The Orthodox Church - October 1996

Archbishop Spyridon
elected to head Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

NEW YORK, NY [RNS/ OBSERVER/ OCA] — In an historic move, the former Metropolitan of Italy, the American-born Archbishop Spyridon, 51, was elected by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to head the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

A native of Warren, OH, Archbishop Spyridon succeeds His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, who retired July 29 after heading the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America for 37 years. The day after Archbishop's retirement became effective, the 12-member Synod elected Spyridon to the vacant archbishopric.

At the same time, as reported in the Orthodox Observer, the Holy Synod restructured the Archdiocese, which for decades covered the entire Western Hemisphere. The New York-based Archdiocese is now limited to the United States. The remaining areas have been reorganized into three metropolitanates: Toronto, Canada; Buenos Aires, which embraces parishes throughout South America; and Mexico City, which serves as the episcopal see for communities in Mexico, Central America and Puerto Rico.

Archbishop Spyridon "is an American who knows the American idiom, but he has been outside that context for many years and is therefore unencumbered by the particularities of the American scene," said the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Ecumenical Officer of the Orthodox Church in America, in an interview with Religious News Service. "[Archbishop Spyridon] comes into a situation of transition. It is a bittersweet time, the passing of an era but also a time of moving forward."

"For many in Greek Orthodoxy, moving forward means moving forward coherently with other Orthodox churches," Father Kishkovsky added.

Archbishop Spyridon, who speaks five languages, often represented Orthodox interests at the Vatican during his tenure in Italy. A graduate of the Halki Theological School, he pursued graduate studies in Switzerland and Germany and served as a member of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's permanent delegation to the World Council of Churches. He is best known in the US for what some have described as an "electrifying" address at the Greek Archdiocese's 1994 Clergy-Laity Congress. Speaking for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, he set out an agenda for a world renewal of Orthodoxy based in part on the ability of Orthodox Christians in the West to overcome the ethnic divisions that have plagued the Church for years. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius also addressed the Congress and echoed Archbishop Spyridon's hopes for Orthodox unity in North America.

Archbishop Spyridon's speech helped set the stage for a landmark meeting in Ligonier, PA later that year, during which North America's Orthodox bishops declared that they were ready to move toward administrative unity. The hierarchs' declaration received a cool response from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

[ The Orthodox Church - October 1996 - p. 7 ]