Spyridon
Archbishop of America  (1996-1999)

THE LEGACY

from the Author's Preface and Introductory Notes

« The message of Archbishop Spyridon's long ecclesiastical service lives on in the hearts and minds of countless Greek American clergy and laypeople. Aware of the multicultural reality in America, they want their Church to stand steadfast in its commitment to Orthodox tradition and their community to remain faithful to its Greek roots »

« Spyridon believed that only by returning to a genuine form of Orthodoxy could the Church survive in a pluralistic society like the United States, in which so many different faiths and communities co-exist »

« Closely observing the situation, Spyridon refused to subscribe to arguments that would lead to the fragmentation of the Archdiocese of America by elevating the U.S. dioceses to metropolitanates. He contended that such a change in status would not only undermine the Archbishop's role as the unifier and spokesman for the Greek community in America; it would further loosen the ties between distant bishops and the Archdiocesan administration in New York with unforeseeable consequences for the adoption of a common line on the vital issues of Orthodoxy and Hellenism »

« Spyridon was confident that judicious efforts orchestrated by a strong lobby under the Archbishop's leadership would have a greater impact in Washington than the partial and convulsive attempts by various Greek American organizations »

« Spyridon's arrival on the archiepiscopal throne brought fresh air, vigor and hope to the entire Archdiocese, which had begun to show signs of age and decline. Although his ministry lasted only three years, Archbishop Spyridon succeeded in inspiring love and enthusiasm in young and old all across the United States, forging strong ties with the Greek American community who saw in him the promise of renewal and steady progress for their Church as the 21stt century beckoned »

« Intrigues, financial interests, power games by the clergy and by ambitious laymen, coupled with the Patriarchate's failure to appreciate the value of a leader like Spyridon at the helm of the archdiocese led to his resignation that sad day in August 1999. Much water has flowed under the bridge since then, and the signs of decline have become increasingly apparent in every aspect of the Archdiocese »

« The axis of traditional Orthodoxy and Hellenism that Spyridon had so carefully forged gave way to a dry, plutocratic exercise of power. The result was the accumulation of massive debt by the archdiocesan administration, the widening of the distance between believers and the church, a disregard for all Greek national issues, the fragmentation of the Archdiocese into metropolitanates, the weakening of the Archbishop's leadership role and the pursuit of an inconsistent and inadequate policy on Greek-language education »

« The Holy Cross School of Theology thus became a den of autocephalists and advocates of an elastic approach to Orthodox theology »

« The U.S. bishoprics were quickly elevated to metropolitanates through summary procedures by a Phanar employing the tactics of 'divide and conquer.' Despite documented objections of Spyridon and prominent lay figures in the Church, the Patriarchate imposed a new Archdiocesan charter, which was finally passed at the Clergy-Laity Congress in New York in 2004 »

« In 2005, this in broad outline is the misty landscape of an Archdiocese that under current leadership is spiraling into decline with little hope of recovery. The plutocratic administration, financial interests, back-room power schemes, lack of real vision and objectives combined with (...) administrative failings distance the Greek American community from what Spyridon was trying to achieve: a dynamic Orthodoxy within a dynamic Greek community in the distant land of America »

« The Patriarchate is already paying the price for attempting to satisfy the interests and ambitions of the few: the voices clamoring for autocephaly are becoming ever more numerous and louder! »

« Spyridon maintained, only the Greek Orthodox Church of America could provide the dynamic and effective leadership that Orthodox believers in the United States needed, and halt the fragmentation resulting from the co-existence of the many isolated Orthodox jurisdictions. He insisted that in America, a country of tolerance, all official Orthodox ecclesiastical entities should come under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of America and hence under the Ecumenical Throne »

« Archbishop Spyridon's concern for Orthodox unity and his vision for enhancing the ecumenicity of the Patriarchate of Constantinople pervaded his enthronement speech »

« During Spyridon's ministry in America, believers saw the revival of traditional Orthodox rites in every aspect of liturgical life, a fact that provoked the wrath of many members of the clergy, since Orthodox traditions had begun to be infiltrated by currents of relativism and liberalism »

« Since the representatives of monastic life had engaged in an open struggle with Iakovos, his predecessor, one of Spyridon's first major undertakings was to try to incorporate monasticism fully within the bosom of the Church of America. Spyridon fought valiantly to ensure the traditional role of monasticism in the life of the Archdiocese »

« From the outset, Spyridon tried to revive an authentic form of Orthodoxy in the Church in America, because he had been raised with eastern models of Christianity and also because he believed that only by consciously differentiating the Greek Orthodox Church from the plethora of other Christian faiths could the Church safeguard and maintain its congregation, which was continually declining in numbers »

« Spyridon's speeches attest to his sense of belonging and profound loyalty to the Mother Church as well as his valiant attempt to raise the prestige of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and thus enhance the Pan-Orthodox role of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America »

« The two axes along which Archbishop Spyridon designed his efforts to ensure the long-term survival of Hellenism in the U.S. were Greek Education and traditional Orthodoxy. (...) Spyridon's vision was to foster the growth of a Hellenocentric and traditional Orthodox Church capable of holding its own against the onslaught of 21st-century American culture »

« Believing deeply that the survival of Hellenism in America rested on the Church's ability to instill in a new generation of Greek Americans a true Orthodox faith and a profound understanding of the principal features of the Greek people as defined through their centuries-old history, Archbishop Spyridon attempted to implement his steadfast beliefs in the areas of Greek-language and Orthodox education »

