Orthodox Observer - September 1997

Address to the Trustees
of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology
( New York – August 17, 1997 )

...We all know how important the School is for our Church. It was defined as the very backbone of the Church. And justly so, for the Church depends totally on this institution for her priests. Even more so to­day, a period in which we are starting to painfully experience the shortage of priests and can no more provide many communities with a celebrant and pastor.

Therefore, it could be easily upheld that today HC/HC has an even greater importance for our Church, not as it is often stated for her brighter future, but for her very survival and existence.

This said, it is clear that HC/HC is of extreme importance for the very existence of our Church as lively and dynamic body in our society. The Church that founded this institution and that ever since has made it possible for this institution to operate, must now take all those steps necessary so that this institution may begin to respond to the challenges of the new reality with which she is ever confronted with.

And I will say even more. the Church must not only make it possible for the School to attack more candidates to the priesthood and thus provide all those communities that since years have remained without a priest, but it must also create all those conditions necessary so that our priests are prepared to adequately and successfully deal with the innumerable problems of missionary character that in the past have arisen in our communities.

It must also be stated that the higher the academic standards at our school are, the better prepared our priests will be. The School must have the best professors that can be found worldwide. The Church should not spare any means to provide the School with the best scholars of the Orthodox world.

And please note, that this cannot come about but in an atmosphere of academic freedom. But for this to come about, the Church, who is responsible for the institution, must take all steps necessary so that all this may be achieved in a Christian and spiritual atmosphere.

For without basic Christian spirituality —as all understand— the institution will never be able to attract the higher numbers of candidates to the priesthood, nor will it be able to prepare the necessary mission-minded priests that the vast majority of our communities need today.

Academic freedom can be ensured, only be establishing an effective separation between administration and academic life. The administration exists exclusively in order to provide the academia with all those means necessary to accomplish the high mission the Church has entrusted to it.

High academic standards necessarily go along with academic freedom. Academic flourishing goes only with academic freedom.

"The Church must finally provide the School with all those means necessary to remain in steady contact with Orthodox reality worldwide. HC/HC cannot accomplish its mission by remaining isolated as if the rest of the Orthodox Church did not exist, for we are part of that world. If we could remain intentionally isolated, this would be contrary to our Orthodox ecclesiology and our very being as Orthodox.

To summarize, the Church needs an ecclesiastical institution capable of attracting larger numbers of candidates to the priesthood, capable of training our priests as best as possible, offering her the best academic tools and preparation possible. All this on a sound spiritual ground and in an authentic ecclesiastical atmosphere, for ultimately, the priests are to serve the Church and not some worldly institution.

[ Orthodox Observer, Vol. 62 - No. 1133, September 1997, p. 4 ]

[ Spyridon, Archbishop of America (1996-1999), The Legacy, Athens 2005, pp. 296-297 ]