His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon was unanimously elected
Archbishop of America of America on July 30, 1996 by the Holy and Sacred
Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate convened by His Holiness Ecumenical
Patriarch Bartholomew I. He was enthroned as spiritual leader of 1.5
million Greek Orthodox Christians in America at the Archdiocesan Cathedral
of the Holy Trinity in New York City on Saturday, September 21, 1996.
Orthodoxy traces its roots to the Holy Apostles and has
been present in the Western Hemisphere since the 18th century. His
Eminence Archbishop Spyridon will be the fifth archbishop since the
organization of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in 1922 and the first
American-born elected as Archbishop of America.
Archbishop Spyridon of America, son of Clara and the late
Dr. Constantine P. Papageorgiou, was born in Warren, Ohio, on September
24, 1944. After having completed his elementary education in Steubenville,
Ohio and Rhodes, Greece (his father's native island), he continued his
secondary education in Rhodes and in the United States.
His Eminence studied at the famed Theological School of
Halki where he graduated with honors. He subsequently pursued graduate
studies in Switzerland, specializing in the history of Protestant
Churches. Awarded a scholarship from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, he then
studied Byzantine Literature at Bochum University in Germany.
He served as secretary at the Permanent Delegation of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches in Geneva and
later as Secretary of the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
at Chambesy (Geneva) as well as director of its newsletter, "Episkepsis"
He was ordained as a deacon on November 30, 1968, taking
the ecclesiastical name Spyridon; and on February 1, 1976, he was ordained
a priest and assigned to the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Andrew in
Rome, where he served until 1985.
Through his long and direct contacts with the Roman
Catholic Church, he acquired down-to-earth realism in viewing inter-church
relations, a fact that contributed to his appointment in 1984 as Executive
Secretary of the Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue
between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
In recognition of his manifold services, the Holy and
Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected him as titular bishop
of Apameia on November 5, 1985. He was ordained as hierarch at the
Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George at the Phanar on November 24th of the
same year and assigned 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 a more sound
Fluent in Greek, English, French, Italian and German, he is
also extremely computer literate.
He also made a significant contribution to the edification
of Orthodox unity by incorporating various Italian Orthodox communities,
giving particular attention to the youth by creating the Union of Greek
Orthodox Students of Italy. And after a lapse of many centuries, he
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 also 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 that were to follow in the relations between Orthodoxy and
Archbishop Spyridon is known for his dedication to the
Ecumenical Patriarchate and for his energetic career and creativeness. His
service to this day bears evidence of open-mindedness and a modern
mentality in addressing timely needs and problems of the Orthodox