Professor Emeritus of the School of Theology,
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
Protopresbyter Theodoros Zisis, a professor of the Theological School at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki was born in 1941 in the village Panagia on Thasos, the fifth of seven children. Fol-lowing the end of the war in 1945, the family settled in the village of Mid-Komotini, where his father, the priest Nicholas was appointed the officiating priest. There Theodoros completed ele-mentary school. He then registered in the Ecclesiastical School of Xanthi for a seven year pro-gram and graduated with honours having excelled the entire duration of his studies (1953-1961).
He then entered the Theological School at the University of Thessaloniki, where he received his degree in 1965 with a perfect grade (10). He was ranked top in the School of Law at the University of Thessaloniki, which he attended for the first few years. He later interrupted his studies when he began his career at the Theological School. He served for two years in units of the Greek army, in pastoral service as a theologian-soldier (1966-1968). In 1968, he married Christina Boulaki, a theologian and priest’s daughter, who later became a substitute professor at the Theological School in the area of Slavic Church history and that of other Orthodox Churches. They had two children.
He completed his post-graduate studies in Thessaloniki, in the branch of theology in the field of patristics, having as his advisor the renowned patristics professor, the late Panagiotis Christou. He received his Doctorate of Theology with honours in 1971, having submitted his thesis “Man and the World in the Economy of God According to Saint Chrysostom”. He was elected a university lecturer in patristics in 1973 at the Theological School, for the course of “The Art of Virginity: The Argument of the Church Fathers on Celibacy in Christ and Its Sources”. In 1980, he was elected a tenured professor in patristics at the Theological School, submitting together with other publications the great monography “Gennadios II Scholarios: Life-Literature-Teachings”. After the division of the school into two departments (1982), the Department of Pastoral and Social Theology was created, where he served until his retirement (2008), being its president for two terms of office. He also served as Director of the Holy Scriptures and Patristic Secretariat department. During the university elections of 1986 he was appointed a candidate for vice-dean together with the candidate dean, Professor of Medicine D. Panagiotis, with second vice-dean, Professor of the Polytechnic, D. Psoino; finally a different body was elected with Professor D. Fatouros as the dean.
He continued his studies for two years in West Germany (Bonn) under a scholarship of Humboldt-Stiftung (1972-1973 and 1979-1980). Apart from German he also knows French.
Following the construction of the Patriarchal Institution of Patristic Studies at the Holy Monastery of Blatadon, he served as scientific contributor, editor and secretary of the institution’s journal Kleronomia (1968-1970), and later as treasurer of the institution (1977-1986). He was appointed a researcher at the Centre of Byzantine Research of the University of Thessaloniki (1970-1974), director of the Department of Theology at the same centre (1988-1998), president of the Centre (1991-1995), a co-manager with the rest of the members of the Administrative Committee, the journal Byzantina and other of its publications. During his seven year stay at the centre, as director of the department and its president, he received research allocations from the state, which he fully appropriated for the formation of research programs and for the work of fifteen young researchers. We commemorate the program “The Monasteries of Macedonia during the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period”, the results of which have partly been published in one volume. Under his presidency he called for an international academic conference under the title “Commemoration of Saints Gregory the Theologian and Photios the Great (14-17 October 1993)” in the Great Hall of Ceremonies at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki.
For many years he was president of the Theologians Union of Northern Greece with numerous activities in the area of education; during his presidency the union’s journal Theologian was founded.
He organised with his colleagues many conferences, both in Greek and internationally, and took part in these and others with submissions and announcements. These successful and continuous conference activities peaked with the formation of the great international university conference on Saint John Chrysostom in September 2007, the chairmanship of which he was assigned by the Department of Pastoral and Social Theology.
