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Church Synod Tackles Vexing Issues

By Theodore Kalmoukos
Special to The National Herald

BOSTON.- A number of crucial issues regarding the Greek Orthodox Church of America were expected to be discussed during a two-day meeting of the Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese under the presidency of Archbishop Demetrios. The meeting, which was held at the Archdiocesan headquarters in new York, was still in progress as this issue of The National Herald was going to press.

The Herald, however has learned that among the topics on the agenda were the revision of the ecclesiastical charter; reports by the various synodal committees; the Archdiocese’s finances; the upcoming Clergy-laity Congress; issues relating to Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology; pending legal cases involving the Archdiocese and issues relating to the Standing Conference of Canonical Bishops of America (SCOBA).

On Wednesday night the committee on the revision of the charter convened in order to discuss the final details of the text prior to its presentation to the Holy Synod. The National Herald has learned that the new charter is ready and has been written in both Greek and English by the special committee that worked under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago. Members of the charter committee were Metropolitans Maximos of Pittsburgh, Antonios of San Francisco, Professor of Canon Law at Holy Cross, Dr. Elias Patsavos,  Rev. Dr. Demetrios Constantelos, a professor at Richard Stockton College in N.J., the General Legal Counsel of the Archdiocese Emmanuel Demos and Attorney Eleni Huzack. The committee met in Chicago last month.

Speaking to the Herald, sources close to the committee claimed that  the proposed charter is more in sync with Orthodox ecclesiology, Canon Law and Eucharistic ethos of the Orthodox Church, than the current charter. They also claimed that the new charter takes into consideration the needs and the unique physiognomy that the Church has developed in the New World.

According to the sources, the charter secures the spiritual and canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the Archdiocese, but it also safeguards the unity and oneness of the Archdiocese and gives it flexibility in order to be able to tackle its particular administrative issues.

The committee on the charter used as its basic text the charter of 1977, which actually became invalid since July of 1996 when the Patriarchate unilaterally divided the then Archdiocese of North and South America into four separate jurisdictions, the Archdiocese of America, and the Metropolitanates of South America, Canada and Central America.

Two years later the Patriarchate is widely thought to have violated the charter by elevating the ruling Bishops of the Archdiocese to the rank of Metropolitans by giving them titles to inactive Metropolitanates in Asia Minor and introducing the peculiar—and, some say, canonically suspect—structure of having the Metropolitans act as “Presiding Hierarchs” in the Dioceses.

The new charter is expected to terminate this confusion and to name the Metropolitans after their perspective Diocese elevating at the same time the Dioceses into Metropolitanates comprising the one and unified Archdiocese of America.

The finances of the Archdiocese will also be discussed extensively at the synodal meeting. The Archdiocese is facing a deficit of approximately $4 million and recently was forced to secure a $5 million line of credit in order to meet its obligations. These include the payroll which was increased by $1.2 during the previous administration.

Another issue on the Synod’s agenda are demands for compensation put forth by former Archbishop Spyridon. Spyridon remains in America and refused to take over as Metropolitan of Chaldia, a position to which he was appointed by the Patriarchate. Although Chaldia today is not in existence, according to the charter of the Patriarchate it is considered an active Metropolis. That means that its Metropolitan receives full salary like the rest of his fellow Bishops of the Patriarchate. All the clergy of the Phanar get their salaries from the government of Greece.

Through a letter sent to the Archdiocese by his lawyer, Spyridon demands that he continue to receive for life 80% of his Archbishop’s salary which amounted to $175,000 per year.

Sources told the National Herald that the Archdiocese is not obligated to give Spyridon any kind on remuneration since he only served three years after which period he resigned and his ecclesiastical authority transferred him to a salaried position, the Metropolitanate of Chaldia. However, some members of the Executive Committee of the Archdiocesan Council—all Spyridon’s appointees—insist that the Church should continue to pay Spyridon and claim that they have decided on the issue. To this day, Spyridon is receiving his salary in full to the amount of $175,000 per annum.

During the previous meting of the Synod all its members, with the exception of Metropolitan Antonios of San Francisco, expressed their opposition to Spyridon’s demands and underlined his disobedience to his ecclesiastical authority, the Patriarchate. Nevertheless, the Patriarch seems unwilling to resolve the issue. His options include demoting Spyridon to the rank of monk or declaring him officially Metropolitan of Chaldia. Instead he has let stand an invitation for Spyridon to go to the Phanar in order to straighten up his ecclesiastical status.