"The Greek American" - May 23, 1998

An Open Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Upon the Occasion of His Upcoming Visit

Proini - May 22, 1998

Your Holiness,

Proini warmly welcomes you to the United States with the respect due to you and the institution that you serve. The Ecumenical Patriarchate was, is, and will be that which sustains Orthodoxy and protects the Greek nation.

Your visit to this country, the second in a period of seven months, comes at a critical moment for Hellenism in the United States. For some time now, the vigor of Greek American community has been compromised by the conflict that surrounds the Archdiocese of America. Our community is in jeopardy of being divided even as the Ecumenical Patriarchate takes steps to foster greater unity, such as accepting the monastery of St. Irene into its fold.

The unjustified personal attacks that some have hurled toward Archbishop Spyridon threaten to divide the community into two or even three separate camps. Although these attacks come from a small minority, it is one that takes advantage of its economic and social status to make its presence felt.

Opposite these people stand faithful Christians and defenders of Hellenism who stand by the Archbishop. Their support is based not only on a love for him but also their appreciation for the institution that he represents. These people have responded to this campaign against the Archbishop with stoic dignity.

But little by little, as more accusations and so-called revelations are made against the Archbishop, a polarization is created within the community. The majority of Greek Americans, those people who have untiringly worked to build our community, are being pushed to take a stand against those who criticize the Archbishop. While this may be what was intended, this polarization could lead to the break-up of Hellenism in this country.

During this entire time, Archbishop Spyridon has pressed on in the name of unity. And Proini has stood by his side ever since the first attacks surfaced, recognizing in him the importance of the institution he serves. Proini as a champion of Hellenism and Orthodoxy is dedicated to preserving the unity of the community.

Some among us see what is happening to Archbishop Spyridon as a repeat performance of the trials that led to the resignation of Archbishop Iakovos. The scenario is different but the director and the actors are the same in this encore performance. Lately, even the well-known attorney Simos Dimas, who used to work closely with the Archbishop Spyridon, has turned to the press to condemn his former employer. Perhaps it is for some easy to find fault with the Archbishop, Father Alex Karloutsos, or Chancellor George Passias. But there are also those who are beginning to wonder if the Ecumenical Patriarchate is to blame.

Aside from whether this question is justified or not, it stems from the confusion that has enveloped the Archdiocese. And the following unanswered questions speak to this confusion.

How is it possible for Father Alex, whom you know well and who supported the enthronement of Archbishop Spyridon, to now find it impossible to work with the Archbishop?

How can people such as Simos Dimas, who conducted the legal work required for the admission for St. Irene to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, now come out against the Archbishop?

How can Mr. Dimas, who is devoted to you, now oppose the Archbishop whom you selected and blessed? These are the only questions that sway the trust of the community.

Greek Americans expect from you to show them that the Mother Church rejects the machinations of those who seek to divide them. They expect you to clearly indicate your support for the Archbishop, the Archdiocese, and the unity of the Greek American community. They are awaiting for you to condemn those who work against the good of the community, the good of the Church, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

* This letter first appeared in the May 22 issue of Greek-language daily Proini.

[ EKKLISIA |  -  May 23, 1998 ]