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The Hellenic Chronicle - August 11, 1994

Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy at Clergy-Laity

By ANDREW T. KOPAN

METROPOLITAN SPYRIDON OF ITALY

CHICAGO — A new hierarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate made his first official appearance at the recent Clergy-Laity Congress in Chicago.

Relatively unknown in the Western Hemisphere, though American-born, Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy — a province of the Ecumenical Throne, was dispatched to the United States as the personal representative of His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. As such, he participated in all of the formal activities of the Congress addressing the assembled delegates at the opening session, where he read a message of the Ecumenical Patriarch and speaking at several breakfasts and luncheons to diverse groups making up the Congress, he conveyed always the love and concern of Patriarch Bartholomew for the American Church.

In a session he had with the clergy of the Archdiocese entitled "Building Up the Body of Christ," he exhorted the clergymen to perform their priestly functions with love and humility. By far, however, his strongest message was delivered at the Grand Banquet, where his forceful call for Orthodox unity in America received a standing ovation from the nearly 2,000 people in attendance.

The relatively young metropolitan (he is 49 years old), attracted much interest and attention from delegates (both clerical and lay) that participated in the five-day conclave, since there has been speculation that he will be designated by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to succeed Archbishop Iakovos, when the time comes to name a new prelate in America.

Metropolitan Spyridon was born George Papageorgiou of immigrant Greek parents in Warren, Ohio on September 24, 1944. While yet a child, his family, which is from the Island of Rhodes returned to Greece. Attending school in both the United States and Greece, he graduated from Tarpon Springs High School in Florida. He then studied at the Theological School in Halki at Constantinople (1962-1966), graduating with honors. He subsequently pursued graduate studies in Switzerland (1967-1968), and, with a scholarship from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in Germany as well (1969- 1973).

During 1966-1967, the Metropolitan served as a member of the permanent delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1968, he was ordained a deacon and in 1976 a priest by the late Patriarch Demetrius.

From 1973-1975 he served as Secretary of the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriachate in Chambesy, Switzerland. In 1976, he was assigned as pastor of the Greek Orthodox community in Rome, Italy, where he served until 1985. While in Rome he assumed added responsibilities when he was made Orthodox Secretary of the International Joint Theological Commission for the theological dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

In 1985, he was elected titular Bishop of Apameia by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and ordained a hierarch at the Patriarchal Church of St. George at the Phanar the same year. Upon elevating the Orthodox Church in Italy to a Metropolitanate with Venice as its See, on November 5, 1991, the Patriarchate subsequently elected him as its first Metropolitan.

Today, he presides as the ruling prelate of the 120,000 Orthodox Christians in Italy with the historic St. George Church built in Venice during the 16th century as his seat.

The Metropolitan is fluent in five languages: English, Greek, French, German and Italian.

[ The Hellenic Chronicle - August 11, 1994 ]