The Saints Entering Paradise

(Springfield, IL) Wednesday, March 9, 2011.  As Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation bringing an end to the death penalty in Illinois, in attendance was Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, and spiritual advisor to the last man executed in the state.  Bishop Demetrios praised the decision of the Governor to sign the bill and commute the remaining sentences of 15 death-row inmates as a victory for all Illinois citizens and a major moral accomplishment.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signing the Death Penalty Abolition Bill “This is not only a political and legal achievement, but a spiritual triumph of the conscience for all those opposed to capital punishment.  I thank and praise Governor Quinn for his decision, as well as his predecessors who recognized the need for a moratorium and reconsideration of this issue, and the legislators who bravely helped make this day a reality.”

Governor Pat Quinn following the signing of the Abolition Bill.

Anti-death penalty activists Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos; Rob Warden, executive director of the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions; attorney Thomas P. SUllivan; Andrea Lyon, director of the DePaul University Center for Justice in Capitol Cases; State Senator William Delgado; and State Senator Mattie Hunter

Bishop Demetrios had met with Gov. Quinn on February 18, 2011, to advocate the signing of the bill to end capital punishment in the state.  There he discussed his church’s regard for the sanctity of all life, and his own personal involvement in the movement for abolition.

 

His Grace Bishop Demetrios with State Sen. Kwame Raoul, bill co-sponsorHis Grace Bishop Demetrios with State Rep. Karen Yarbrough, bill co-sponsor

Bishop Demetrios was spiritual advisor to Andrew Kokaraleis, the last man executed in 1999, after receiving a letter from Kokaraleis from death-row.  Following Kokaraleis’ execution, Bishop Demetrios became more active in the movement to end the death penalty.  He later served as President of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, of which he is still a member.  

Shortly after Kokaraleis’ execution, following well publicized exonerations of death-row prisoners, Governor Ryan announced a moratorium on the death penalty while commuting many sentences.  The moratorium was left in place during the tenure of Gov. Blogojevich. Bishop Demetrios had attended a meeting with Gov. Ryan  prior to the moratorium with other religious leaders.  His exchange with Ryan was tense, so the moratorium announcement came as a welcome surprise.  Ever since, he has remained active in the effort to make the moratorium permanent.  Now that effort moves forward.

His Grace Bishop Demetrios with attorney Tom Sullivan

Bishop Demetrios at Press Conference following signing of the Abolition Bill. Pictured to His Grace's right State Sen. Kwame Raul and State Rep. Karen Yarbrough

After his praise of Gov. Quinn, he added: 

“On behalf of the leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, Metropolitan Iakovos, and all our faithful, we may give thanks for this major change in public policy.  Yet the struggle for justice and the sanctity of all life is not over.  Illinois is just one of sixteen (16) states that have abolished the death penalty, so there is much work yet to be done in our nation and, indeed, around the world.”  

Noting that the Metropolis of Chicago has parishes in six Midwestern states, Bishop Demetrios pledged, “I will continue to work for abolition specifically in Indiana and Missouri, so that along with Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, every state where we have parishes will be death-penalty free.”

Bishop Demetrios, a native of Chicago, was ordained to the priesthood in 1992, and was elevated to auxiliary bishop in 2006.

Named as “one of the twelve people to watch” by the Chicago Sun-Times (January 5, 2003), Bishop Demetrios has worked extensively to build bridges of understanding and improve relationships between Chicago’s Greek Orthodox Community with other local Orthodox bodies, as well as other Christian and non-Christian groups. His ecumenical and interfaith commitments are numerous, including serving as a past President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.  His ministry has long focused on social justice and advocacy. 

The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago consists of 59 parishes throughout the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, eastern Missouri and northwest Indiana).