A Biographical Profile of Archbishop Spyridon,
former primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America
Archbishop Spyridon, the son of Clara and the late Dr. Constantine P. George, was born on September 24, 1944, in Warren, Ohio.
After completing his elementary education in Steubenville, Ohio, and Rhodes, Greece, he graduated in 1962 from Tarpon Springs High School in Florida.
He studied at the famous Theological Faculty of Halki where he graduated in 1966 with highest honors. He subsequently pursued postgraduate studies at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, specializing in The History of the Protestant Churches. Awarded a scholarship by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, he then studied Byzantine Literature at Bochum University in Germany (1969-1973).
He served as secretary at the Permanent Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches (Geneva, 1966-1967) and later as Secretary of the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at Chambesy (Geneva), as well as director of its well-known news bulletin "Episkepsis" (1976-1985), in 1976 he was assigned duties as dean of the Greek Orthodox Community of St. Andrew in Rome, where he served until 1985.
Through his long and direct contracts with the Roman Catholic Church, be acquired down-to-earth realism in viewing inter-church relations, a fact which contributed to his appointment in 1984 as Executive Secretary of the Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches.
In recognition of his manifold services, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected him in November 1985 titular bishop of Apamea, assigning him as an auxiliary bishop to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Austria and Exarchate of Italy, as it was then known.
In November 1991, upon creating the Holy Archdiocese of Italy and Exarchate of Southern Europe, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected Spyridon as the first Metropolitan for this newly created Archdiocesan See. He immediately devoted his youthful energy in organizing the new archdiocese.
During the course of four years as Metropolitan of Italy, he created various auxiliary departments; increased the number of parishes and provided them with more sound structure; made a significant contribution to the edification of Orthodox unity by incorporating various Italian Orthodox communities; gave particular attention to the Orthodox youth by creating the Union of Greek Orthodox Students of Italy; and after centuries reintroduced Orthodox monasticism in Italy.
In 1992 he was appointed chairman of the inter-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Lutheran World Federation, immediately giving renewed impetus to the dialogue with this preeminent Protestant body.
He has successfully represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate in various inter-Church missions and international meetings. He was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's delegate to the Special Synod of the Roman Catholic Bishops in Europe (Rome, 1991). His address at this Synod was of vast importance because in it he clearly identified the developments which were to follow in the relations between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.
His splendid twenty-year ministry in Italy, his participation in various interchurch dialogues, his cosmopolitan presence on the international Church scene (he is fluent in Greek, English, French, Italian and German) and his American background all led to his election to the archiepiscopal throne of America on July 30, 1996.
Spyridon's activities in America were extremely varied as he focused his strategic policy on the pressing issue of the survival of Orthodoxy and Hellenism within the Greek American community. He took bold initiatives in dealing with vital matters affecting the Archdiocese and inspired the Greek American community, particularly the youth, with hope and enthusiasm. To this day, his popularity in the Greek American community is remarkable.
However, personal agendas, financial interests and power games intermingle, at various levels, to spin the web of intrigue (1997-1999) that led Spyridon to resign from the archiepiscopal throne of America on August 19, 1999 under ongoing and ever increasing pressure from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Spyridon never accepted his appointment as Metropolitan of Chaldia: he refused to go to Constantinople and offer his Assurance of Loyalty at the traditional ceremonies of the Minor and Greater Announcements. In the eyes of the Greek Orthodox community in America, he remains the former Archbishop of America.
On September 15, 1999, Spyridon left New York, that hotbed of church dissension, and moved to his current home in Lisbon, Portugal, where he occasionally grants interviews and writes articles for the Greek press in America. He is familiar with the current situation in the Orthodox Church, and particularly with the thorny issues facing the Archdiocese of America.
In 2002, Exandas Publishers published Spyridon's authorized biography, The Lonely Path of Integrity, written by Justine Frangouli-Argyris, widely recognized as an authority on issues related to the Greek American and Greek Canadian communities.
In February 2003, at a sumptuous and extremely well attended reception at Terrace on the Park in New York, John Catsimatides, a business magnate and prominent figure in the Greek American community, announced the creation of the Archbishop Spyridon Foundation for Hellenic Education and Culture, with Archbishop Spyridon himself serving as honorary president. The Board of the Foundation includes John Catsimatides, president; Eve Condakes and Michael Cantonis, vice-presidents; Justine Frangouli-Argyris, secretary; Georgia Kaloidis, treasurer; as well as Leo Condakes, Dimitris Kaloidis, Harry Pappas, Bill Tenet, and Professor John Rassias.