The National Herald Report - October 14, 1995

"I Will Remain In My Position"

Archbishop Iakovos Gives Interview to Greek Press


Translated from the "Kyriakatiki Eleftherotypia"

Athens - The Greek Orthodox Church of America and the Ecumenical Patriarch find themselves at the outer gates in a battle over the problem of the resignation of Archbishop Iakovos and the future relations between the two centers of Hellenism and Orthodoxy.

In his statements in the Sunday Eleftherotypia, Iakovos seems ready to remain in his place beyond July of 1996 (when he had announced that he would resign), claiming the support of President Clinton.

At the epicenter of the brewing rent in relations is the thorny issue of Iakovos of America's successor. In August, when a chasm appeared in relations with the Phanar that seemed unbridgeable, the Archbishop stated that he would resign from his hierarchical throne in July of 1996. Power brokers in the community now express their increasing displeasure towards the Phanar which, as they say, wants to keep them subservient, since the Phanar ignores their basic wish: the selection of a successor to Iakovos from the generation of "American born bishops."

"The confrontational actions will soon be visible, if the Phanar does not face the unique realities of its Eparchy with positive results," stated a prominent member of the Greek American community to the Sunday Eleftherotypia.

This view is seems is shared by Archbishop Iakovos, who in his interviews with the Sunday Eleftherotypia, sounds a warning bell of danger: "No one can ignore the Hellenism of America, the foundation of the Church in America, the only church which can boast that it was founded by the people." And responding diplomatically to our question about the danger of separation, he added "one cannot in absentia from the people, choose a man who may seem like an excellent choice to those who chose him, but is not the person who the people expect. Not just anyone can come here unknown. Therefore, if the mother Church views this issue from this perspective, I believe it will head off every fragmentation, to use the word that you yourselves used."

In any event, the first "volleys" were exchanged with the Phanar when it demanded the resignation of Iakovos' protege (and one of the "ministers" of his throne) Bishop Methodios of Boston, from the presidency of Holy Cross Theological School.

The search committee of the school however, which is comprised of weighty members of the community, would not accept the resignation. In an unusual action which testifies to the climate of the situation, the committee sent a letter to Patriarch Bartholomaios, expressing discomfort that "it encourages the fragmenting and the disenchantment of the flock" in the U.S.

"We are opposed to every action which brings fragmentation to the Church, which will publicly humble the supporters of the Church and who will not respect to shepherd," as is stated in the letter, which petitioned the Patriarch "for timely vision, generosity, concord and enlightened leadership."

In the meantime, members of the Greek American lobby secretly revealed to the Sunday Eleftherotypia that soon, the relations of the Archbishop of America with the inner circle of President Clinton will enter a period of uncertainty. Accordingly, as is usual in these circles, the Clinton administration, eyeing the presidential elections of 1996 in the U.S. where he will seek the support of the Greek American community, appears willing to support the cause of Iakovos, who seems to have succeeded in gathering a majority of voters around him. If this group dynamic does not change, one of the most serious events for the patriarchate could be the easing of diplomatic pressure which Washington is willing to make toward the Turkish government in support of the Phanar.

The Phanar, however, is not completely lacking in support in the community, and these voices have been expressed primarily in the midst of the Greek community's newspaper, The National Herald, which in an editorial recently asked of the Archbishop for silence as his contribution to the conditions regarding his successor. To this end, those who know the scene well emphasis that the Archbishop feels "betrayed" by the Phanar, because it ignored the terms of his resignation which were: its simultaneous announcement in New York and Constantinople and avoiding the removal of his close co-workers such as the Bishop of Boston, Methodios. All these things hardly guarantee a peaceful succession.

"I do not want to believe that my efforts of many years in the service of the community in America is going to be wasted," said Archbishop Iakovos. The ideal successor he told us "first and foremost, must know the Church in America very well before he is willing to receive the honor of ascending the throne of leadership." And he should be "a man who is not afraid of anything except for God, a man who will know that he is not only the religious leader of the Greek Orthodox of America," since "politics are not taboo for a Church leader."
Many believe that soon a "dead end" in the complications of succession will be felt even if the list of candidates is long. Among them, Bishop Anthony of San Francisco (with close friends in the Phanar), Maximos of Pittsburgh, Methodios of Boston, Sotirios of Toronto, Ioakim of Chalcedon (a close co-worker of Patriarch Bartholomaios), Damaskinos of Switzerland, Stylianos of Australia, Spyridon of Italy, and Pantelaimon of Tyrol and Sorrento.

Also, there are rumors of a possible temporary replacement for Archbishop Iakovos, who will arrange to prepare the mechanism of succession as easy as possible. This could however be Archbishop Iakovos himself! He characteristically stated: "If the Phanar asks it of me, as long as God allows me. If the Phanar has a need, in other words, necessity to confront this situation in this way until things settle down more, I will remain."

[ The National Herald Report, Vol.1 - No.13, October 14, 1995, p. 11 ]