Spyridon: Critics target Hellenism, Patriarchate
ON HIS first official visit to Greece, Archbishop Spyridon of America
arrived in Athens yesterday to begin a week of meetings with the country's
top political and religious leaders.
Spyridon, head of the United States' almost two million Greek Orthodox
Christians, was received at Athens airport at midday yesterday by a high-level
delegation including Deputy Minister of Education and Religion Yiannis
Anthopoulos as well as representatives of the Church of Greece and the
Greek Pentagon, before a cordial meeting with Archbishop Christodoulos.
In the afternoon, Spyridon delivered an address to the parliamentary
committee on Orthodoxy entitled Greek Orthodoxy in America Today, which
outlined the accomplishments of and challenges confronting the Ecumenical
Patriarchate's largest and most affluent eparchy.
The speech directly confronted the issue of lay opposition to his two-year
tenure, most notably by an activist lay group calling itself Greek Orthodox
American Leaders (GOAL) that has persistently called for his resignation
over what it considers his "autocratic" administrative style.
He accused his critics of "deliberate and studied negativity" aiming
at "checking or disorienting the ascending path of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese".
His opponents, he said, were battling against the "unshakeable connection
between Orthodoxy and Hellenism and between the archdiocese and the Ecumenical
Patriarchate", suggesting that his critics sought the American church's
separation from its Greek roots and from its spiritual authority, the patriarchate.
Spyridon identified Orthodoxy as the "the strongest force within America's
Greek community". "This is the main news. Orthodoxy has become established
in America as the fourth [largest] church and is constantly moving forward,"
he said, adding that the highest possible honours bestowed on Ecumenical
Patriarch Vartholomeos by both US President Bill Clinton and the Congress
underlined the universal respect accorded to Orthodoxy.
Emphasising Orthodoxy's "leadership role", Spyridon spoke of the need
to upgrade the teaching of both Orthodox religion and the Greek language.
He also touched on the successful bridging of divisions with Old Calendarists,
developing closer ties with other ethnic Orthodox jurisdictions and the
archdiocese's missionary successes during his tenure.