Archimandrite Gervasios, founder of the “Diaconate for the Release of Poor Prisoners and Defendants» of the «Saint Xeni» Orthodox Missionary Sisterhood, has every reason to feel complete since, at age 79, he has contributed to the discharge from prison of over 13,000 indigent prisoners in Greece and 80 other countries, by raising approximately four million euros for their release. “We always take much more than what we give. You cannot love God and not love your fellow human beings” he has said during an interview with the Athens News Agency.
Born in Aimiliano Grevenon in 1931, George Raptopoulos grew up as one of the five children of a poor family and felt the call to the priesthood at a very young age. At 28 he was already an anointed priest, while in March 1978 he suggested to a group of men from Serres that they organize a visit to the Agricultural Prison of Kassandra. He later admitted that he hadn’t expected such an enthusiastic response.
About 750 people participated in that first mission, which marked the beginning of a strenuous but miraculous effort. The visits to the same Institution continued for a decade; meanwhile, the Diaconate began raising the necessary funds to pay the fines of poor prisoners charged with minor sentences, as well as to cover their legal expenses.
In 1985, the Diaconate joined the “Saint Xeni» Orthodox Missionary Sisterhood, which had been founded by Father Gervasios twenty years earlier. From 1989 onwards, its scope expanded to include prisons all over Greece, and later the rest of the world- beginning in 1999, when the Archimandrite answered the call for help issued by three Greek sailors, who were held in El-Kanater prison, in Egytpt, and had been sentenced to death.
As the visits to penitentiary institutions in Europe, Russia, Israel and the US continued, the calls for help multiplied. During Easter 2009, Father Gervasios had his first meeting with Passaris, in Romania, whom he has visited five times so far.
For his charity work, the Archimandrite has received several honorary titles, including the Golden Cross of the Order of the Phoenix, bestowed to him by the Greek President of Democracy in 2008. Several eminent personalities back his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.