The Byzantine Forum - March 3, 2004
Interview With † Archbishop Spyridon
Published by National Herald, March 3 2004.
Interview given to the National Herald in Tarpon Springs, Florida, by his
Eminence, Spyridon, former Archbishop of America, as published in the Greek
Edition of the National Herald on March 3, 2004.
Translation by Efthymios G. Ponticas
Former Archbishop of America Spyridon during his interview with "N.H.", although he initially acknowledged it was too early for anyone to judge if the decision to expand the Holy Synod is historical, still expressed reservations that the decision was taken not for "the establishment of Synodic rule, but to deal with certain problems in the Patriarchate's relationship with the Church of Greece, and specifically with the subject of the New Lands".
By the same token, he stresses that "this development illustrates that there existed no Turkish prohibitive order on the subject of naming of hierarchs" and that "it was an internal affair of the Patriarchate, which cost the Patriarchate itself dearly".
With regard to the OCL-Archdiocese court dispute on the subject of the Charter, he emphasized that "no one can doubt that the plaintiffs are right at this time, since the 1977 Charter made provision for approval by the Clergy-Laity Congress in the matter of modification or establishment of new Charter".
Asked about the present reorganization of the Archdiocese, he stressed that "metroplitanization" is not the solution to the ecclesiastical problems in America", and among others stressed that "the establishment of metropolitanates and the division of the Archdiocese into ten sections harms the unity of the Archdiocese of America".
The entire text of the interview is as follows:
"National Herald": What is your purpose for coming to this Greek Village?
Archbishop Spyridon: I came exclusively and only to visit my faithful friend, Mihali Kandounia, who is one of the great benefactors of the Archdiocese and the Patriarchate, is a member of the Archdiocesan Council and active for the common good. This visit to Tarpon took place five years after I came as Archbishop in 1999 for the Theofanion Holiday.
"N.H.": How do you see the currently reshaped state of affairs of Orthodoxy in America and in general in the whole world?
Spyridon: An acute observer would note that that which is missing primarily in Orthodoxy is the internal dialogue between the Orthodox Churches.
This dialogue is sought after by various leaders of the Orthodox Churches and has not materialized because perhaps each meeting and dialogue might provide a reason to discuss subjects that should not be discussed during that time, subjects that are not considered timely.
In general, Orthodoxy must face many problems, such as the youth issue, the proselytizers, and issues which arise from new conditions in which the Orthodox Church exists, lives and grows.
Additionally, a chief characteristic of our existence and harmony are the jurisdictional criteria of the past which perhaps should be valued more so they may be confronted, to openly discuss all the problems which all the churches face, regardless of the jurisdiction and Patriarchate to which they belong.
I would say therefore that the main element from which a renewal of our Church, a revitalization of the Orthodox love, could begin would be an internal open dialogue.
"N.H.": What hopes does the recent expansion of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate, as decided by the Fanar, have for the canonical restoration of the rule?
Spyridon: If the decision that was taken for the reorganization of the Synod is a first step for a complete restoration of the Synodic rule, then it is an important and praiseworthy decision.
If, however, the decision stops there, having already been decided, then we cannot but think that the decision was not taken for the restoration of Synodic rule, but to deal with certain problems which are faced in the relationship between the Patriarchate and the Church of Greece, and specifically with the subject of the New Lands.
I think that this decision cannot be characterized one way or the other at the present time, and surely not as historical because instead of solving problems it creates even more.
I am referring to the creation of a new distinction between the hierarchs of Turkey and those abroad. Heretofore we said that those abroad did not participate in the governing of the Church because of Turkish prohibitive orders.
The development of the matters revealed there was no Turkish prohibitive order. Therefore it was an internal affair of the Patriarchate, a decision which was very costly to the Patriarchate because it was forced to create a policy in the New Lands to protect this system which favored the hierarchs in Turkey, sacrificing those abroad and specifically those in the New Lands.
Therefore, we can understand how serious this subject is for the Patriarchate, in other words the hierarchs of non-Turkish citizenship and Turkish citizenship.
If half of Greece was sacrificed to retain that system, it cannot be abandoned in one night and neither can I imagine that there is a serious intention to return to the pre-1922 state of affairs.
It creates, I think, various problems which cannot in any way fit into the thinking of the Church. We cannot separate, create new distinctions, we cannot accept that we are partners on a percentage basis in a Synod.
If there are no prohibitive orders, the easiest solution for the restoration of the canonical, traditional Synodic rule would be as if we open the gates and everyone participates indiscriminately, in rotation, and based on the constitution.
With this method of selection of inviting some hierarchs, and not certain others, I think that even more problems are created, instead of attaining specific solutions.
