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Synod Asks Patriarchate to Resolve Spyridon Issue

By Theodore Kalmoukos and Steven N. Stavropoulos
Special to The National Herald

BOSTON.- At a two-day -scheduled meeting last week, the Holy Eparchial Synod of the Archdiocese of America decided to request officially from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to resolve the issue of former Archbishop Spyridon's demands for remuneration. The Synod expressed opposition to Spyridon's demand -through a letter sent to the Archdiocese by his lawyer- to receive 80 percent of his $175,000 annual salary from the Archdiocese as pension for the rest of his life.

The Church is being confronted with a serious ecclesiological and canonical conundrum, since Spyridon's refusal to accept his reassignment to the Metropolitanate of Chaldia has placed himself on the status of "hierarch at large." Upon his resignation last August, the former prelate was named Metropolitan of Chaldia by the Patriarchate but in the letter to the Patriarch Spyridon declined to assume his new position. So, for now he remains Metropolitan-elect of Chaldia.

All Metropolitans of the Patriarchate receive full salaries from Greece, which will be the case with Spyridon if he accepts his new position. Greece pays the salaries as part of a package of aid amounting to millions of dollars annually to the millennia-old institution in order to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate's existence.

While refusing to accept his new position, Spyridon has remained in the United States and has been receiving his full salary by the Archdiocese, to the tune of approximately $15,000 per month. The money is given to him as a sign of philanthropy, it was said at the Synod, and out of respect and collegiality for his high priesthood. It was decided, however, that payments will cease after February, while the Synod hopes that by then the Patriarchate will have resolved the issue.

Sources told the Herald that if Patriarch Bartholomaios insists that the Archdiocese ought to pay Spyridon indefinitely, then the amount will be deducted from the Archdiocese's annual $500,000 contribution to the Patriarchate.

The Synod authorized the Archbishop to address a letter to the Patriarchate requesting the resolution of the problem. Several hierarchs also said that the Patriarchate should recall Spyridon from America. The argument that the former Archbishop is an American citizen was countered by the fact that he is also a hierarch of the Patriarchate which transferred him to a new ecclesiastical ministry.

Spyridon continues to live in the US since his resignation on August 19, 1999. In a September 1999 letter to Patriarch Bartholomaios which he signed "the least among bishops" Spyridon informed his superior that he withdraws from "active ecclesiastical ministry" and at the same time declined to accept his election as Metropolitan of Chaldia.

Chaldia is a Metropolitanate in the Black Sea coast of Turkey that does not exist today, since no Greek Orthodox live there. According to the constitution of the Patriarchate, however, Chaldia is considered an "active" Metropolitanate which means, among other things, that its Metropolitan receives a full salary from Greece.

The Herald has learned that some well-heeled supporters of Spyridon in the US might solicit money in order to create a fund, under the aegis of the Patriarchate, from which Spyridon will keep receiving his pay.

Ecclesiastical sources, speaking to the Herald, expressed fear that Bartholomaios might refrain from taking a definitive stand on the issue of Spyridon and instead try to pass the responsibility on to Archbishop Demetrios and the Church of America. The sources attributed the Patriarch's leniency towards Spyridon to the fact that they were both members of the inner circle surrounding the influential late Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon. Metropolitan Ioakeim of Chalcedon, the patriarchate's second-in-command, also belonged to the same circle.

Another serious matter that was part of the Synod's agenda, is the long-overdue revision of the Archdiocesan Charter. The committee on the revision presented to the Synod a draft new charter but discussion was brief because Archbishop Demetrios expressed the opinion that the issue of the charter is of great importance and it should be given more time. The synod decided to hold a special two-day meeting on February 1-2 in which the charter will be studied exclusively. The National Herald has learned that the entire Synod seems to approve the draft document.

The proposed charter is more in sync with Orthodox ecclesiology, Canon Law and Eucharistic ethos of the Orthodox Church. It secures the spiritual and canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the Archdiocese, but at the same time allows for more "self-governance" of the Archdiocese, a status similar to that of the semi-autonomous status of the Church of Crete in Greece.

It provides for the elevation of the Dioceses to Metropolitanates, which, however will not be independent and reporting directly to the Patriarchate but will belong and comprise the unified Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Subsequently the hierarchs will be elevated to the rank of Metropolitans assuming the names of the city where the see of the Metropolitanate is located (i.e Metropolitan of Denver, Boston, Chicago, etc).

In the present scheme, the Metropolitans are titled after "inactive" metropolises of Asia Minor and "preside" over their respective dioceses in America.

According to the new charter the Metropolitans will be elected by the Synod of America as is the practice in Crete and the Archbishop will be elected by the Patriarchate but with the active and visible input of the Church of America. The office of Chorepiskopos will be revived instead and will replace the office of Auxiliary Bishop.

Sources told the National Herald that the new charter resembles similar proposals submitted in 1977 which had been accepted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but the last minute a compromising solution was adopted as a transitional step from the administrative system of the one ruling hierarch (the Archbishop) to a more collective system with ruling bishops and an Eparchial Synod.

During the Synod, Metropolitan Antonios of San Francisco proposed that the presidency of the Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology be offered to Metropolitan Methodios of Boston because of his proven administrative and fund raising abilities. Antonios' proposal was supported by other members of the Synod as well. Archbishop Demetrios said, however, that the Synod should allow the selection process to take its course and the search committee to present its recommendations.

The Herald has learned that the list of candidates includes Rev. Professor Demetrios Constantelos of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Rev. Nicholas Triantafillou, Director of the Camp and Retreat Center of the Diocese of Boston and Rev. Frank Marangos, Director of the Religious Education Department of the Archdiocese (Spyridon's appointee).

The name of Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia from England has also been circulated as a possible candidate by circles close to Patriarch Bartholomaios. But sources told the Herald that "Bishop Kallistos might be an outstanding theologian and certainly the most prominent convert to Orthodoxy but he is familiar neither with Holy Cross nor with the Church of America." One of the most basic functions of the president is his ability to fundraise for the institution.

The finances of the Archdiocese were discussed in detail. It is a burning issue, since Demetrios found the Archdiocese almost unable to meet its current obligations. At a press conference which followed the synod the Archbishop confirmed that the Archdiocese has taken a $5 million bank loan in order to meet its existing obligations.

The meeting of the Synod was characterized "by a spirit of cordial cooperation, unity and peace" as it was stated in a News Release issued by the Archdiocese.

Regarding legal issues that were discussed by the Synod, Archbishop Demetrios said that he informed the members of the Synod regarding outstanding legal issues which were there before he took office. He added that there was no detailed discussion but rather an informative session.

Demetrios was asked at the press conference about the selection of a new Director of Education in the Archdiocese, a seat vacated by the recent retirement of Dr. Nikolaos Kladopoulos, and said that at this moment the Archdiocese is looking for the proper person to fill the position.

Prior to the Synod's deliberations, Archbishop Demetrios said, a memorial prayer was offered for the repose of the soul of Bishop George of New Jersey who passed away on November 21, 1999.