The Dallas Morning News - August 20, 1999

Head of Greek Orthodox church in U.S. resigns

He had been criticized for autocratic style

Religion News Service

In an unprecedented action, the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America resigned Thursday after a bitter controversy sparked by what critics called his stubbornly autocratic style. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based spiritual head of the American church, immediately appointed Metropolitan Demetrios Trakatellis of Greece to replace Archbishop Spyridon. Metropolitan Demetrios is well-known to archdiocese leaders.

Archbishop Spyridon, an Ohio native, reigned over the 1.5-million member church for just three years.

Patriarch Bartholomew had appointed Archbishop Spyridon, and it was his support that allowed the archbishop to hang on to his office, despite the growing chorus of American Greek Orthodox leaders and lay members clamoring for his removal.

Archbishop Spyridon, 54, has been temporarily reassigned to Turkey.

Metropolitan Demetrios had long been rumored as Archbishop Spyridon's likely replacement and has wide support among church members who worked to force Archbishop Spyridon from his post.

Metropolitan Demetrios was in the running to become archbishop in 1996 but was passed over in favor of Archbishop Spyridon. Efforts to reach him at his home in Athens, Greece, were unsuccessful Thursday.

Archbishop Spyridon's resignation came in a letter released early Thursday after months of speculation in the Greek-American and mainstream media over when Patriarch Bartholomew would withdraw his backing and force Archbishop Spyridon to step down.

"I have submitted this resignation, effective August 30th, for reasons totally independent of and unrelated to my personal intentions," Archbishop Spyridon said in his letter, which hinted at a sense of bitterness.

His critics included the five ranking metropolitans of the archdiocese, as well as more than 100 priests and those lay members who publicly urged his removal.

"This is great news," said Dean Popps, a Virginia businessman and spokesman for Greek Orthodox American Leaders, the dissident group that led the effort to pressure Archbishop Spyridon into resigning. "The big story is that the lay people's voice was heard."

Archbishop Spyridon's departure marked the first time in the 77-year organized history of the U.S. Greek Orthodox church that its reigning prelate has been pressured into resigning by internal criticism of his job performance.

[ The Dallas Morning News | August 20, 1999 ]