The Hellenic Chronicle - September 28, 1995

A Chronicle reader writes about Archbishop's resignation

The official announcement of His Eminence's intended retirement as of July 1996, brings to focus the unpredictable effects that this transition may have on the future of Americans of Orthodox faith and Greek heritage.

Our communities witnessed a healthy and vigorous growth under the leadership of Archbishops Athenagoras and Michael. The steady flourishing of our communities in the U.S. was greatly contributed to by the long tenure of the late Patriarch Athenagoras as Archbishop of the Americas and his wise selection and support of an experienced and worthy successor fully prepared to lead the church in the late 50s.

The major expansion of Greek Orthodoxy, its recognition as a major faith, its vigorous presence and contribution to American life reached its apogee during the ministry of Archbishop Iakovos. His Eminence, having previous long experience as pastor and love for the Greek American community devoted his life for the development and expansion of our parishes and institutions to their present enviable state. He was one of the few clergymen of his time to champion the course of human rights in the U.S.

He has been the bulwark, and the effective representative of our collective response to threats to the country of our heritage in Cyprus during the long years of his service. He never ceased to stand and be the effective articulate defender of the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, located in a country hostile to Christianity and Hellenism. He earned the admiration, love and respect of our people, as well as people of other faiths. His inspired and charismatic leadership of the past 35 years will be hard to match. We are all grateful to him.

The proper and worthy succession to ensure our dynamic development in this country and help shape our future and destiny presents a critical issue that all Greek Americans should pray and ponder and urgently address at this time.

The events of the recent past highlighted by attempts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, very ill advised in my opinion, to assume complete administrative control of our church and institutions and dictate policies undermines not only the future and destiny of our communities in the U.S., but jeopardizes the effectiveness of our response to matters threatening Christianity and Hellenism and ultimately may weaken the stability of the Ecumenical Patriarchate itself.

It was very unfortunate and very harmful to the interest of Orthodoxy in the U.S. and worldwide last winter's decree by the Patriarchate to discontinue our dialogue between the rest of the ethnic Orthodox churches in the U.S.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas, its churches, parishes and institutions are the product of toil, sacrifice and love of many generations of totally devout Greek immigrants and their descendants. The children of the immigrant Americans born and educated deeply nurtured with the deals of democracy and freedom comprise at least 75% of our community to date. The parish and the community center where our life gravitates are the pivotal sites of the expression and commitment to our faith in the site where the social challenges and problems concerning our growth and development are addressed.

The parish is the rallying site of our response to the challenges and threats to the country of our heritage. During the two world wars, the Asia Minor catastrophe, the Cyprus invasion as well as in cases of natural disasters in Greece, it is the parish and the church that have effectively responded in support.
The admonitions of the "evils of nationalism" by the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the last Clergy-Laity Conference in July 1994 are not applicable to Greek Americans. It is not a sin to respond as a community to the threats of the land of our heritage and to the threats of the existence of our Mother Church.

Our nationalism is a defensive expression, devoid of any trace of racial, ethnic and cultural superiority. It should be considered as a means of rallying our strength to address threats to the survival of our heritage.

It is unconscionable and unacceptable and destructive to the Greek American community and its institutions to have their affairs and destiny dictated from the Phanar, which unfortunately is subject to the censorship and control of the Turkish state. Nothing will please the Turkish leadership more at this time then to see disunity in the U.S.

We all know that Patriarch Bartholomew out of necessity swore allegiance to the Turkish state upon his ascension to the Patriarchal Throne. We cannot and must not allow this unfortunate dependence to influence our future.

In conclusion, it is time now that we Greek Americans of Orthodox faith prepare to respectively convince his All Holiness that the proper and worthy successor to His Eminence be a clergyman of high moral stature and integrity, with profound theological knowledge and proper administrative experience. A person that possesses deep knowledge of issues concerning our heritage and will not be even indirectly effected by forces hostile to our nation. A person preferably native to the U.S. or one that has spent several years amidst the faithful in this country, fluent in English and capable of recognizing and fulfilling the aspirations of our youth in the service of the Orthodoxy. A person that understands our potential and can guide our young Greek communities through the challenges of the 21st century.

It is high time that we, the laity, recognize and assume our full responsibilities and have a positive and unanimous voice on matters concerning the welfare and destiny of our children and our communities. It should also be understood that without our devotion, love and support, the financial back-bone of our Archdiocese and that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate wilt be comprised. We thus wish and pray that the Ecumenical Patriarchate acts with wisdom to properly fulfill the expectations of our communities.

Stamford, CT

[ The Hellenic Chronicle - September 28, 1995 - p. 5 ]