hellenic times - July 15-28, 1994

Metropolitan Spyridon Of Italy
Represents Patriarch At Clergy Laity Congress

by Jimmy Kapsalis

Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy

When the 32nd Clergy-Laity Congress convened in Chicago, Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy was present as the official representative of His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew. As Metropolitan Spyridon explains, "Usually a Patriarchal representative comes to convey a Patriarchal message to the members of the Clergy-Laity Congress and attend their meetings. He doesn't come to express his own ideas or proposals. He comes to deliver a message from the Patriarch."

At the last Clergy-Laity Congress in 1992, there was talk of possibly allowing Bishops to marry. Currently, only priests are allowed to marry prior to their ordination. According to Metropolitan Spyridon, "This is a matter that concerns the entire Pan-Orthodox family. The issue was once on the agenda of the Pan-Orthodox Conferences, but at some point it was put aside never to be resumed. The people here [at this congress] interested in this matter must keep in mind that for this rule to change a decision must be taken at the highest level of the entire Church."

The recent spate of activity concerning the bombing threats on the Patriarchate have once again renewed talk among certain quarters about moving the Patriarchate to another location. But Metropolitan Spyridon has serious reservations about this idea and the talk that accompanies it. As he explains, "There is much talk about moving or not moving the Patriarchate. I believe this is not a talking point for the Patriarchate. The Mother Church is not at all concerned with this issue. I wonder why there is so much talk about it, especially in the Athenian press and here in America, in New York to be precise. I personally think that if the Patriarchate should be moved from its historical See, this would be catastrophic for the Orthodox Church and for the Greek nation as well. I guess this talk suits only the personal interests of some church officials."

"...should the Patriarchate be moved from its historical See, this would be catastrophic for the Orthodox Church...."

Metropolitan Spyridon stresses the fact that the media and certain well-meaning individuals may find it hard to grasp the reality of how the people in the Patriarchate feel. "I was in Constantinople about two weeks ago," he points out, "I heard out about the potential bombings but I didn't see that this had any psychological impact on the people working at the Patriarchate. Somehow we're used to these kind of threats."

Apparently the people who live and work around the Patriarchate operate from a different perspective. While in New York, the Metropolitan notes, "Everywhere I go in this town I hear of people speaking about moving the Patriarchate. Why would they speak about such an important issue without previously asking the people at the Patriarchate? All this is idle talk - it's like telling somebody, 'Move out of your house, we'll decide where you'll stay.' Should the Patriarchate move from where it has been anchored for centuries, most likely it will no longer be the same Patriarchate we have always known."

Another major issue of concern among the Orthodox faithful is the condition of St. Sophia and its need for renovations. Metropolitan Spyridon points out that, "There is a Foundation based in Athens that is trying to promote the idea of 'saving' Saint Sophia because according to them, it is falling to pieces. I am not a specialist and I am not familiar with the issue. All I know is that Saint Sophia is an architectural wonder. In medieval times it was considered equal to the seven wonders of the world."

Although the workings of the Ecumenical Patriarchate may be a mystery to some, Metropolitan Spyridon would like to see our Orthodox faithful become more familiar with the activities of the Patriarchate. As he is quick to point out, the Patriarchate itself does not usually issue directives on its own. "Traditionally it is a local Church that asks the Mother Church, i.e. the Patriarchate and the Holy Synod, to approve or disapprove of its initiatives. That is what normally happens," explains the Metropolitan. "It's very rare that the Patriarchate should make a decision imposing itself on this or that diocese. This does would contradict our ecclesiological principles. According to our tradition, each diocese is a full Church entity."


Although the Church of Greece became an autocephalous body during the previous century, Mount Athos, Crete, the Dodecanese islands and the Northern part of Greece remained under the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarchate. However, in the interest of unity, an exception was made for the dioceses in Northern Greece which "were placed under the administration of the Church of Greece on a temporary basis," but as Metropolitan Spyridon emphasizes this particular status may be revoked "whenever the Patriarchate deems appropriate or necessary."


In an attempt to reach out more to the Greek Orthodox faithful in the Americas, Metropolitan Spyridon reassures that, "I would not like you to entertain the impression that the Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is not concerned about Orthodox church life in America. I believe that in the future this concern will be felt in a more tangible way. It can't work otherwise. We're all tending towards unity. It's unity that will bring the Church together again. That is what I think, believe and hope for." $


His Eminence Metropolitan Spyridon of Italy, son of Constantine and Clara Papageorgiou, was born in Warren, Ohio on September 24, 1944 and later was baptized with the Christian name George. While yet a child, his family, which is from the island of Rhodes, returned to Greece. Attending school in both the United States and Greece, he received his high school diploma from Tarpon Springs High School in Florida. His Eminence studied at the Theological School of Halki (1962-1966) where he graduated with honors. He subsequently pursued graduate studies in Switzerland (1967-1968) and, with a scholarship from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in Germany as well (1969-1973).

During the years 1966-1967, the Metropolitan served as a member of the permanent delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. On November 30, 1968, His Eminence was ordained a Deacon and on February 1, 1976, a Priest, receiving the title of "Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne" from Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios. From 1973-1975 he served as Secretary of the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Switzerland and Director of its periodical Episkepsis. In 1976 he was assigned duties as Pastor of the Greek Orthodox Community in Rome, Italy where he served until 1985. He assumed added responsibilities in 1984, as Orthodox Secretary of the International Joint Theological Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

Metropolitan Spyridon was elected titular Bishop of Apameia on November 5, 1985 by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and ordained a Hierarch at the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint George at the Phanar on November 24 of the same year. Upon elevating the Orthodox Church in Italy to a Metropolitanate with Venice as its See, on November 5, 1991 the Patriarchate subsequently elected him as its first Metropolitan.

In July 1993, His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, appointed His Eminence as Chairman of the Orthodox delegation for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and World Lutheran Federation of Churches.

Metropolitan Spyridon is fluent in five languages: English, Greek, French, German and Italian.

[ hellenic times - July 15-28, 1994 - p. 1 and 3 ]