ETHNOS - June 4, 1998
■ PAGE 14
The Phanar should never allow to be subjugated spiritually...
I know that we're approaching zero hour. To resist one needs strength, faith and optimism. And these things, even if only in a small quantity, still exist.
Conducted by J. Frangouli
His dream of a united Orthodox Church in the western hemisphere
has been fragmented into four pieces and his sense of disappointment is too
bitter to put into words. Iakovos, former Archbishop of North and South America, was in Montreal this
week to pray with Patriarch Bartholomew at the grave of his sister Virginia.
He has lost none of the magnificent eloquence with which he captivated the
Greek Canadian congregations he had ministered to for a full 40 years.
In his calm and allegorical, prophetic and topical manner, he spoke exclusively
to «ETHNOS» of the need for the Archdiocese of America to remain united
if it is to fulfill its national and religious role. He also spoke of Greek-Turkish
relations that are leading nowhere. Furthermore he expressed his views on
the Cyprus issue that is not likely to be settled as long as solutions proposed
are in conflict with international interests. As to the Phanar, the ever-vigorous leader of the Greek-American community
would like to see it remain in Constantinople to illuminate history with its
flame, however thin that flame may be. The Phanar, the Lantern of Orthodoxy,
should stay there as long as it never subjugates itself to the Turks "spiritually",
hinted meaningfully the former Primate who now occupies his time in wide reading
and pursuing his thoughts through their boundless labyrinths...
* * * *
The interwiew granted to «Ethnos» by the former archbishop of North and South America, Iakovos, is as follows:
Ethnos: Is the role of the Greek Orthodox Church
in America weaker now that the Archdiocese of North and South America has
been broken up into four entities?
Iakovos: I'd like to believe that it is not.
But it's hardly possible for an Archdiocese that extended from the northernmost
point of Canada to the southernmost point of South America not to have been
somewhat shaken, because this division into independent dioceses doesn't reinforce
the central idea of unity and coordinated action on major church and national
issues or social questions. I think that some weakening, fortunately small
at present --I hope that it doesn't grow bigger--, has taken place.
In spite of this, the Patriarch's visit to America last year and to Canada
this year has contributed to an understanding of various things the ordinary
public cannot grasp.
I hope the gatherings that took place on the Patriarch's
arrival were not simply passing affairs, but a promise made by Greeks in Canada
and America to achieve a stronger presence and play a weightier role in the
communities in which they live.
The Archdiocese of North and South America, after being divided felt a shock.
When I left I said I was leaving a united
Church that no one should be allowed to divide.
Ethnos: How would you assess the current situation
in the Archdiocese of America under you successor?
Iakovos: When I said farewell to the people
who had come from all parts of the hemisphere, I said that I regarded them
all as one family. I told them that I was placing in their hands a united
Church that no one should be allowed to divide. And so I withdrew from church
ministry with a clear conscience, because I had done my duty with as much
zeal and with as great a sense of responsibility as I could. I had tried to
activate the Greek-American community over solving major problems connected
to our Greek American identity, our involvement in the country's political
life, our need to overcome pettiness and to stand as one man, with our eyes
filled with stars and our hands ready to build and not to tear down, with
our feet firmly planted in the earth, always ready to take great strides.
Every succession entails a change; this is unavoidable and to be expected.
I think the Archdiocese of North and South America, after being divided into
three major parts, felt a shock. In any event, these changes, instead of serving
as a motive for judgment and disapproval, should be an occasion to recover
certain things (if they have been shaken out of place) and for all to concentrate
on their duty: to send out the message that we are a Christian group with
roots deep in the soil of history, those same roots that brought it into blossom
I express no opinion, either negative or positive. I express only one hope:
that what appears today to be a difficult state of affairs will not last for
long. Problems emerge in order to be solved, not to be perpetuated.
Ethnos: The Phanar is regarded as Ankara's
hostage, unable to carry out its "ecumenical" role within the Orthodox
world. Many believe that the Ecumenical Patriarchate's headquarters should
be transferred to Greece or another country. What are your views on this issue?
Iakovos: This school of thought belongs to
the second decade of the twentieth century. The Phanar is a Church and retains
the name of "Phanari"(lantern), even if once it was a lighthouse.
Today it remains a lantern with a small flame at which the winds have blown
but have never been able to put it out. The Phanar would not be able to be
more active or play a greater ecumenical role anywhere else. It will stay
there not only because Ecumenical Orthodoxy started out from there, but also
because geographical shifts in no way guarantee freedom of action or the scope
for initiatives of broader form.
From 1453 to the present is no short period of time. There have been worse
periods of history than the present one, and yet the Phanar has survived,
thanks to those few who know how to guard their treasures. There is no other
possibility, such as, for instance, "Again, after years and ages, it
will be ours again".
As long as that small flame exists to illuminate the night, the Phanar will
not leave from there. As of yet we haven't sold out anything; let's not sell
out what we've got left. There's nothing we could take in exchange for the
Phanar, no geographical or political or historical advantage, none whatsoever.
What often gives rise to concern is whether, in the end, the Turks will subjugate
the Phanar spiritually. Personally, I'm not afraid of that. But to avoid subjugation
and to resist one needs strength, faith and optimism. And these things, even
if only in a small quantity, still exist at the Phanar. The duty of all Greeks,
those in Greece and in the Diaspora, is to turn their eyes towards the Phanar,
draw light from it and pour a little oil in its lantern so that its small
flame doesn't go out. Leave the Phanar where it is to illuminate, even if
dimly, our hopes for a better tomorrow.
Ethnos: There's still the issue of the Phanar's
Iakovos: That's a hard question. I don't
know. I know that we're approaching zero hour. But who am I to foretell when
we shall reach zero? Therefore, as I accept my own littleness in the face
of this great historical question, I would reply that he who gave Byzas of
Megara the idea of passing through the Hellespont's straits and of uniting
the Black Sea with the Aegean, he who inspired Byzas to build Byzantium from
scratch, he perhaps should shine forth once again so that there may be a new
beginning from zero. I don't know ...
[ Translated from Greek ]
[ ΕΘΝΟΣ - June 4, 1998 - pp. 1 and 14 ]