"N.H.": How do you comment on the legal dispute on the subject of the Charter of the Archdiocese?
Spyridon: I am grieved about this situation and especially grieved when it is necessary to go to the civil courts for the resolution of ecclesiastical and religious matters.
On the other hand, no one can doubt the right that plaintiffs have at this moment, since the Charter of 1977 made provisions for approval by the Clergy Laity Congress in the matter of modification or establishment of new Charter.
What I want to say is that the plaintiffs are not acting without a well-founded reason. Since, indeed, the Charter of 1977 was approved by the Patriarchate, the Patriarchate itself should have respected it and not attempted the application of a new Charter which has not gone through the normal procedure provided by the Patriarchate itself. Therefore they have some basis.
I do not know how the case will develop. I hope the case ends quickly so that the two parties can agree, find a solution and move forward, because it is very bad for the Church's prestige and it will scandalize our people even more, as they have been scandalized enough by the governance, ecclesiastical and financial scandals which are continually repeated.
"N.H.": How do you view the reorganization of the Archdiocese of America?
Spyridon: I have a fixed position on the subject and based on the numbers, metropolitanization is not the solution to the American ecclesiastical problem.
I do not believe that the number of the faithful justifies the establishment of ten metropolitanates, when surely those metropolitanates will burden the Church finances to the utmost, because where one office covered the youth, now we have eleven youth offices.
Those offices all need desks, personnel, financing. The establishment of those metropolitanates and the division of the Archdiocese in ten sections, however we view it, damages the unity of the Archdiocese.
"N.H.": A decision was made by the Holy Synod of Greece to reduce the crisis between the Church of Greece and the Patriarchate with regard to the New Lands. How do you view this crisis and what do you recommend?
Spyridon: I belong to those who for years have warned of the danger lying in ambush on the subject of the New Lands. I have remarked in various discussions that this matter should be overcome as painlessly as possible. There is no doubt that the Patriarchate has historic rights on the New Lands and it is right for every organization to want to maintain its rights.
Today the politicoeconomic conditions in the area of the New Lands have changed. It must be taken into consideration that the majority of hierarchs have a given position on the matter.
I am sorry there was no effort made to avoid this sad collision which exposed the Church and Orthodoxy in the eyes of the non-Orthodox, but has also reduced the stature of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
"N.H.": What is your view of the future of the Greek language and, in general, the Greek Letters in America, and what is your opinion on "charter" schools which teach the Greek language?
Spyridon: I am glad for what is happening with the creation of the "charter" schools. Here we have a new school phenomenon that seems to cover the needs of the Greek Letters.
On the other hand, I am sad because it shows that the Archdiocesan position thus far has failed. This has resulted in the creation of the "charter" schools. I think this phenomenon should guide us into deeper thoughts.
In reality I do not know what is happening, and in reality there is an interest since we notice that the budget for Greek Education is continually reduced instead of increasing.
Personally I believe that we ourselves must look after Greek Education, because the Hellenic principles are worldwide principles and are the basis for every civilization.
"N.H.": What are the role and the purpose of the Archbishop Spyridon Foundation?
Spyridon: The foundation was created about one year ago with an inaugural ceremony that took place in New York.
When my friends came to Montreal for the presentation of my book, they saw the school miracle that succeeded there within the framework of the community and were encouraged.
They believed that an attempt could be made to strengthen the Greek Letters elsewhere in the diaspora, in other places outside America where there are Greeks.
Mr.John Katsimatidis, Mrs. Evanthia Condakes, then president of the National Philoptohos, and Demetri and Georgia Kaloidi were instrumental in the creation of the Foundation.
Today we are in the stage of forming the Governing Council and Academic Council to start the project, which is the advancement of Greek Letters in America.
We must tell the people to believe, to remain faithful to their traditions and their roots. It is a tremendous project.
"N.H.": What are your future plans?
Spyridon: Now I am resting and am occupied with reflection, reading and studying. I believe that in this manner I will continue to maintain the relationships that I have here in America, dedicating, as much as possible, more time for the missions of the foundation for the Greek Language, Education and Civilization. There is room for action in order to consider that I, too, can contribute to the greater society to which I belonged and still belong.
Re: Interview With +Archbishop Spyridon #20530 - 04/13/04 07:43 AM
Loc: New York
Thank you for this article. His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon, someone whom my family and I still exchange holiday wishes with, is a brilliant church man having served in Italy and Switzerland as well as the U.S., and whose opinions are objective, well thought out and are always in the spirit of what he thinks would be best for the church (Greek Orthodox) that he loves so much. I had and still have the utmost respect for him, his intelligence, and his integrity.
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