Ethnos - May 30, 1999
Phanar Seeks Meeting With Prime Minister
By Justine Frangouli
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has made a last minute's
attempt to involve the Greek government in the issue of the Archdiocese of
America. The Phanar has, in fact, come to a deadlock as a result of its decision
to remove the Primate of the Church in America without, however, having found
a replacement who will be able to guarantee the unity of the Greek-American
The Phanariots are now seeking an immediate meeting with Greek Prime Minister,
Mr Costas Simitis, on the pretext of briefing him on the options for a successor
to the current Archbishop, thus attempting to shift on to the PASOK government
the burden of their responsibility for whatever should follow.
The new scenarios for the removal of Archbishop Spyridon have already triggered
strong reactions among Greek Americans. Such reactions seem to become even
stronger as the scenarios are being linked to the influence exerted by an
elite of wealthy Greek Americans on the Patriarch. These rich people are fierce
opponents of Archbishop Spyridon, who had recently put up money for the purchase
of a patriarchal residence.
Another section of the Greek American community is convinced that the new
crisis in the Church of America (which this time seems to have been engineered
by the Phanar itself) stems from the Phanar's displeasure over Archbishop
Spyridon's interventions on Greek National issues. Such steps culminate in
the representations that on the Archdiocese's initiative will be made
to President Clinton by the Greek American lobby in view of the 25th anniversary
of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Many are of the opinion that the Patriarch,
perhaps pressured by Turkey, wishes to be rid of Spyridon before the tragic
However, the Patriarch (who has not yet secured unanimity among the Patriarchal
Synod's members on the ousting of Archbishop Spyridon) appears to have
put himself in a most difficult position, given that the successor, who will
certainly encounter a sharp reaction from Archbishop Spyridon's supporters,
is expected to fulfill the following conditions:
1. He will have to meet with the approval of Fr Alex Karloutsos, an influential
priest associated with financial magnates of the Greek-American community.
Formerly a confidant of Archbishop Iakovos, Karloutsos literally ditched him
in the end, and today openly declares his hostility to Archbishop Spyridon.
2. He must be acceptable to the five US Metropolitans who, in a recent letter
to the Patriarch, seek to have a say in the election of the new Archbishop
of America and hint that the successor should be one of themselves.
But since the Phanar does not trust the five US Metropolitans, given that
certain of them have taken an open position in favor of an autocephalous Church
of America, it seems that the succession to Archbishop Spyridon will be given
the "salami" treatment. The Phanar will initially transfer one or
two Metropolitans regarded as "trouble-makers" and then proceed
with the replacement of Archbishop Spyridon with someone who enjoys the complete
trust of Patriarch Bartholomew.
This time, the Patriarch will not allow the Archbishop of America to have
broad powers, a fact that could be a danger to himself -like Iakovos or Spyridon.
Thus, the successor (who may be Nikitas of Hong Kong or Michael of Austria)
will be given a new package including the revision of the Archdiocese Charter.
Such by-laws will provide for an Archbishop with reduced responsibilities,
a "first among equals", a Metropolitan of New York, in essence.
After breaking up the Archdiocese of North and South America into four eparchies
following the fall of Iakovos, the Patriarch is said to be determined to further
weaken the role of the next Archbishop in the USA. This time, however, he
will have to pay a high price, for the Archdiocese of America has reached
maturity and is well aware of its potentials.
At the same time, the reactions of the Greek-American community to the ousting
of two Archbishops within the span of three years and, moreover, under the
pressure exerted by the same individuals and interests, will have far-reaching
consequences. It would certainly not be wise for the Greek government to shoulder
the responsibility for these in this critical phase of developments.
[Translated from Greek]