For the first time in almost four decades, the Republican National Committee didn’t include a Greek Orthodox clergyman to offer a prayer at their national nominating convention.
The Trump campaign included Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, on the 2020 convention program, as well as a long list of Evangelical and conservative Christian leaders.
The tradition of inviting Greek Orthodox hierarchs goes back to the 1980s, when then Archbishop Iakovos had taken a more public role in the national dialogue in the United States and had elevated the Greek Orthodox Church into the American mainstream, alongside Roman Catholics, Protestants and other major Christian denominations.
In August of 1984, Archbishop Iakovos gave the invocation at the RNC Convention in Dallas, TX where the party nominated Ronald Reagan.
Four years later in 1988, Iakovos was again invited to the Republican Convention in New Orleans where George Bush and Dan Quayle accepted their party’s nomination for President and Vice President, respectively. Illinois Rep. Bob Michel gave Iakovos a glowing introduction, highlighting his accomplishments and calling him an important figure in the United States.
Iakovos prayed with Republicans again in 1992 when Bush and Quayle accepted their party’s nomination for re-election to a second term.
In 1996, in the absence of a Greek Orthodox Archbishop (since Iakovos had been forced into retirement only a few months earlier), the Republicans invited the Very Rev. Meletios Webber, the Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of San Francisco and a parish priest from Santa Cruz to deliver a prayer.
At the RNC conventions of 2000, 2004 and 2008, Archbishop Demetrios of America delivered prayers, while in 2012, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston was sent to Tampa to represent the Archbishop, who was unable to attend.
In 2016, Archbishop Demetrios was introduced by then Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Preibus. Demetrios offered the closing prayer on the third evening of the RNC National Convention in Cleveland.
*It should be noted that the same tradition stands for the Democratic Party, which has also consistently invited a Greek Orthodox hierarch to give a prayer during their nominating conventions, also since the 1980s and beyond. Archbishop Elpidophoros was invited to give a prayer at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which was streamed online from various locations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
*Update: We received the following statement from the press office of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America: “Archbishop Elpidophoros was invited to pray in person at the Republican National Convention. This was not possible since at the time he was at the Phanar, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.”
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