« From 1999 to the present day, the Greek-language schools of the Archdiocese of America continue on a downward trend. Relying on donations, they struggle to survive, experiencing continual setbacks and losses. (...) Thus, the control of Greek education is passing slowly but surely from the Archdiocese to disparate entities. The result is Greek education lacks homogeneity and a common orientation »

« The Greek government is holding its peace on the pressing question of Hellenism's survival in the cultural melting pot of America. There seems to be no reaction whatsoever from Greece, which should be pouring its energy into providing effective support for Greek education, particularly in what some consider an age of superficiality! »

« Spyridon's goal was to attract students of a high level to the priesthood by offering an excellent course of studies at this theological institute -- which, according to his opinion, should emerge from its theological isolation and cultivate close relations with other similar institutions of Orthodox learning across the globe »

« Instead of being a cradle for new Orthodox theologians and clergymen, HC/HC now finds itself faltering in its attempt to acquire some sort of theological identity. It has now moved entirely away from the models Spyridon had provided »

« Spyridon underlined his concern with the transformation of the parishes and communities of the Archdiocese into entities with a corporate consciousness, where the worldly spirit prevailed over the Greek Orthodox perspective (phronema), which he considered the cornerstone for the survival of Hellenism and of the Orthodox faith »

« Spyridon set himself the goal of reversing the relativistic tendencies in matters of faith, so that Greek American youth everywhere in the United States would be taught their faith in as uniform a spiritual environment as possible and could profess a wholly Orthodox faith, without deviation, free of protestantizing, catholicizing or other influences »

« The Archbishop of America never lost an opportunity to indicate how Orthodox faith and worship could survive in the voracious melting-pot of American culture only by preserving their authenticity »

« In every speech, the Archbishop constantly stressed the need for the Greek Orthodox community of America to acquaint itself with its roots: the history and the present-day reality of the Mother Church in Constantinople. His repeated references to the relationship between the Patriarchate and the Archdiocese of America were meant to strengthen the bonds between the latter and the Phanar, and to dissipate the dark clouds of doubt that had gathered over the Orthodox Church in America due to the separatist inclinations of the OCL and eventually of GOAL »

« From his very first report to the Patriarchate, he had expressed his personal opposition to the plans to promote the bishops to metropolitans as he foresaw that the Archdiocese of America would suffer greatly from this dissolution of a unity essential to the survival of the Greek American community »

« Spyridon was of the opinion that the parishes had to be strengthened by the presence of Greek-language instructors, trained catechists and properly educated administrative staff, who would be graduates of the Teaching Institute, intended specifically for this purpose »

« Spyridon was deeply saddened by the fact that the number of Orthodox priests was shrinking, and he saw little prospect for strengthening the priesthood in America. In every address to the Archdiocesan Council he never failed to stress the need to provide free education for all seminarians at Holy Cross School of Theology »

« Spyridon put great store on mixed marriages, recognizing the need to embrace new converts. Shortly after he assumed his duties, he created an office for mixed marriages »

« As time passed and the Primate of the Church in America came to see at first hand the crucial role Washington could play in defending Hellenism's rightful claims, he abandoned his passive stance and became a forceful advocate for Greek national concerns in Washington »

« Spyridon personally succeeded in bringing together all elements of the Greek lobby from all corners of the U.S. under his archiepiscopal authority: HALO (Hellenic American Leaders Organization) became a new reality in 1998 when the disparate, often conflicting elements in the Greek lobby accepted their new ecclesiastical leader as the only natural representative capable of lobbying for their goals in Washington »

« Throughout his ministry in America, the Archbishop also fought to uphold the rights of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In forceful letters to President Clinton, he inveighed against repeated Turkish assaults on Orthodox religious monuments in Constantinople, while Washington swiftly succeeded in overturning the Turkish government's decision to dissolve the Board of Trustees of the Theological School of Halki (1998). The Archbishop gave strong voice in Washington to the need to reopen the renowned theological institute -- which to this day remains closed »

« Spyridon (...) considered it his duty to intervene in Washington, demanding an end to this irrational interference in Yugoslavian affairs. Many believed the Archbishop was taking things too far and provoking the ire of the Pentagon. But he acted according to his conscience, unable to accept NATO's unreasonable intrusion into the heart of Europe. Spyridon was of the opinion that the West should not interfere with the Balkans by fomenting the nationalistic extremism of a Muslim minority, an interference that could have unforeseen consequences in the geopolitical development of the region. Spyridon was primarily, if not exclusively, concerned with the affairs of Greece, and thus struggled hard to make his voice heard concerning the fate of Kosovo, despite the opposing views of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs back in Athens »

« Archbishop Spyridon's interventions in national matters during the years 1997 to 1999 ruffled the feathers of the powers that be in Athens as well as in Constantinople. The political leaders in Athens did not want the Archbishop of America involved in lobbying and power struggles with Washington, while the religious leaders in Constantinople, under pressure from Turkish authorities, were extremely uncomfortable with the Archbishop's outspoken political involvement in issues involving Cyprus, minority rights in Constantinople and Halki »

« The Ministry of Foreign Affairs looked with distrust on the organization of Greek-American lobby groups (HALO) under the aegis of the Archdiocese of America, at a time when the World Council of Hellenes Abroad had just been formed for similar purposes »

« After Spyridon's banishment from the archiepiscopal throne in New York, the Greek government and the Phanar agreed on a new role for his successor, a role completely divested of political responsibilities and lacking the potential for intervention in Washington. (...) And so the leaders of the Greek government in Athens, as well as those of worldwide Orthodoxy in Constantinople, continue to sleep peacefully... »

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