Published by
Hellenic Times, February 7, 2003

Our Church and Archbishop Spyridon

By John Catsimatidis

February 7, 2003, (HT) -- Archbishop Spyridon made his first high-profile trip back to New York City to inaugurate a new foundation named in his honor on February 1.

The event, which was held at Flushing's Terrace On The Park, drew some 1,200 people, and the Archbishop Spyridon Foundation For Hellenic Education And Culture pledged its first gift in the amount of $100,000 to Socrates Day School in Canada.

This school teaches thousands of students in Montreal, Quebec not only English and French, the official languages of Quebec, but also Greek, thereby ensuring that its students become tri-lingual, and was the source of inspiration for forming the new Foundation.

The National Herald, which published many negative reports while Archbishop Spyridon was still Archbishop of America from 1996 to 1999, has also published several stories about his recent visit.

One story in particular pointed out that Archbishop Spyridon's official ecclesiastical title is "Former Metropolitan of Chaldia," a now-defunct see in Asia Minor which His Eminence never served (it was an assignment he was offered after resigning as Archbishop of America, but it was an assignment he declined).

As an American, and as a member of the Church, I find the National Herald's vigorous attempts to reduce Archbishop Spyridon's ecclesiastical rank in the public's eyes to be distasteful.

Canonical procedures and how they are practiced or imposed notwithstanding, Archbishop Spyridon was Archbishop of America for three years. The Archdiocese of America was his last active assignment, and any attempt to erase his memory is not only disconcerting, it is ignoble.

As Archbishop of America, he made some administrative mistakes, but as I told His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew directly in July of 1999, His Eminence was not guilty of anything other than being unfamiliar with American customs and politics when he first began his tenure here.

Archbishop Spyridon was born in the United States, but he came back to America after having served in Europe for many years. He had been away for a very long time before he was enthroned Archbishop of America in September of 1996.

His lack of familiarity with the American political landscape caused him to unintentionally tread on the egos of powerful and influential Greek Americans, but when you tread on Americans, Americans tend to bite back. And that's exactly what happened, as one unfortunate misunderstanding led to another.

It's still happening now, in fact.

The matter of Archbishop Spyridon's pension remains unresolved, for example, but this is a matter which should be put to rest ethically and peacefully. I must report that I am currently working on an acceptable resolution for this issue with Michael Jaharis, Vice Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council. Hopefully, it will be resolved soon.

If it was promised, then it should be done.

In the same report cited above, the National Herald also stated that, by serving the Foundation which bears his name, Archbishop Spyridon has a hidden agenda.

That's absurd.

At 58 years of age, His Eminence is still relatively young, and he still has much to offer. He reluctantly retired after serving the Church for 31 years. If he chooses to go down another path to advance the preservation of Hellenism and enhance the mission of Greek Orthodoxy, we should all wish him well and congratulate rather than criticize him.

In my heart, I know our Church stands for love and forgiveness. I remember when my own children were baptized. During the baptismal service, the godparent renounces Satan on behalf of the child, so I am proposing that those who consider Archbishop Spyridon a threat should renounce hatred.

None of us should go to church and simply preach love and forgiveness. We should practice it, as well.