Ethnos - January 29, 1999
The Archdiocese of America Before a New Adventure
By Justine Frangouli
While relations between Archbishop Spyridon of America and
the five Metropolitans seem on the way towards being restored after the Eparchial
Synod's session two days ago (in spite of the fact that differences still
persist and that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has come on the scene in
the now decisive role of arbitrator), a new batch of publications speaking
of a crisis in the Archdiocese has been added to the equation --just one week
before Archbishop Spyridon's official visit to Athens, planned for 9-15
The bone of contention has been the decision of the Archbishop, a little after
his return from Constantinople, to redefine the duties of the NY Cathedral's
Dean, Fr Robert Stephanopoulos, father of the well-known Greek American political
figure George Stephanopoulos. The Dean has been relieved of his administrative
duties at the Cathedral, where he had served for 18 years. The Cathedral is
now headed by the Archiepiscopal vicar, Archimandrite Gabriel Karambis.
At a meeting with the Archbishop, Fr Stephanopoulos who retains the title
of Dean at the Cathedral was assigned the responsibility of coordinating all
priests ministering to various institutions in Manhattan, a project of Fr
Stephanopoulos put before Iakovos, former Archbishop of America, and rejected
at that time.
Circles close to Fr Stephanopoulos regard the reassignment as a downgrading
of his role owing to the fact that he was among the priests who had signed
a letter opposing the Archbishop and, furthermore, happens to be closely tied
to GOAL, a church pressure group.
Asked about the matter by Ethnos, the Archbishop said: "Fr Stephanopoulos
has in reality been promoted, and while he retains the title of Dean of our
Cathedral, now has direct responsibility for implementing an ambitious charitable
and social project for our Cathedral."
At yet another meeting with the Archbishop, Fr Stephanopoulos himself expressed
his satisfaction "at the renewal of trust in his person and gave assurances
that he was undertaking his new ministry with zeal and enthusiasm."
Asked if this action could give rise to a crisis within the Archdiocese, the
Primate of the Church replied: "It would seem that the advancement of
the Church's mission is a problem in certain circles which persist in
seeing crises everywhere. The Church has to proceed with completing her task
regardless of the ambitions and objectives of single individuals or groups
In spite of the fact that some regard the new assignment as a downgrading,
Fr Stephanopoulos himself does not agree with that wording: "The new
project which I am undertaking, that is, the co-ordination of all ministries
in Manhattan is a great endeavor and an ambitious scheme which I had thought
out in the past and submitted to the former Archbishop of America some five
years ago. As a task I welcome it and accept it; it's something I want to
do. The problem which has arisen is that the Archiepiscopal vicar, Fr Karambis,
was put in charge first, and it was a day later that I was entrusted with
my new duties."
Asked by Ethnos if he saw his new posting as a retaliatory initiative for
his previous stance towards the Archbishop, the Dean of the Cathedral replied
that he had no conversation with the Archbishop on the matter and that, in
the last analysis, he is the Archbishop and the judge of where he will place
However, in spite of the fact that both sides interpret the new assignment
as an act of entrusting the well-known priest with a new model role of ministry
on behalf of the Cathedral in Manhattan, the action taken by Archbishop Spyridon
is being closely scrutinized by his critics. What price will he have to pay
for such decision? Only the future will tell.
[Translated from Greek]