parishes within Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota as well as eastern Missouri and northwestern Indiana.
In an interview, the day of his enthronement Nathanael referred to the marches taking place throughout the nation, including within his jurisdiction.
“Today, millions of young people are taking to the streets of cities and towns around the worlds, they have even gathered just a short distance from our Cathedral,” he said. “The young people are marching in the streets because they demand that their lives and safety become a priority for those in positions of authority. It is daunting to consider that these young people, our young people, are not marching to church to find refuge or a place to voice their concerns. They sadly take to the streets because they feel that no one cares about them in their homes or in their schools, or other familiar places, yes including the church. I know that we all desire to do the best we can for our youth, but as a unified Metropolis family, we must find new ways to engage them. It is not enough for us to issue invitations and passively wait for them to arrive at our doorsteps, it is our responsibility to go to them, yes even if it means joining them in the streets.”