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Queens Orthodox priest chosen as regional head

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The head of Astoria's Greek Orthodox parish, which is the largest in the country, has been chosen as the Metropolitan of New Jersey, where he will supervise 53 parishes in the mid-Atlantic states.

The Very Rev. Evangelos Kourounis, dean of the St. Demetrios Cathedral at 31st Street and 30th Drive, will be installed in his new post May 11 at an enthronement ceremony at the Greek Orthodox cathedral in Tenafly, N.J.

His elevation to the rank of metropolitan will be held one day earlier during an ordination ceremony at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Manhattan.

"The spiritual welfare of the flock will be my priority," said Father Kourounis, a native and resident of the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.

The Metropolis of New Jersey also encompasses Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and southeastern Pennsylvania. The Rev. Kourounis had already served in New Jersey as chancellor, its principle administrator, from 1993 to 1999.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America recommended Kourounis to the post as its top choice of three candidates submitted to the church's spiritual leadership, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which unanimously elected him on April 12.

"He's been a son of the church," said Bishop Savas of Troas, the chancellor of the archdiocese. "He's devoted to the church from his youth. He's served in a variety of capacities - both pastoral and administrative - and he just comes very well-equipped with many gifts."

He fills a post that was left vacant three years ago by the death of Bishop George.

Father Kourounis will be only the fourth metropolitan in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to have been born in the United States, Bishop Savas said.

The priest said his elevation emerged out of a long commitment to the Greek Orthodox Church.

"It was a lifelong conviction," he said. "I was born and raised in the church so it was something that I've always dreamed of."

Born in New York in 1961 to parents who emigrated from the Greek island of Kalymnos in the Aegean, the Rev. Kourounis is fluent in Greek. He was ordained to the deaconate in 1987 and to the priesthood in 1989, and in 1991 was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite.

Before taking the helm at St. Demetrios two years ago, he had served as an assistant priest to the dean of the cathedral from 1989 to 1993.

New Jersey is one of eight metropolises that are part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; the others are based in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

Queens, along with the rest of the city, upstate New York, Long Island and western Connecticut, is part of a ninth administrative area known as the Archdiocesan District, which falls under the direct jurisdiction of the archbishop of America.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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