National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations - 1997

Archbishop Spyridon

Religious Leader
1997 Recipient

His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon was unanimously elected Archbishop of America of America on July 30, 1996 by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate convened by His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. He was enthroned as spiritual leader of 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians in America at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City on Saturday, September 21, 1996.

Orthodoxy traces its roots to the Holy Apostles and has been present in the Western Hemisphere since the 18th century. His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon will be the fifth archbishop since the organization of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in 1922 and the first American-born elected as Archbishop of America.

Archbishop Spyridon of America, son of Clara and the late Dr. Constantine P. Papageorgiou, was born in Warren, Ohio, on September 24, 1944. After having completed his elementary education in Steubenville, Ohio and Rhodes, Greece (his father's native island), he continued his secondary education in Rhodes and in the United States.

His Eminence studied at the famed Theological School of Halki where he graduated with honors. He subsequently pursued graduate studies in Switzerland, specializing in the history of Protestant Churches. Awarded a scholarship from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, he then studied Byzantine Literature at Bochum University in Germany.

He served as secretary at the Permanent Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches in Geneva and later as Secretary of the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at Chambesy (Geneva) as well as director of its newsletter, "Episkepsis" (1976-1985).

He was ordained as a deacon on November 30, 1968, taking the ecclesiastical name Spyridon; and on February 1, 1976, he was ordained a priest and assigned to the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Andrew in Rome, where he served until 1985.

Through his long and direct contacts with the Roman Catholic Church, he acquired down-to-earth realism in viewing inter-church relations, a fact that contributed to his appointment in 1984 as Executive Secretary of the Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.

In recognition of his manifold services, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected him as titular bishop of Apameia on November 5, 1985. He was ordained as hierarch at the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George at the Phanar on November 24th of the same year and assigned as an auxiliary bishop to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Austria and Exarchate of Italy, as it was then known.

In November 1991, upon creating the Holy Archdiocese of Italy and Exarchate of Southern Europe, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected Spyridon as the first Metropolitan for this newly created Archdiocesan See. He immediately devoted his youthful energy in organizing the new archdiocese. During the course of four years as Metropolitan of Italy, he created various auxiliary departments, increased the number of parishes and provided them with a more sound structure.

Fluent in Greek, English, French, Italian and German, he is also extremely computer literate.

He also made a significant contribution to the edification of Orthodox unity by incorporating various Italian Orthodox communities, giving particular attention to the youth by creating the Union of Greek Orthodox Students of Italy. And after a lapse of many centuries, he reintroduced Orthodox monasticism in Italy.

In 1992 he was appointed Chairman of the Inter-Orthodox Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Lutheran World Federation, immediately giving renewed impetus to the dialogue with this preeminent Protestant body.

He also has successfully represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate in various inter-Church missions and international meetings. He was Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's delegate to the Special Synod of the Roman Catholic Bishops in Europe (Rome 1991). His address at this Synod was of vast importance; because in it, he clearly identified the developments that were to follow in the relations between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.

Archbishop Spyridon is known for his dedication to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and for his energetic career and creativeness. His service to this day bears evidence of open-mindedness and a modern mentality in addressing timely needs and problems of the Orthodox Diaspora.

[ NECO |  -  1997 ]