Being asked for more than thirty years by holy metropolises, monasteries and societies, he assisted as adviser or president and member of organising committees, in the organisation of conferences, on Saint Nectarios of Aegina (1996), the two inter-academic conferences on Paros on the Theotokos the “Ekatontapyliane” (1997), and on Saint Athanasius of Paros (1999) as president and member of the organising committee, as well as president of the organising committee for the great conference on Saint Nicodemus the Hagiorite (1999), which was hosted by the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicodemus of Goumenissa. For many years he presided over annual conferences on different topics, organised by the Cultural Society of Rahis of Pieria, “The Patria”. For his various contributions he was honoured in special ceremonies and with distinctions (for example that of the Holy Metropolis Maronias); the Holy Metropolis Paronactias at an official ceremony declared him an honorary member of the Governing Commission of the Holy Shrine of Ekatontapyliane. In 2005, he was proclaimed a corresponding member of the philological society “Parnassos” and in 2006 he was honoured in Athens at a special ceremony as an honorary member of the society.
As an advising professor he assumed the scholastic leadership of post-graduate students and participated in numerous committees of post-graduate theses. He also mentored as an advising professor many doctoral candidates, many of who are now faculty in the theological schools of the University of Athens and of Thessaloniki, or they teach in the highest ecclesiastical acade-mies and in Secondary Education.
From 1990 until 2007 he was a cleric of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He was ordained a deacon in December 1990 and a priest in March 1991 in the Holy Patriarchal Monastery of Saint Anastasia Pharmacolytria, where he served until the beginning of 1993. From April 1993 until today (spring of 2011) he has been serving in the Holy Church of Saint Anthony in Thessaloniki, also was registered in 2008 a member of the clergy of the Holy Metropolis of Thessaloniki.
He represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece in inter-Orthodox and inter-Christian gatherings. He took part in the dialogue between the Orthodox with the Old Catholics and the Orthodox with the Roman Catholics, as well as at inter-Orthodox meetings in Geneva for the preparation of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church. He authored many patriarchal articles and encyclicals, on the occasion of anniversary ceremonies and patriarchal visits. He contributed substantially to the common condemnation of Unia by both Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians at Freising, Munich in June 1991. Because he sharply criticised the “acquittal” of Unia and the ecclesialogically unacceptable text of Balamand in Leb-anon (1993), he was forbidden by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to participate in the dialogue with the Roman Catholics, even as a representative of the Church of Greece (since he was still a clergyman of the Patriarchate of Constantinople).
In 1998, along with his colleagues, he founded the “Society of Orthodox Studies” which manages the quarterly journal Theodromia, which has been published uninterrupted since January 1999 to this day.
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem appointed him a member of the supervising committee of the his-torical scientific journal New Zion where he served for three years (2006-2008), contributing to the published volume of New Zion of 2006.
He wrote many monographs, as well as articles and studies in academic journals. Some of his studies have been translated, and others are being translated in other languages. His study “Beneficial and Cleansing Was the Tsunami: Is God Responsible for Nature Disasters?” was translated into Russian and was awarded the best study of 2006 in the area of theology by the “Authors’ Union of Russia”. The same study was also translated into Bulgarian by the Holy Monastery of Zographou on the Holy Mountain (refer to the list of his most important books and works at the end of this article).
Beyond his substantial purely academic contribution to contemporary theology, such as the purging of the person of Patriarch Gennadios Scholarios from certain Roman Catholic falsifica-tions, the principle that always ruled the teaching of Fr. Zisis is that theology should always be based on the teachings of the Holy Fathers, be easy to understand and practical for the benefit of the audience, avoiding verbosity, superfluous philosophical fineries and complex thoughts. His personal and theological respect for the Fathers of the Orthodox Church is apparent from his extended involvement with topics concerning monasticism.
His social and academic standards, his dialectical spirit, his respect for the personalities and the work of other researchers, his fatherly attitude towards students, his superb collaboration with his colleagues of all levels and his academic excellence, as well as his international and inter-Orthodox projection, constitute some of Fr. Zisis’ attributes, with which he contributed towards the excellent operation of the Department of Pastoral and Social Theology as well as to the advancement of the science of theology.
Most of his academic articles in select volumes have since been published either by themselves or included within his other extensive works. We indicatively refer below to the more significant works of Fr. Theodoros.